Ah, no mood to write a proper review so I’ll do this the quick and simple way.
- Casting! Particularly Sato Takeru reprising his role as Kenshin, Kamiki Ryunosuke as Seta Soujirou (I swear, this guy has a talent for playing coolly cruel young male characters), Iseya Yusuke as Shinomori Aoshi (I had my doubts but it turned out all right). Fujiwara Tatsuya was okay as the Big Bad Guy, Shishio Makoto. He spends about 90% of his screentime wrapped in the trademark bandages so you can’t really see his facial expressions, but I think he did fine considering that limitation.
- Overall adaptation of the story. The original story arc was long and complex and must’ve been tricky to condense into two movies (the third movie will be out later this month!) although not a patch on the complexity of reducing The Lord of the Rings into three. They’ve had to take many liberties with certain events, some of which I’m not happy about – see below for my complaints, haha – but on the whole, I think it was adapted well.
- The fight choreography! Tanigaki Kenji (who apparently studied under Donnie Yen) did a great job adapting Kenshin’s Hiten Mitsurugi style to the screen. It can’t have been easy to take a fantastical, nearly superhuman sort of fighting style that can only really exist in comics or in cartoons and make it look believable on screen. I gather that most of the stunts were done during production itself, not CGI. Kudos to them there. (That said, my favourite battle is still Kenshin’s fight at the dojo in the first movie. heh
The Bad (Or, “Stuff I Didn’t Like”)
- I still don’t like Aoi Yuu as Megumi.
- Aoshi needs to wash his hair. I hated how he perpetually looked like he’d just come in out of the rain. (Aoshi is one of my 3 favourite characters in this manga so I’m rather particular over anything pertaining to him.)
- Dropping Aoshi from the first movie was not a very good idea, and it has rather severe repercussions here as they tried to give him a different backstory and different motive for hunting Kenshin and… I don’t think it works quite as well as the original story did. Instead of being out for revenge as a method of dealing with survivor’s guilt (as another reviewer put it) for being the only one of his team to come out alive from the events in the first story arc, he’s now driven by… Fixating on Kenshin and blaming him (wrongly) for the death of his fellow ninjas because Kenshin’s side won the war and formed the current government. Something like that. It’s not so effective. It makes Aoshi flat-out deluded and they portrayed him as being utterly merciless. He wasn’t so very cold and heartless in the manga (cold, yes, but not to this extent).
- What is that stupid hopping move they’ve given to Seta before he fights? It’s so irritating to watch.
- The build-up to the cliffhanger. WHY? Why did Kaoru have to be kidnapped? I think it takes something away from Saitou and Kenshin when, instead of them realising earlier that the Kyoto attack is meant to be a ruse and going with Sanosuke to throw a wrench into Shishio’s true plans, they realise it belatedly and the resulting one-man rush to chase Shishio’s gang is largely due to Kenshin wanting to get Kaoru back.
And the Miscellaneous.
- There was an awful lot of crying and yelling in this installment of the series. A lot more violent swordfights and dramatic scenarios. I prized the few laugh-out-loud moments in the story – they were necessary to keep the story from sliding completely into Dark Knight territory and losing sight of its manga origins. Kenshin’s startled gaze at the sword in his hand as he realises it’s a reverse-blade sword like his old one was particularly funny, although it came at the end of a serious, serious sequence.
- Come to think of it, Kenshin didn’t actually speak much in the first third – or maybe even the first half – of the movie. There was a lot of grim gazing, thoughtful and troubled looks, determined expressions… but not that much talking.
- I wish we’d seen more of the Ten Swords besides Katanagari no Chou. They featured in a mere handful of scenes. Well, I guess there’ll be more of them in the next movie since they’re important to the story as the foes-to-be-defeated. Houji of the Hundred Senses seems a bit too much a caricature of a sidekick though. He’s more rational and less “cartoony” in behaviour in the manga (ironically) until closer to the end of the arc.
- I greatly desire to know whether those town scenes were shot in Toei’s Eigamura in Kyoto – the one I visited with Yang and Danny a couple of years ago. Some of the buildings and bridges looked quite familiar! (But these sort of things tend to all look alike so they may have been shot elsewhere…)
- Most of my thoughts on the movie were driven completely out of my head by the final scene where, unexpectedly, another favourite character turned up – one whom I hadn’t expected to see. In fact, I’d expected them to drop him entirely from the story. Hey, they dropped Aoshi from the first story, what’s to stop them now from dropping Hiko Seijuurou? Not sure if Fukuyama Masaharu is going to really work in the role as he doesn’t have the height and build for the character, nor does he strike me as possessed of the swagger that character requires, but maybe the script is giving a slightly different twist to his personality. Or maybe he’ll surprise me in the third movie. haha
- Random observation: In the posters and promotional materials, Kenshin is always portrayed in his usual red outfit. However, in the movie he spends most of the time dressed in blue. Hmmm.