For those fans who have been following any news of the newly released live action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin, the news of the release of the dvd and blu-ray release should already be known. Sadly you would also know that is was only released in Japan (for now) and that the screening of the film in the States is only in select theaters (from what I found out, it was going to be in a film festival in California), to those who got to see it in the theaters. I can only say, lucky… But despite not being able to see it in the theater, I was able to watch it. And I only have one word to say about it; extraordinary.
In the past we have been given some really far off adaptions of games or manga (and in the west, comics). But it seems like that is all starting to change (finally). Many of the stories one grew up with were usually destroyed when movie companies decided to choose what the viewers wanted to see. Changing the cast to different ethnicities and their over all personalities (Dragon Ball Evolution as an example). And from what I have heard, American comic adaptations also didn’t fair too well either. But it seems like fans are finally starting to make their voices be heard. In the states we have seen the Avengers and the Dark Knight trilogy (I would like to point out that I do not follow comic books so I do not know if they stayed true to the source, but like me, I have heard that fans really seemed to enjoy the adaptations). Now a new era has been forged for comic book adaptations which will give rise to others (like the Justice league, or so the rumors say).
That’s all nice and good for comic book lovers, but what about for those who follow Japanese Manga/anime and games. So far we have been given some horrible slaps in the face, with two Street Fighter movies, Dragon Ball (I get tempted to just call it Evolution) and there is bound to be a couple of more that I luckily have not heard of. Now most of these movies have been taken outside of the country of origin and changed dramatically (sadly I also hear that Akira will also be done in the states, once again changing things). But what of movies made in Japan, the source. It is sad to say that film companies have a bad habit of changing things to their desire, thous hurting the original story. And there is also the use of cgi, sadly from past movies that I have seen, Japan did not have as much control over it as the US. This was one of my greatest worries for the Rurouni Kenshing film. Despite this bad record in the past, Japan has made some good progress as well (just like the US with comic adaptations). Some of the films I have enjoyed so far (specially since I was already a fan) are; Cromartie High school (funny and nonsensical like the manga), Death Note (although not a fan, it still kept most of the components of the original), Shinobi (although there was too much cgi that was apparent), Dororo (do not know the original, but it had that manga film to it) and Casshern (which was estraordinary, the first adaptation I loved. Although I do have to admit I do not know much about the original story). With these titles, I dare to say that this is now the new era of adaptations both on the East and West.
Now on to the main topic of this post (sorry for my previous rambling), Rurouni Kenshin. I must start off by saying that this is by far one of the best manga out there, the anime was also really good (too bad after the Kyoto arc they strayed from the original source). I am an immense fan of this series, and even now after a couple of years of first reading it, I can still remember it quite clearly. So having heard of the adaptation I was weary of what they would do with this master piece. Would we have another “Evolution” movie, or would we have a “Shinobi” film (which was good, but had too much cgi). I really wanted this movie to have extraordinary action, but still have that realistic element to it. After seeing the trailer for it, I was completely blown away. If the movie was just as good as it was being portrayed then maybe just maybe this would become one of my favorite films. But I had been fooled before, so I did not want to make any premature decisions.
here is the preview if you have not seen it yet:
I will try to review it in a way that I do not give too much away. So here goes.
The film is set to cover two of the first arcs, the Kanryuu mansion and the Jin-e arc. Now, because they were condensing so much story into a film two hours long they regrettably had to cut out some events and characters out. But I will say that despite that, it did not hurt the original story too much. The main characters shown are Kenshin, Kaoru, Yahiko, Sanosuke, Saito, Megumi, Jin-e, Kanryu, and for some reason Gein and Banjin from the Jinchu arc. I do not know much about the other fans out there, but I was kind of sad that Aoshi Shinomori and the Oniwabanshu would not be present in this film. If you had this concern as well, all I can say, do not worry. I actually believe it might have been for the best. I heard that Watsuki san had a say in the film, so I am sure this was his plan. You see if Aoshi and the Oniwabanshu were revealed here then their story would be too weak and short. So I assume that to make up for this they used Gein and Banjin which in turn also helps tie it to any more films after this one (which would inevitably lead to the Kyoto arc and the Jinchu arc). Now as for the other characters in the manga, other secondary characters also make a brief appearance, such as Tsubame, Tae, the police chief and the commander (sorry forgot their names), as well as the old man with the little girls that often come visit Kaoru. And surprisingly we also get a glimpse of the man who married Tomoe as well as Tomoe herself (don’t worry, they don’t say or clearly show her, but fans will know it is her), this was done for those who do not know much about the manga and why Kenshin decided to become a wanderer.
Now I have been going around the net and read a couple of comments of how some were miscast, all I can say is that they are all wrong. I understand some of their arguments, but the demeanor, vocal tone and over all appearance are spot on, heck even the costumes were done in a way that would look realistic but also keep a close tie to the original. One could really see the effort given to this film. Even Jin-e’s eye was kept in tact. Despite the weird design of the original, they did their best to keep close to it and to also make it look realistic keeping any cgi almost unnoticeable (only one scene looked a bit off, but even then it wasn’t bad). Kenshin, Sanosuke, Yahiko, Megumi, Saito well everyone looked just like in the manga. But the biggest complain I hear some say is that Kaoru was too beautiful in this film, but really from what I read she wasn’t really that plain in the manga (and specially in the anime). I’d say she fits the part rather well. I have also heard comments of how Saito appears too emotional in front of Kenshin, and although this does seem to happen at some points (not crying or something like that). I have to say that it felt rather natural to me. Saito does seem to have this bond with Kenshin of rivalry and that of a comrade from the past (despite being enemies then) in the manga.
You can see the cast here:
The story is actually much like the original except with some minor changes that fans will immediately notice but will not mind too much. The film left it open so that it can be continued (although it did give a solid ending that could leave the movie alone as it is). It was done in a way that the film left a satisfying feeling of an end, but also did not give any problems so that the story could continue and
(minor spoiler, you can skip is you want) that Gein and Banjin could make a return in the Jinchu arc.
Luckily for me and all the fans another installment is set to be released, and some other great news is that they vow to keep it closer to the manga. Seeing as they did not change too much on this installment, then the second movie will be extremely close to the original. Hopefully they follow a four film plan, uncluding this one. They should introduce the Oniwabanchu and then start to tie it in to the Kyoto arc for the second. Eventually the Kyoto arc is completed in the third. And finally for the final movie we see the Jinchu arc, with the return of Gein and Banjin in their original costumes and gears.
Over all the film was the best adaptation I have ever seen, the acting and action was definitely top notch. If only because of some of the changes to the original story and the exclusion of Aoshi I will give it a 9.5/10. An almost perfect score. If you ever get the chance to see it, do so. And make sure to support the film so that the film company knows that these are the kind of results we expect from manga adaptations.
till next time and also a hoping you have an Amazing New Year,