As this generation’s only example of a brilliant anime-to-film adaptation, the Rurouni Kenshin live action movies have come to an inevitable conclusion. The question is, does “The Legend Ends” bring a satisfying close to this highly explosive epic ronin saga?
The answer is a resounding YES! 😀
The Rurouni Kenshin trilogy is a cinematic adaptation done just right. It is not flawless by any standards, but it certainly sets the bar high for any director or producer intending to make a live action movie out of any beloved manga/anime series.
The film concludes the story of the famed battosai Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) who struggles to reconcile his past life as a ruthless assassin and his present as a wanderer and guest of the Kamiya Kasshin dojo. Meanwhile, his formidable and equally skilled successor Makoto Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara) threatens to bring a hellish vengeance on the New Government of Japan, prompting the prime minister to ask battosai to wield his back blade katana once more.
Following the cliffhanger of Kyoto Inferno where Kenshin jumps overboard in an attempt to save Kauro Kamiya (Emi Takei), we are introduced to Kenshin’s former mentor, Hiko Seijuro (Masaharu Fukuyama) who saves him and reignites his purpose to save lives through the sword.
Spending well over an hour showcasing the master-pupil dynamic between Kenshin and his sensei, it almost seems like the scenes are filler moments that, albeit giving us incredible sword-wielding choreography, lack in substance.
The film also suffers from too many characters that fail to merit their screen time. In particular, I was definitely looking forward to the Ten Swords which we were teased about in Kyoto Inferno as cold-blooded antagonists that Kenshin has to go through before he vanquishes Shishio. But here, even though we got some cool fight scenes with Hoji Sadojima (Kenichi Takito) or the fallen monk Anji Yukyuzan (Tomomi Maruyama), we still get very little of the rest of the Ten Swords. My personal favorite from the anime, Uonuma Usui (Mitsu Murata), only had a very brief cameo 😦
Even cast regulars Kaoru and Megumi Takani (Yu Aoi) have very little to do other than worry about Kenshin and utter his name like some lame damsel. It’s good that Sanosuke Sagara (Munetaka Aoki) was still refreshingly funny and was given a satisfying fight scene towards the latter half of the movie.
Perhaps the biggest flaw is the unsatisfying build-up to the fight between Kenshin and Seta Sojiro, one of the most popular characters in the anime and definitely the most formidable. His shukuchi is so powerful that even Kenshin can’t evade him or predict his movements. However, their final battle in The Legend Ends was a disappointment.
For director Keishi Otomo, the end of this trilogy is a stunning homage to his career and definitely earns him a place as a brilliant filmmaker who just transitioned from television work. Despite the obvious flaws in the movie, its clear that the production, screenplay, sword choreography, and pacing was well thought-out to satisfy even the most hardcore of fans.
This curtain call for Rurouni Kenshin may be bittersweet for an ultimate fan girl like me, but at least we can celebrate the fact that battosai‘s story was honored brilliantly. I look forward to the day that Kenshin Himura picks up his iconic back-blade once more.