Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends Movie Review

If you're going to watch just one live-action adaptation of an anime in your life, you'd do well to watch Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends.

After the events of Kyoto Inferno, Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) is serendipitously found by Hiko Seijuro (Masaharu Fukuyama), the man who taught him his sword-fighting style. Kenshin will need to train harder than he's ever had before, because he will have to face disgraced ninja Aoshi Shinomori (Yusuke Iseya), the government, and his own fears before he faces off against Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara) in the battle that will determine not just the future of Japan, but whose legend will live on once and for all!

Mad props must be given to director Keishi Otomo, who is given the thankless job of balancing between staying faithful to the anime and giving us an action-packed samurai epic. But the original anime wasn't just a clash of was a clash of ideologies, with both Kenshin and his enemies trying to prove their worldview with every stroke of the sword. So a lot of the nuances get lost in the attempt to condense 30+ episodes of characterization into a 2-and-a-half hour film.

You notice it in Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends when characters suddenly appear in a scene without logic, or fan-favorite characters (like the Juppongatana, who were introduced with much fanfare during the previous movie) get shoved aside or hurriedly moved along to make way for Kenshin's inevitable fight with Shishio. I may be bold in saying even Aoshi didn't need to be there, for all the good he'll do for the film's story aside from being required to be there in the final fight!

But all of this is just the rambling of an OG Rurouni Kenshin anime fan. Folks who've never seen a single episode of the anime in their life will be a lot more forgiving with the things Otomo omits, mainly because they'll enjoy what he did leave in...action, and lots of it. And this is where The Legend Ends raises the bar and goes all out.

Every sword contact, every close call will leave you literally breathless thanks to Otomo's flair for digging the camera deep into the action. Sanosuke, Saito, and Kenshin's climactic battle against Shishio in particular is a visually stunning sequence, beautiful in its chaos of clashing fighting styles, and I'm not kidding when I say I was on the edge of my seat the entire time!

But really, when all's said and done, The Legend Ends is all about Takeru Satoh and Tatsuya Fujiwara, who both gave career-defining performances. Satoh nailed being both a vulnerable soul and a stone-cold killer as Kenshin, while Fujiwara was scary good as Shishio, who finally gets to let loose in this film to give us the live-action Shishio we deserved. Racked with pain and hacking blood, Fujiwara's Shishio still manages to look like he can wipe the floor with everybody else!

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends may not fully satisfy the discerning otaku, but it's amazing to watch them attempt it. It may have its faults, but no one can deny that The Legend Ends is a highly enjoyable samurai action flick and a fitting and glorious finale to what could be the most successful adaptation of an anime to live-action we've seen. Highly recommended!

Opening across the Philippines on Sept. 24, 2014, “Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

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