Movie Review: The Phenomenal Awesomeness that is Rurouni Kenshin

While I was in Taiwan and Japan these past two weeks, I got to watch a ton of inflight movies. I must’ve hit the motherlode because almost every Asian movie I wanted to watch last year was available on demand and I gorged on them only to be left majorly disappointed (Thieves? Highest grossing K-movie of all time? So overrated and zzzzz-inducing. The Four? Like a wuxia Gossip Girl mixed with X-Men). In this scrimmage came the shining star of Asian cinematic fare so awesome I nearly started squeeing in the middle of a crowded plane and hyperventilating as I watched. The live action adaptation of the critically acclaimed manga Rurouni Kenshin is every bit as good as the trailers and stills looked. This movie shows us how manga adaptations can be done right, and done well. The casting was mostly across-the-board perfect (Sato Takeru as Kenshin = MARRY ME!, Takei Emi as Koaru = puuuurty but the sole weak link) and the directing was phenomenal. The movie is basically the first two arcs of the manga story, with some later elements deftly woven in seamlessly.

The pacing for this slightly longer than two hour movie was exquisite, with the slow character developments buttressed by a handful of thrilling action sequences that fairly scream out KENSHIN YOU ARE MY IDOL. My only disappointment was not being able to watch this movie on the big screen and instead made do with my tinny inflight television screen. *shakes fists of unfairness* The movie has done gangbusters business in Japan and all over Asia where it enjoyed a successful wide release. The production company has announced that a sequel has been greenlit (YAY!) with the same cast. For so long Takeru has been the sidekick best friend of his more high profile acting colleague Miura Haruma, but I can safely say that this role and performance has now launched him into the A-list as far as I’m concerned. He brought to life Himura Kenshin’s sweetness and deadly fighting skills, plus an added dose of sexy that wasn’t as evident in the manga. I never thought the day would come I would want to jump Kenshin but that day has arrived and I couldn’t be happier.

I think Rurouni Kenshin’s two biggest strengths are its directing and nearly pitch perfect casting. The directing we have to thank veteran historical epic director Ohtomo Keishi, who last helmed the highly rated Taiga Ryomaden with Fukuyama Masahiro. This is a man who knows how to capture the historical Japanese cultural era, especially the post-Edo/early-Meiji restoration period. The story begins at the end of the Bakumatsu War – fought between the forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate seeking to maintain its military rule over the country and the way of the samurai against the forces seeking to restore the Emperor to actual power rather than as a figurehead to promote the modernization of Japan. At the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, a deadly samurai assassin known only as “Hattokiri Battosai” (人斬り抜刀斎 or Battosai the Manslayer) is singlehandedly slaughtering the remaining samurai forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Word comes that the Shogunate has surrendered to the Imperial Forces and the war is over. He puts down his sword and leaves. Later a survivor emerges from the battlefield littered with dead bodies and takes his sword.

Ten years pass and Japan is knee deep in the Meiji era where samurai are a dying breed with no purpose in life because the warrior way has ended. It is against the law to carry a sword in public now. A man named Himura Kenshin arrives in Tokyo and he carries a sword, but we learn later that it is a reverse blade that cannot be used to kill. A murderer is on the lose in the city claiming to be the once feared assassin “Hattokiri Battosai” and represents a dojo run by Kamiya Kaoru. She vows to capture this fiend and clear the name of her dojo which was started by her late father. It turns out that a rapacious and ambitious businessman by the name of Kanryu Takeda has orchestrated this plot in order to discredit the dojo so he can buy it. Kanryu has found a way to manufacture an even more addictive strain of opium and wants to use the dojo land as a distribution channel to spread it across Japan and bring down the Imperial government. He is also acquiring wandering samurai as his mercenaries along with modern weapons with a plan to establish his own government. In his employ is a deadly assassin posing as “Hattokiri Battosai”. Kaoru’s investigation brings her in contact with Kenshin, who seems like an affable harmless fellow at first blush but when he is forced to step in and save Kaoru it becomes clear that he is not what he seems.

For those of you who have read the manga or watched the anima, the movie follows closely to the plot of the first arc of the story, though stripped of much of the humorous asides and pratfalls of Kenshin and his fellow friends such as Sagara Sanosuke and Myojin Yahiko. The movie cast the three guys so wonderfully it was a genuine treat to see Kenshin, Sanosuku, and Yahiko come to life. Same goes for the villains Kanryu and the fake “Hattokiri Battosai” Udo Jin-e. I’ve already said Takei Emi was the weak link as Kaoru, and in truth Yu Aoi as Takani Megumi was also slightly off. Neither lady stood out like a sore thumb, but I thought Emi’s limited acting skills hampered her ability to really spark with Takeru, whereas Yu was phenomenal in acting out Megumi but she never made me feel like she was that character come to life. But all in all, these two were good enough as to complement the kickass male performances. When watching Takei Emi, I kept wishing it was Ishihara Satomi playing the feisty righteous Kaoru, since she has ridiculous onscreen chemistry with Takeru plus the right amount of youthful passion the character needs.

Even if the movie sucked on directing and acting, it would still be worthwhile a watch for the cinematography alone. The director bathes the screen in dual color schemes – the cold blues and grays for the battle scenes and the warm yellows and browns for the character interactions. I felt like I was actually there in the chaotic early Meiji era Tokyo, a time when the old ways of samurai Japan was still struggling to find a place in the brave new world. Even better is the soundtrack for the movie, which eschews the traditional Japanese strings and flutes for a modern sound that surprisingly works phenomenally in amping up both the emotional moments as well as the stirring battle sequences. Takeru not only looked and acted like Kenshin straight from the pages of the manga, he also brought forth Kenshin’s duality – a past as the most-feared assassin in Japan as well as a man who has now renounced killing for good.

I haven’t watched J-movie in years that was anywhere as good as Rurouni Kenshin, and in truth this movie is better than most period epics coming out of Korea or HK/China/Taiwan these days. The manga is one of my favorite Shonen works and I was so scared the live version would butcher it much like the live version of Paradise Kiss destroyed the realistic emotional grittiness of the original manga. I still have nightmares involving PK-the movie featuring Kitagawa Keiko‘s cringe inducing runway walk and Mukai Osamu‘s sleazy smirking. It’s such a relief to see a beloved work respected and lovingly adapted, especially in this era where movies are all about making a buck and less about artistic integrity. Rurouni Kenshin is that rare combination of a movie that respects its source material but repackages it thoughtfully for a different medium. And really, what more needs to be said when Sato Takeru, with that trademark red hair and sporting the cross scar, simmers so potently onscreen as the titular wandering swordsman Kenshin. You all must watch it now! To enjoy this movie one need not have familiarity with the source material, it stands as fantastic entertainment on its own merits. I henceforth give thee all permission to go forth and fall in love with Sato Takeru as Himura Kenshin, one-half world weary peerless warrior, one-half mellow easy-going nice guy.

On a completely random note, Sato Takeru’s lips are a work of art. He’d be the first in line for any role that requires the male lead to wear a half-mask. When his Kenshin says his trademark “oro” I just gape in wonder at how he makes being a cheeky doofus so insanely smoldery. Clearly I will be rewatching this movie over and over again until the sequel is released. Word on the street is that it’s slated to be a trilogy, so I’m assuming part 2 will cover the Kyoto arc while part 3 will deal with the Yukishiro arc (and the fall out from Kenshin’s romantic past). CANNOT WAIT!


Movie Review: The Phenomenal Awesomeness that is Rurouni Kenshin — 73 Comments

  1. sequel? trilogy? if it is true, best news ever! my reaction to this live action movie is mixed. Having read the manga, watched the anime, the (understandably) condensed movie version feels incomplete yet i was also somewhat captivated by it (mostly the action bits). rurouni kenshin is my all time favourite anime/manga and like koala, would hate to see it messed up.

    koala, did you watch the ova of the new kyoto arc?

    • I haven’t watch any of the OVAs. I used to when I was younger but I grew tired of how “cutesy” all the OVAs typically veered when adapting mangas (Ranma 1/2 was my limit). I much prefer the original source material of mangas over any OVA especially since I can read and get my hands on mangas easily. Another issue is the voices uses in some OVAs just grate on me and turn me off when not done right. Mangas allow me to explore my imagination more. ^___^

      • I’ll say this. The Kenshin OVA chronicling his origins and Hitokiri past, Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal, was far grittier and pathos evoking than the usual anime OVAs. It was half of the reason I love Tomoe so much, the other half being Tomoe’s general personality/story. (Confession: I like Tomoe much better than Kaoru and Kenshin/Tomoe is my OTP.)

        I say at least check out that OVA.

      • I totally agree with ravens_nest. I saw Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal when I was young. I totally didn’t even know Kenshin (the main storyline) existed. I absolutely love the OVA… which really ruined the main series for me. I really really liked shipping Tomoe and Kenshin so when Kaoru showed up, I just thought she was kinda loud and obnoxious 🙁

  2. You’re not the only one that went when did Sato Takeru become so hot!
    I was very positively surprised, I’m not that much of a Kenshin fan. Seen some episodes of the anime never read the manga but as a manga to live action adaptation this was excellent. (Don’t mention the travesty that was PK, I HATED that adaptation)
    I agree with you that Takei Emi was the weakest link, so far she has never impressed me in any of her roles but she and Gouriki Ayame are the current it girls. Ishihara Satomi, I don’t see her as Kaoru but Kutsuna Shiori could do it and as a bonus she’s fluent in english.
    The whole supporting cast was awesome and I enjoyed Yu Aoi, it’s nice to see her doing more different roles.
    The director was right on, I’m glad Ootomo got to direct and hopefully will direct the second film as well.
    Hopefully the second movie might feature Yukishiro Tomoe.

    • Hahaha, I remember the outcry when he was cast. He’s beyond perfect. Him being not that tall is even an added boon for being Kenshin.

  3. I just watched this movie just a few days ago as well. I have been slowly watching J movies and dramas. I was so glad to stumble on this one. It left me satisfied after watching and I’m more inclined to re-watch it again. The actors’ execution where phenomenal even the little orphan boy made me laugh. The leading lady’s acting was limited but the 2nd lead I thought was good. Overall I really enjoyed this movie.

  4. I really want to see this film! Been wanting to for ages.

    Too bad about the acting. I was worried about Takei Emi being a weak link in it. She had big roles in three films in 2012 (this one, Ai to Makoto and andKyo Koi wo Hajimemasu). I don’t think Kyo, Koi wo Hajimemasu was a particularly big important (seemed more like manga adaptation for a small, dedicated group of fans of the shoujo, where as long as the eye candy factor is met, nothing else matters) and probably not really demanding on the acting. Ai to Makoto is the kind of film that’s forgiving for weak acting, given that over-acting / unnatural acting was part of its charm. In that sense she did alright in that film (which I did see), but of course had nothing on Tsumabuki Satoshi’s brilliance… If she was weak in Rurouni Kenshin… it’s a pity. I mean, she’s young and has time to learn, but she shouldn’t be getting major roles yet since she obviously can’t carry a film at this point.

    • I do not get Takei Emi’s rise to IT girl. AT ALL. She’s not so drop-dead gorgeous to warrant it on looks alone, and acting wise she’s pretty dull and mostly dreadful. She’s like the boring version of Sawajiri Erika. Yet she headlines a dorama a season. What gives?

      • Well, she has only been acting since 2009 and been the lead protagonist in a couple of doramas (and now these three films). But, yeah, recently she’s the ‘it’ girl and I don’t see her appeal either.

        I think she fits into the sweet-innocent kind of pretty, which will earn her some roles for a while. But I don’t really see it lasting unless her acting improves, because at some point she is going to be in a film that’s going to flop with that weak acting, especially if her male counterpart acts her off the screen (like Tsumabuki certainly did, and by your description, Sato as well). There are too many good (stellar) and good-looking (gorgeous) actors in Japan for a weak but pretty one to get top roles eternally without delivering – she’ll end up doing small budget, straight-to-TV movies.

      • Yea the IT girl thing is a little boggling. I hated her initially but now I see a genuine quality in what she does. Maybe that’s the draw? But her dull, truncated acting can’t be denied, therefore, and I could see her putting this film on slow- mo. (One of the top reasons I’m still reluctant to watch. Takeru adoration ablaze and all.)
        In time, I believe she will improve, for her performance in Iki Mo Dekinai Natsu with Eguchi was much better than her previous attempts but her fodder and fame is insufferable.

  5. I loved this movie! And you’re right, the casting was almost completely perfect. I wasn’t a big fan of Kaoru’s actress, she lacked the spunk and passion that I associate with Kaoru. Also wasn’t a big fan of Saitou’s actor. He didn’t really have the charisma and that feeling of danger needed.

    But Kenshin!!! In the Jin’ei fight scene, his voice got so deep and sexy. Made me feel like a fangirl all over again.

    Overall I loved it. I’m so excited for the Shisio arc. My one fear is that I feel like Kaoru’s performance is going to get very depressing and mediocre in that one.

  6. I always read you but never make a comment but this is Kenshin and I have to say something. I like the movie a lot this boy make Kenshin so real it makes me cry. I remember myself talking about Samurai X episodes when I was just eleven years old. Also I cried when Kenshin died in reflections and it was the first time ever I cried for a fictional character. Kenshin was the first anime I loved and I felt happiness when I watched the movie because it bring those time back, my childhood. And you are super right Kenshin MERRY ME! hahaha!

  7. I haven’t read the manga, nor watched the anime series, but people are spazzing about this movie everywhere. Plus, I haven’t watched a good Japanese movie for some time now and this one looks so darn pretty it would be a crime to miss it, right?

  8. I just watched this the other day and I am with you that it was rather disappointing not to have seen this movie on the big screen. Now I’m just waiting for it to be release in the US with english subtitles so I can purchase it (hopefully). lol.

  9. I lOVE this movie! I watched it twice in a row and i only did with two other movies, The Dark Knight and Agneepath. That’s how great it is. I agree Takei Emi is the weak link especially towards the last fight scene when she’s begging Kenshin not to kill, it just didn’t have the right emotional impact on me even though she was crying i felt nothing. whereas that flashback scene where we have a glimpse of Kenshin’s past and find out how he got his first scar, broke my heart. When kenshin put’s a shaking hand to his heart after killing those men… i couldn’t stop my tears. Sato Takeru conveyed so much pain and Anguish in that one scene that it was hard to believe that this was the same guy who played Kamen Rider a few years ago. He is now on my Great Actors list. I Can’t wait for a sequel only this time i hope that they focus more on his past love with Tomoe. Their tragic love story always gets me in the heart.

    • The only scene Emi rocked was the final scene when she greeted Kenshin with an “okaerinasai” and her giant smile. That was awesome. Everything else was meh. Serviceable but meh.

      • lmao That was exactly the first time I connected with her character too. The very last 20 seconds of the movie. omg! How can you read my mind so?!

      • I actually thought that okairi/tadaima is a great ending. I love this movie esp the action sequences. I didn’t mind Emi’s acting at all. It was a little bland so she didn’t get to shine in the movie but that’s fine coz Takeru’s Kenshin was really believable and one of the best portrayal of a manga character for me so it outshines all the other character altogether. The only actor I didn’t like is the guy. Portraying Sanosuke. I think he overacted a lot to the point that his scenes got a little cheesy for me.

        But overall, I really love this movie and I’m

    • Takei Emi’s scene where she was urging Kenshin not to kill…. She had a LOT to say. A LOT. I don’t know if it was merely because of her lack of acting abilities or what, but her monologue was. JUST. TOO. LOOOOOONG. By the time she ended her speech, my friends and I were laughing too hard to even understand what she was saying. All those pauses and the gasps of breath… It was just soooo unnatural. She was just trying too hard, the poor soul.

      • I agree! I’ve seen it four times because of Sato Takeru’s brilliance and the epic fight scenes. But every time Emi Takei did her monologues I just rolled my eyes and asked my companion to wake me up when she was done.

  10. Ockoala please what is the name of the second lead girl -not emi and Yu ? I guess she acts villain here. I find her very pretty here and she looks powerful 🙂 thank you

      • I think also I had an easier time connecting to Megumi’s personality/character development; even in the manga it was like that. But Yu’s acting definitely boosted my engagement. The only reason I would have really changed Megumi’s actress would be to cast someone slightly older. The only place I felt she really was shaky was that slight older woman vibe that Megumi has. Aoi Yu’s youth betrayed her in that aspect but I got over it soon enough either way.

  11. Good thing it’s the weekend and I have time to devote to catching up on all the things my unnis are raving about. Oh wait, I have graduate school applications to finish writing. Then again…grad school is overrated, right? ~sigh~

  12. Yep, saw the movie and it was GREAT! I loved it! Can’t wait for the rest of the trilogy.

    Maybe I should go back and rewatch the anime. heheh 😀

  13. I just watched Rurouni Kenshin (2012) and I agree that the cinematography and fight scenes were AWESOME. I also agree that some of the characters were miscast. I for one only liked Kenshin, Yahiko, Saito, Jin-e and Kanryu.

    I watched almost all of the episodes of Samurai X when I was younger. And I remember the anime characters so vividly that the miscast greatly affected my opinion about the movie. The biggest disappointment for me in casting was Munetaka Aoki as Sanosuke. Sure he got the devil-may-care attitude down pat but he didn’t resemble the Sanosuke in the Anime series not one bit. He had the right costume but his height and body built is so different from Sanosuke’s that the fight seen between him and Kenshin did not have the right impact for me. The next disappointment was Yu Aoi as Megumi. In the Anime, Megumi is supposed to be mature and sultry not only in character but in looks. That’s why I was so disappointed by Yu Aoi’s baby-faced Megumi. I never felt like she was Megumi because every time she talked or moved I always felt like she was acting a part that was not hers. She failed to give justice to Megumi’s beautiful, strong-willed and mature character.

    Anyway, I still have a lot of issues about the movie but I think it will just cloud the happy atmosphere here. So yeah, Rurouni Kenshin is a nice movie. Though I sure am happy that I didn’t watch it on the big screen.

  14. I too, like Nam, have issues with the movie. Somehow it was a bit… too slow. I actually did like the baddies a lot but that part of the movie was left very unexplored. And sudden poisoning was, well, very sudden. Came out of nowhere and disappeared as quickly. However, these issues don’t make movie bad in my eyes. It just feels… strange. A little off beat. I cannot exactly pin point what was wrong with it.

    There was a lot of awesomeness, that cannot be denied. Action scenes were pure gold. Directing was spot on. Kenshin was sexy, likeable and dangerous – perfect. Side characters worked and I really liked Megumi.

    There’s only one thing I really, really didn’t like in the movie and that Kaoru. It’s not only Takei Emi’s acting that did this but the whole character. That girl is just too stupid to live. You DO NOT go against battousai with a freakin’ wooden sword and less than average fighting skills! And then ranting to Kenshin that she had fared just fine without him, thank you very much. What the hell, woman! She would have been DEAD without Kenshin! I actually hoped that she would have been killed. 😛 Sorry, she just kept annoying me scene after scene. She’s the most classical “badasss” in distress, a woman who makes a show of her skills but ends up easily subdued and hero has to save her sorry ass. Kaoru is totally useless.

    I’m not sure how I feel about sequels. On the other hand it means more Kenshin (yesssss!), on the other hand it means more Kaoru (facepalm).

    Why is it so damn impossible to create a badass lady character without a sword and “kill ’em all” -attitude?

  15. I watched this on the flight to Japan and I have to say it was really good! I watched the anime in the past and I thought life action films of animes would suck big time (prince of tennis). Hopefully it would be possible to have a sequel!!

  16. I never would have thought to watch this because usually manga movies don’t end up being that great and Rurouni Kenshin has been the victim of some really horrible OVAs that I try to ignore ever happened, but I think I’ll check it out now. I’m sad about Kaoru though. Kenshin/Kaoru were my original OTP when I was a teenager so nooo, she can’t suck.

    • I enjoyed Trust and Betrayal though. I think it is one of the best animated films I ever saw. I loved its soundtrack as well.

      • Yes, without a doubt Trust & Betrayal was amazing! I should have been more clear. 🙂 The one that took place after the manga/anime ended though… I also didn’t hear good things about the new OVA that came out recently.

      • Trust and Betrayal was my introduction to the world of Kenshin and i LOVED LOVED IT!

  17. then..should i put this in my movie-that-must-watch list?
    I’m a huge fan of rurouni kenshin since junior high..but i getting confused coz your review and comments from other that this live action version is not that good..

  18. OMG! Was the only thing I could think of when I was finally able to watch this movie. ^^ it made me so happy that I had to squeal and kick my legs around a lot.

    Anyway i do agree with you that Emi Takei was not that strong and I preferred seeing more of Megumi’s scenes than Kaoru’s no matter how much I love Kaoru. I personally think that in the movie Megumi had more chemistry with Kenshin too. I love her scene though where she told Kenshin to no kill Jin-e, but only the first two lines she said…For me personally, she said too much. Maybe because I am still limited to the sentence structure of the Japanese language, but that conversation took a little too long. And that leads me to one more thing I felt the movie could have made more use of (last one I swear, I do not mean to ramble but your blog is the only place that I can talk about Rurouni Kenshin and people understands) we’re his eyes. I grew up with Kenshin’s gentle voice (which btw Sato Takeru does really well on I squeal every time he talks in that voice) and fierce Battousai’s glare and I felt the movie was not able to really portray that. The sad eyes/ espressions were great and even the Battousai’s slump walking mode but I really couldn’t feel his intensity from the eyes. Partially I bet because his hair was always covering it but that gesture he made b4 getting serious with Jin-e made me go blah…

    But like you said, this movie’s directing, sceneries, and actors were awesome and Sato Takeru was Kenshin for me and I was very happy too that they did not butcher our beloved hero. I too will not be able to wait for the sequel. Just thinking about makes me heave a sigh. Thank you for reviewing Rurouni Kenshin though. I am glad that the movie was a success and did not smear such a good story.

  19. I actually seen the movie recently and being a Rurouni Kenshin fan (got both manga and anime) … I absolutely love the movie … and I feel that Sato Takeru was cast perfectly as Kenshin …

    Now I am wondering if they’re going to make this into a TV series (since there had been mention of plans on it) … which would be awesome!

  20. I’m not going to read your review even though I want to because I’m trying not to spoil myself too much and who knows when I’ll be able to see this in the U.S. (I’m really super jealous of all my friends in various parts of Asia where this has been available.)

    I’m such a huge RK fan (it was one of my first anime and manga LOVES) and everything I’ve heard about the movie so far has been positive. I really can’t wait to see this movie and I’m hoping that’s sooner rather than later. (Get with it U.S.A.!)

  21. Haha! Was surprised you’d review this film. I watched it twice at the cinema. I’m on the fence for the trilogy though. I just hope that they’d be able to carry the same level of ‘ambition’ and ‘honesty’ it had on the first film. Sometimes, when a team work on one film for a very long time, their interest and drive to achieve perfection diminishes.

    I have issues with the soundtrack though. The acting, directing and cinematography puts me perfectly in the Edo/Meiji era but the music brings me to a different past in a different country. I don’t know. I like it as a standalone music but not in the film.

    Based on getting the looks right, I have to agree that the actors who played Sanousuke and Megumi didn’t quite captured the anime/manga versions of their characters. But well, they did just fine…and I have a huge crush on Aoi Yu so I’ll let it pass. Kaoru. Emi is pretty and she’s cute. Her sound-of-reason dialogue at the end just killed the epicness of the last fight scene between Jin’e and Kenshin though. Kaoru’s dialogue is just way too long.

    I love the film though a bit slow on some parts but it surely found a special place in my heart. Sato Takeru, an unknown actor for me since I ain’t a big Jdorama fan, captivated me on his perfect portrayal of Kenshin, both his deadpan and cold persona as well as his comedic ‘oro’ side. Almost all the male actors were perfect.

    I am crossing my fingers that the next two films will be equivalent in greatness if not better.

  22. I loved it!!!!!!! Thanks to you, i watched it. From now on, i’m a fan of Takeru Sato. He is Great, really!
    I actually knew about this movie. I didn’t expect much of it. So… But now i know how wrong i was. Watch it People!

  23. I loved it!!!!!!! Thanks to you, i watched it. From now on, i’m a fan of Takeru Sato. He is Great, really! On the other side, Takei Emi was kinda annoying at a certain point. The crying scene at the end really annoyed me . I was like, “…. Urgg Ok… When will she stop crying..” Just saying that i wasn’t fond of her acting…
    I actually already knew about this movie. Tough, I didn’t expect much of it. But now, i know how wrooong i was. Watch it People! You won’t regret it.

  24. Wow, koala is onto Kenshin too?!? Sugoi ne! 😀

    I blame this movie (in a positive sense)–actually, it’s more of Sato Takeru–for making me go back into highschool fangirl mode where my world revolved on anime particularly Rurouni Kenshin…now I’ve rekindled my old flame with Japan, setting aside SKorea for the meantime, hee 🙂 And because of Sato I even find myself watching Kamen Rider Den-o and Q10 (apparently his first lead role in a Jdrama and a cute one too) and am resolved to be on a look-out to his future projects…

    Now about the movie. Yah, I agree with everyone here regarding Kaoru’s (mis)casting, I felt that the actress had not gotten that spunk and feistyness that was Kaoru’s personality in the manga and anime…but I’m too overwhelmed with nostalgia for me to care so I let that pass and besides, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts 😀 With the sequel in the works and a planned trilogy I do hope that they really consider filming the Jinchuu arc for the peace of everyone clamoring for its animated version (and to erase that horrid Reflection OVA in my memory :/)

  25. samurai x has lots of fans all over the world. this movie was not even supposed to be shown in our country but through facebook nagging of fans, they finally did. it was supposed to be just limited to a few cinemas for 3 days but it was such a big success they eventually extended it. thats how big this movie is!

  26. DAISUKI~! watched it on big screen twice. twice, i was first in line patiently waiting for my selected movie time. i got around having Blu-ray of this movie, released late December. i have been rewatching it almost every day even without the subtitles. We have the same assumptions on the sequels. part 2 will be Shishio Makoto and the juppon gattana arc and part 3 will be Enishi Yukishiro and his Jinchuu. so excited~~~ My appreciation and applause to the cast and the staff that made this movie. this is indeed an manga adaptation done right and so much more…. Takeru-kun daisuki~!

    PS: yes, i would have wanted to megumi to be taller. and kaoru to be more “tomboyish”.

  27. J-movies have difficulty finding their way to Europe, so I watched Rurouni Kenshin on the internet. And I absolutely loved it, to me it’s almost perfect!! I’m a huge fan of the anime, so I was a little scared of what to expect.
    I really like that they didn’t make the film an exact copy of the manga, but that they adapted the story so it would work as a film. One that you can understand without having read the manga. And all that while still making it feel like the Rurouni Kenshin characters we all love.

    Although I agree that Kaoru was not as spunky as I thought she would be, I think it works in the film version they made.

    All in all, I loved it!! Can’t wait for the next one!!

  28. OOOH What an experience !!!! I just finished watching the movie and what can I say, SOOOO GREAT, I think it is been a while for me that I watched a movie and loved it that much.

    I am not familiar with the manga so, it is all new for me but Kenshin is now officially my hero. I can’t wait to see the squeals. Does somebody know when it will come out??

    And I must mention that the sound track was AMAZING. Now I think I need to go replay it again 🙂

  29. Hi, watched this movie too and enjoyed it very much. As you said, the guys are pitch perfect in their roles but you are a bit harsh on Takei Emi I think? While she’s not great or anything I thought she was serviceable in the role. Certainly not as terrible as what some of the comments above has been suggesting.

    Personally I love the scene where Rurouni Kenshin came out of the police station and saw Koaru waiting for him. But my favorite parts of the show are the action scenes, well directed and fast-paced.

  30. HAHA! Me too, I was flying around during the festive season, and it was inflight heaven up in the skies. SO MANY MOVIES! Himitsu no akko-chan, Thieves, Runaway Cop, Hotaru no Hikari movie, that roman bath-time-traveller movie…so manyyyyyy

    Thieves, I felt, was over-rated. Quite a boring movie, save for the many top stars cameoing here and there. Runaway cop was….funny, but nothing spectacular.

    And of coz, Kenshin. Kenshin. KENSHIN!!!!

    Had watched it at the cinema at the invitation of a friend, who knew nothing about it save that it was a big hit in Japan (I knew nothing of the story at that time too). Then, a second (inflight), third (inflight), fourth, fifth…..FIVE times at the cinema, 3 with the same friend, and another 2 times with different friends I pulled there. XD And proud owner of the DVD set.


    I love the directing. I love the story. I love the bits of comic relief scattered around. I love the beautiful yukatas and hakumas. I love Kenshin’s old fashion way of speech. And most of all, I love the action scenes! Having watched the movie inflight, I think the movie is best enjoyed on the big screen, where every fight sequence can be seen clearly. <3

    So so so beautiful.

    I hope the sequel(S!?!?!?) is really happening. Until then, I'll just watch the movie on my new tv!! Wohoo!

  31. hi koala . . . i was so happy that you were able to put up a review of the super AWESOME J-movie . . . this was shown here in our country a week just before Christmas and i almost missed it to – i am just happy that it got extended . . . i have been anticipating this one since August last year and hope for a worldwide released since it was Warner Brothers that produced it . . . Sato Takeru ROCKED being Kenshin ;D . . . i still remember him in mei-chan though 😉

    • OMG, Mei-chan no Shitsuji~ Guh, I am such a Kento fan (though I loath the manga and the dorama), but he was sooooo wrong as Kento. Though Nana was beyond miscast as Mei to begin with. Dur, what am I saying, the entire dorama/manga/world is the stupidest thing EVER. *erase!*

  32. I watched this after reading this post and I loved it. Then I went and watched the first episode of the anime. I see why everyone says Sato is perfect as kenshin.

    I realized though that anime is really not for me.

    But can’t wait for the sequel.

  33. Thanks for the amazing review Koala! RK was one of the very first manga series that I read starting out so many years ago. It’s still today my favorite shounen for its unforgettable themes and characters. Kenshin is one of the best drafted characters in all of Japanese manga imo. And I always had this little crush on Saitou as a kid because he was an awesome badass!

    This review gives me chills because I’m so happy to know that the director didn’t butcher it and that it’s so well received by the public and critics. Unfortunately I have yet to watch it but as soon as excellent quality subs are available and I find the time, this is going to the top of my list.

    I was just in an airplane bound to China. Unfortunate that their asian movie selection didn’t include this one.

  34. You should have also included Aoki Munetaka (Sanosuke) and the other casts as well, Kanryu, Jin e, Saito, NOT JUST Takeru Sato, Yu Aoi and Takei Emi. Because this is a review of the WHOLE movie. (Are the other actors too ugly for you eh?)

    Aoki Munetaka may not be that handsome, but he sure nailed his character. It is quite immature for others to dislike him just because he’s not handsome for Sano. I’d never trade the character for another pretty boy actor if he can’t deliver like how Munetaka internalized Sano.

    Kaoru’s lines on Jin e’s battle is too long, yes I agree. They should have cut it, but the directors knew better than us, if you’ll just listen to her dialogue every bit of it is essential for the whole theme of the movie so I let it pass.

    There are moments in the movie that are dragging, but unfortunately if you pulled them out how can the movie maneuver the whole story? They squeezed the whole Tokyo arc in 2 and a half hours and that alone is IMPRESSIVE enough.

    We can’t help but compare the movie with the manga and anime, but the trio are using three different mediums to entertain us.

    I have a question: Why did you tell that the acting and directing sucks? I’m sure you ENJOYED the battle scenes, AND Sato Takeru.

    Please elaborate where you find the directing suck (the flying Saito chandelier scene maybe?)so that it’s not confusing. You’re generalizing that it sucks, then are you telling us that what’s only good in this movie is the cinematography? OR I really don’t know what you’re saying?


    Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t place this post to bash you. You’re just a little bit inconsistent with your words. I feel like this movie review is more of a bias opinion page. I know you can make better articles. 🙂

    Review [ri-vyoo]: critique; evaluation.

    • Um, you really misunderstood her article here. She spent a bunch of time saying how the directing and acting/casting were the BEST parts of the movie. In the paragraph where you mistakenly thought she said otherwise, she was saying “even if the movie direction and acting had sucked, which they didn’t, people should still see the movie for the cinematography.” You misunderstood her.

  35. I really enjoyed this movie. I’m not into anime so I have no preconceived notions about the actors fitting their anime counterparts or what have you, but Sato <3 was fabulous. The only eyesore in the movie for me was when the Koaru character talked way too much during the fight scene toward the end. The director should have had her say a "few" words and then pass out….Let them get back to it. Her monologue destroyed the flow of that scene.

    Thanks Ockoala for the movie chat!

  36. PS: It’s Fukuyama Masaharu.

    And dude! You posted this review while I was on my way to Singapore to watch Kenshin! (6 weeks in the cinema and still enjoys 4x showtimes. yeababy)

    I never thought the day would come I would want to jump Kenshin but that day has arrived and I couldn’t be happier.

    HA! Me too. Which was also the first time I wanted to jump on Takeru because he was so so hot in this. I normally find him cute and just want to feed him soup. But not this time.

    On a completely random note, Sato Takeru’s lips are a work of art.

    Whenever the camera point to the scar, I was asking myself whether I should be looking at the scar, or the lips? Decision…

    I definitely agree on your review, especially Emi’s delivery that made her monologue goes on and on. She’s just okay, but she doesn’t really click with any of the character (even Yahiko, where she’s supposed to be sister-ly). She also made me wonder if the reason Kaoru is not able to show off her fighting skill is because of her schedule, she’s too busy taking projects upon projects that she does not have time to practise her fight sequence.

    So I just concentrate on Kenshin, since the film is about him. That’s why I don’t mind the lack of character developments on some and also other missing character. One need to look at the title of the movie itself.

  37. I’m very glad that this movie is true to the original series with minor changes. However, had I not known the story before hand, it would have been a much more enjoyable experience. Didn’t really like the way Sanosuke was protrayed but I loved the sword fighting scenes especially the way Kenshin glided across the floor.

  38. I watched this movie because of this recommendation. Now I have seen it twice in 2 weeks, got my fiance totally hooked on it, downloaded the entire manga, and am eagerly anticipating the sequel. I love this movie so MUCH!!! I have never read any manga before and started to just because of how much I love this movie. And I’m really enjoying the read. As my fiance pointed out, Kenshin is a lot like Batman and this is sort of like Batman Begins in that it’s grittier than its source material and totally freaking awesome! I really hope they do make a trilogy because it deserves it. They really have something special with this, something that rivals anything being done in Hollywood.

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