Review: 5 reasons to watch 'Rurouni Kenshin'

Posted at 12/06/2012 7:30 PM | Updated as of 12/11/2012 12:32 PM

This is a spoiler-free review.

MANILA, Philippines – More than three months since it was released in Japan, the live action film adaptation of the hit manga and anime series “Rurouni Kenshin,” more popularly known here as “Samurai X,” finally hit selected cinemas in the country on Wednesday, December 5.

And for a “Rurouni Kenshin” fan such as myself, it was certainly worth the wait.

For the uninitiated, the movie tells the story of Kenshin Himura (Himura Kenshin in the anime and movie; the Japanese say the surname first), an assassin turned repentant wanderer who protects the people of Japan.

Here are five reasons why you should watch this awesome movie, which is currently screened at selected SM cinemas.

1. It was made in Japan.

No offense meant to Americans, but leave it to the Japanese to direct and star in their own masterpieces. Those who have seen the American-made critical failure “Dragonball Evolution,” which was based on the much-loved “Dragon Ball” series, should know this very well.

While it is produced by Warner Bros., the live action “Rurouni Kenshin” movie was directed by Keishi Otomo, who took a lot of time writing the script, focusing more on the characters’ emotions instead of relying on exaggerated wire action scenes (there still are, though) and computer graphics.

Otomo also had the support of Nobuhiro Watsuki (the original author of the manga and anime series) as he was doing the film, so he was right on track.

It’s just like when you’re looking for a good Japanese restaurant. How can you usually tell that the place is good? If the chefs and cooks are Japanese, and there are plenty of Japanese customers. Of course, there are exceptions.

2. The casting was spot-on.

Getting “Kamen Rider Den-O” star Takeru Satoh as Himura is probably the best decision that Otomo made in connection with the film.

Aside from being able to pull off the protagonist’s outfit and long red hair, Satoh effectively portrayed Himura’s character, down to the smallest details – from the way he runs, jumps and draws his sword, to his sleeping position and the light moments when he delivers his signature line: “oro?”

Takeru Satoh plays the role of Kenshin Himura in the live action film adaptation of "Rurouni Kenshin".

Emi Takei performed well as Kaoru Kamiya, a strong-minded woman who runs a dojo left by her late father, and Himura’s leading lady of sorts. She looks simple yet pretty, just like in the anime and manga, but at some point it seems like her acting is subdued – she could have been more tomboyish, particularly in the scenes when she is with her lone student, Myojin Yahiko.

The Japanese actors who played the roles of the rest of Himura’s gang – Yahiko, the rough and rowdy Sanosuke Sagara and the flirtatious Megumi Takani – were exactly how I imagined them while watching the anime. The same goes for the antagonists – from the creepy Jin-e Udo to the money-minded Kanryu Takeda – and even the random thugs and police officers.

Perhaps the only noticeable difference between the portrayals in the manga/anime and in the live action movie was Hajime Saito, a former member of the special police force Shinsengumi who eventually became a spy agent working for the Meiji government. Although he looked way better than the Saito sketch, Yosuke Eguchi played the part well, being able to pull off the character’s left-handed stab called the “gatotsu.”

3. The backdrop was incredibly accurate.

The live action “Rurouni Kenshin” movie was set against a backdrop of 1870s Japan that is so accurate it’s scary. Every detail was well thought out, from the wooden boards and bath at the Kamiya dojo and Takeda’s mansion, to the Akabeko restaurant where Himura’s gang would usually hang out to eat and celebrate.

Combine these with the perfect cast and you’d feel like the “Rurouni Kenshin” manga and anime were literally brought to life.

4. The story was well-woven.

It is a huge challenge for any filmmaker to fit the many characters and storylines of a long book or series in two or three hours. Thankfully, Otomo was able to do things properly for the “Rurouni Kenshin” live action movie.

Of course, this was not done without altering some of the scenes in the original material. Although the changes are not that obvious, fans would easily notice how some characters played a double role, and how others were suddenly made to fight when they’re not supposed to, for instance.

Otomo did a great job of removing the unnecessary scenes and characters, and giving more attention and depth to the more important ones, making every second of the movie count.

5. It will bring you back to your childhood.

Just the sight of Himura doing his thing with his sakabato or reverse-edged sword is enough reason to catch the live action movie, as this will make you reminisce the good old days, back when you stopped all your activities to tune in to “Rurouni Kenshin” on TV.

And I am not alone in thinking this. The audience, composed mainly of people in their mid-20s, can be heard cheering and roaring loudly throughout the movie -- something I have not witnessed in a long while. Several moviegoers were even talking about the scenes non-stop after leaving the theater.

To those who have not watched the anime or read the manga, don't fret – whether you're a die-hard fan or a newcomer, you will still get that warm and fuzzy feeling the moment Himura says "Tadaima."

Rating: 4.9 out of 5