Reviews: Rurouni Kenshin
A surprising triumph.
A few years ago, there was a bit of a "Kenshin revival" of sorts, mostly a live-action film announcement and an anime project headed by STUDIO DEEN. People are usually skeptical of live-action adaptations of anime, and understandably so. Most popular anime have weird, bizarre visual quirks and tics that would be very difficult to translate into live-action properly. The most famous example in recent history, Dragon Ball Evolution, is the Ur-Example of attempts going wrong. But as it turns out, not this time. Pretty much everything from the Kenshin revival ended up being very underwhelming (the less said about DEEN's adaptation, the better), but this film and its two sequels turned out to be one of the most faithful and lovingly crafted film adaptations of a comic I've ever seen. To begin with, every single actor feels passes off as a more realistic version of their character at least comfortably, and some excellently. Takeru Satoh in particular deserves praise for his turn as Kenshin, which is top notch, and Yosuke Eguchi who is as about as good a Saito as you could hope for. The film's visuals are gorgeous. Their rendition of Meiji era Japan feels completely authentic, a mishmash of an old nation with centuries of tradition peppered with decidedly western, foreign items and people as a result of it finally opening itself up to the rest of the world. Every single set feels like it was meticulously and lovingly constructed to be as faithful to its era as possible. The film's action scenes have very decent coreography, being both visually impressive and convincing as more realistic and toned down versions of the over-the-top powers from the manga. In terms of the film's drama and emotional component, the film delivers; some of the scenes are surprisingly powerful, such as the flashback to Kenshin's first assassination, which almost made me cry. The film's soundtrack, composed by Naoki Sato (who also worked on Eureka Seven), is one of the film's biggest strengths, and is both memorable and adds a lot to the film's scenes and emotional strength. I feel comfortable calling it one of the best soundtracks of a film in the last few years, easily putting many of the generic soundtracks to hollywood films to shame. The biggest complaint one might make is how the movie ends up having to be a Pragmatic Adaptation due to how much it ends up compressing the manga's material: Aoshi and the Oniwabanshuu are not present, all of Sanosuke's backstory and character development are basent, Gein from the Jinchuu arc shows up as a completely different character, etc. But I honestly don't have a problem with it, as all that stuff would be impossible to include in a film adaptation. The film chooses to focus on Kenshin's character, which is the best thing for them to have done since Kenshin was a great main character. Overall, the film is probably the best live-action adaptation of an anime ever.
A Fun Film
I recently had the privilege of seeing this movie on an international flight from Tokyo to Atlanta, and I have to say, it was very impressive. I was a big fan of the anime when I was younger and it was on its original Toonami run. The sets were detailed, vibrant, and true to the setting. The actors didn't look like cosplayers, but what the characters would look like if they were real. (Besides Sagara. He's the only one they didn't nail perfectly.) The acting is also very fitting for the characters. The action is very fluid and realistic besides, what is a problem for me but something I'm aware is a steeple of samurai and martial art films, the impossible leaps through the air that Himura does. This isn't just an anime film turned live action, but a legitimate samurai/martial arts film in its own right that is as loyal to the source material as the medium would allow. My only problems? Sagara and how they didn't include Himura's Verbal Tic, that they didn't.