Film is an entirely different medium, compared to television and print media, for telling a story. One difference is in the presentation time or the period in which a particular story arc will be portrayed. It’s obviously more limited in film; at average, you have only two hours to tell your story. This affects the pace in which you tell your story. If you go too fast, your audience might get lost; go slow and they might be bored. It also affects the characters and settings for your story. A convoluted plot will confuse your audience; a lacking plot might disinterest them.
This was all that I’ve been thinking before entering the cinema for the screening of Samurai X: Rurouni Kenshin (live-action film) in our place. “Don’t expect too much,” I told myself.
Nonetheless, the manga and animé mediums of the story about a former assassin named Kenshin Himura, which was released in the 1990s drew numerous accolades from critics: this movie has big shoes to fill.
The opening sequence was breathtakingly magnificent. It’s a snowy setting for a war in 1868 with katanas as the primary weapon. The combination of blood-red against white snow is magnificent eye-candy. For the record, I’m not a sadist. 😛 But undeniably, that opening sequence is just plain beauty.
Actually, imagery and cinematography is where Rurouni Kenshin: Samurai X shines in. The colors are just the right mix of cool and warm, which is pleasing to the eyes. The settings are just right for presenting the scenes invoked by the characters. In particular, the fight scenes are great — no “ninja-style” flying; instead, fast movements and pacing, which fits in with the movie’s overall theme.
No question about the acting: all of them performed their roles convincingly. I was actually frightened of Udō Jin-e — I thought he was ‘gonna leap out of the screen and slaughter everyone. I was also scared that someone from among the audience might play out his role on us. Thank goodness it was just a movie.
Going back to the acting, this movie will make you cry when a sorrowful scene comes up, laugh when something ridiculous happens, frightened when you should be scared, and be at the edge of your seat when you should be.
I remember one of the last scenes where Kaoru overcame Jin-e’s sword spirit and was begging Kenshin not to kill anymore. There was no background music; only her dialogue and gasping cries were enough to deliver a heart-breaking plea.
You should not kill … for the sake of the people you killed, and for the people you have saved.
—Kaoru to Kenshin, who was about to kill Jin-e
As for the representation of the manga and animé characters as live people, I would say it was well-accounted for. Granted, some had clothing styles different from in the animé, but it was necessary to make the movie as close to real life as possible. Of course, Jin-e had a sword spirit technique that’s like magic (in the Western sense) but it was okay. Kudos to the production team for retaining Kenshin’s signature red yukata! 😀
Ultimately, how did I find this film? It is, hands-down, the best live-action adaptation of an animé that I’ve seen so far. It did fill in the “big shoes” required of it and set down by it’s positively-acclaimed manga and animé counterparts. I’m sooo happy that this adaptation surpassed my expectations and showed how animés should be adjusted for the big screen.
As for a sequel, I don’t think there’s going to be one (I hope so!). It was already satisfying and besides, there’s the animé series to fill that in. I’m actually scared that they might screw up everything in the sequel, should they make one. There are openings for prequels, though. Prime example: when Kenshin was telling Megumi of how he got his X-shaped scar. How he got the first half of the scar was portrayed; the second, not. And I was expecting to see Tomoe! (The one who gave Kenshin’s second half of his scar.) So, there. We might see something like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or something, but that’s only a guess. But in my opinion, I would love to see a live-action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal. It’s one of the most beautifully-agonizing OVAs (Original Video Animation) I’ve ever seen.
All in all, it was a very satisfying watch and I give this film a “two thumbs up!” If there’s one thing I learned from the whole Ruruoni Kenshin / Samurai X story, it is to stick to your principles no matter how much pain and agony circumstances give you to betray them.
Until the next movie review … Cheers!
Post Script: About the release and distribution of this film, I don’t know why there seems to be a problem making this available to as much theaters as possible. I believe this film is worth seeing, by fans and those who just heard of Rurouni Kenshin. Even the marketing, I think, wasn’t well done (at least, here in my place). When I entered the cinema, there were barely a handful of people. And I was expecting it to be jam-packed and a “standing-room only.” Then again, I entered the cinema at 10:40AM; maybe a lot more enthusiasts flock in the afternoon screening times. That’s another thing: the screening period: only three days here in our area. What exactly is going on!? 80