The saga based on Nobuhiro Watsuki’s manga and the anime comes to an end in this exciting final installment that features both character-driven performances and perhaps the best action of the entire trilogy.
Picking up where Kyoto Inferno ends, Kenshin Himura has awaken in the home of Seijuro Hiko, the samurai who taught him the art of swordfighting. It has been fifteen years since Hiko and Kenshin have seen each other. Kenshin tells Hiko of his arch-nemesis, Makoto Shishio, who plots to overthrow the government and take over Tokyo. Kenshin asks Hiko to teach him the “ultimate technique” of the High Heaven style in order to defeat Shishio. However, the young former assassin must go through a series of battles with his teacher to learn the technique.
Meanwhile, as Shishio plots his takeover, Kaoru Kimiya has been found and is resting at the Aoiya Inn. Relieved to hear that Kaoru is alive are her trusted friends Sojiro Seta and Yahiko Myojin. The government, after a failed attempt to negotiate with Shishio, decide to side with the tyrant to find Kenshin and publicly execute him. While former samurai turned government official Hajime Saito is unhappy with this, he is shocked to learn that the government actually plan to lure Kenshin as a scapegoat due to the fact they think he may be the only one capable of defeating Shishio.
When the original Rurouni Kenshin was released, it was one of the biggest hits in Japan and then came the first half of the two-part saga featuring the villainous Makoto Shishio, played by Battle Royale and Death Note franchise star Tatsuya Fujiwara. Kyoto Inferno was a nice set up to this installment, which is truly exciting to watch. From the very first scene, a flashback where we learn the history of young Kenshin to the blistering finale, there are truly many reasons why this is the best of the trilogy.
The cast of characters may have done quite well in the last two, but here, they amp up their performances. Especially Takeru Satoh as Kenshin, who has become more driven and determined to stop Shishio, but asks himself if he is willing to sacrifice himself and for what in the process. As Shishio, Fujiwara is more tyrannical here than in the last film. Perhaps it is because once we know his real plan, he exerts that plan with such greatness and force, he would make even the best of comic book villains proud. Major kudos must go to pop star Masaharu Fukuyama, who plays Kenshin’s mentor Seijuro Hiko. His performance is sheer excitement and determination. As a mentor, he ranks up there high and should deserve some sort of accolade.
Ryunosuke Hamiki brings out his top of the game as Sojiro, who shows sort of a soft side to his tough exterior due to his worry about Kenshin and Kaoru. Even though his screen time is minimal yet crucial, Yosuke Eguchi still gives it his all as Hajime Saito. The only flaws here are the very minimal performances of Emi Takei as female lead Kaoru Kamiya, who spends the first half of the film recuperating and in the second half not really doing much; and Yu Aoi as doctor Megumi Takani, who just is there for virtually one scene.
Once again, Kenji Tanigaki took charge of the film’s action scenes and there are more action scenes here than its predecessor. The action scenes are some of his best work let alone the best action of the trilogy. From Kenshin and Hiko’s “test” battles to the insane finale that starts on the beach and ends with the long-awaited duel between Kenshin and Shishio, it is just exciting to see Tanigaki amp up the action. In the fight between Kenshin and another samurai determined to kill him, Kenshin is able to pull off a wicked evade flip move that looks to be influenced by the likes of the late Panna Rittikrai and his team. Whether this was done by a stunt double or was even wire-assisted is hard to determine thanks to some amazing tight editing that enhances and makes the action here altogether worth seeing.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends is a near-perfect finale of the trilogy. Despite a few flaws here and there, the performances of Takeru Satoh, Tatsuya Fujiwara, and Masaharu Fukuyama as well as the action scenes make this film a definitive purchase for your collection along with the other films of the trilogy.
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