Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

A Samurai by any name... Whether as Battosai the Killer, Samurai X or Rurouni Kenshin, all know of his legendary skill

The reformed slayer is back and torn between his vow of peace and the fate of Japan

A Samurai by any name... Whether as Battosai the Killer, Samurai X or Rurouni Kenshin, all know of his legendary skill
A Samurai by any name…
Whether as Battosai the Killer, Samurai X or Rurouni Kenshin, all know of his legendary skill

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is the epic sequel to the 2012 film, Rurouni Kenshin, based on the popular manga and later anime.

Kenshin Himura is a legendary swordsman in the wars accompanying the turbulent fall of Japan’s shogunate. Once feared as “Battosai the Killer”, he has since returned to a peaceful life as a wanderer.

On the other hand, Makoto Shishio, the “Shadow Killer”, who succeeded Kenshin in the service of the new government, has been active in the Kyoto underworld. Shishio was betrayed by the new government, stabbed and had his body set on fire. He ultimately survived and, wrapped in bandages, has raised an army of disaffected former samurai with the aim of overthrowing the new regime.

The fate of the country hangs in the balance as Kenshin takes up the sword that he vowed never to draw again.

The Legend Continues

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Rurouni Kenshin (2012) was the first motion picture inspired by Kenshin the Wanderer: The Romance of the Meiji Swordsman (Shueisha Jump Comics), the monumental manga comic by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Kenshin’s popularity further ballooned with the anime series “Samurai X”.

Kenshin’s big-screen adventures continue with the Kyoto Arc adaptation (the best-loved segment of the anime and comics). Director Keishi Otomo merits a two-part treatment for the sequel: Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends.

A Refreshing Twist

Beauty & the beast? Emi Takei stars as the beautiful Kaoru Kamiya
Beauty & the beast?
Emi Takei stars as the beautiful Kaoru Kamiya

The film has made multiple deviations from the manga, from altered scripts and backstories to glaring changes in the sequence of events. Some iconic scenes from the manga have also been said to be omitted.

We’d say this creates a refreshing experience for fans of the “Kenshin the Wanderer” comic. The storyline also remains easy enough for newcomers to the lore to follow. Still, some fans may feel disappointed or annoyed by the deviations or differences.

Showdown Between Two Master Swordsmen

The art of swordsmanship Look out for the pulsating fight sequences
The art of swordsmanship
Look out for the pulsating fight sequences

Takeru Sato continues his spot-on portrayal of Kenshin, the formidable slayer-turned-wanderer who is asked by the government to pick up his sword once again for his country. Although a smooth-faced, softly-spoken master swordsman, he has the skill of a deadly assassin. Once again, he pulls off an intense, breathtakingly-revolutionary performance that will leave no viewer unmoved.

Shishio Makoto, the main villain of the movie, is played by Tatsuya Fujiwara of Battle Royale and Death Note, a familiar face to local anime fans and Asian film followers alike. Shishio Makoto’s piercing glare will make many swoon. Although he has to act behind the character’s bandages and his appearances in this film are relatively limited, Fujiwara owns the role as a heartless dictator leading through fear.

His principles run opposite to Sato’s Kenshin: Survival of the fittest versus the protection of the weak. This leaves much anticipation for the exciting fight scenes.

Pulse-Pounding Action Scenes

Death Note to death stare Tatsuya Fujiwara, star of Death Note, plays menacing Shishio Makoto
Death Note to death stare
Tatsuya Fujiwara, star of Death Note, plays menacing Shishio Makoto

Just like in the first movie, expect the fighting scenes and stunts to be top-notch in this sequel. It is commendable how Keishi and action choreographer Kenji Tanigaki (disciple of Donnie Yen) handle the on-screen action flawlessly. They maximised the beautiful impact of the many swordfighting scenes with cool, inventive moves and crisp pacing.

While CGI effects drain many action films of anything resembling realism, the CGI here is done so well that it gives much justice to the characters’ superhuman swordsmanship. A must-watch for anime and manga fans.

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Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno [PG13]

DIRECTOR: Keishi Otomo
STARRING: Takeru Satô, Emi Takei & Tatsuya Fujiwara
GENRE: Action
RUN LENGTH: 139 min
RELEASE: 28 Aug