RUROUNI KENSHIN: Movie Review

Trailers and features for Studio Swan's Rurouni Kenshin adaptation all looked promising but does the film actually deliver what it's advertising? Why, yes it does, Rurouni Kenshin matches the source material more closely than any other comic book or anime based film to date. [Spoiler Free Review]

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By Mark Julian - 1/13/2013



Rurouni Kenshin review

When it comes to anime/manga adaptation, the U.S. has a less-than-stellar track record with films like Dragonball: Evolution and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Many fans insist that Hollywood should just leave anime adaptations to their Far East counterparts. While I've generally found myself on the opposite side of that sentiment, Rurouni Kenshin goes a long way towards supporting the other side of the argument. Possessing a strong following in Japan and a devoted fanbase in America thanks to its Toonami run, Rurouni Kenshin should please both hardcore fans and first-time viewers alike. Watching the film, it was as if Takeru Sato (Kenshin), Munetaka Aoki (Sanosuke), Emi Takei (Kaoru) and Yû Aoi (Megumi) stepped out of the anime, each of the main actors channeled the core elements of their respective character admirably. However, in a crowd of strong performances, it's Teryuki Kagawa's turn as the villainous Kanryuu Takeda that steals the show. Kagawa plays Takeda with equal amounts of malice and quirkiness which keeps him from being a one-dimensional antagonist.

While the acting performances are great, if you're watching a film adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin then you're watching for the action. The film does not disappoint. If you're a connoisseur of martial arts films then sword-fights take on a repetitive feel after a while. However, this film features swordplay that's fresh and fluid, making for some of the best sword-fights I've ever seen in a film. And make no mistake, the film puts swordplay front and center and lets everything else fall where it may.

Rurouni Kenshin reviewRurouni Kenshin is one of the more complete films to be released in 2012. Yes, there are certain elements better than others but there are no glaring weaknesses. Everything from the editing and cinematography to the costumes and sets are cleverly executed. When the credits roll and the end song plays, you'll definitely be thinking about where the film can go in sequel. Hopefully, the next entry will have a larger theatrical run in the U.S.




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Running Time: 134 minutes
Release Date: August 25, 2012 (Japan)
MPAA Rating: Unknown
Starring: Yû Aoi, Teruyuki Kagawa and Takeru Sato
Directed by: Keishi Ōtomo
Written by: Nobuhiro Watsuki (manga, Kiyomi Fujii (screenplay)and Keishi Ohtomo (screenplay )
Produced by: Warner Bros., with actual film production done by Studio Swan


SYNOPSIS:In 1868, after the end of the Bakumatsu war, the former assassin Kenshin Himura travels through feudal Japan defending those in need without killing through the use of an inverted blade. When Kenshin saves the idealistic Kaoru Kamiya from the gangsters of a powerful opium drug lord named Kanryuu Takeda who seeks Kamiya's dojo for his production of opium, Kenshin becomes immersed in a plot that reaches all the way back to his assassin days. When drug chemist Megumi Takani escapes from Kanryuu and seeks shelter in the dojo it will take the combined forces of Kenshin and street fighter Sanosuke Sagara to take down the drug lord.

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27 Comments
KarlRobinofEarth2 - 1/13/2013, 10:18 AM
SO READY TO WATCH. Favorite anime by far. I remember sitting down and watching my way through the like 18-20 disc set in about a week. The Samuria X movies too, about time!
Diomedes - 1/13/2013, 10:26 AM
watched this a days ago and I was very impressed! Normally there's a tendency to go overboard with humor and action with projects like this but this movie was wonderfully balanced.. the swordplay was fluid, realistic and still managed to include the signature moves of the manga expertly well without the overuse of special effects or wire work.. the acting was top notch as was the casting. cant wait for the sequel
thalidomide - 1/13/2013, 10:39 AM
This movie is unbelievable. i've already watched it several times.
MrSuperheromoviefan - 1/13/2013, 10:56 AM
Street Fighter is a videogame adaption.
Good review. Sugara fight is no so well done, but no other complains. This is the best movie based on manga.
GetsugaTensho22 - 1/13/2013, 11:00 AM
I'm going to start looking for this when i'm done with Bleach. Thing is, most anime adaptations don't work because they're inherently Japanese or whatever culture that's being channeled. That's not to say it's impossible for Hollywood to make localised adaptations. Akira in New Manhattan would work just fine since they were going the Firefly route by fusing cultures, but this anime is set in Japan, with japanese characters and so forth. It works.
animeex - 1/13/2013, 11:16 AM
I watched this a couple weeks back and it is good. There are some changes yes, but the movie makers make it work to their advantage. I do see Hollywood tearing this up and making it totally different such as the Dragonball movie and Chun Li. I love the Kenshin series and have watched it many times. The movie does do it justice.
RaleighAntrobus - 1/13/2013, 11:21 AM
"Thing is, most anime adaptations don't work because they're inherently Japanese or whatever culture that's being channeled. That's not to say it's impossible for Hollywood to make localised adaptations. Akira in New Manhattan would work just fine since they were going the Firefly route by fusing cultures..."

Wrong.

'Akira' is just as inherently Japanese as 'Kenshi' and as soon as Hollywood took it out of Japan it fell apart. 'Akira' is definitely one of the properties that should never be touched, honestly.
JazzBebopHero - 1/13/2013, 11:41 AM
Great review! This film looks like it is going to be a faithful adaptation. The cinematography looks vivid and striking as well.

By the way, I completely agree with you about Hollywood and Street Fighter.
JimmyPesto - 1/13/2013, 11:44 AM
When is this coming to theaters stateside? This was my 2nd highest anticipated film of 2012.
jondoe297 - 1/13/2013, 11:53 AM
This movie was great it took great parts from the show and samurai x and put it all together it all fit nothing felt to forced they new what worked for a movie and what only worked for a tv show and made a good balance I hope to see a sequel
Supersonicboobs - 1/13/2013, 11:55 AM
i just saw this, and it is a great anime adaptation!
A SOLID 8.5/10...maybe more for the fans!

If you ever a fan of Rurouni Kenshin ....WATCH IT!!!!
Ranger14 - 1/13/2013, 12:49 PM
I am looking forward to watching this! I have read nothing but positive reviews. Just completed watching the anime series a few weeks ago.
KidGoku - 1/13/2013, 1:26 PM
I've been waiting to watch this. So is it just as good or better than the Death Note films? Those were pretty good adaptations as well. Or is this a whole new level?

I would want Japan to do a proper Dragonball movie, but my vision is always for Dragonball to be a huge blockbuster while sticking to source material with great effects and actors. But it seems like that won't happen, so if Japan decide to make a Dragonball film then I will be satisfied.

Am I the only one who thinks they should do a Yu Yu Hakusho film next?
MisterJay - 1/13/2013, 1:26 PM
great movie excelent adaptation... 9.5 or 10 /10
KNIGHT3000 - 1/13/2013, 1:35 PM
RUROUNI KENSHIN as well as DJANGO and SKYFALL was the BEST CBMs that happened in 2012... There were other things, But thats the top 3.

As a fan, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was the most disappointing for me
TheBatman50k - 1/13/2013, 1:38 PM
I hated this film I mean I HATED THIS FILM. I saw it opening day in Japan and I could not stand it. I've been watching anime for 20+ years and the thing I hate about live action anime adaptations is that they always seem to go for the source (except for the American adaptations). To me the best Kenshin films have always been the ones that have tried to adapt the character to their own vision. This film is to much of a rip-off, it was not innovative and didnt say anything about Kenshin or anyother character. I mean honestly I might as well just read the manga all over again. Plus the special effects sucked, the acting sucked except for the woman who played Kaoru. This film as a whole was a disgrace to the series as a whole and a disgrace to all the innovation that previous directors have given to the series.
HeadPool420 - 1/13/2013, 3:02 PM
We ever gonna get a live action Ninja Scroll?
superbatspiderman - 1/13/2013, 3:07 PM
This goes to show ya that anime adaptations should be left to the people who actually care about the material unlike Dragonball Evolution or The Last Airbender. I might check this out sometime.
parascythe - 1/13/2013, 5:40 PM
10/10 how anime should be done...
phoenixforce9 - 1/13/2013, 6:17 PM
I've been a die-hard Rurouni kenshin fan since I was in high school! This adaptation is the best one of the year! Loved it and have now watched it 7 times in the cinema! Unlike other anime-based film adaptations this one was well cast. I'm still disappointed by the casting of Light Yagami in the japanese live adaptation of death Note. I had some initial apprehension of Kamen rider Den-o being cast as kenshin but that quickly faded when I watched Ryomaden. Takeru is Kenshin! he is able to channel everything that i loved about the character.

I like that this film took alot from the manga, OVAs and the anime. The violence and bloodshed from the OVAs and the funny moments from the manga and anime... but never over-exaggerating them. Comedic elements were perfectly time and placed where they needed to be. But the action is definitely the spotlight here (amazing sword fight). I thought it would be near impossible to translate into film kenshin's god-like speed but they pulled it off with minimal wire-work and no CGI (the only CGI was the blood). On top of that all the actors did their own stunts themselves as stated by the director during the LA Eigafest premiere of the film! That battou jutsu stance was epic!

I didn't mind that they condensed the arcs and changed characters because they all fit in and made sense.

I hope they make another film with Shishio and then a third with enishi.

The first time I watched it when it ended people stood up, cheered and roared!

phoenixforce9 - 1/13/2013, 6:25 PM
I think what makes the Rurouni kenshin movie work is despite it being anime it is still deeply rooted in reality and history. kenshin himself is based on a famous hitokiri named Kawakami Gensai.
Swiftsword777 - 1/13/2013, 7:19 PM
This flick was so fun to watch with great sword fights....SWIFTSWORD Approved
Ranger14 - 1/13/2013, 8:31 PM
The Batman50K@ You are the only person I have heard say that. Are you saying they ripped off the source???

Kamen@ I don't know about buying it, but to watch it online, try this http://www1.zmovie.co/movies/view/rurouni-kenshin-2012
WeaponX - 1/14/2013, 2:03 AM
Nice review but I think you're rating this film too high. 3.5 out of 5 Stars, tops.

It did have some great casting choices and some good performances from it, however, it could have been more. The action was decent but it was missing the budget to really meld some supernatural flare into it. Like "Shinobi: Heart Under Blade" had done. Keeping that part as grounded as it did, bogged down the swordplay. Considering how much emphasis the manga and anime placed on a lot of the finishing techniques a bit of creative CG blended with practical fx would have really brought the fights to a higher level of spectacle.

The other big issue is that the story wasn't focused. It tried to tell too much in too short of time and the writers didn't have the talent to focus on one aspect of the Kenshin story. So, the overall flow of the story suffered for it. It felt more like a hyperactive fan trying to explain Kenshin to people who don't know it, plucking tidbits from here and there and mashing them into a tale. As evidenced by the random characters tossed in for fan service.

It was still entertaining but as I said, in better hands it could have been more.

3.5/5

For those who want to see this movie can go to:
www.movie2k.to
and watch it with English subs.
phoenixforce9 - 1/14/2013, 3:47 AM
at WeaponX I completely understand where you're coming from but considering how much material they have to work with its a miracle they managed to make something out of that complex a story.

Yes there were things that probably felt rushed such as Kenshin and Sanosuke's meeting and fight but i think they had to sacrifice things to make it work. As for the fight scenes I think it was pretty solid. My problem with CGI is it can look too fake. Case in point was ninja assassin. I quite liked that movie its very flashy but its purely acrobatics in most of the fight scenes.

It was a major decision from the part of RK's director not to use CGI or stunt doubles so I guess the fight scenes are limited by what the actors can do themselves.
phoenixforce9 - 1/14/2013, 3:58 AM
ah memories...


Dedpool - 1/14/2013, 8:54 AM
When does this hit the states?

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