Rurouni Kenshin: Samurai X marks the spot

Jerald Uy

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Anime fans are lining up for this long-awaited movie

SAMURAI X, FINALLY. Rurouni Kenshin's story begins to unravel. Image from the movie's Facebook fan page

MANILA, Philippines – He is about to remind her that he was the infamous “Battousai” of a bygone era but she cuts him short.

She insists that she knows only of him as the “rurouni” or the wandering Kenshin.

“Everyone has things they do not want to talk about,” Kaoru (Emi Takei) tells the former assassin, Kenshin (Takeru Sato). 

The action-addicted audience, now gripped in silence, listens intently, despite hearing those lines over and over from the trailer on YouTube before the advance screening of “Rurouni Kenshin” on December 2.

Almost two decades since the anime “Samurai X” grabbed the hearts of pre-millenium high schoolers, this story about second chances still resonates.

The tale centers around Kenshin, a samurai who bears an X-crossed scar on his left cheek. He turns into a pacifist after the dissolution of the samurai caste in Japan. Kenshin wields a reverse-edge blade that could potentially harm him whenever he draws it.

Does the live-action movie give justice to the anime that most twenty-somethings grew up watching?

Let me first do my “Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryu” sword-fighting pose, look you in the eye and give you a resounding “YES!”

Good portrayal of characters

PAST IS PAST. Kaoru and Kenshin in serious discussion. Image from the movie's Facebook fan page

The actors are so in-character with their anime counterparts; it is hard to see the differences between the two versions.

Takeru Sato plays both the soft-hearted Kenshin and the ruthless Battousai very well. One moment, you see him as the guy who would never harm a fly; in flashback sequences, you hate him for the man that he once was — blood-thirsty with a low regard for life. 

The range of acting of Yuu Aoi, who plays the supporting character Megumi, should also be applauded. I saw her become manipulative, terrified, flirtatious, melodramatic, stern and funny in the course of the movie. 

In my opinion, Aoi’s acting beats that of the lead actress Emi Takei’s (Kaoru). But this is probably because the major plot tends to focus more on Megumi rather than Kaoru.

Awesome cinematography

SAITO VS KENSHIN. A sample of the movie's great cinematography and fight choreography. Image from the movie's Facebook fan page

I could tell that the filmmakers love the different seasons:

  • Flashbacks to the time when Kenshin was an assassin are in shades of dark blue, representing the literal and figurative coldness of winter
  • Kaoru’s Kamiya School bathes in golden sunlight that brings majesty to the forgotten dojo
  • Rain falls when Saito attempts to convince Kenshin that killing is necessary to save people’s lives
  • A greedy merchant showers paper bills to opium-addicted ex-samurais

Watch the trailer here:

Spoiler alert: Comic breathers

One of the memorable scenes happens in a kitchen where the loud-mouthed Sanosuke (Munetaka Aoki) battles a surprisingly odd opponent.

I do not want to spoil you of the fun so I’ll just say Sanosuke has the best funny lines in the movie. 

Fantastic fight choreography

SAMURAI X FAN. PBB Teens big winner and cosplayer Myrtle at the advance screening at SM North Edsa on December 2. Photo by Jerald Uy

Samurai X will be nothing without the fight sequences.

I admire director Keishi Otomo for presenting the gritty and realistic sword-fighting scenes during the late Tokugawa Shogunate era.

This comes as little surprise when the original manga creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki, is part of the movie’s creative consultants.

Final thoughts

HITEN MITSURUGI RYU! A fan pulls off the Samurai X look at the advance screening. Photo by Jerald Uy

All in all, Rurouni Kenshin is not only a good film adaptation but also one of the best Japanese movies I have ever watched.

Being a Samurai X fan myself, I saw at least 3 story arcs flawlessly woven together in the movie. 

The only downside is that we only caught a fraction of Kenshin’s back story that tells how he got the X-crossed scar.

But this may be a good thing: reports say the movie will be part of a Rurouni Kenshin film series.

Think what the film’s distributor Warner Bros. did to UK’s Harry Potter series. 

I am crossing my fingers for a sequel. Do I hear someone say “Shishio?” –


‘Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X)’ is showing exclusively in SM Cinemas beginning December 5.

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