Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno(2014)
- RatedPG13 /GenreAction
For those who aren’t clued in to the cult of ‘Rurouni Kenshin’, it is difficult to describe just how immensely popular this franchise is among Japanese pop-culture aficionados.
The eponymous manga of the mid-1990s that spawned it all is wildly successful and widely considered to be one of the best-received manga properties of all time.
Its anime successors in television and film became similarly massive, garnering critical acclaim alongside enormous commercial earnings.
Keishi Otomo’s 2012 live-action iteration of the franchise became a box-office juggernaut, with a startling US$37 million (S$47 million) domestic takings in Japan.
Warner Bros Japan quickly pushed for not one, but twosequels to be released this year.
It seems rather ambitious, but the thirst for more ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ is quite insatiable. The final part of this live-action adventure is fittingly dubbed ‘The Legend Ends’ and is set to hit screens in October.
APPETISER FOR FINALE
Before that grand finale, we have this serviceably entertaining appetiser entitled ‘Kyoto Inferno’.
In essence, ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ tells the swashbuckling story of a late-19th century assassin who attempts to atone for his murderous sins by protecting those in need.
After the tumultuous events of the first movie (newbies need not worry, they are all summarised via flashbacks), Kenshin now leads a peaceful life by the Japanese countryside. However, his serene existence is soon interrupted when his bloody past again catches up on him.
This time, a top police official enlists his help to stop new villain Makoto Shishio, a bandaged savage leading an army of ruthless, warrior-thugs.
The film addresses Kenshin’s redemption and pacifist ideals rather deftly. He is determined to never take a life, so he must find ways around his no-killing rule, sometimes at great expense.
‘Kyoto Inferno’ concludes with a set-piece on the stormy seas, as the villain provokes Kenshin into battle. Kenshin’s solution to this climatic conundrum is astonishing, a brave narrative choice that is logical, noble and yet frustrating at the same time.
Otomo hit it out of the ballpark with the first movie, so anticipation for this follow-up is bound to be sky-high for fans. But it would be wise to temper your expectations a tad since ‘Kyoto Inferno’ does suffer from being the “middle child” of this ‘Samurai X’ trilogy even though it is not bad.
It is burdened by the standards set in 2012, and practically handicapped because it is designed to move chess pieces into place for the final instalment.
A dramatic set-up is still only a set-up, and while we’re sure it will all pay off handsomely during October’s action-packed finale, ‘Kyoto Inferno’ still drags its feet too much for our liking.
‘Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno’ opens in cinemas 28 August 2014