In a fairly unusual move by local standards, theatre chain SM Cinemas ran the film adaptation of iconic 90s manga Rurouni Kenshin, in a variety of locations for the better part of December. This 2012 film adaptation was directed by Ootomo Keishi, and stars Satou Takeru and Take Emi.
Although we’re not sure how much the movie earned in its Philippine run, it’s safe to say that it was a huge success. Repeat viewings seem to be the norm, and the cinema keeps extending its run day by day. What is the fuss all about? Here’s a quick synopsis and review.
Rurouni Kenshin opens with the events of the Bakumatsu Era that led to the assassin known as “Hitoriki Battousai” (or “Battousai the Killer”) to abandon his sword and live the life of a wandering vagabond. His peaceful travels are interrupted when he discovers that another person is pretending to be “Hitokiri Battousai”, and has gone on a murderous rampage.
The real Battousai is mistakenly confronted by a local lass Kamiya Kaoru, who runs a kendou doujo left to her by her father. Kaoru is incensed that her doujo’s name was involved with the (fake) Battousai’s crimes, and has resolved to bring the killer to justice. When the wandering swordsman saves her from the impostor Battousai, Kaoru brings him to her home, and discovers that the wanderer’s name is Himura Kenshin.
Kenshin becomes involved with the doujo’s problems with local thugs, as well as with the troubles following a mysterious young lady named Takani Megumi. Everything soon comes to a head when Kenshin, Kaoru, and Megumi’s difficulties prove to be part of the same suspicious plot by skeevy local businessman Takeda Kanryu. The plot also leads Kenshin to the deranged swordsman who has taken his old sword and his old name.
Most live action adaptations of much loved anime seem to veer from hilariously terrible (Street Fighter) to just plain unwatchable (Dragonball) — fortunately, this 2012 adaptation is not. It is fast-paced and thrilling from beginning to end, and benefits from some beautifully choreographed fight scenes.
We also liked how the characters were fleshed out, as some of them were more likable compared to their anime counterparts (Kaoru and Yahiko, for example). Perhaps our only complaint was the way the fight scene with Kanryu was wrapped up, as it was sort of a letdown after the stunning build-up.
Overall, Rurouni Kenshin was a fond romp through a childhood favorite, and is worth a second or third screening. Minor nitpicks on the climactic fight aside, the movie is an excellent example of a film adaptation done right. We hope that other productions — *coughHollywoodcough* — take a leaf out of this book, and bring us more movies that show our favorite anime in a whole new light.