By Gina Tumlos
Rorouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is every fangirl’s fantasy. Director Keishi Otomo and his talented cast and crew exceed expectations with the film’s attention to detail (from Cho’s half-closed eyes down to Okina’s cat), its smart compromise between playing with the original material and cashing in on their artistic license, and the cast’s pitch-perfect portrayal of their characters.
Takeru Satoh returns as Kenshin Himura and is once again haunted by his past. His successor, Shishio Makoto (Tatsuya Fujiwara), has risen from the shadows to settle a longstanding score with the Meiji government. He is joined by his Ten Swords, the Juppongatana, led by the smiling Sujiro Sato (Ryunosuke Kamiki), whose footwork and speed are an even match for Kenshin. When Kenshin realizes that Shishio is hellbent on destroying everything in his path, he takes it upon himself to end Shishio’s madness once and for all.
Kenshin is joined by Makimachi Misao (Tao Tsuchiya) as he journeys to Kyoto, where he meets the Oniwabanshu or the Watchers, a group of ninjas who was tasked to spy for and protect the Shogun when it was still in power. When the Shogunate was dismantled, the Oniwaban was split into those who could live with the new government and those who could not transition as well as the others. Among those led astray was the group’s leader Aoshi Shinomori (Yusuke Iseya), whose travails lead him back to Kyoto where he must face off with the Watcher’s Elder, Kashiwazaki Nenji (Min Tanaka), if he wants to get to Kenshin. Meanwhile, Kenshin is daunted again and again by Shishio with the help of Sujiro and Cho (Ryosuke Miura) until the tension finally culminates with Shishio’s attack on the city.
Particularly good in this movie is Yosuke Eguchi who reprises his role as the police investigator Hajime Saito. With a sword in hand and a cigarette between his lips, he takes on about 50 guys in the opening sequence of the film. He does the same near the end of the movie, side by side with Kenshin, and you just know these are the guys you call on to finish the job. Munetaka Aoki’s Sanosuke provides the comic relief and manages to land every joke perfectly. Watching him maximize his swagger and size is a delight and it offers a good contrast to the rest of the movie’s serious tone.
Though there are melodramatic scenes here and there, the movie is otherwise filled with high-intensity action sequences, many thanks to its solid choreography and Otomo’s direction. Kyoto Inferno sets the pieces for the final showdown between the Ten Swords and Kenshin and his gang, which will be revealed in The Legend Ends, which will open here on Sept. 14. The movie packs a punch at the end just before the credits roll, and this little surprise will definitely make any fan of the series or the manga hungry for the next installment.
Before watching the movie, movie clubber Joanna Mendoza braved the red carpet sidelines to take videos of Keishi Otomo, Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, and Munetaka Aoki’s arrival. Watch those vids here!
Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, distributed by Warner Bros., opens in Philippine cinemas Aug. 20, 2014. Its sequel, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Falls, opens Sept. 14.