Rurouni Kenshin, Part II: Kyoto Inferno – Review

Today I return to the live-action Kenshin films, for a look at the first half of the Shishio saga. This movie was definitely messier than the first film, in ways that felt almost inescapable. The first movie was just barely able to give all of its characters a reason to exist – with the second arc encountering the general character-creep of most long-running manga, this one just had too many stories to pack into one film. But being less gracefully constructed than the first movie certainly didn’t prevent this one from being a really fun time!

You can check out my full review over at ANN or my notes below.

Settsu Mine, Hyogo – 1878 (Meiji Year 11)

Some really theatrical shots here. Great sets, as well

They’re actors, not generally martial artists, so the fights often look like choreographed dances – which is fine. They’re still pretty thrilling, and far more tactile than most western action movies

Oh man, this intro scene for Shishio is terrific. What a set

It really does help that these sets are real. I’d take this over a hundred CG panoramas

“Let’s turn the clock back to that era of upheaval”

Again, soldiers in a world that has passed them by

“It is our world that is Hell.” The Meiji era just puts a pretty face on the true nature of man

And now this big theater scene. And a major street scene. Definitely a budget upgrade

Saxophones and westerners. Emphasizing the global nature of the new era

Jeez, this temple too. Very nice sets overall

Shishio was also an assassin trained by the new government. But being Kenshin’s mirror, he had no mercy

He was “assassinated” by the Meiji, too politically dangerous to live. And then he was burned alive

His existence reflects the sins of the Meiji, the fact that this era of peace is built on illegitimate violence

They’re really rushing through this exposition. Not exactly graceful, but it gets us where we need to go

While the first film’s villain represented the perils of the future, Shishio represents the sins of the past

Okubo, the Meiji leader, is assassinated

Shishio’s rebellion would mean Kenshin’s killings really were for nothing

The murdered officers remind Kenshin of the grief caused by his own first kill

“Discarding one’s past is something that no one can do”

The big sword dude is constantly overacting to a degree the other characters aren’t, which is an issue when he’s trying to play through more conventionally dramatic/emotional scenes

More scenes in the mines, which are visually splendid

This sequence with the sword thief is great visual/physical comedy. This show understands action movie comedy

This film’s narrative is definitely less graceful. They have to rush through beats and introduce characters along the way

Great fight sequence. This Kenshin’s gotten better at this stuff, his whole body is used well

“I’ll make this country strong”

Great duel. Kenshin is toyed with and defeated utterly

Misao is the thief girl

Aoshi Shinomori is the guy looking for Kenshin – a former guard of the royal castle in Edo

“The greatest unrivaled men of the Shogunate and Restoration”

His men were killed. “Let history remember our name”

Misao idolizes Aoshi, not knowing he has sworn to kill Kenshin

Yeah, they reaaally have to crush this story into this film

The sword-gathering arc

The music for this fight is kinda crap. Also just not the most interesting fight

Okay, his combining sword is awesome

The fight resolves in an awesome wrestling brawl

“That’s my father’s final piece!” These movies are so much fun

One of the more interesting parts of this film is how much less invincible both Kenshin and his philosophy seem. In this fight, it’s only his sword master’s faith in his philosophy that keeps him from killing

He plans to set fire to Kyoto, a plan that the old government once stopped the Restoration forces from putting into practice

“Prepare your ninja garb” ahaha this movie

What a glorious fanservice sequence of them just grabbing piles of ninja gear

Shishio’s main crew have such great designs

They’re able to create something like a small war this time

Even Yahiko and Kaori get a moment

Hah, awesome guitar solo for this, along with great percussion. Good mix of the soundtrack’s strengths

Aoshi’s style is something. Two swords, constant offense

Half a dozen fights at once, jeez

Haha, Sanosuke tries and fails to do Kenshin’s pole vaulting trick

This girl’s hero-worship of Aoshi doesn’t have nearly the time it needs to feel meaningful, and basically no thematic significance

Parkour, a horse race, all of it

Ah jeez, what a cliffhanger ending

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