LAEigaFest 2012 and Rurouni Kenshin Film Review

LAEigaFest 2012 and Rurouni Kenshin Film Review


Article by: Leen Isabel

The LAEigaFest is underway in Los Angeles, CA. this weekend and I had the pleasure to attend the opening ceremonies that included a red carpet event and the North American premiere of the live action Rurouni Kenshin film. The event took place at the historic Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre on December 14th, 2012.

The Japan Film Society and the LAEigaFest aims to bring Japan’s films to North America to promote their talented creators to the Hollywood community. As a long time admirer of anime, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would have had the chance to get dressed to the nines and celebrate one of Japan’s most beloved titles in Hollywood, CA.

George Takei, Keishi Otomo & Munetaka Aoki

The night started with the red carpet arrival of special guests. Actor and author, George Takei, made an appearance with an inspiring opening speech. For Rurouni Kenshin, director Keishi Otomo and actor Munetaka Aoki (Sagara Sanosuke) were in attendance and were available for Q&A after the premiere. Following the event was a grand after-party where fans could mingle with the talent. I commend JFS and LAEigaFest for putting together such a fantastic event and I hope that more people will attend in the years to come.

Geek Girl, Leen Isabel with guest, Nguyen Dong.

Many fans of Rurouni Kenshin have already heard of the live-action film but have yet to see it despite its August theatrical release in Japan. So, upon the announcement of LAEigaFest’s screening of the film, general audience ticket sales were gone within a couple days. So, for those who did not have a chance to attend and have yet to see the film, I’m here to share my thoughts on the production.

Okay. Calm down die-hard fans. It was awesome. I confidently feel that you’ll find very little to complain about in this fantastic chambara film adaptation. Rest assured, you can breathe easy.

From here on out, I might get a little spoiler-y. So cover your eyes, move on or keep reading at your own risk. I’m going to talk about why this film rocked to me.

1. Costume Design – The first and foremost thing to impress me about the film were the costumes. It was the subtle inclusions of texture and pattern that added to the reality of the characters. All of them, from Kenshin to Jin’e, kept their iconic character designs and silhouettes without sacrificing believability. For example, during Q&A, Director Keishi Otomo, he mentioned how parts of Jin’e’s outfit included leather parts to help make his character feel more “real.” Kenshin’s hair was a subtle reddish hue rather than a bright reddish-orange but the silhouette of his large bangs mirrored what one would see in the manga & anime. Especially charming was Yahiko’s rugged appearance, which emphasized his state as an orphan. Even his Kimono had the tell-tale striped pattern without looking too gaudy or over the top. For every recognizable character, this live action film skillfully took the character designs from the books and anime and successfully translated them into a realistic adaptation.

2. Action & Fight Scenes – Otomo is a celebrated director having previously worked on the NHK Taiga Drama, Ryomaden. It is without a doubt that he is skilled in the direction of the Jidaigeki film genre. He had mentioned during Q&A that his actors did their own stunts and was firm that no CG would be used to aid the fight scenes. So, to see Takeru Sato (Himura Kenshin) run with “god like speed”, flipping off walls while brandishing his sword – it’s an incredible display of athleticism that does the character justice. At one point, Sato gets into Kenshin’s Batto Jutsu’s stance to perform the Sou Ryu Sen and it was absolutely well executed. (And hearing the theater crowd cheer and clap was no doubt a confirmation of their approval.)

My only complaint towards the fight-scenes was how tight the camera was on the actors. It was a bit reminiscent to Batman Begins in which the camera was situated too close to the action, which made it difficult to comprehend movement. For a character like Kenshin, who is known to slash through several opponents consecutively, it would have been incredible see the full choreography in one long shot. Think of the fight scenes of King Leonidas in 300 or Dae-su Oh in Oldboy. But all in all, the fighting was well done and the actors performed their roles superbly.

I have to add that Munetaka Aoki, (Sagara Sanosuke) did wield the famous oversized zanbato that was an extremely heavy prop. During Q&A he mentioned that after filming, he would not be able to carry it again. For the role, he dieted, exercised and worked out extensively to prepare. He has a fun fight scene with Kenshin that takes place in the city streets. Watching him swing his unwieldy weapon in a comical way after an agile Kenshin easily makes this scene one of the most entertaining in the film.

3. Screenplay – Many fans wondered how much of the original story would be told in the film. It turns out that it blends the first several episodes with Kanryu, Megumi and Jin’e (who acts as Kanryu’s bodyguard in place of Aoshi and as the false Battousai instead of Gohei). The film also brings in Saito who normally comes in later in the original story. Lastly, a flashback scene of Kenshin’s life takes from the OVA Trust & Betrayal. The necessity to combine several stories and characters into one tale creates a successful story for the film adaptation.

Granted, with so many adjustments to the original story, there are bound to be aspects from the original manga that wouldn’t be included. However, rather than drag the film on needlessly to stay true to the original storyline, I feel that that the result was a cohesive, efficient and entertaining tale that doesn’t lose the essence of Rurouni Kenshin that we’ve come to love.

Overall, the film is one of the most successful film adaptions of an anime/manga that I have ever seen. An all-star cast of actors delivers memorable performances and the incredible energy will satisfy even the most die-hard action movie fans. When given a chance to watch this film, veteran Rurouni Kenshin fan or not, I suggest you give it a chance! You won’t be disappointed.

Will there be a Rurouni Kenshin sequel? At the end of the film, Otomo did answer a fan’s question asking if there will be a sequel. (And whether or not it will feature the villan, Shishio.) Otomo was vague but did not deny if a sequel is in the works. He did say that if one were to be made that it would have to be better than the first film. And based on how lovely this film turned out to be, he has quite a huge task ahead of him.

With that, I leave with you with the film’s ending theme song! One OK Rock’s “The Beginning.”

Rurouni Kenshin Preview:

Official Rurouni Kenshin Film Page: Click here

L.A. EigaFest Where: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd.
6 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Friday; 11:45 a.m.-midnight Saturday; 11 a.m.-10:40 p.m. Sunday.
$8-$11 per screening, business panel $25 (select programs are free)
LA EigaFest:

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December 18 2012

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