Rurouni Kenshin 2: Kyoto Inferno

We were invited along to a press screening of Rurouni Kenshin 2: Kyoto Inferno by Warner Bros. ahead of its UK release on 28th November 2014.

Rurouni Kenshin 2: Kyoto Inferno is a superb live-action adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s manga and subsequent anime Rurouni Kenshin.The film doesn’t require the audience to have seen the prequel, as the back story is told through some helpful flashbacks.

Adapting the most popular arc of the manga has been a task handled brilliantly by director Keishi Otomo, who returns to the franchise with the first of a two part sequel.

Having cast away his mantel as the infamous Hitokiri Battousai (aka the manslayer), Kenshin (played by Takeru Satoh) looks set to live a life of peace and atonement and now lives at the dojo with Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei), who took him in during the previous film and the comedic brawler Sanouske Sagara (Aoki Munetaka). His past however still haunts him as the Meiji government looks to him as the only person able to confront a deadly new foe in Makoto Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara), a former assassin who now threatens the delicate state of a country awakening to a new dawn.

The country’s transitional period is echoed within Kenshin himself who is constantly told that his way of living cannot protect his way of life or those he holds dear. Having made his decision he parts from Kaoru and his other companions, deciding to face Shishio and his past on his own.

Our introduction to the crazed and murderous villain Shishio happens early on in the film and takes place in what can only be described as the pits of hell in which he is the demonic ruler. A scene fit for Shishio’s persona which also offers a glimpse into the mind of the maniac and his vision of a country set ablaze and in turmoil.

Tatsuya Fujiwara gives a brilliant portrayal of the twisted antagonist who was set on fire and left for dead by a government which in the past relied on his services. Even covered in bandages he manages to exude the aura of the character with a frightening degree of accuracy; and is the stand out performer among a cast who breathe life to their respective characters and so, quite rightly, justifying the film’s success.

Kyoto Inferno serves as a build-up piece for the second of the two part sequel Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends and, as build up pieces go, the pacing is somewhat slow with an emphasis on the inner demons Kenshin wrestles with and the struggles his companions must face in order to keep Kenshin from losing himself.

This, for me, is where the film (sadly) drops the ball. In its attempt to patiently build up to a climactic battle which frustratingly doesn’t arrive, Kyoto Inferno drags its feet with some scenes that linger for too long or just aren’t necessary.

However, the film isn’t short on action and surpasses its prequel with intense and gripping close quarter fight scenes which utilize their environment, drawing the audience in once more with their spectacular choreography.

The film manages to retain some of its humour, although it’s darker in tone, it isn’t lost with the introduction of the Juppon gatana (The Ten Swords), one of whom battles with Kenshin over a famous swordsmith’s last katana. Weaving through it all is a film score which rouses the right emotions at the right times, topped off by a great theme song by One OK Rock.

As was to be expected, the film deviates somewhat from the manga, this however doesn’t ruin or take away from what is overall an epic piece of work which is respectable to its large fan base and source.

The film is released on the 28th November 2014 and fans of Kenshin will not be left disappointed!