Meiji Restoration modernized feudal Japan at a remarkable rate. However, you do
not revolutionize society without breaking a few eggs. The samurai class were
most definitely among those with broken shells. However, the Meiji government
will learn a few samurai can be handy to have around when a super villain
threatens the new peace. The former Killsword Kenshin Himura (a.k.a. Hitokiri
Battosai) was supposed to be their stopper, but the megalomaniacal Makoto
Shishio got the drop on him in the previous film. One way or another, the epic
proxy battle or Japan’s future will decided in Keishi Ohtomo’s Rurouri Kenshin: The Legend Ends (trailer here), which starts a
special three-day engagement in select theaters this Monday.
up exactly where the Kyoto Inferno cliffhanger
left off, we join Himura where he has washed up on shore. We quickly learn the
mystery figure dragging away his battered body is his old master, Seijuro Hiko,
who will nurse the hero back to health in the safety of the Dagobah Swamp.
Kaoru Kamiya is presumed lost at sea and Himura’s new allies in the underground
Oniwabanshuu have turned against their former captain, the deranged Aoshi
Shinomori. That even includes Megumi Takani, who once loved Shinomori (and
probably still does), but is now more concerned with the grievous injuries her
grandfather Nenji Kashiwazaki suffered in his duel with Shinomori.
is understandably anxious to face Shishio again, but Hiko will force him to
undergo a transformative training regimen first. While Himura is sidelined, the
armed skirmish threatens to become an all-out war, when Shishio’s ironclad
warship starts strafing coastal cities. Eventually, Himura will have his
showdown with Shishio in the spectacular battle fans of the franchise deserve.
would be spoilery to say just who shows up for the climatic sword fight to end
all sword fights, but the mix of styles and temperaments makes it enormously
cinematic and hugely satisfying. Words like "rousing” and “crowd-pleasing”
don’t do the third act justice. It also underscores just how much the large supporting
cast contributes to the franchise.
Sato plays Himura with stone cold resolve hitherto unseen in the trilogy, but
maintains his ambiguous endearing chemistry with Emi Takei’s virtuous yet
down-to-earth Kamiya. Memorably capitalizing on limited screen time, Yosuke
Eguchi is so massively hardnosed, he makes a compelling case for a Hajime Saito
spin-off series. Likewise, Yu Aoi appeals to our fanboy emotions in the right
was as the good doctor Megumi Yakani. Yusuke Iseya was also good as Shinomori
in Inferno, but the way he steps it
up in Legend Ends really makes the
film a trilogy-closing homerun.
It is hard to not sound fannish when a Chanbara
series (Meiji setting not withstanding) ends on such a high note. Action director
Kenji Tanigaki keeps the inventive swordplay coming and the charismatic cast
keeps us deeply invested. Very highly recommended for fans of samurai and
manga-inspired cinema, Rurouni Kenshin:
The Legend Ends screens this Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (10/3-10/5) at
select theaters, including the Village East in New York.
Labels: Japanese Cinema, Manga-based films, Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy