I watched the first "Rurouni Kenshin" film in 2012 and had since been hooked. The two next films in the series were both shown in 2014, one subtitled "Kyoto Inferno" and the subsequent one "The Legend Ends." This current title subtitled "The Final" is the fourth and concluding installment, while a fifth was released at the same time in Japan, a prequel subtitled "The Beginning."
Kenshin Himura (Takeru Sato) and his gang of friends from the first three films are all still here. They were: fencing instructor Kaoru (Emi Takei), street fighter Sonosuke (Munetaka Anoki), doctor Megumi (Yu Aoi), young boy Yahiko (Kaito Oyagi), and police chief Hajime Saito (Yosuke Eguchi). His recent allies from the third film, Misao (Tao Tsuchiya) and Aoshi (Yusuke Iseya) from Kyoto, also drop in for a fantastic fight scene.
Violent attacks have been launched against various neighbors and friends of Kenshin by a gang of crazy warriors and their army of minions. It turned out that the terrorists were all under the instruction of one bitterly angry young man named Yukishiro Enishi (Mackenyu Arata) who held Kenshin responsible for the death of someone very precious to him. So much was his wrath that Enishi not only wanted Kenshin to suffer but everyone around him as well.
Even though it had been seven long years since the last RK film, once one sees the familiar cast of characters, you will remember all their memorable idiosyncrasies, as well as the basics of the continuing story. Notably, the explosions had bigger firepower this time around. One of the bad guys even had an automatic cannon and machine gun appended to his right arm which he can shoot at will wreaking widespread damage.
Kenshin vs. Enishi was a study in contrasts. Takeru Sato as Kenshin was more of the calm, generally laidback sort, only accelerating into rapidfire action when provoked into a sword fight. Meanwhile, Mackenyu Arata's Enishi was jacked up all the way, explosive when fighting, intense even if he was only brooding. Enishi and his mad allies looked like emo boy band jocks but in full Edward Scissorhands hairstyles and facial makeup.
The sword fights were still the highlight of this film more than any other action sequence. All the fights of Kenshin and all the bad guys he encountered were perfect in choreography and execution. Of course the climax would be the spectacular one-on-one match-up of the two main combatants Kenshin and Enishi, which was visually ironic -- balletic in form and grace despite all its bloody violence and destructive force.
Quiet as it was, the serene ending was emotionally satisfying as it closed this saga. With the flashbacks about Kenshin's relationship with Tomoe (Kasumi Amimura) and how he got his distinctive "X" scar on his left cheek, we already get a foretaste of what is to come in the next installment "The Beginning". That next episode also promises to show Kenshin's days as the assassin Hitokiri Battosai, a past that haunted him well after his retirement.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."