ASIAN FILM - Review
11:00 - 10th May 2015, by NEO Staff

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

Takeru Sato returns to the role of reformed assassin Kenshin Himura in the second film of Keishi Otomo’s trilogy based on Nobuhiro Watsuki’s beloved manga Rurouni Kenshin. This time Kenshin is enjoying a peaceful life residing at the dojo belonging to love interest Kaoru (Emi Takei), where he’d rather do the laundry than teach anyone his lethal sword skills. However down in Kyoto, another former assassin called Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara) plots to topple the government and return the country to the chaos of civil war. After Shishio slaughters the police sent to apprehend him, Home Minister Lord Okubo appeals to Kenshin for help. But having sworn to never take another life, how can Kenshin hope to defeat Shishio and his squad of killer mercenaries, The Ten Swords?

Kyoto Inferno is very much The Empire Strikes Back of the Rurouni Kenshin series. It sets up a lot of plot lines that are still unresolved when the credits roll and has a surprisingly downbeat ending. But it’s still a ton of fun and in many ways improves upon the first film, with better character development and a much more interesting central villain. Kenshin and Shishio are two sides of the same coin, scarred both emotionally and physically by their deeds during the civil war. Where one seeks redemption, the other hungers for revenge. Even with most of his face buried under a swathe of dirty bandages, Tatsuya Fujiwara makes a compelling bad guy, and is far more memorable than Koji Kikkawa was in the first film. Takeru Sato has a far less flashy role than Fujiwara or Munetaka Aoki, who plays Kenshin’s boisterous friend Sanosuke, but he brings a restrained gravitas to the repentant swordsman.

Kenji Tanigaki returns as action director and has plenty of opportunities to show off his choreography. Many of the highlights on the fighting front are provided by the squad of ninjas that Kenshin meets on his journey to Kyoto. Led by Nenji (Min Tanaka), the Hidden Watchers were working for the Shogunate in deep cover, posing as innkeepers. When the Shogun was deposed, they simply carried on running their inn but return to active duty to help Kenshin. Nenji has a terrific fight scene against Aoshi Shinimori (Yusuke Iseya), a Hidden Watcher gone rogue, while the diminutive Misao Makimachi (Tao Tsuchiya) is a whirling, high kicking human tornado. Not to be outdone, there is an excellent battle between Kenshin and one of the Ten Swords, Cho (Ryosuke Miura), who looks like he has stepped straight out of an anime.

As she did in the first film, Kaoru has a bad habit of being taken hostage, although at least this time she does flatten some bad guys first. It’s hard not to feel that she’s a bit of a millstone for Kenshin – the poor chap is trying to save the city and all Kaoru can do is keep nagging him not to kill anyone. Like he doesn’t have enough on his plate! Cut the poor guy some slack…

With a big budget, Kyoto Inferno looks great on the screen, bar some slightly clunky blending of CG elements. It will be a shame when Kenshin hangs up his sword for the final time. He’s tremendously entertaining.
SCORE: 4/5
blog comments powered by Disqus
SHARE THIS ARTICLE

NEO MAGAZINE
Issue 169, on sale now!
DIGITAL EDITION
PRINT EDITION

Uncooked Media
© 2018
Uncooked Media Ltd
PO Box 6337,
Bournemouth,
BH1 9EH
Reg: 04750336