Posted December 6, 2012 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Anime/Manga

MOVIE REVIEW: Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X)

Movie Punch/Pioneer Films, SM Cinemas
Philippine Release Date: December 5, 2012
MTRCB Rating: PG-13
134 minutes

When it was first announced that a live-action film adaptation of the hit manga/anime Rurouni Kenshin was under development, my biggest concerns were two things: whether it would be shown here in the Philippines or not, and if they would opt for English subtitles* instead of a poorly-voiced English – or even worse, Tagalog – dub**. At some point, however, the prospect of not having to resort to torrents of shaky-cam recordings in flawless and gaijin-killing Japanese just to see this film seemed very bleak. A teaser that was deleted as soon as it was uploaded, coupled with Internet negativity written in nail-bitingly horrendous grammar, almost killed all hope and enthusiasm for this.

To be fair, the schedule was a bit…unstable at the time. Like this guy.

We ought to consider ourselves lucky, then, that somebody actually succeeded in bringing Rurouni Kenshin to our shores.

Any concerns about Rurouni Kenshin not looking or feeling like the anime can be confidently thrown out the window – this IS the Kenshin we know and love, from the way he leaps and dodges in combat to his ridiculous facial reactions. They also don’t scrimp on the violence and brutality here; I’m actually surprised that this got a PG-13 rating and not something much more restrictive. You want your merciless, bloodthirsty manslayer? We’ve got your merciless, bloodthirsty manslayer right here. Starring Takeru Satou (Kamen Rider Den-O for tokusatsu fans) and Emi Takei as Kaoru Kamiya, the film adapts the first few chapters of the series, stretching as far back as Himura Kenshin’s origin and role as Battousai and stopping at the Takeda/opium arc.

“Ken…shin! Oro? Sanjou!”

Certain adjustments and shortcuts had to be made in order to tell as much of the story as possible within the span of 134 minutes, and frankly, a lot of the changes make sense. As expected, some characters didn’t make the cut – there were two glaring omissions, in fact. One of them was resolved by taking some aspects of that character and merging it with another, which worked rather well. The other one – which pertains more to an entity than to a single individual – stings quite a bit, though, as we ended up getting a substitute without the rich backstory and motivation/s of the character/s that were replaced. Most of the important characters in Kenshin’s supporting cast are here, though, so that should keep fans happy. Sanosuke and Yahiko look like they pretty much stepped out of the anime, and Hajime Saitou, while a little toned-down, is still just about as menacing and dangerous.

They didn’t use any of the songs in the anime score – too bad for me, because I really wanted to hear the Hiten-Misturugi Ryuu battle theme during the swordfighting scenes, or even just FLOW’s cover of 1/3 Junjou na Kanjou. That’s really a minor gripe, though, because the musical score they went with for the film was just as awesome.  The fight scenes are well-choreographed, the acting is solid and full of emotion, and there is a wonderful balance of drama, action, and comedy. In fact, there’s only one scene in the entire movie that left me scratching my head, and it was a very short one, right after one of the characters does a signature move. It looked like it was badly edited, but trust me, it’s most likely the only bad edit in Rurouni Kenshin.

And I am totally not saying this because Kenshin has the sharp edge of his sakabato resting on my neck. Nope, not at all.

Of course, your evaluation of Rurouni Kenshin would probably slightly depend on how much of a fan you were of the anime back when it was still being regularly aired on television. Make no mistake: I’m not saying that only “true fans” have the right to see their precious Battousai hack and slash through hundreds of enemy samurai. (Actually, I think that kind of pointless elitism is the very reason why mutual respect between casual fans and hardcore enthusiasts remains an ideal and not the norm.) All I’m saying is that someone who has a decent grasp of the events as they originally unfolded would understandably appreciate the hard work the filmmakers put into trying to make this adaptation work. This movie IS newcomer-friendly, though; you definitely don’t need prior knowledge of the events in the anime to like it, or to become well-acquainted with the characters in Kenshin’s world.

At this point, if you’re STILL not convinced that you should see this film, then I’ll gladly turn you over to my buddy and fellow RK fan Ronin, as he lists down the reasons why you SHOULD see this movie (check them out HERE).

This is as good as a live-action adaptation can get. Kenshin may have sworn to never take another life, but believe me, he definitely killed it here, and killed it good.


Rurouni Kenshin will cut a bloody swath through your wildest expectations of what an adaptation should be like. Go watch it this weekend – even if it weren’t a part of your childhood (a possibility that is, well, highly unlikely if you’re in the 20s-30s age group), I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy here (and hopefully, not something to relate to, because if that were the case, you should probably be in jail right now).


*The superior option, and the only correct answer.

**A move so wrong that it would make a movie marathon of the Joel Schumacher Batman movies and every Superman movie after Superman II seem like a brilliant idea.


Mikael Angelo Francisco