Rurouni Kenshin Blu Ray Review

To be completely frank, prior to watching this film I'd had no exposure to the Rurouni Kenshin franchise apart from the early 2000's Madman release of Samurai X: The Movie. That said, I have always been interested in picking up the anime series and manga series. But after seeing this film that interest has escalated into red-hot burning desire. Give me all the Kenshin's!

It would be easy to assume that the hero of this film is a bloke named Rurouni from the Kenshin clan and while you aren't too far off the mark, you're certainly not right. From what I'm led to believe, Ru means "wanderer" while the rouni/ronin portion of the name means "masterless Samurai" which, in this case would mean The Wandering Samurai. Alternatively, Ruro (流浪) can mean "nomad" while ni (丹) can be "red" so it could also mean "The Red Nomad". Either way, our eponymous hero is named Kenshin and he's a wandering ronin, 'nuff said.

Riding on the back of selling out EVERY session at last years Japanese Film Festival, Rurouni Kenshin is a Japanese popcorn movie and so much more. This film is an exceptionally easy watch. Like with all good action films, it manages to suck you in, excite and delight with very little thought involved. That said, like with all good stories, there's much more below the surface. After living the life of a samurai and shedding blood on a seemingly daily basis, Kenshin leaves the path of death. Instead of carrying on with his wicked ways he, and his blade, make a 180 degree turn. Kenshin uses a "back blade" which has its cutting surface on the rear allowing him to smack his opponents instead of cleaving them in twain. But "what's a samurai film without blood?" I hear you ask, but the answer is simple. A samurai film without copious amounts of blood is refreshing. Without preaching at the audience, Rurouni Kenshin manages to highlight a rather obvious point that many an action film seems to miss - killing is bad.

In praising the characters it is difficult not to fall in love with the feudal period setting which is both utterly immersive and adds to the overall aesthetic of the film. It is the sort of beauty that presents simplicity but offers so much more under the surface, just like the film itself. From what I've seen of the source material, Takeru Satoh perfectly embodies the look of Kenshin, not only in terms of his costume but also his physique, stature and sensibilities. Add to that a brilliant, physical performance by the greasy, ne'er-do-well Teruyuki Kagawa as well as solid performances by Emi Takei and Yu Aoi and you've got an exceptional ensemble. Another stand out point to the film is its score by Naoki Sato. Instead of being heavy handed on traditional Japanese instruments, Sato seems to have drawn from his experience  in more recent theatrical films (Space Battleship Yamato) and anime series (Blood-C) to deliver a more contemporary, and memorable, original soundtrack.

The action sequences in Rurouni Kenshin are without a doubt some of the best in recent memory. Takeru Satoh, the actor playing Kenshin, is known for his time in the lead role of Kamen Rider Den-O. While acting in a tokusatsu series may not hold much weight with some people, it definitely outlines Satoh's ability to bring both physical and comedic performances to the screen. The action sequences are fast, frenetic and use some very innovative camera angles to suck you into the action. Another stand out when talking about the action in this film is the wirework. While it may generally be believed to be the domain of Hong Kong cinema, the wirework in this film is at times subtle enough to make you question whether wires were used at all which adds to the overall effect.

Rurouni Kenshin is a fantastic film and a must watch for fans of Japanese cinema or even just fans of great action films. If the rumours are to be believed (and I certainly hope they are), a sequel is already in the works. These are the sort of films that a Japanophile such as myself gets excited for. The sort of films that make me want to get my hands on the anime and manga that inspired this nearly perfect film.

Rurouni Kenshin is available now on Blu Ray and DVD.


Popular posts from this blog

Home Again review

Interview - The Deep creators, Tom Taylor & James Brouwer