Oh, how I’ve wanted to write this!
I went to go see the Rurouni Kenshin movie in Hofu this Saturday–the day it came out!! Rurouni Kenshin is a manga that ran from 1994-1999 (Wikipedia). I was in love with this manga in 8th and I think 9th grade!!! I didn’t actually read the whole thing–I think I got to around volume 16 (out of 28), but I still love it~~~~ There’s an anime for it, a couple of movies, and an OVA series (I’ve only seen a little of the anime as well). The movie is based on the first arc anyway (about the first couple of books or so), so I was all set to enjoy this!
This post consists of my “review” of the movie–“Review,” because I am a HUGE Kenshin fan and the movie was really well made, so it was hard for me to find bad things to say. However, that can go both ways, can’t it? The biggest fans have a lot more hopes riding on the movie, so they can be more critical, right? I wouldn’t say it was good if it didn’t remain true to the books.
Here’s the Wikipedia summary from the Rurouni Kenshin main page:
“The fictional setting takes place during the early Meiji period in Japan. The story is about a fictional assassin named Himura Kenshin, from the Bakumatsu who becomes a wanderer to protect the people of Japan. Watsuki wrote this series upon his desire of making a shōnen manga different from the other ones that were published in that time, with Kenshin being a former assassin and the story taking a more serious tone as it continued.”
Some people might be wondering if I understood this movie, given that the movie is in Japanese and Kenshin speaks with slightly older Japanese, and the answer is…I know the story so well that I kind of forgot it was in Japanese^^; There were some parts I didn’t get, but in my opinion, the movie could’ve been in Hindi and I still would’ve understood all of it. The parts that I couldn’t get 100% were things that were modified from the books, or that I forgot.
Actor/actress choices looked like the original manga characters: The first thing that impressed me about this movie were the actors. As soon as I saw how similar all the actors looked to the characters from the manga, I got super, super excited! Sato Takeru as Kenshin was perfect by himself, but I thought that all the characters were believable live-action equivalents to their manga originals. I also felt that all the actors portrayed their characters very well! They had me sold on it^^ (Apparently Sato was a fan of the manga, too? Alriiiiiight!!!!!)
A LOT of story covered (skillfully) in a very short amount of time: This movie really did a feat by squeezing an entire first arc into one movie. I think that manga are generally more suited to television dramas, because one or two chapters of manga fit well into a 45-min episode on tv, and then you can take more time to develop individual characters. I think this is why movies often have a completely different story line than the manga, or a side story–explaining all that background information is just too rushed. However, this movie took an entire arc, cut things that would slow the movie down too much, and still managed to introduce and develop the characters well. They were really creative about this–in the manga, every main character usually has his/her own introductory chapter, with a flashback scene/explanation of their past (etc). If this were a drama, it’d be easy–just give each character an episode to be developed. Not all the main characters have a large part in the main plot of the movie–but this movie’s strength is that, instead of ignoring less important characters or just dropping them and pretending they didn’t exist, it seamlessly weaves them into the story. As a fan, I really appreciated that, and I think that other fans did/will too. My friend thought that there were too many characters for a non-fan to grasp after seeing this movie only once for the first time, but I don’t think it’s as important to get every single character as it is to understand Kenshin’s character, and the film does a fine job of delivering this. Also, I really felt respected as a fan when I saw this, thinking, “Wow, they cared!!” instead of, “Oh my gosh…why did they do that ><”
I also thought that the way they introduced and explained Kenshin’s past was perfect. The movie introduced enough information to keep the movie interesting and the plot going, but left enough out to put in future sequels!!^^ I can’t wait!
Believability: What I really liked about this movie was that I could take it seriously. It takes place in a historical time period, so anything from the manga that was too “unbelievable,” the director modified. My friend also mentioned that she didn’t always get exactly what was going on in the action scenes, like what move or sword style had been used and that kind of thing (I’m making her sound antagonistic, lol, but she was as excited as I was. These are just comments from our discussion after the movie). However, as part of the realistic aspects o this film, I really appreciated the fact that they spent minimal time explaining how the fight was going or focusing on the moves (I’m only focusing on the latter part of her argument). That’s a really shonen manga type of thing to do–perform a cool attack, and then explain exactly how it works and what style it is. I think you could get away with those kinds of explanations in a drama, but…I think the absence of stuff like that made this movie really believable and flow faster.
The movie followed the plotline of the manga as best as it imaginably could–there are quite a few changes, but I am still marveling at how creative they were in getting it all to work in 2.5 hours O_O (I have to admit while saying this that I don’t remember all the details perfectly, because I was in 8th grade when I first read it…but I didn’t have any “oh my gosh that’s horrible!!” moments.) There were some changes that were made, but those changes either 1) made the movie believable because it’s live action and not a manga, or 2) emphasized the characters’ personalities because there isn’t time in the movie to do lots of side scenes where you would normally learn (as in the manga) what their personalities are like. The modifications in the movie remained true to the characters’ personalities in the manga–and actually, I really liked the modifications! haha.
The director also captured all the important moments beautifully. They added a lot of “falling stuff” to the fight scenes-if I had to criticize one thing, it would be the third time there was falling stuff, and I was like, alright, I get it…but I think the fight scenes look a lot more artistic with falling stuff, so think what you will.
I loved the music, too! You can hear some of it in the trailer. ONE OK ROCK performed the song in the credits–here it is if you want to hear it. (Btw, when he says “safe here in my arms” and is looking straight at the camera, I do not feel safe, I feel creeped out lol)
This movie focuses more on the serious parts of the manga than the humorous ones, but I think it works out really well. There is humor inserted in some of the scenes that I thought was well-timed (my friend enjoyed it haha). I think the movie captures the heart of the series–I don’t think people choose this series as their favorite for the humor, but maybe that’s just me.
This movie was amazing! Don’t hear that and go in with huge expectations and then tell me you were disappointed–just go in like a normal movie and then be pleasantly surprised, please!^ If you read Kenshin growing up, you won’t be disappointed!
The nice thing about this movie theater is that they have a little movie merchandise store at the same desk where they tear your ticket so you can go in! (Are all Japanese theaters like this? I don’t remember this from wherever I went to see Arietty and Noruwei no mori in Tokyo). The flier on the bottom right was free, they just stick it in with your purchase. The book has lots of nice pictures inside^^ Japan, yer doin it right!!