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Based on the anime series (and the manga) also known as Samurai X, Rurouni Kenshin is the new Japanese live-action adaptation starring Takeru Sato as the titular former killer with a guilty conscience.

The film follows Himura Kenshin, an ex-assassin who participated in the Bakumatsu war and has since given up his killing ways, and his name (Battosai), instead going around offering help to anyone that needs it. His sword has a reversed blade and he's not looking for a fight: he's perfectly happy just being a wanderer. Unfortunately, some guy is going around calling himself Battosai and killing policemen in his name for some weird-looking, cruel businessman with a pet rabbit. No, I'm not making that up. And thus, trouble soon finds Kenshin and, whether he wanted to deal with it or not, he finds that he kinda has to. He meets a girl called Kamiya, who owns a small dojo, and it's when that dojo gets ransacked by thugs, that he starts intervening. Kamiya's big thing throughout is that she believes that "the sword protects life", not take it. This becomes the underlying inner-debate during the movie for Kenshin. Kamiya is also the latter's love interest but, as cute as they are when just hanging out in the dojo, she doesn't get all that much to do and ends up being the typical damsel in distress you'd expect. Other characters include Takani, a woman forced to make opium by the villainous Takeda who goes on the run, Yahiko, a little boy who constitutes Kamiya's only student at the dojo, Sagara, a street fighter with a big-ass sword who befriends Kenshin, and Saito, Kenshin's rival on the battlefield who later becomes a police officer.

Rurouni Kenshin works well both as a live-action adaptation of an anime series and as its own movie. Granted, parts of it are very "anime" in that they're a bit melodramatic and over-the-top but, as a whole, it's relatively restrained in that department. The film looks great and the action in it is pretty entertaining, it helps that the cast is solid and does a good job at portraying the characters from the animated show. One of the reasons why this movie works so well is that it's not too silly (here's looking at you, City Hunter) and it's not too serious, though it treats its source material with respect and you can clearly tell the filmmakers genuinely wanted to make something worthwhile. Which is not to say Rurouni Kenshin is a downer, it knows when to have a more light-hearted moment and it does so in a subtle, not too cartoonish way. The story stands up rather well, even if the ending is a tad over-dramatic, and you get fun villains, likeable heroes and the occasional cosy moment. It's definitely one of the most solid live-action anime adaptations I've ever seen: it doesn't go overboard comedy-wise, it doesn't try to cram too much stuff in (Casshern, anyone?) and it's actually really well technically made.

Whether you know the anime series or not, you should find plenty to enjoy in Rurouni Kenshin. It's a cool, entertaining flick with a good cast, a well-paced story (despite the overlong running time) and the odd white rabbit. It's a worthy adaptation and a worthy action movie.


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