Spoiler-filled review of 'Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno'
Warning: This contains a lot of spoilers.
Planning to watch “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno”? Here’s a quick tip: Do not focus too much on the details.
While its main purpose is to lay the foundation for the epic conclusion that is “The Legend Ends,” “Kyoto Inferno” is a beautifully crafted film that is able to stand on its own merits, as I mentioned in my spoiler-free review.
Director Keishi Otomo did a great job of fitting a massive amount of material from the Kyoto Arc of “Rurouni Kenshin” in a coherent film that runs for a little over two hours. As a result, some who are familiar with the manga and anime may end up having a field day nitpicking over changes made in the movie, which may make the experience slightly less enjoyable.
To hardcore fans who feel that they cannot overlook altered scripts and glaring changes in the sequence of events while watching “Kyoto Inferno,” don’t fret – here’s a list of what not to expect in this “Rurouni Kenshin” movie to avoid any disappointment.
A word of warning, though – this section contains a lot of spoilers.
Still reading? Here are some of the significant scenes in the original material that are not included in “Kyoto Inferno”:
The entry of Hajime Saito – and his subsequent battle with Kenshin Himura – marks the start of the Kyoto Arc. This was not done in “Kyoto Inferno,” however, because Saito was already introduced to Himura and the gang in the first “Rurouni Kenshin” movie.
Seeing Himura and Saito fight to the death – with the latter turning into Battousai the manslayer for a few moments – would have been epic in a live action movie. But don’t fret: Otomo gives both characters more screen time battling their respective opponents.
Here’s a clue about the totally different intro at “Kyoto Inferno”: it includes Saito, Makoto Shishio and his Juppongatana group.
In “Kyoto Inferno,” Himura still said a heartfelt goodbye to his lady love, Kaoru Kamiya, before heading to Kyoto to fight Shishio. However, it was not as dramatic as in the original material.
They did not meet at night to see the fireflies as the scene was done in the afternoon, right after Himura learned about the assassination of government leader Toshimichi Okubo. Kamiya did not get down on her knees – or even shed a tear – after Himura left her.
In the anime and manga, Himura’s departure left Kamiya devastated – she was supposed to be locked up in her room, starving herself. But in the movie, she is portrayed as a stronger character, trying her best to move on and act like nothing happened.
Aoshi’s ties to Kenshin’s gang
Himura and his gang should have encountered Aoshi Shinomori and his henchmen from the Oniwabanshu during the first “Rurouni Kenshin” movie, if the original material were to be followed. Shinomori and his gang used to be the bodyguards of former opium dealer Kanryu Takeda, one of the antagonists in the series.
But because characters from another arc (the manga-only Jinchuu arc, to be exact) were placed in the first movie, Shinomori had to be included somewhere in “Kyoto Inferno” and fans would easily notice how his introduction felt a bit rushed. This affected the development of other characters connected to him, from Misao Makimachi to Nenji Kashiwazaki or Okina.
So don’t be surprised if you see Sanosuke Sagara and Megumi Takani looking clueless when they see Shinomori looking for Himura in broad daylight.
Himura does not get to fight the giant Senkaku in “Kyoto Inferno,” probably to maintain the realistic feel of the movie. Instead, our hero faces a group of samurai who have taken over Shingetsu village upon Shishio’s orders.
Do not underestimate the alternate battle, however, as this is one of the best moments in the film. Keep your eyes peeled as Himura knocks out one enemy after another in a matter of seconds.
And of course, the succeeding battle against Shishio’s right-hand man, Sojiro Seta, is also something to look forward to.
Kenshin’s training under Hiko
In the original material, Himura asks Okina to look for two people – swordsmith Shakku Arai and his master, Seijuro Hiko. But in “Kyoto Inferno,” he only requested for Arai.
Himura’s training under Hiko was not included in the movie, and is presumably moved to the second sequel which is “The Legend Ends.”
Sanosuke Sagara’s training while on the way to Kyoto was also not included in “Kyoto Inferno,” which heavily focused on Himura’s journey. In the original material, Sagara encounters monk-turned-Juppongatana member Anji Yukyukan, who taught him the destructive punch Futae no Kiwami.
Juppongatana in Kyoto
As some fans would remember, the original story involves Shishio ordering his elite swordsmen, collectively known as the Juppongatana, to burn down Kyoto. But in the movie, the Ten Swords were all with the bandaged antagonist in the steel plated battleship called Rengoku.
Himura and his gang, Saito and the rest of the Oniwabanshu were all there to defend Kyoto from Shishio’s nameless henchmen – which even included a bunch of bandaged decoys – in the movie. For some reason, Aoshi’s battle with Okina takes place in the middle of the chaos.
And instead of Himura, Sagara and Saito attacking the Rengoku, an all too familiar scene from the first “Rurouni Kenshin” movie will take place again. Here’s a hint: it includes the film’s leading lady.
Hardcore fan or not, there is something to rave about in “Kyoto Inferno,” one of the very few live-action adaptations that exceed expectations. The movie is still screened in cinemas nationwide.