Words by Natsumi Shiroko
I still remember my excitement after watching the first Rurouni Kenshin, in 2012. The director, Keishi Otomo showed the new possibility of Japanese action film. In Japan, following the success of second film, Rurouni Kenshin 2: Kyoto Inferno released in August 2014, Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends was released in September 2014. Considering the high popularity of original comics, the opening box-office record of more than 1.3 billion yen ($12 milion) made from more than 1 million admissions over the three-day holiday weekend the film opened on can be said to be a great success. Here in the UK, the journey finally comes to the end. Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends will be released in the UK this April.
In Rurouni Kenshin 2, Kenshin (Takeru Sato) leaves for Kyoto to confront Shishio Makoto (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who claims that he is a successor of Kenshin as an assassin and aim to take over the government. During the battle with Shishio’s henchman, Sojiro Seta (Ryunosuke Kamiki), his unique sword, Sakabatou (Reverse-Blade sword) is broken into two. Following Kenshin, Kaoru (Emi Takei) also joins the battle with Shishio’s cohort, but is kidnapped by Shishio. In Rurouni Kenshin 3, after failing to save Kaoru from Shishio, Kenshin drifts to the island where Hiko Seijuro (Masaharu Fukuyama), his former mentor lives. Kenshin asks him to teach an ultimate fighting technique to beat Shishio.
In the series of Rurouni Kenshin films, the director Keishi Otomo makes much use of his experiences and connections made during his career and this has made it possible for him to collaborate with the busiest actors and actresses working in Japan at this moment. In Japan, just like in many countries, television dramas and commercials are one of the pathways to becoming a film director and Otomo has had a long career where he has succeeded in making various television series. As a fan of Ryomaden, a Sunday night historical drama series made by Otomo, it was pleasure to see the reunion of some the actors such as Satoh, Fukuyama and Yusuke Iseya (Aoshi Shinomori) with director Otomo. At the same time, it is undeniable that Otomo’s style, like the music of the film which is composed by Naoki Satoh who also worked on Ryomaden, features many similarities to the television shows. At times the film made me feel like I was watching sequences from TV drama, Ryomaden.
What audience can expect most from this film is katana (sword) action scenes. The katana Kenshin who determines to be non-lethal to provide a safer Japan for a new generation, uses is Sakabatou (Reverse-Blade sword) which can be used to knock out opponents rather than kill. Therefore, unlike normal samurai dramas, Kenshin’s opponents do not end up just being bloodied dead bodies. Rather, we can see and enjoy Kenshin’s cutting-air katana technique The film’s combination of wire-work movement with katana action will also satisfy Asian Kung Fu film fans. The final battle scene is spectacular. Thinking of the original comic which is a long series and has lots of side stories for many of the protagonists I can say that Otomo succeeded in putting all the character’s journey to the end together although it is hardly possible to depict all the complex stories in 135 minutes.