Meiji Restoration brought stability, modernization, and westernization to
Japan. That was good news if you wanted to quietly work and raise a family, but
bad for business if you were a super-villain. Hitokiri Battosai was the
exception who proved the rule. He did his duty as a cold-blooded killsword to
hasten in the new era, but renounced his old violent ways once the Shogunate
fell. However, he might have to break his vow to protect the innocent in Keishi
Ohtomo’s Rurouni Kenshin Part 1: Origins (trailer here), which releases
today in a DVD/BluRay collector pack, from Funimation.
Himura’s backstory will be teased out over the course of the full live-action trilogy,
but Origins establishes who he is
right now and how he fell in with the friends who stand by him throughout the
chaotic events of Kyoto Inferno and The Legends Ends. As Origins opens, a rogue killer is further
besmirching the Battosai name, by impersonating the killsword while committing
a series of murders. He also falsely claims to adhere to the “life-affirming”
style of martial arts taught by Kaoru Kamiya’s late father. After a bit of miscommunication,
Himura and Kamiya will team up together to clear their respective reputations.
will get even more awkward when the mysterious Megumi Takani also takes refuge
at the Kamiya family dojo. However, her medical skills will come in handy. She
has fled from Kanryu Takeda, an opium smuggler determined to undermine the Meiji
government, who forced her to concoct especially addictive designer drugs. The
spacey but flamboyant drug lord has made common cause with several former
samurai, who also wish to return to the old days of warlordism. However, Himura’s
old nemesis, Hajime Saito has opted for law and order, so he now serves the new
government in a similar, hard-charging capacity. Yet, just like the sinister
assassin Udo Jine, Saito is determined to push Himura back into the killing business.
the three films, Origins most easily
stands on its own. It also gives significant screen time to Takani, which helps
explain why a major star liked Yu Aoi occasionally drops into the second two
films to offer a bit of sage advice or bandage a wound. She is terrific as
Takani, wringing all kinds of intrigue and dignity out of the mysterious role.
Takeru Satoh and Emi Takei notably start to develop the subtle chemistry that
will be so appealing as the trilogy progresses. Yosuke Eguchi also already
starts to steal scenes as the flinty Saito. Teruyuki Kagawa is bizarrely weird
as Takeda, but that is a good thing. Likewise, Koji Kikkawa is appropriately menacing
as Jine. When he and Himura finally face-off, it does not disappoint.
The live action trilogy clearly demonstrates why
the manga series had such a long run. The swordplay (skillfully directed by
Kenji Tanigaki) is spectacular, but the characters and their relationships
really keep you hooked. You can see it coming together right from the start of Origins. Very highly recommended for
martial arts and manga fans, Rurouni
Kenshin Part 1: Origins is now available on DVD/BluRay from Funimation.
Labels: DVD, Japanese Cinema, Manga-based films, Martial arts cinema, Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy, Yu Aoi