[Review] Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie

[Review] Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie


I’ve always been an AVID activist of letting the origin of a work be recreated by that same origin. A book is based in New York filled with Americans; let the Americans handle the film adaptation. If a mini-series about a first woman ruler of Silla was created by the Koreans, let them handle the film adaptation. If Bollywood wants to make a movie version of Saathiya Saath Nibhana, let the Indians make that damn movie. My case is proved infinitively by the Rurouni Kenshin live action film adaptation.

Rurouni Kenshin is a 2012 Japanese film adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin based on Nobuhiro Watsuki‘s popular manga of the same name. Directed by Keishi Ōtomo, the film stars Takeru Sato and Emi Takei.(via Wikipedia). It was released in August of 2012 and I, by the grace of God, was able to find a subbed version of it on January 24th, 2013.


Firstly, I have no plans on doing a traditional review. Anyone that has clicked on this article, more than likely is an established fan of Rurouni Kenshin, knows the plot, knows how it ends, and knows the manga versus the anime and the OVAs as well. So to break down what goes down in this movie is pointless. I shall, however tell you why you should watch this.

To begin, let me tell you what NOT to expect.

  • Don’t expect direct panel to panel adaptation–
  • Don’t expect for the characters meet the exact same way
  • This is a movie, not a 95 episode anime or a 28 volume manga
  • Don’t expect for the villains to conglomerate the same way
  • DON’T EXPECT THE SAME VILLIANS (this is a preemptive warning)
  • No Golden Eyes, and no Saito – Kenshin fight just yet….

Now that I’ve got that out of the way let me tell you what TO expect.

Casting and Characterization

This movie manages to cast extremely well. From Takeru Sato, angular face, light voice, extreme agility and small frame to Emi Takei’s voice to Yôsuke Eguchi oiled back hair; you don’t have to look at this movie and struggle to envision Kenshin, Kaoru, or Saito. The casting director did a fantastic job of adapting the looks of the movie characters to the manga characters.

Their characterization is on point as well, because the actors are talented. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when I heard Kenshin utter “Oro” or his famous “de gozaru.” I can’t tell you how pleased I was when Kaoru called for Kenshin or Yahiko and her voice and infliction WAS Kaoru’s. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when Saito flicked his cigarette or when Megumi flirted like the devil.

One of the most interesting parts (other than all of the other interesting parts) was between Sanoske and Inui Banjin (who shows up two arcs early in the movie) are fighting and Sanoske and Inui stays true to their characterizations as Sanoske stops the fight mid-way to rest and offers Inui a piece of chicken. Inui accepts it, but lays the chicken down and says to it, “I’m a vegetarian, poor thing,” inciting laughter. (They even give Inui his dreads. It was awesome)



This isn’t an instance where they take an ideal of Rurouni Kenshin and make it into something completely different. The storyline is damn near identical. Like I said, not a panel for panel interpretation, we don’t get all of the backstory and some of the inspiration for them to gather up as a group is slightly different. But still, many of the main and minor points of the plot are present. Even some of the OVA: Reflection is there as a plot builder. So what you’re watching is REALLY the live action adaptation of the movie, and not the characters thrown into what the writer wanted it to be.

This includes (and this is why it was so important for the Japanese to handle this adaptation) severe attention to the culture, look and feel of the Meji Restoration period, as well as the end of the Edo period. You can tell the level of attention that is involved in this movie.

Cinematography and Choreography


This movie looks good. There was a lot of movie invested into this movie and it shows. Takuro Ishizaka handles the photographic likability of this movie well, while Director Keishi Ohtomo hands on style of guiding us through this movie from start to end is handled well. The realism that may have been lost in the anime and manga but was seen in the OVA is present in the movie. Blood. Yes. Lots of blood.

The Choreography is eye capturing too. Now I’ve already mentioned that they did a wonderful job of making this movie LOOK like the manga (Kaoru’s ribbon in her hair, EVERYONE’S HAIR, Kenshin’s red kimono and white hakama, Sanoske’s Zanbato, Jin-e eyes,ect) but they fight like they do in the manga.

Kaoru is pretty decent with her sword. Yahiko is still learning and Megumi disarms with her charm. However, when we get into the gusto of the fighting, the fight choreographer manages to give them the agility and prowess that Kenshin, Saito, Sanoske, Jin-e, Han’nya and everyone else is known for without making it look contrived. The wirework gives them the boost of flight and the camera angles combined with the actors own flexibility and speed makes the fight scenes very fun to watch. We even get to see a little of this…


They even incorporate correct choreography in Kenshin’s Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū and stay true to his Battōsai name. The name Battōsai, as you may all know, is a practice of fast and precise sword drawing. The nature of Hiten Mitsurugi-ryūrevolves around the ideal of fighting many people with the least amount of sword draws, thus the least amount of energy expelled and the more time you can concentrate on your next move. The fights are able to combine Kenshin’s extreme power in fighting more than one foe at a time, as well as his use of his sakabato, and finally in his battle with Jin-e we see his supreme use of his Battōsai prowess.


So, in conclusion (ha, this sounds like a 5th grade essay), yeah, you need to see it. What’s the most important thing though? This only covers the arc up until Jin-e and the set up seems like there will be a sequel and hopefully a trilogy. If we get to see the entire manga played out, I can’t tell you what my excitement level will be on.

If you don’t have that lank yet, hit me up in the comments. I’ll give it to ya!