“Her words are those of one whose hands are still clean. She is dreaming. The sword is a weapon for killing. No fine words will change that. But I vastly prefer Ms. Kaoru’s fond dreams to that of reality.” – Kenshin
This blog post is going to fail in so many ways. For instance, I can’t even begin to properly write about the epicness that is the Rurouni Kenshin (“Kenshin the Wanderer”) live action movie.
I’d neither seen the anime, nor read the manga. But I happened to stumble on the trailer and I thought it looked really good. Then the rumors about it screening in the Philippines began to circulate, then SM announced they were showing it in their theaters. Four days before the opening day, half the seats had already been sold for the last full show in Megamall. So I caught it on the first day. Then watched it again the day after. And then again the next day. Thus began my slow descent into madness — as of writing this, I’d already seen it seven times in the theater since it opened in the Philippines last December 5.
Himura Kenshin was the assassin known as Battosai the Killer, on a mission from his clan to help defeat the forces of the Shogun, who was trying to hold on to power against the Emperor who was, in turn, trying to bring about a unified Japan under a modern, centralized government. Kenshin embraced the distasteful work of killing, for the promise of a new age of peace and rule of law. As soon as the Boshin war was over, he gave up his sword to be a rurouni — a wanderer — going around helping people. He had no home, just a mission to find peace within himself and atone for his past sins. Ten years later, a series of murders occur, seemingly by the killer Battosai, but it is only a small part of an emerging evil in Tokyo, and pretty soon Kenshin is forced to confront his past again.
I was trying to avoid doing a list, but I’m afraid it can’t be helped. Because I’ve seen it seven times, here are seven reasons why Rurouni Kenshin is awesome:
- The film is beautifully shot. I know next to nothing about how Japan looked in the Meiji era, but wow, was everything pretty, and not in an art-directed way. The costumes, the sets — they all looked, well, real. From the blood-soaked battlefields to the tranquil river scenes to the sandals on the characters’ feet.
And don’t get me started on villain Kanryu’s study — I want one exactly like it, but I’m afraid I’ll probably start plotting evil things once I start hanging out there. (Sadly, I couldn’t find a decent pic online.)
- The language is pretty. The characters speak differently from how Japanese speak in the modern day — at least if the way characters speak in modern Japanese dramas is any indication. It was almost lyrical, although not cloying.
- The dialogue was extremely well written. You can appreciate it even if you don’t understand Japanese and only have the English subtitles to to go by.
- Satoh Takeru, who plays Kenshin, is gorgeous. Do not try to slap him, you’ll cut your hand on his cheekbones. Whenever the camera focuses on Kenshin’s cross scar on his cheek, we take it as an opportunity to porn his perfect pouty lips.
- The fight scenes are so much fun. Takeru does most of his own stunts. He’s a breakdancer, hence the ability to do acrobatics. As you can see from this behind-the-scenes video, and his swordplay is more than decent. Part of what makes the fight scenes so amazing is that the camera angles makes you able to see Kenshin’s face while he’s parrying, slashing, leaping around — you see him grimace, get angry, look surprised. By the way, you should pay attention to the swords as well, as they seem to be part of a visual kind of dialogue that completes each scene. At one point, I wonder what Kenshin did to this guy who’s on the ground in pain. Then the camera purposely shows the whole length of Kenshin’s back-blade katana as he sheathes it — there’s still no blood on it, so you know the bad guy will live.
- Takeru is an excellent actor. As Kenshin, he has the burden of portraying both the cold-hearted assassin and the warm-hearted wanderer. Even the way he looks while he fights is distinctive — as Battosai he moves like a sleek, hungry beast with a feral expression; as Himura “I really really don’t want to kill again” Kenshin, he is elegant and focused, but struggles with a sword that’s more dangerous for the wielder than the people he’s fighting.
- The soundtrack is wonderful.
[ETA: Apparently you have to search for “Rouroni Kenshin original soundtrack” to find it, but it is on YesAsia.com.] Why is it not available in Yesasia.com, why why why.
There are actually so many other reasons why Rurouni Kenshin is awesome — the rest of the cast are great, and while the film is a faithful adaptation of the manga/anime, it’s not slavishly so — but I’ll stop at seven. Oh, and another reason why watching it was fun was the number of RK fans who came to see the movie in costume.
The theater run keeps getting extended. We caught it yesterday, and there were so many people in the cinema I was almost sure they’d extend the run again. I was right! It’s still showing today. We suspect it will still be screening for a few more days, so if there’s a screening tomorrow, Sheila (who saw it with me yesterday) and I will catch it again. Stop looking at me like I’m weird, ok? I need something to do until the Rurouni Kenshin DVD comes out on December 26.
If you like your Japanese movie trailers with English subtitles, here you go: