Review: 'Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends'

By Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Sep 18 2014 05:41 PM | Updated as of Sep 22 2014 07:39 PM

The bandaged antagonist Makoto Shishio (center) faces four skilled fighters all at the same time in “The Legend Ends”. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

MANILA – “Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends” had its Philippine premiere on Wednesday at Glorietta 4 in Makati City, which was attended by selected guests and members of the press.

The movie will be screened in cinemas nationwide starting next Wednesday, September 24.

“The Legend Ends” is the second sequel based on the popular Kyoto Arc of the “Rurouni Kenshin” manga and anime. Here, reformed assassin Kenshin Himura tries to stop his successor, Makoto Shishio, from taking over Japan.

Just like the previous installments – “Rurouni Kenshin” in 2012 and “Kyoto Inferno” in August 2014 – “The Legend Ends” satisfies both fans and casual viewers with its streamlined plot and great acting.

However, it easily surpasses the two in terms of entertainment value with its sheer number of intense fight scenes.

Here’s a rundown of the good and bad aspects of “The Legend Ends”:

GOOD

The fight scenes

Kenshin Himura’s battle against Aoshi Shinomori is one of the many great fights in “The Legend Ends”. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

“The Legend Ends” may seem to start a bit slow, but after the first battle, you have already gotten your money’s worth.

Unlike in the previous “Rurouni Kenshin” live action movies which tend to have one-versus-many fight scenes, “The Legend Ends” has plenty of one-on-ones that are so wonderfully executed, they will make your jaw drop to the floor.

Fans of “Rurouni Kenshin” would know that the source material tends to stretch battles and make the characters talk too much – some even give a blow-by-blow narration of how and why they did a certain move – but the movie gets rid of all that. There are no back stories and no commentaries, just pure action.

Keep your eyes peeled as some of the scenes happen very fast, with the one between Hajime Saito and Juppongatana member Usui Uonuma only lasting for a few seconds, for instance. Many of the battles are done in one incredibly complex take, and there is no stylized slow motion as seen in the “Matrix” movies.

While the battles are fast-paced, they still manage to reflect the unique sword techniques of each of the characters – Saito’s left-handed Gatotsu thrust, Aoshi Shinomori’s dual kodachi slashes, Sojiro Seta’s Shukuchi technique, and even Shishio’s Homura Dama. Yes, complete with the tip of his sword on fire.

Watch out for Makoto Shishio’s Homura Dama – there are plenty – in “The Legend Ends”. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki

Can you guess how Kenshin Himura did the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki in “The Legend Ends”? Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Those who have watched the previous two “Rurouni Kenshin” movies already know that Takeru Satoh is a perfect fit for Himura. He completely validates this at “The Legend Ends” as he performs Himura’s ultimate technique called Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki.

For the uninitiated, Himura is trained in Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu or the fictional Flying Heaven Govern Style, which is known for its god-like speed and power. His techniques are usually depicted using visual effects in the manga and anime. In the movie, however, the skills shine in all their awesomeness.

Satoh also does the equally epic move Kuzuryusen or the Nine-headed Dragon Flash – which is also the signature technique of his master, Seijuro Hiko – in “The Legend Ends,” so that’s another scene to watch out for.

Plot changes

Megumi Takani (wearing purple) looks shocked upon seeing a certain poster. Fans of “Rurouni Kenshin” may end up having the same expression after realizing that “The Legend Ends” has a different plot. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Here’s good news for hardcore fans of “Rurouni Kenshin”: There is little room for nitpicking in “The Legend Ends” as director Keishi Otomo throws the original plot out of the window and offers a new story that manages to tie up loose ends in the previous movies.

In a way, the fans and non-fans are on equal footing. Fans may already know that Himura will fight Shishio, but they will just be as clueless as to how the events will unfold leading up to the final battle.

The plot change is not exactly brilliant, but it keeps the movie interesting and fresh for all audiences.

Sano’s antics

As expected, Sanosuke Sagara provides immense comic relief in “The Legend Ends.” In real life, actor Munetaka Aoki is just as funny. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

As always, Munetaka Aoki is as hilarious as ever as Himura’s sidekick, Sanosuke Sagara. Like Satoh, Aoki takes his character’s funny side a notch higher as his antics left audiences in side-splitting laughter during the Philippine premiere of “The Legend Ends.”

Watch out for his appearance in the last part of the movie. If none of his lines and actions made you laugh, get yourself checked – you may not be human.

BAD

Character development

Sojiro Seta’s fight scene against Kenshin Himura was superb, but his sudden mental breakdown in the movie may not make sense to non-fans. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

“The Legend Ends” may be flawless when it comes to its fight scenes and entertainment value, but it falls short on character development. The struggles of key Juppongatana members Sojiro Seta, Usui and Yukyukan Anji, for instance, were not given enough depth and the three were instead reduced to fighting machines.

As for Shinomori, his character was doomed the moment he was not included in the first “Rurouni Kenshin” movie as he was still as insignificant as in “Kyoto Inferno.” This time, however, he was given more screen time and his complex sword skills were put to good use.

The role of Kaoru Kamiya, Himura’s love interest, was reduced to sleeping, waking up and crying in the entire movie. But we’re not complaining – less time for romance (which was central in the previous “Rurouni Kenshin” movies) gave room for more fight sequences.

Unlike in the previous two installments, Kaoru Kamiya does not get to do much in “The Legend Ends.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

OVERALL

Despite its flaws on character development, “The Legend Ends” is a well-made movie that easily exceeds expectations. This movie is a must-watch not only for fans of “Rurouni Kenshin,” but also for every other person aged 13 years old and above who knows how to breathe. Yes, it’s that good.

Rating: 4.9 out of 5


Read ABS-CBNnews.com’s review of the 2012 “Rurouni Kenshin” movie here.

Read ABS-CBNnews.com’s spoiler-free review of “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno” here.

Read ABS-CBNnews.com’s spoiler-filled review of “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno” here.

Read more about the Manila visit of the director and stars of “Rurouni Kenshin” last August here.