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Film / Rurouni Kenshin

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"Killing gives birth to hatred. And hatred kills in its turn. To break that chain, I carry a sword that will not kill."
Himura Kenshin

Rurouni Kenshin (るろうに剣心, Rurōni Kenshin), marketed in international releases as Rurouni Kenshin: Origins is a 2012 Japanese live-action film based on the Tokyo arc of the Rurouni Kenshin manga series by Nobuhiro Watsuki, despite some slight adjustments to the story. It was released in Japanese cinemas on August 25th, 2012, and serves as the first installment in the Rurouni Kenshin film series.

On the last day of the Bakumatsu, former assassin, Himura Kenshin (Takeru Satoh), made one simple vow: to never take a human life again. Wandering for ten years afterwards allows him to stay true to his word, while all of Japan breaks away from shogunate rule to modernize. One day, Kenshin meets a Kendo teacher, Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei), who not only runs her father's dojo, but also shares the same peaceful interests as him. But when an uncaring businessman (Teruyuki Kagawa) and a blood-thirsty murderer (Koji Kikkawa) attempt to make their own marks on the country, Kenshin must step up and fight for this new world that he cherishes.

This film is followed by Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno.

Rurouni Kenshin contains examples of:

  • Adapted Out:
    • Okita is nowhere to be seen during the prologue.
    • Sano's backstory was neither shown nor discussed.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Except for Gein (who went from being an old, short-statured puppeteer becomes a young, pretty good-looking blond Ninja in leather whose worst deformity is a facial burn), and Jin-e who play 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.
  • 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 Early Appearance: Saitou wasn't supposed to be introduced until the Kyoto Arc. Likewise, Gein and Banjin are supposed to be introduced in the Jinchuu arc but were fused with the Oniwabanshuu.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Understandable, given how long the anime ran. It's essentially the first eleven episodes condensed into two hours, with a sprinkling of Tsuiokuhennote  and Saitou arriving way too early in the series. Considering how disparate the source episodes are, they are wonderfully meshed into one coherent story.
  • A Father to His Men: Despite not outwardly showing it, Saitou 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.
    Saitou: If you just killed one of these scum, my policemen would still be alive.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Gein puts up a ridiculous volume of fire for a pair of 4-shot pistols. A reasonable amount, however, for the 12-shooters that were invented around that time, which is probably what he has.
  • Book Ends: Spoken as Saitou as a cynical rebuke to Kenshin's pacifistic idealism (which were originally the swordsmith Arai Shakku's Armor-Piercing Question to Kenshin/Battousai just before he set out on his 10-year journey in the manga/anime).
    Saito: We live by the sword and we die by the sword. There is no other path for men such as us.
    Arai Shakku: Live by the sword, and die by the sword... There shouldn't be any other path for you, right?
  • Calling Your Attacks: Notably averted. Technique names are only used twice in the entire trilogy, and both times Kenshin names the technique after he has finished using it to win the fight.
  • The Cameo: Tsubame briefly shows up as one of the children who suffered from Kanryu's water poisoning.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Jin-e finds the Sword Plant Kenshin left in the flashback and uses it on him in the final battle.
    • Sano's love for eggs finds application in a pivotal battle.
  • Composite Character:
    • 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.
  • The Con: Kanryu wants to turn Kaoru's village into a port he controls so that he can ship drugs and weapons out more freely, so he hires Jin-E to be the false Battousai to scare people into wanting to sell their land and move out.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Mooks by the hundreds can barely slow any of the named heroes down, much less touch them.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Kenshin participates in several of them.
  • Damsel in Distress: Kaoru on occasion.
  • Dawn of an Era:
    • Japan in general is undergoing this, 10 years on from the Meiji Restoration. See End of an Age below.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Kanryu is defeated before Jin-e.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Kenshin has usually been fighting long enough by the final boss that he can't just stomp them like everyone else.
  • 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.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Saito defeats Kanryu by slashing a chandelier to make it fall on his gatling gun.
  • 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.
  • A Father to His Men: Saito is a jerk, but clearly affected by losing men. When he shows up to help fight Shishio, he specifically says it's to avenge the men he lost.
  • Flash Step: How Kenshin defeats Gein.
  • Flaming Sword: Shishio wields one that lights intermittently. Not knowing when it will spark makes it uniquely unbalancing.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Those familiar with Japanese history (Or played Fall of the Samurai) know that the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in the opening sequence was crucial in ushering in the Meiji Restoration.
  • Friendly Enemy: Despite being no less of a culprit than Kanryu's other men, the film incarnation of Banjin distinguishes himself with the fact that he has no problems at all sharing a time-out meal with Sanosuke, graciously accepting a swig of wine before resuming their ferocious battle. He didn't accept the chicken though because he's vegan, and prays for ''the poor thing'' after Sano passes it to him for a bite..
  • Funny Background Event: There's something to be said for Inui Banjin just standing in the back, doing his Kubrick Stare and neck-cricks anytime he doesn't get lines... just like Genki Sudo is known for.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Played straight with Yamagata and Saitou respectively when they try to win Kenshin over. It doesn't take.
  • A Handful for an Eye: When Kanryu threatens Kenshin and Sanosuke with his gatling gun, Sanosuke throws an egg at his face, which distracts him long enough for the two to get to cover.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Saitou does this to Kenshin during their duel where he uses his superior strength to make the latter cut himself with his reverse-edge sword.
  • How Much More Can He Take?: Sano takes a beating for most of his duel with Banjin.
  • Hypocritical Humor: During the final confrontation, Kanryu chews out Kenshin and Sano for tearing apart his lovely home...and Sano responds that Kanryu's the one using the hand-cranked Gatling gun.
  • Iaijutsu Practitioner: Kenshin comes true to form not only with his practice of battoujutsu, but also uses backhands with his sakabatou whenever necessary, as witness his match-in-the-rain with Saitou.
  • Inspector Javert: True to his manga/anime incarnation, Saitou still has his unwavering grudge towards Battousai, and very appalled at his current pacifistic stance.
  • Kneel Before Zod: When Kanryu has his gatling gun pointed at Kenshin and Sanosuke, he orders them to strip, kneel, and beg for their lives. Instead, Sanosuke distracts him by throwing an egg at him.
  • Large Ham: Kanryu, full stop. Sano, being who he is, gives him a run for his money.
    • Kanryu is notable, however, in that his hamminess only makes him more terrifying rather than funny.
  • Leitmotif: Kanryu gets one (entitled Kanryu Teikoku ~ Gasshuu no Take~), which crosses into Soundtrack Dissonance as it's a jaunty tune that frames his asshole moments.
  • Le Parkour: Frequently done by Kenshin.
  • Licking the Blade: Jin-e does it just to emphasize to the policemen he's massacring what a sick bastard he is.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Obviously.
  • Made of Iron: Sano.
  • Mid-Battle Tea Break: After Sano's fight with Banjin ends up crashing through Kanryu's kitchen, the two fighters take a quick break to grab a snack and share a bottle of wine before going back to pounding on each other.
  • Money Is Not Power: Kenshin's "Reason You Suck" Speech about this subject to Kanryu is made far more chilling than in the original manga and anime, due to a slightly changed line and the fact that it technically isn't Kenshin giving it.
    Hitokiri Battousai: Do you know what money can't buy, Kanryu? It's what you're begging for right now. Your life.
  • Mythology Gag
    • Kenshin's first outfit is the one he wore during the Trust and Betrayal OVA.
    • Kenshin is seen riding a canoe during the OBB, an obvious reference to the anime's first opening.
    • Sano is first introduced in the prison. This is likely a reference to what happened to him during the manga/anime's Kyoto arc.
    • Kenshin's battle with Gein happens in a library, which is also were Kenshin fought Aoshi the second time. Gein is also wearing Aoshi's manga outfit.
    • Kanryu's speech at Akabeko about how the Samurai are a fallen breed is copied almost word for word from a speech made by the head of the gang Yahiko used to run with in his introductory story in the manga/anime.
  • Never Trust a Title: The DVD release calls the movie Rurouni Kenshin: Origins, despite the fact that this story is not the Origins Episode film, that would be Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning. Somewhat justified by the fact that the decision to make the fourth and fifth films of the series wasn't made until after the first three were released on DVD, so the distribution company didn't know that a film with a better claim to that title would be coming out later.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Saitou, 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.
  • No-Sell: Jin-e doesn't even flinch from being hit by Kaoru's wooden sword, before disarming her and breaking it over his knee.
  • Oh, Crap!: Kanyru has a magnificent one when he sees Saito preparing his Gatotsu.
  • 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 Saitou. 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.
  • Out of Focus: Yahiko in The Movie gets reduced to the Plucky Comic Relief.
  • The Power of Love: Jin-e freezes Kaoru's lungs with Ken-ki (Sword Spirit) so strong that she will suffocate unless Kenshin kills him first. Kaoru eventually shatters the technique through sheer force of will to stop Kenshin from becoming a murderer once more to save her life.
  • Professional Killer: A big theme of the movie is how former samurai and mercenaries have to discard their pride and become these while those who don't end up starving on the streets and die.
  • Raw Eggs Make You Stronger: Sanosuke, just prior to challenging Kenshin, picks up a dish with one as a warm-up snack. He also gets one in the break between his fight with Banjin. And grabs another for later that he throws in Kanryu's face to temporarily blind him in the gatling gun scene.
  • 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.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Kanryu has these borzois that he clearly adores, but closer to this trope, a white rabbit is seen on his desk. In a subversion, the only feline appearing in the film is a stray kitten which got Kaoru's fawning attention.
  • Scenery Porn: The production team went out of its way to properly replicate significant events/places in the manga/anime, such as the chaos and destruction of the Battle of Toba-Fushimi (Kenshin and Saitou's last battle as samurai in the prologue), the streets and ditches of Edo-era Kyoto, down to the gate of Kanryu's mansion.
  • Sequel Hook: This film purposefully doesn'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: Saitou 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.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • The unfortunately merciful punishment of Takeda Kanryu.
    • Unlike the manga and anime, Sanosuke's BFS wasn't destroyed during his battle against Kenshin. He does seem to have left it with the mooks after wiping the field with their asses though. 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Sanosuke's BFS falls squarely into Awesome, but Impractical territory. It certainly looks cool enough, but the damn thing is so big and cumbersome that Kenshin easily evades each of Sanosuke's strokes with little effort.
  • 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 Saitou 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.
  • Talking the Brawler to Disengage: Kenshin convinces Sanosuke to stop fighting him, merely by asking him if he really wants to work for a guy like Kanryuu.
  • Team Power Walk: The whole scene with Kenshin and Sanosuke droppin' punks left and right sets this up for our heroes, as they enter the Takeda building proper.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Sano is quite fond of raw eggs and will often down one before a fight. Director Ohtomo stated at the LA Eiga Festival that Sano's fondness for raw eggs became his character tic because having a fish bone in his mouth, like his manga/anime counterpart, 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 to Akira Kurosawa's staging of post-combat deaths in his latter-year big-budget films such as Kagemusha and Ran.
  • Water Source Tampering: Kanryu's men flush Megumi out of hiding by pouring rat poison into the village well. She is able to treat everybody who drank the tainted water, but she decides to stop hiding and return to Kanryu's mansion, fearing more attacks on the people.
  • 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 Saitou 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.
  • Yes-Man: Kanryu has a group of them, dressed in white and absolutely obedient to him. They are also just as spineless.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After they've finished perfecting the Spider's Web opium formula, Kanryu decides that he doesn't need an entire team of doctors who know how to make it, so he has his men kill all of them except for Megumi. This quickly backfires, as this inspires Megumi to run away, leaving him without anyone capable of refining his opium.