Watching Japanese films on a commercial theater is no longer only a privilege for the few, culturally-inclined nations. It is also no longer the realm of Film Festivals or so, which is something of a break from all of those badly cliché-written Gay indie films putting tragedy for the sake of art.
It looks like SM (Our nation’s Mall) has finally discovered how to make use of their theater facilities that is often being the victim of piracy – show films that people can not easily get anywhere. An audience that is very peculiar on visual quality. Finally, put a ravage fanbase of die-hard Asian fans to watch their man of their dreams in a full-theater experience.
What this film is aimed For
Let me break the review down in bits of tackling this film for our readers to know if it is worth giving money to watch it, or if it is worth waiting in the long lines of those who have been introduced into Asian (preferably Japanese) visual media.
The film in question is mainly designed to stimulate the fans of the hit classic that aired under the same vein as the like of Vash Stampede (Trigun). Rurouni Kenshin has been in a running streak of remakes these past few years, the latest being the Cage of Eden which is more fateful to the Manga series and does not disappoint the fans of the franchise.
This film is mostly aimed for people who cater in two sides of fandom – those who like hot Japanese actors playing role of their childhood Anime character that they might not be a fan of and vice versa.
The film’s story is mostly centered around the first part of the series and one of the old OVAs, where the legendary Battousai is killing people, though it so happens that the real deal is that he’s mainly wandering around the country, and as he does, he stumbles to our leading lady Kaoru.
We also have hot stars with Sanosuke, his “little” sword and somewhat attention-grabbing attire; and Saito Hajime, former Shinsengumi enforcing the reign of the then budding Imperial Japan (by the way, the Shinsengumi was not mentioned in the film), placed in the most GARing situations to display how “cool” and smooth they are in slicing off helpless extras in the film. Mostly, the audience will find it a treat to see glorified samurai action, which is something the Japanese isn’t really known for, particularly the display of the Samurai having a superhuman feat.
In short, the film is intended to get the fans of the genre feel at home, while making it approachable for people who never seen a film that isn’t English. Thank heavens that it is subtitled, or else the lowness of the volume will make it hard to understand the story.
As I would expect with live-action adaptations, the film is adjusted to suit the majority of audience – those who had watched, or is familiar to the franchise; and those who were dragged by their nerdy best friends to watch this film.
The conflict is rather shallow, expected that the film, again, is based on the first few episodes of the Manga and Anime, which isn’t really deep to begin with. The conflict – or rather, the villains – are in no means like those of the first few episodes, albeit pretty dumb and stupid. Especially that haircut, since this reminded me of one of the villains in Kung Fu Hustle being way less cooler and rather dumb.
The moral of the story revolves in how money can’t buy anything and how you can escape what you are, which I personally see the latter played well in this film. The flashback scenes with Kenshin gunning down some Imperial dogs during his side with the revolution is overstayed, but then that’s what Japanese tend to look on the focus of the warrior spirit.
One obvious element in the film that I find odd is that the entire film is played as if it were a theater play. I watched a similar-themed film about Samurais and I never got that vibe on it. The way the scenes are framed are like those instances that if the camera was panned a bit more that what is intended, I might see a red curtain or someone lipsyncing a dialog on the side of the stage.
Overall, despite my nitty-gritty critique on the film, I did enjoy it for what it is. My expectations aren’t that high to begin with anyway. I do have a couple of experiences on watching Japanese live-action adaptations and I am also expecting the same thing about it.
Even so, I can recommend this to people who wants to “convert” someone in their life to the Japanese fandom to see this film and enjoy it. The film is clearly a gateway piece and a crash course introduction to Japanese history and film nuances; and that any other succeeding film will not hurt them.