2014, Warner Brothers Japan
The legend of Kenshin Himura, the red-haired ex-samurai continues with the beginning of a two-part saga that takes one of the manga and anime’s most famous storylines.
Having brought peace to the local village, Kenshin Himura is now living a simple life. Once known as the assassin known as “Battosai”, Kenshin made a promise to his love Kaoru never to kill again. However, trouble is beginning to brew and the new government, led by Lord Okubo, needs Kenshin’s help to solve the problem that has now plagued the government as well as could be the biggest threat to Japan as a whole.
Makoto Shishio was like Kenshin back in the day. He was an assassin only more ruthless. After a battle, he was betrayed by his comrades, left for dead and burnt to a crisp. However, the growing snow had made Shishio survive. Now a mummy-like warrior who still believes in the old ways, he has one thing in mind: turning Kyoto into a blazing inferno. After Okubo is viciously murdered by Shishio’s men, Kenshin decides to head to Kyoto in order to stop Shishio despite Kaoru’s efforts for him not to go.
At a running time of 138 minutes, the film does quite well for the most part making good use of its running time. Many of the original cast members return for this installment and again, Takeru Satoh is the driving force of the film as Kenshin, the former Battosai. However, it must be duly noted that Tatsuya Fujiwara truly proves himself as one of Japan’s finest young talents in the role of the deadly Makoto Shishio. Unrecognizable with the exception of a flashback sequence, Fujiwara steals the show as the maniacal Shishio, who is hellbent on turning Kyoto into a blazing inferno as well as seeing If Kenshin will go back on his word.
There are a few subplots that take up most of the second act of the film. They include Kenshin meeting another central character, Misao Mikamachi, played by Tao Tsuchiya and befriending her after she tries to steal his sword as well as Misao’s crush, a warrior named Aoshi Shinomori, played by Yusuke Iseya. Aoshi has been after Kenshin for a long time and will do whatever it takes to find and challenge him to a duel. However, the main subplot involves Kenshin on the hunt for a new sword after an altercation with Shishio’s henchman Sojiro, played by Ryunosuke Kamimi, results in his “back-blade” sword being broken.
As with the original film, Kenji Tanigaki takes over in the action department and what is great is that here, the action scenes come sporadically and complement the more dramatic portions quite well. While most of the cast resort to using swords and other bladed weapons, Tao Tsuchiya shows unarmed combat as Misao and she is a pretty nice kicker. As for Fujiwara, he truly brings ruthlessness in his few action scenes and one can’t help but have to appreciate seeing Yosuke Eguchi preparing for battle with cigarette in mouth before he unleashes his sword skills. There is some comic relief in the action on the part of Sanosuke, played by Munetaka Aoki. He may be big and strong, but he is a knucklehead at times and one scene in the climactic battle proves that.
However, it is important to note that the film ends on a cliffhanger as the final part, The Legend Ends, will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray next month after a successful theatrical run in September in Japan.
However, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is a wonderfully timed set-up to what is sure to be an exciting saga. Highly recommended for those who loved the original movie.
WFG RATING: A+
A Warner Brothers Japan Production. Director: Keishi Ohtomo. Producer: Satoshi Fukishima. Writers: Kiyomi Fujii and Keishi Ohtomo; based on the manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Cinematography: Takuro Ishizaka. Editing: Tsuyoshi Imai.
Cast: Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, Yu Aoi, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Yusuke Iseya, Yosuke Eguchi, Munetaka Aoki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Tao Tsuchiya, Min Tanaka, Masaharu Fukuyama, Kaito Ohyagi