Hello Fans, Friends, and Fellow Film Fanatics!
Today, I decided to succumb to my overwhelming urges to review a film that I personally have been looking forward to for the last 14 years; since the first day that I read through my first Rurouni Kenshin manga in a small anime store in Manila. Initially appearing in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump from September 2, 1994, to November 4, 1999, this historical fiction sensation has grown to be what I think is a well developed and successful series considering the time period of release. With a live action film being made only now, it is clear how much the directors and writers wanted to do justice to the great tale of Kenshin and his unbelievable swordsmanship. Having grown up in the Philippines for 20 years, I got exposed to a great deal of anime and manga and of all the shows and books I have read, Kenshin is still my favorite anime/animated hero.
Now, getting to this new live action version of Rurouni Kenshin, ‘Meiji Kenkaku Romantan’, or (Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story). Having reviewed the trailers several times over, I have come to the conclusion that I really like the dark and realistic take that director Keishi Ohtomo chose for his creative expression of the story. Japanese director Keishi Ohtomo, who worked on a number of Television productions including ‘Churasan’, ‘Koi Seya Otome’, and recent series ‘Ryomaden’ is taking a big risk with this piece because a lot of fans will be devastated if their favorite samurai is portrayed poorly. With Keishi leading the cast and crew to what appears to be a future success judging by the trailers, how well did this really get interpreted from the astonishingly popular historical fiction narrative manga series?
Kiyomi Fuuji, writer of films such as Death Note: L Change the World and Listen to My Heart, teamed up with Ohtomo and original manga writer Nobuhiro Watsuki to create a screenplay worthy of showing the world of Rurouni Kenshin fans. As far as story line goes, based on my interpretation of the trailer, the film will be following the main plot of the anime series’ first few episodes. This live action version will be taking a much darker and realistic route to the story, which is exactly what this film needs in order to bring to life the hardship, and trails of the historical Meiji Era. Himura Kenshin, protagonist hero and former villain, the Hitokiri Battousai– or Battousai the man slayer, finds himself giving up a life of murder to wield a reverse bladed Sakabatou and live in a struggling dojo. Finding love in the form of Kamiya Kauru, the dojo’s ranked sensei, he has something to fight for. This is the only reason he doesn’t go back to his old ways.
In each episode he shows a level of respect and wisdom far beyond his years of only 28 and brings more and more followers onto his team with the goal of making a better world of peace. Satou Takeru, a growing actor who began his career with ‘Princess Princess D’ and ‘Kamen Rider Den-O’, brings Himura Kenshin to life with his incredible fit to the legendary character. At the humble age of 22, what better privilege could there be than to portray a heroic character with respect, a hard willed sense of justice, and god-like speed. This being Takeru’s first major role since Kamen Rider Den-O, a lot is riding on this promising actor to pull through for the fans and do a good job. Satou is well suited for the role because he merges and blends perfectly not only into the attributes of the character, but the time period and costuming of the historical piece. Based on the performance seen so far, it is clear that he has the intensity of the character down, but the balance of comedy and seriousness depicted in the anime will pose a challenge and I wonder if he can pull it off. I have faith in this promising actor and evidently Keishi Ohtomo did too.
MY FINAL REVIEW
Personally I think that this film will blow us all away, but a trailer is still just a trailer and doesn’t reveal any of the negative attributes of a film. That being said, we will have to wait until August 25th, the 15th anniversary of Himura Kenshin’s journey, in order to find out just what this film will bring to the stage. As far as casting goes, the appearances of the characters are all dead on and it is evident that they took time to find talent that will do the characters justice. I have my doubts about how accurate it will be, but then again, some things are always bound to be lost in translation from anime to film. On the other hand, the set design and costuming are gloriously assembled. Unfortunately, the costume designer and set designer are not listed on IMDb. We will find out soon enough as the release of this production approaches. With this dark rendition of the Kenshin tale, we will further remember the tale that changed anime (for me personally at least), and rekindle the touching love story it brings. I will be reviewing the film after I watch it so stay tuned for that and for now, enjoy the trailer below.