Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Movie Review

Watching Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is like doing a marathon of the anime's Kyoto Arc in one sitting. Your brain would be turned to mush with all the things you have to take in all at once, but it's just so much fun to watch.

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno sees Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) finally living a life of peace with his friends Kaoru, Yahiko and Sanosuke. But a demon from his past has reared its ugly head threatening the stability of Japan, and Kenshin must once again walk the path of the Battousai if he's to save Japan and everyone he cares about!

If the first Rurouni Kenshin film was Batman Begins, Kyoto Inferno is Kenshin Himura's The Dark Knight. Flashier, funnier and more ferocious than its predecessor, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno delivers an entertaining samurai epic with colorful characters in an even colorful world. Keishi Otomo's deft direction leaves you breathless as he transports you from the bustling Kyoto streets to war-torn villages of Meiji-era Japan to bring you the story of Kenshin's mission to bring down the dreaded Shishio at all costs. And lest you forget that it's based on one of the most-loved anime and manga franchises in Japan, Otomo faithfully recreates scenes from the anime and throws in some beloved characters to give you the ultimate Rurouni Kenshin fangasm ever.

With an ensemble cast as good as this, it's hard to find the one performance that stands out. The beautiful Emi Takei as Kaoru is more badass this time around. Munetaka Aoki is hilarious and awesome as Sanosuke. And even with little screen-time, Yosuke Eguchi nails the role of Saito Hajime so hard. But the heart of Kyoto Inferno is Takeru Satoh, who delivers a fine performance as assassin-turned-hero Kenshin Himura. As the emotional heart of the film, Satoh pulls off both the slapstick and the seriousness of anime Kenshin so well that you'd almost think you ARE watching the anime. And despite having the most physically-demanding role in the film, Satoh makes it look so easy jumping around and slashing dozens of goons left and right with god-like speed. I was in a theater full of people like me who grew up watching the anime (known as Samurai X here in the Philippines) and when Satoh crouched deep with his sword hand ready to unsheathe his sword Hiten Mitsurugi-style, the crowd went absolutely nuts. That's how good he was.

One of the movie's few disappointments is Tatsuya Fujiwara's Shishio Makoto, who feels less like the main villain and more like a half-baked idea. Despite giving a menacingly good performance, Shishio frustratingly does little in the film but sit around and threaten people. I guess they have to save the best for the third and final movie.

And that's probably the one thing I can fault Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno: It feels like the first half of a full movie (which it technically is). Even if it follows the anime's arc pretty faithfully, the movie crams most of it into its more than 2 hour frame with no satisfying payoff. Characters like Aoshi Shinomori feel unnecessary to the plot at hand, some scenes either feel out of place or go on for too long that the movie has no choice but to leave you with a very frustrating cliffhanger. But I say frustrating because you can't believe you have to wait for a month and a half to see what happens next!

Bottom line, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno delivers the goods. If you love a good old samurai film, you'll find lots to enjoy in this movie. But if you're a Rurouni Kenshin anime or manga fan from way back, you'll LOVE this movie. Take your anime-loving friends and prepare to squee. You'll be glad you did!

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno premieres August 20 while Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends opens September 24.

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  1. Replies
    1. Oh Soujiro was indeed there! :) If you're a fan, you'll like what little you see of him :)

  2. Hi, where did you see it? I've been waiting for both films since I saw the first one.