Okay so I know this isn’t technically animation and that’s what I was going to stick to as far as reviews go for this site(otherwise I’d have to change the name to something else) but it’s an adaption of something based on animation so we can make an exception right? Right? After all it’s friggin Kenshin. Now that that’s settled let’s move on.
Rurouni Kenshin is a 2012 movie adaptation of the manga/animated series of the same name . It tells the story of a samurai named Himura Kenshin who was once as assassin for the revolutionary army. However after the revolutionaries won the war and a new era arrived he became a rurouni (wanderer) vowing to never kill another soul with his blade. The movie covers the first 4 volumes of the manga including everything from the beginning of the series to the end of the Kanryu arc while adding in Saito as a bonus and for the most part it blends the arcs together very well. Kanryu takes up the lion’s share of villany in the film(somehow managing to be even worse of a human being than his manga counterpart) as several of the other iconic opponents from the early parts of the manga serve under him though some of the villains are blended together into one character for the sake of convenience.
Kenshin’s character arc is the main focus of the film as he is constantly questioned as to whether or not he can still be capable of protecting others while still maintaining his vow and his resolve is tested more than once as he tries to overcome the memories of his past sins. The arc is given a pretty meaningful resolution with the Jin-e fight and in a lot of ways it works better here than in the manga and anime versions of the encounter since there’s a lot more buildup on Kenshin’s struggle.
Though the film mostly maintains it’s focus on Kenshin there are some issues here and there. Yahiko and Sano are kind of awkwardly added into the film and while Sano specifically is initially introduced as a minor antagonist his shift towards becoming an ally is downplayed and mostly seems to happen for the sake of convenience as do a few other story elements which are handled a bit awkwardly, but these are thankfully minor enough that they don’t totally drag down the film.
One of the greatest strengths of the film however are the fight scenes. The action sequences are very well choreographed and deliver on all of the action you’ve come to expect from the series though since Japan’s live action films typically don’t have the same budget as that of a Hollywood film there are a couple of instances where the theatrics look a bit too over the top and almost come across as silly. The film also has issues keeping Kenshin’s design consistent since while his hair is usually bleached orange like in the manga/anime there are a couple of scenes where the bleach isn’t there and his hair is black instead which can be a little weird.
Despite some minor story problems the film mostly delivers on everything it needed to and provides a solid adaptation of the original series. It’s a solid example of how a live action manga adaptation should be done and hopefully the upcoming sequel films will follow in its footsteps.