Monday, December 17, 2012

The Wandering Swordsman Returns

It was my great pleasure to have viewed the limited screening of the live action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin, otherwise known as Samurai X, here in the Philippines. With a few other shows, these were the shows of my generation, a throng of kids growing up in the nineties beginning to appreciate anime for the first time.

For the uninitiated, Rurouni Kenshin is the story of Kenshin Himura, a wandering swordsman who was once the legendary assassin Battousai. Patterned after actual historical figures from the Meiji restoration, Kenshin has sworn never to kill again, a lost soul in a turbulent age. He then comes across Kaoru Kamiya, a kendo instructor who takes him in after he helps her.

The live action adaptation takes three of the first arcs of the manga and anime and combines them, taking aspects of one and combining it with another. Sometimes this leads to characters getting cut out of the story or combined with others. With the wrong director this often leads to disaster, but in this case the final result comes out quite well. The movie also makes extensive flashbacks to Kenshin's time as an assassin, including moments from the latter half of the manga which may surprise some.

While some of the main cast are explored a bit, some are left out (Sannosuke is a glaring example, characterization wise, becoming the comic foil) but in the end this is Kenshin's story. Throughout the movie he tries to come to terms with his past life and tries to accept the present and find somewhere to belong. It's understandable that some of the other characters do not get that much screen time, given the limited time of the movie format.

Takeru Sato is Kenshin, and he does the role quite well. He seems to have taken his lessons from acting in Tokusatsu (he is probably well remembered in Japan as the lead in Kamen Rider Den-O) and does a great number of stunts, running around and moving with the speed and power of Kenshin's Hiten Mitsurugi style. The rest of the cast is capable and does their job well; Teruyuki Kagawa does a great job hamming it up as Kanryu, Emi Takei portrays a gentler, more Yamato Nadeshiko Kaoru, and Yu Aoi is just... Yu Aoi.

The action work is fantastic and fast paced, if a little spaced far apart from each other. There's lots of wire work in play and is far better than most other action oriented anime adaptations in recent memory.

All in all, this was a blast to watch and the nostalgia factor shows itself in a major way all throughout the movie. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.