The bloody overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate has been followed by the Meiji restoration, but all is not well. Samurai led by Takimi Shigure regret the passing of the old days and plan to start a counter-revolution. Himura Kenshin, one of the samurai who fought to overthrow the Shogunate, finds himself forced by destiny to oppose Shigure. In the past, a mistake by Shigure left his closest friend, Takatsuki Gentatsu without sufficient resources for a raid. Unknown to Shigure, Kenshin is the samurai who killed Gentatsu. Both men were deeply affected by this, at the restoration of the Meiji, Shigure was sworn to vengeance. And Kenshin had his sword blade reversed, determined never to kill with his sword again. I’m not easily impressed by a movie. Even worse with an animated one. But this one got me drooling. I picked this one up by recommendation, and I’ll recommend it to anyone from now on.
For those who are not Kenshin fans, this movie might be confusing. It is chock full of history and characters that are prevalent throughout the series but are not exactly things you would hear or be able to relate to in every day life. It is violent, gruesome, bloody, but does not feel gratuitous, due to the mood and setting the animators have created. While it does have a few chuckles here and there, the main theme is fairly dark; it deals a lot with Kenshin’s past as Hitokiri Battousai. When “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” opened, everybody talked about how the fights revealed character. Rurouni Kenshin does the same thing much better, as the fights are short and brutal, and swords actually cut the flesh, but there’s so much being told each time.
One thing I will admit to admiring about this movie was how it moved me emotionally at some points. I felt tension when young Yahiko got trapped by the rebels. I felt a bit of sorrow in the end for Takimi and Toki. I could understand Takimi’s rage at Kenshin. This was one of the strong points of the movie, and the music did a decent job of adding to the emotion. Through these artistic devices we see the tale unfold of an assassin who is torn between continuing his life of bloodshed or taking his chance to escape into a more quiet life away from the killings. For those who are used to the voices in the English dub of the TV series, the voices in the English dub of the movie are not the same. The DVD offers the movie in Japanese with English subtitles or in English, which gives the viewer a choice. The art is slightly different from that of the TV series, though clearly based on it. It is more gory than the TV series however.
Now for some bad stuff. The killing of Tentatsu is repeated many times throughout the film. While it is a reminder of the problems of Kenshin and Takimi, you don’t have to have it 5 times, literally. And Sanosuke has a bit of an australian accent which doesn’t sound right. If you haven’t read the manga or have watched at least a few episodes of the anime, the political aspects of the storyline will most likely pass you by. With that aside, this is a solid anime and I believe this is the kind of film that is so excellent it transcends its genre. This is good for teenagers accustomed to violence but still sensitive to a nice storyline.