FILM REVIEW: “The Legend Ends” on Nimotsu

“Executing all those superb moves was one thing. But making tears fall out of your eyes and portraying all those emotions while concentrating on the fight choreography was something that requires mastery of the craft.”

These are my thoughts on the performance of Japanese actor Takeru Sato on the last installment of the Rurouni Kenshin live action trilogy.

Keishi Otomo-sensei Rurouni Kenshin The Legend Ends

With Director Otomo Keishi of the Rurouni Kenshin Live Action trilogy.

 

You can access the full review on my sister blog, Nimotsu Counter.

FILM REVIEW: Kyoto Inferno on Nimotsu

It had been a year since the Asian Red Carpet Premiere of Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, when the live-action team visited Manila.

rurouni kenshin in manila

On the SM Megamall stage during the Asian Red Carpet Premier in Manila. August 6, 2014.

“Keishi Otomo-sensei, said in an interview with Rappler that the fireflies were removed from the live-action movie because first, Kenshin’s and Kaoru’s love for each other was not yet established because only little time had passed from the time-frame of the first movie. In the anime, there had been a lot of episodes to show that love. Secondly, he thinks that drama scenes may be a bit off from the action-packed situation of the Shishio arc.

For me, a film is all about portraying emotion, and letting the viewers feel that emotion. The Shishio arc might have been concerned more on saving the whole of Japan but still, the twists had their roots on certain emotional dilemmas of the characters. So I think emotions had the right to be felt. And this is what they call ‘letting the audience breathe.’”

More of my review in the original entry at my sister blog Nimotsu Counter.

A Salute to Team Otomo

(WARNING: This film review contains spoilers and loads of fangirl sentiments. Read at your own risk.)

rurouni kenshin the legend ends

The first live action movie of Rurouni Kenshin gave me “a reason to keep my heart beating.” Kyoto Inferno made “this side of me … want a little more.” And now The Legend Ends just made me say “I miss you,” just after the film’s end credits.

I was literally crying, during the first few minutes of the film not only because Kenshin was crying on screen but also because that was such an unexpected opening! There were deviations from what happened in the anime but, oh my, all elemetnes were really working now and the pay-offs of the second movie were now materializing and… and… they were all just… just… BRILLIANT! (Ok. Sheen, breathe. Breathe.)

Kyoto Inferno ended at the beach so I was anticipating some water and sand at the opening but no, Otomo-sensei and the writer chose to start with Kenshin’s childhood, which was just so unexpectantly awesome. It was so orgasmic for me that it sent tears of joy out of my eyes very early in the movie.  I never thought that Kenshin’s childhood would be the best opening for this one.  It just… worked.

And just when I was starting to contain my emotions, Takeru cried. In the anime, Kenshin didn’t cry when begging Hiko-sensei to teach him the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki. But Takeru did, and he just earned all my respect there. And then there was the bamboo forest fight scene. Executing all those superb moves was one thing. But making tears fall out of your eyes and portraying all those emotions while concentrating on the fight choreography was something that requires mastery of the craft.

And this did not apply only to Takeru but also to Fujiwara-san, Iseya-san, Eguchi-san, Fukuyama-san, Kamiki-san and to the whole cast.

And my tears just kept on falling.  Dialogue was so heartfelt and I loved how the writer retained some of the actual dialogue.  “Your own life is worth as much as any other,” was Hiko-sensei’s final words to Kenshin after teaching him the final technique. And the “Stay alive” that everybody was telling Kenshin worked so well, no matter how many times it was said on screen.

But my favorite dialogue that was retained from the Original Video Animation (OVA) was “Cherry blossoms in spring, stars in summer, full moon in autumn, and snow in winter. That’s enough for sake to taste good. If it tastes bad, something in you is ill.”

And this was what I called emotion. The emotion that I was looking for in the second movie all poured in The Legend Ends. The third movie had all the moments I was wishing for. There were now time to walk along the beach (scene when Kaoru finally woke up). Kenshin had time to look up into the sky (after he wore the red yukata again) and even to pay respect to the Kamiya Kasshin dojo. The Battousai also had time to think things over (a lot of this happened at Hiko’s place).

And the most important thing of all, there was time for tears to fall, not only my own tears and not just Kenshin’s but also for Kaoru’s and Aoshi’s. Or at least for tears to accumulate, in the case of Misao. Tsuchiya-san’s tears flooded her eyes, but were not enough for them to overflow.

There was also space for slow mo’s in the fight scenes, a lot of these actually. And these made me admire more the signature moves that the fight director, Kenji Tanigaki-san put in every fight.

Kyoto Inferno now seemed to be the master establishing of them all.  This was the main reason why it felt squished for me, trying to fit in as much information as possible for the grand pay-off in the third movie (to read my review on the second movie, click here.)

Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno

With the signature RED yukata at the Glorietta exhibit.

I also loved the jackstones at the lunch table with Shishio.  And the entirety of Hiko’s place made the best atmosphere for such crucial scenes.  And of course, who would have not noticed Hiko’s red costume?  For me it was elegantly made to compensate the big cape he had in the anime.  And it suited Masaharu Fukuyama-san perfectly.

And then there was the ever-divine musical scoring that never failed to enhance each scene.

But the fangirl inside of me was still shouting for more. I was caught off guard when Anji started telling Sano about Houji’s, Yumi’s, Soujiro’s and his own past. I would want their awesome back stories to be shown and not just to be told but, yeah, that would take up a lot of screen time. So I think maybe it would have been better if Soujiro didn’t had his breakdown at all because it wasn’t really clearly established. Or maybe the dialogue about “survival of the fittest” could have started early on in that Kenshin-Soujiro battle so at least the moral dilemma was established early on. Nonetheless, the fight and the acting was still remarkable.

And the greatest fangirl sentiment was about Tomoe. I was really looking forward that the story of the second half of the cross-shaped scar would be mentioned in the third movie. My hopes lightened up when Hiko started asking Kenshin about his scar. But Tomoe was never mentioned.

I thought maybe at the end of the film, Kenshin would visit her grave just like in the anime.   But then I remembered that they were not in Kyoto anymore.  The story was set back to Tokyo.

And so my final hope was maybe when Yumi would thrust herself between Kenshin and Shishio’s blade, Tomoe would finally appear, because that was exactly how Tomoe died. But that scene went on without any mention of Tomoe. Boo! Haha. AND NOW I AM DEMANDING FOR A PREQUEL. Please Warner Japan, I am begging you. Tomoe also deserves a live representation. PREQUEL! PREQUEL! PREQUEL! 🙂

Keishi Otomo-sensei, rurouni kenshin the legend ends, fangirl

Posting this for nth time. Hands down, Sensei!

Nonetheless… OK FINE. Otomo-sensei, you won. You proved that all my efforts (literally running after you) during your Manila visit was all worth it. This film truly was a legend that ended. 🙂

And Kenshin’s execution was well-planned. Fine. One thing led to another.  It surely was not in the anime, but yeah, it fit! And the film would not be as awesome as it is without that scene.

And as what One Ok Rock sang in the movie’s OST, “So this is heartache?” Would this be the last leg of fangirling with Amilou? 😦 But this film truly created a significant space in my heart. Not only the three movies but all the fangirling escapades accompanying it. I will miss this. Awww.

And so as my final salute to Team Otomo and to the whole cast and crew, here is my cover of One Ok Rock’s Heartache. Hope you like it. 🙂

 


Lyrics from One Ok Rock’s songs:

The Beginning

Mighty Long Fall

Heartache

Lupin III: Another Case of Trailer Grandness

(WARNING: This film review contains spoilers and loads of fangirl sentiments. Read at your own risk.)

Lupin III. Cosplayer.

Lupin cosplayer at the Best of Anime 2014 and Hero Face Off 2014 that happened last September 21 at SMX Convention Center.

Unlike Rurouni Kenshin, Lupin was one of the animes that was easier to adapt. There was no main story arc to follow. The live-action team needed only to be faithful to the characterization of Lupin, Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko; and to relive the gang’s passion, which was stealing.

And I should say that the film’s cast was able to capture that. Performances were top-notched, as well as their looks. Lupin (Shun Oguri), Jigen (Tetsuji Tamayama) and Goemon (Go Ayano) had never been this handsome in the anime. Even Tadanobu Asano who played Detective Zenigata was too good-looking for Lupin’s best friend from Interpol. Jerry Yan surely matured from being Dao Ming Si to Michael Lee here. The mustache suited him well.

And I had to admit, Meisa Kuroki was truly gorgeous and definitely captured Fujiko’s deceitful beauty.

Shun Oguri’s performance was remarkable, and I loved how he twitched his face to portray emotion, which was so Lupin. But, it seemed that he was not able to capture Lupin’s sense of humor, as what my brother hinted. According to my fangirl friend, Amilou, she thought this project was a milestone for Shun since he usually played dramatic roles. And I thought Shun could have been funny if only he was told to do so.

The whole film lacked authentic humor. Lupin III is a comedy and adventure anime.


This post had been transferred by the author to another blog named “Nimotsu Counter.” To read the rest of this review for the live-action movie of Lupin III, kindly click here.

Studio 23 Retold my Childhood

Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno movie ticket

8/26/2014. Yes, this fangirl review was long overdue.

(WARNING: This film review contains spoilers and loads of fangirl sentiments. Read at your own risk.)

Yes, Kabarkada retold my Kenshin childhood. Or it could have been the censorship of MTRCB during the 90s. Or was it the discretion of Studio 23 or ABS-CBN during those times? Or was it just my poor memory, which was worsened by stress and lack of sleep over the years?

After watching Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, I and my dearest fangirl friend, Amilou, had quite a long discussion. I started questioning my not-so-reliable-memory about certain details in the anime. So I started my marathon of the anime’s Shishio Arc.

Some of my biggest questions to Otomo-sensei for the second live-action movie were about:

  • The fireflies
  • The Kidnapping of Kaoru
  • The Purgatory
  • The Burning of Kyoto
  • Tokyo being Shishio’s real target

But before I delve into the details, this review would give you three different perspectives: the Filmmaker’s, the Fangirl’s and Sheen’s point-of-view, which is a combination of both plus the comments of the writer in me.

THE FILMMAKER’S POINT-OF-VIEW

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With the director, Keishi Otomo-sensei 😀

The film was technically remarkable as what was expected after the first movie.

However, I found the opening scene a bit dark. I actually wondered how Saito (Yosuke Eguchi-san) and the other policemen registered to the camera with very little lighting, without being too grainy and defocused. Did they shot in film or digital camera? But then, when the doors to Shishio’s fires of hell were opened, the question about light sources readily vanquished.

The fight scenes were superb as ever and I really commend the fight director, Kenji Tanigaki-san for this. The performances of most of the actors were also applaudable and I really loved how Takeru Sato did the battoujutsu stance. I would like to congratulate him for that fight with Cho wherein he was in that signature position, without showing signs of being tired, for maybe around 5 minutes or more. I was also looking forward to Ryonosuke Kamiki’s portrayal of Soujiro Seta. So far his performance in Kyoto Inferno seems ok, but the challenge would be in The Legend Ends where his past will resurface because of his second fight with Kenshin. Tatsuya Fujiwara-san’s performance was also remarkable. Acting and portraying emotion in a fully-bandaged face was no joke.

I said “most of the actors” because I found Tao Tsuchiya’s acting a bit underwhelming, especially in that scene when Misao saw Aoshi “kill” Okina. That reaction simply did not suit someone who saw the man of his dreams “kill” the one who took care of her since she was a little girl.

I also appreciated Kenshin’s change in wardrobe. The leaving behind of that red yukata given to him by Kaoru symbolized Kenshin’s attempt to rid himself of the rurouni life to venture once again to being a hitokiri. In which, according to the trailer of The Legend Ends, will be given back to him by Megumi. But why her? This is something that needs to be further explained in the third installment of this adaptation of a Nobuhiro Watsuki-san masterpiece.

I also loved that blue yukata that Kenshin wore in that scene when he changed the handle of Shaku Arai’s original sakabatou. This scene was a variation from the reveal of Arai’s signature engravings in the anime but it gave another perspective on Kenshin’s knowledge about swords.

And of course, the scenes would not be complete without the exceptional musical score. The one that sent the most shivers down my spine was the background during the bridge battle scene, when Kenshin attacked Shishio’s men who were about to burn Kyoto. It started with some nerve-wracking vocals, but instead of orchestra, drums and electric guitars followed making it insanely awesome.

I just wished there were English/Romaji versions of the final credits. I wanted to see the names of the production team and congratulate them in my head. I also wanted to know the locations of the shoot. I want to include them in my Japan itinerary in the future. I also wanted to know who among the actors required stunt doubles or if they themselves where doing all the moves.

Also, according to Rappler’s article about Kyoto Inferno, the film utilized around 5,000 talents, I just hoped they were credited because the closing billboard only lasted around 4 minutes, within the duration of the song Mighty Long Fall by One OK Rock. The usual Hollywood credits were about 3 to 4 songs long.

THE FANGIRL’S POINT-OF-VIEW

Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno

With the signature RED yukata at the Glorietta exhibit.

As what I mentioned in my previous fangirling entry (click here to read), I grew up with the Studio 23 broadcast of the then english-dubbed Samurai X.

It was a shame that I was calling myself a fan and not remember anything about the Purgatory, the Ikegaya or the Burning of Kyoto and even Tokyo being Shishio’s real target. But it seemed that it wasn’t only me. Amilou also can’t remember any of it, even my brother who was with me when I watched every succeeding replays of Samurai X that happened in Studio 23. We all grew up with Kenshin as a Kabarkada.

The copy of the anime that I was able to find online was English-dubbed. And true enough, the Purgatory and the Ikegaya really existed in the anime. I knew at once that my memory was not to blame. The english-dubbed that Studio 23 broadcasted called Kaoru as Kaori and Yahiko as Yoshi. This one that I found online called the second master of Kamiya Kashin as Kaoru and her apprentice as Yahiko. Kabarkada‘s Kenshin also told me that Aoshi was pronounced as Ae-yo-shi when it was really Ah-oh-shi, which was how the live-action movie and most probably the Nihonggo anime pronounced it. Same thing happened with the name of Usui.

And so I came to the conclusion that this part might have been cut either by MTRCB or by Studio 23 or by ABS-CBN (in case of the Tagalized version). Well, cutting scenes was a trend then, especially with what they did with Neon Genesis Evangelion. But that was a different story. MTRCB might have thought that burning a whole town was a rebellious insight for kids to watch during those times. And this was how they retold my childhood Kenshin memory.

SHEEN’S POINT-OF-VIEW

Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno

😀 Photo by Amilou Gatchalian.

The first Kenshin movie still had time to show emotion and to let that emotion sink into the hearts of its viewers. It had time for Kenshin to think and to look up to the sky. It had time for Kaoru to cry and look into Kenshin’s eyes. It also had more time for the fight scenes, it even had the luxury of slowing the most awesome moves down. But Kyoto Inferno did not have that advantage.

The fangirl writer-filmmaker in me said that it could have been three movies, each portraying around ten episodes from the 34 episodes of the Shishio Arc. But they made just two films. And now everything felt squished.

Keishi Otomo-sensei, said in an interview with Rappler that the fireflies were removed from the live-action movie because first, Kenshin’s and Kaoru’s love for each other was not yet established because only little time had passed from the time-frame of the first movie. In the anime, there had been a lot of episodes to show that love. Secondly, he thinks that drama scenes may be a bit off from the action-packed situation of the Shishio arc.

For me, a film is all about portraying emotion, and letting the viewers feel that emotion. The Shishio arc might have been concerned more on saving the whole of Japan but still, the twists had their roots on certain emotional dilemmas of the characters. So I think emotions had the right to be felt. And this is what they call “letting the audience breathe”.

Regarding the love that was not established, I think a passage of time could have worked. Kyoto Inferno could have started when the love among them was already fully established, not only between Kenshin and Kaoru but also for their whole family, including Sanosuke, Megumi, and Yahiko.

And the fireflies scene could have been saved if Okubo’s assassination happened at sunset, as my fangirl friend Amilou suggested. Then by the time Kenshin already made his decision, it was already night and the fireflies could have appeared during the goodbye scene.

But I believed the more important thing about that scene from the anime were not the fireflies but the fact that Kaoru cried. In the anime, she even locked herself in her room and was miserable days after that goodbye. And there was this scene wherein Megumi was about to slap her in the face just to tell her that the feeling is worse for not even able to receive such a goodbye. This simply meant that they all were badly hurt about Kenshin’s decision to go to Kyoto.

But in the live action, Kaoru never shed a single tear for that. There was a line there wherein Megumi told Kaoru not to pretend that she was all right after that goodbye. OK. Maybe too much drama like crying could have ruined the atmosphere but I just wished this scene wherein Kaoru was looking at Kenshin’s red yukata could have been extended even just for a few minutes, enough for the audience to feel Kaoru’s pain. Nonetheless, there were no crying on-screen but the tears seemed to have transported instead out of my own eyes. I did not know if Otomo-sensei planned it that way, but ok fine, I still cried during those scenes.

Next were the fight scenes. I wrote earlier, yes, that they were superb. But the fight scenes were put so close to each other that the audience were not given enough time to breathe again. I was still digesting the first fight scene when the next was already introducing itself. Nonetheless, they were still outstanding, but could have been more glorious with slow motion.

Next, and I believed the most important comment of all, was the kidnapping of Kaoru. My immediate reaction when I saw that in the movie house was “Why?”. First of all, Kaoru was never a damsel in distress. Kaoru was a strong woman who carried the spirit of the Kamiya Kashin style with her. And the kidnapping of the leading lady was so cliche.

According to Rappler’s interview again, Otomo-sensei explained that for him, the kidnapping was a trigger for Kenshin because, though the love was not yet established, Kenshin could not afford to lose someone with whom he shared a common advocacy with. The Kamiya Kashin style was for protecting the people, and not harming them. And this too became Kenshin’s beliefs as a wanderer.

But I was not satisfied with this explanation.

But after my anime marathon, I realized that maybe Otomo-sensei and the rest of the creative team needed something that will make Kenshin worry during his battle with Shishio.

In the anime, when Kenshin, Sanosuke and Saito arrived at the Shrine of the Six Arches to face Shishio, Yumi told them that they will be fighting only three members of the Juppongatana because the rest were sent to extinguish the Aioya where Kaoru and the others were. And this made him worry all through out his three battles with Aoshi, Soujiro and Shishio.

In the live-action movie, Kenshin and the others already won the battle in Aoiya before Kenshin went to the Purgatory so the only thing now that would make Kenshin worry the most was no one but Kaoru. OK FINE.

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE LEGEND ENDS

And now, I am really looking forward about the pay-off of all of these on the Legend Ends. The trailer says that Kenshin would be executed and I am asking “why?” again this very early.  Then Megumi seemed to be playing a bigger role here in the live-action than in the anime for the Shishio Arc.  The trailer also suggested that all the succeeding battles, well except for Aoshi’s, would took place in the Purgatory, which I think was a good idea because I personally don’t think that such a big vessel would sink just because of Sanosuke’s home-made bombs, just as what happened in the anime.

I am also expecting some insert of Tomoe/ Kenshin’s past during the third movie because the anime’s ending to the Shishio Arc showed Kenshin visiting Tomoe’s grave.  Also in the first movie, the origin of the first half of Kenshin’s scar was revealed. Now, in the third movie, I would like the story of the scar to be complete, simply because I was more of a Kenshin-Tomoe fan that a Kenshin-Kaoru one. And of course, the battle with Soujiro and Shishio should be awesome or else…

Otomo-sensei, just make sure I didn’t waste my time when I ran after you during your visit to the Philippines. 🙂

Rurouni Kenshin The Legend Ends

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends. Opens September 24, 2014 in the Philippines. Photo by Amilou Gatchalian.


Video from Pechu Mori Youtube Channel
Keishi Otomo interview from Rappler – http://www.rappler.com/entertainment/movies/66697-rurouni-kenshin-kyoto-inferno-movie-spoiler-interview


This post had also been posted by the author to another blog named “Nimotsu Counter.” To access it, kindly click here.

MEMORY IS A KNIFE, OR RATHER A KATANA

Warning: Fan-girl mode on! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Read at your own risk!

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The first few days of this week were just so full of resurfacing unwanted facts from the past.  Something about this research I’m currently doing for a written job was triggering the memories hidden in the darkest places of my subconscious.  And these memories were also pushing these wisdom teeth out of my gums.  And it causes an awful lot of pain.  So is there a correlation between these repressed memories and my wisdom teeth? Is this the reason why wisdom teeth come out during the time of everybody’s life when they are suffering from this so-called quarter-life crisis?

But this blog entry is not telling anybody about depression at the moment, because before it even ruined the whole week, something about this Friday just acted as an anti-depressant and melted it all away, or rather I would say slashed it all away.

Just recently, I posted a line in Facebook from the movie Hannibal Rising, “Memory is a knife.  It can hurt you.”  But this Friday, the knife became a sword, a katana that terminated the hurt away.  Thanks to SM Cinemas, Rurouni Kenshin Live Action movie was shown in the Philippines.

A smile, no actually a good grin, registered in my face at the first few seconds when a text narration of the Tokugawa Era appeared on screen.  And up to the very last second of the closing credits, the smile or rather the grin did not vanish but became even larger.

When the trailer for this came out around mid-year of 2012, I kinda did not like Takeru Sato, the actor playing Kenshin, he was so thin and actually I did not find him cute, unlike the anime Kenshin who sends the screams out of every fan girl’s lungs.  But when Takeru Sato started doing his samurai stunts and then his wanderer moves, he earned my respect for this film.

Emi Takei, the actress who played Kaoru looks like Kathryn Bernardo and sure is pretty in kimono.  Yu Aoi, the one who played Megumi looks like a Japanese horror character to me, but she sure was good.  Teruyuki Kagawa as Kanryuu Takeda did a very good job.  Munetaka Aoki as Sanosuke looks more of a Filipino than a Japanese to me.  Well, I just knew that they will have a strict audition for the chest.  The one who played Yahiko, Taketo Tanaka is so adorable.  But the character who caught my attention was Saito.  Yosuke Eguchi sure was a hotter policeman than the 2D Saito.

I also want to give a round of applause to the screen writers.  They did a great job of compressing a whole season into two hours.  And Aoshi’s absence was well accounted for.

I just missed the old soundtrack from the anime.  I actually expected the acoustic version of Kimi wa Dare o Mamotte Iru to play when Kenshin came to rescue Kaoru and the dojo from the bandits.  This is the magical audio cue that Kenshin is now in the house and ready to deliver his poetic speech about love, life, and swordsmanship.  I also wanted to hear Run to You, Sanosuke’s theme, especially in his fight scenes where he really tried to insert humor in every blow.  And maybe, a good revival of the song Sobakasu by a new band or artist would just be festive.

The stunts were also superb.  The battousai moves surely were transferred well from the boob tube to the silver screen.  I just died when Kenshin made his fatal stance, the preparation for the final blow.  And I would just love to see a LIVE Shishio fighting Takeru Sato in the next movie.  Oh please, the production team and the actors deserves to be given the privilege to shoot a follow-up on this.  And I believe that it is Aoshi’s right to be finally included in the next movie.

The viewing experience would be 100% satisfactory only without that girl behind us.  She seemed to be so rattled every time she sees brutal and violent slashes made by the samurais because the MTRCB rating at the start of the film says PG (Parental Guidance) and not R (Restricted).  A real RK fan is accustomed to brutality and violence.  And if there would be any moment of surprise, it could have happened years ago when the fan had seen the OVA and the animated movie which show more fatal attacks than the series.

But overall, this experience was just blissfully awesome.  The adrenaline rush it created was still here until this moment I’m writing this.  And I believe they won’t go away for a few days.  The feeling was just exactly as how the movie Citizen X defines passion, that it is when your heart is pounding and when your collar is tightening.

Anything anime-related really never fails to paint a genuine smile and erase a sad one on my face.

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