Rurouni Kenshin is a 2012 live action movie adaptation of the manga of the same name, starring Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei and Koji Kikkawa in the historic fiction. It premiered in Japan on August 25, 2012.After the success of the first film, sequels immediately followed: the second, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno was released on August 1, 2014, while the third, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, is set for September 13 of the same year, both covering the Kyoto Arc.
A Father to His Men: Despite not outwardly showing it, Saito values the lives of his fellow policemen and subordinates. When he sees Kenshin looking on at the dead bodies of policemen and thugs killed by Jin-e, he goes straight to Kenshin and reproaches him for his non-killing oath.
Saito: If you just killed one of these scum, my policemen would still be alive.
Adaptational Badass: While Kenshin in the manga/anime has always been badass, he's usually far less effective without a sword. The movie more or less drops that weakness, showing him doing very well in unarmed combat against armed mooks.
Adaptational Attractiveness: Except from Gein (who from being an old, short-statured puppeteer becomes a young, pretty good-looking blonde ninja in leather whose worst deformity is a facial burn), and Jin-e who plays this trope straight, the film averts this. They actually went out of their way to make everyone look like their manga/anime counterparts with regards to realism (Sanosuke is more beefy out of necessity, and Megumi's eyebrows resemble those of Heian-era noblewomen, befitting her quirks). Others who don't, like General Yamagata, look more similar to their Real Life counterparts.
Adaptation Distillation: Understandable, given how long the anime ran. It's essentially the first eleven episodes condensed into two hours, with a sprinkling of Tsuiokuhen and Saito arriving way too early in the series. Considering how disparate the source episodes are, they are wonderfully meshed into one coherent story.
Udo Jin-e takes on Hiruma Gohei's role as the fake Battousai.
The initial gang of thugs sent by Kanryu (and led by siblings) evoke the mooks led by Hiruma Gohei and Kihei, while wearing the outfits of the Hishimanji (another gang prominently featured in the manga and the Fake Faith Healer arc).
Standing in for the Tokyo Oniwabanshuu are two of Enishi's Six Comrades: Gein and Inui Banjin. Additionally, Gein himself seems to be a composite of both Han'nya and Aoshi's kodachi-wielding skills, as well as his canon manga outfit. Banjin, for his part, looks and acts more like Shikijo, down to being a Friendly Enemy.
Culture Chop Suey: Reflecting late 19th Century Japan, the overall atmosphere is a peculiar (if at times jarring) blend of Victorian and traditional Japanese motifs.
Early-Bird Cameo: Saito wasn't supposed to be introduced until the Kyoto Arc. Likewise, Gein and Baijin are supposed to be introduced in the Jinchuu arc but was fused with the Oniwabanshuu.
End of an Age: Much of the film takes place in 1878, during the twilight years of the Samurai and 10 years since the Meiji Restoration. Many signs of modernization are beginning to make themselves felt, some more subtle than others. The Battle of Toba-Fushimi in the prologue, set about a decade earlier shows this in action with swordfights going on amidst artillery and gunfire.
Exact Time to Failure: Jin-e coldly sneers that Kaoru has 2 minutes at most until she dies of asphyxiation caused by his ultimate Shin No Ippo technique; averted in that she held her breath from beginning to end for exactly five minutes and one second onscreen.
The Faceless: Tomoe makes a cameo appearance, but we never get a clear shot of her face.
Fantasy Gun Control: Played with. By the time the main plot takes place, wearing and owning swords in public is being banned, with Kenshin exempt by virtue of his blade being a reverse-edge. In real-life Japan, this was Truth in Television.
Noble Bigot with a Badge: Saito, full stop. The bigot part stems from the fact that despite working for the Meiji government, he still imposes his rigid and brutal sense of justice as a former Shinsengumi squad leader on his enemies. The noble part comes into play when 1) despite having it in for Kenshin and his enemies, he never goes beyond due process, and 2) he maintains his dignity and self-possession as a samurai, unlike the sell-swords serving under Kanryu.
One-Man Army: Kanryu's two-hundred-and-fifty men already had no chance against Himura Kenshin; it was a REALLY bad day that they also had to face Sanosuke on the same day as well.
One-Woman Wail: In that one BGM they use for the important bits, becoming Kenshin's "asskicking leitmotif". (This specific portion is in two tracks of the OST: Seiseiruten ~ Shin Jidai He and the appropriately-named Hiten.)
Only a Flesh Wound: Kenshin was cornered into being wounded by his own sword by Saito. Jin-e's face was split to bleeding by Kenshin (angered into being Battousai). Both of them keep up like nothing happened.
Subverted with Kiyosato Akira, the young to-be-married samurai Battousai assassinated in one of his outings. Kiyosato's repeated attempts to stand and fight despite being heavily hacked to bits by Battousai are faithful to his manga/OVA counterpart, and are heroic on their own. His wailing and flailing, however, is just ridiculously pathetic and too similar to the Trope Namer, the Black Knight, it's leaning too close to Narm.
He also gets one in the break between his fight with Banjin.
Rated M for Manly: Sanosuke, as to be expected of his boisterous energy. Saito manages to evoke this image just by standing and looking intimidating.
Red-Headed Hero: They nailed Kenshin's hair. It looks very natural despite his clearly being Japanese.
Real Is Brown: Invoked. Kenshin is covered in somber, dark blue tones (accurate of the manga and Tsuiokuhen Battousai outfit he had) in a flashback and the start of the movie - until Kaoru gets him a change of clothes that fits his anime appearance quite closely. In fact, most characters tend to wear dark or muted clothing. No bright red hair for anyone, though.
The exceptions tend to either be wealthy individuals or characters with customized outfits, much like how it would realistically be for the period.
Sequel Hook: This film purposefully dosen't depict the exact circumstances to which Kenshin got his second scar and avoids showing Tomoe's face, leaving the casting wide open, which will neatly allow the Tsuiokuhen (Remembrance) and the Revenge arc of the manga to be adapted should it be successful enough to warrant future sequels.
Shipper on Deck: Yahiko suggests that Kaoru should improve her cooking skills, as men prefer women who are good cooks, then glance at Kenshin and tells her that someone might take him away.
Shown Their Work: In addition to the source material, the film does a reasonable effort in depicting late 19th Century Japan.
Smoking Is Cool: Hajime and Kanryu. Even Megumi indulges with a pipe, just one time.
Snow Means Death: Aside from the aftermath of the Battle of Toba-Fushimi (see War Is Hell below), there are also flashbacks of Kenshin's assassinations where snow (or sakura petals looking eerily like snowflakes) fall at the dead bodies.
Considering they were entering a mansion with corridors and small rooms, Sano probably figured he wouldn't be able to swing around his BFS like crazy and just left it outside. Also, it also let us see Sano fistfight, which he is more well-known for.
Storming the Castle: Kenshin and Sanosuke storming Kanryu's mansion to punish him for his crimes.
Suspect Is Hatless: The sketch of the Battousai is completely featureless, with the eyes entirely obscured by the same conical hat that most characters and extras are wearing. Still, it's rather accurate of Jin-e's entire outfit.
Sword Plant: Himura Battousai responds this way to Saito when the Battle of Toba-Fushimi ended in the prologue, his way of saying he will not kill again.
Sword Sparks: Subtly done in the fight between Kenshin and Jin-e.
For a reason: Director Ohtomo stated at the LA Eiga Festival that Sano's fondness for raw eggs became his character tic/trait because the character tic/trait of his manga/anime counterpart, having a fish bone in his mouth, would look too silly in real life.
War Is Hell: Done quite subtly-yet-beautifully in showing the aftermath of the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in the prologue. Seeing the dead bodies of all combatants, friend and foe piled up together in the field while being slowly buried in snow, drives home how many lives and personal futures have been sacrificed just to bring a new era. It's comparable toAkira Kurosawa's staging of post-combat deaths in his latter-year big-budget films such as Kagemusha and Ran.
What Happened to the Mouse?: In the first film, Gein and Banji are both knocked out but still very much alive (Gein even shouting a variation of We Will Meet Again). But when we later see Saito aprehending Kanryu's gang, they're nowhere to be seen, leaving ambiguous if they fled the scene or were simply arrested off-screen.
Wrestler in All of Us: In addition to punching, kicking, and using his zanbato, Sanosuke also pulls off a couple suplexes and a drop kick.