Too long don't want to read whole review:
These movies have flaws and they won't blow you away but they are very good solid movies that are fun to watch. Kenshin fans owe it to themselves.
Wow! A live action film that doesn't suck and is actually great... Let that sink in a moment, ...seriously. Live action movies based on games and anime is at best ok. Most just flat out stink and make you regret watching it. You can't make the transition without some changes, if nothing else to keep the pace of the movie going. But many make horrible changes that leave many of us fans reeling. For example I would not give this review to the live action Attack on Titan movie.
But more than this just being a good adaptation, this is a good movie. If someone I knew never watched the anime or read the manga but liked martial arts movies I would have no problem saying this would be a good watch for them. I'm not going to go on a limb and say any and all action movie lovers would like this movie but many might like this movie.
All of the actors played their parts well. For the most part the pacing was good and smooth. There were some slow parts, like the beginning of the third movie where the characters are recovering from the battle in Kyoto in the second movie. Martial Art movie lovers will be familar with the formula - hero gets butt kicked, hero makes peace with master and must do his bidding to gain favor, hero trains to fight main villian. Non-martial arts fan may find this portion of movie abtrusively long, but... BUT, once the action starts in the 3rd movie the pacing is on point treating the viewer to a series of phenomenal fight scenes. It includes some long uninterupted action sequences that must have had the actors winded if they had to do those takes multiple times.
I thought the live action movies would either tone down Kenshin's acrobatics or go the opposite direction making it look cheesey. Much to my surprise they did not tone anything down and it did not look lame at all. They do use wires but most of the fight choregraphy consists of practical action sequences. The only CGI used was for Makato Shishio's sword. You tell someone the main villian looks like a mummy and shoots fire from his sword and I'm sure their immediate thought will be, "OMG this movie is going to be stupid." But it works. It did not look stupid or goofy. Even Shishio himself, despite his appearance/costume, did not look goofy or cartoony. You just come to accept this guy whips fire around when he wants. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers look far more unrealistic than the live action Ruroni Kenshin movies do. This is based on Kenshin so the fight scenes aren't hard hitting and dark like Ong Bak, The Raid series, or the new Daredevil series but they are very smooth and more importantly they fit with the anime so it litterally feels like you are watching a live action version of Ruroni Kenshin.
One of the biggest complaints I've seen is that Emi Takei is too pretty to play Kaoru but despite Kaoru being teased relentlessly in the anime I've always thought she was supposed to be pretty, just goofy and unsure of herself. I will agree that Megumi should be "hotter" but I still think they picked the actors well. Megumi does look like she would use her looks like a fox and be cunning with it. Kaoru does look more innocent and they definitely play on that with how Megumi and Kaoru interact in the movies. If I had to pick on the actors look, I honestly thought they should have picked an actor with a more innocent face for Sojiro but the actor did such a good job that complaint quickly went out the window. Likewise, at first Cho looked like a bad fit but he too fit very well despite the horrible hairjob he was forced to wear to fit his character. Takeru Satoh is awesome as Kenshin. He nails both the innocent goofy wanderer persona Kenshin takes on, as well as the cold eyed assassin persona. Finding someone who can pull both off couldn't be easy and Takeru Satoh captures Kenshin perfectly. They even have Kenshin's patented "Oro" (huh/what) expression. Those not familar with the anime/manga will miss the Oro moments because they don't stand out but fans will immediately start laughing. I couldn't believe they put that in the movies (I didn't read up on them at all) and had to rewind just to make sure that I heard right.
Great introduction to Kenshin. Since Kenshin's name can roughly translate to "Heart/Spirit of the Sword" it was nice to see them play up on that at the Kamiya dojo. Fans of the anime/manga will know of the fight against Takeda Kanryū. Fans will disappointed about the lack of the Oniwaban group. At first I thought maybe they trimmed the group down to pretty much just Han'nya but instead I think they merged Han'nya with Gein. I was looking forward to Oniwaban group but I can relunctantly see why they chose not to include them. I don't think they could have given the group the proper screen time they deserve and keep the pace of the movie on track as the movie is already over 2 hours. Though despite their exclusion I think fans will be surprised just how close the movie keeps to the source material in general. Those not familar with the anime/manga should find the movie a good fun watch. Takeda Kanryū will probably seem over the top to someone new to the material but he's supposed to be. He's an easily excited individual. Kenshin will battle Takeda Kanryū and Jinei in this movie. The battle with Jinei was done right, it was great.
Kenshin learns of the real threat, Makato Shishio. Kenshin leaves Kaoru and Tokoyo to do battle in Kyoto and face Shishio. The first movie was a good fun watch but this movie amps it up and it does a great job sticking to the source material. Though it is dark and hazy fans will immediately recognize the character in the dark tunnel as the movie opens up. While watching, I litterally exclaimed outloud, "TENKEN"!
Even though it is an important plotline, I'm still surprised they stuck so close and included the Eiji storyline as many directors probably would have skipped it. Clearly they knew how important it was because they gave it the respect it deserves. It not only adds to the storyline but the overall direction the trilogy was taking in setting up the characters so they did a good job with that scene. The flashbacks reveal more in this movie than they did in the first movie and it makes you wonder just how much of Kenshin's past they will manage to squeeze in. Answer is, they didn't get in as much as a fan would like but it is hard to juggle as you sacrifice pacing in your movie. It really would have been too much information to squeeze in. Overall I think they provide enough so that viewers with no prior experience with Kenshin will get a good idea of who is he is and the inner demons he has to face.
I would love to say this is straight up action from beginning to end but honestly many people (fans and non-fans) will probably find it boring at first. It picks up the pieces after the battle in Kyoto by showing the characters recovering from that. As I stated in the beginning of this review, a martial arts fan will understand the beginning of this movie because it is the same formula most martial art movies take (hero gets beat up, hero must gain respect of his master, hero trains). Fans of the anime will know of this from Between Life and Death as Kenshin's master, Seijûrô Hiko, promises to take Kenshin's life if he can't figure out what he is lacking to complete his skill of Hiten Mitsurugi and learn the final move. Could they have trimmed some of this down? Sure. Though viewers will be treated to non-stop action once it starts and fight choregraphy is amazing! They did an execellent job with all the fights scenes. The first two movies had great fight scenes but this movie improves on that. You can't help but like Sano by the end of this movie even if you know no one could take the beating he took. The Sojiro vs Kenshin fight was a treat and will make you wish they had dragged it a bit longer. The fight with Shishio is just wow. The guy is too strong. Watching all of them attack Shishio was just TOO FUN.
Since I first heard of the first movie I been looking for a copy of the movie on Blu-Ray and had zero luck finding it. That's 2-3 years of looking. So as soon as I saw the trilogy was available here on Amazon it was an immediate buy. The quality is great and the subtitles are easy to follow so if you only speak English as well you will have no problem following the movie, as long as you don't mind reading subtitles (some hate it). If you're a fan, don't delay. Who knows how long this will be available on Amazon so grab it while you can. If you got burned by other releases, like "The New Kyoto Arc", trying to fill the void don't be too scared to try this. This is not that. There is very few things I think deserve a 1 star review, I would give that New Kyoto arc a 1-star review.
If you're new to Kenshin and like Samurai/Martial Art movies, this is worth a go. You may even be tempted to want to watch the anime afterwards and then be mad with the rest of us they don't offer it on Blu-Ray. Actually even trying to find it on DVD you may have to go to a convention. Shame the owner of the copyright has no interest in a remastered re-release or even just a re-release. Good thing this movie was so good, it takes some of the salt from the wound away.
- Actors: Min Tanaka, Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, Yu Aoi
- Directors: Keishi Ohtomo
- Format: DVD
- Language: Japanese
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 4 (This version of the DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 4
- Studio: Madman Entertainment
- DVD Release Date: 9 May 2018
- Run Time: 407 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B07BFGDRYJ
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
9,659 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- #6941 in Movies (Movies & TV)