The Viewfinder

What is a View?

The Baluarte de San Diego at Intramuros and the Manila skyline.

The Baluarte de San Diego at Intramuros and the Manila skyline.

Be it a good scenery or a bad display, anything within sight is called a view. And depending on one’s sight, a view is also a perspective or a way of looking at things.

What is a Finder?

photographer

Photo by Johnessa Gabrillo.

Whether it be because of personal will or someone else’s, a finder is anyone who seeks anything.

What is a Viewfinder?

Photo by Johnessa Gabrillo.

 

It is that small box, usually on top of cameras, where one takes a peek of our beautiful world, before hitting the shutter. It has different shapes, forms and sizes, depending whether one has a film, video or a photography camera.

Literally, this small box is something that a person uses to find a view. It is where the photographer first recognizes his or her photographs. It is where he or she looks to adjust the framing. It is where he or she refers to check on the depth of field.

It is also where the filmmaker finds a view and creates a scene in it. It is where he or she consults to know where to position the actors. It is where the director confers to know the scope of activity he or she will put in the scene. It is also where he or she monitors the mood of the lighting and the mise-en-scene.

But a viewfinder can also be a seeker of a different view, a different perspective and a different way of looking at things.

Today, I am freeing the counter of the accumulated baggage through the years. Today, I am opening the gates and letting all the weight go. Today, I am making this stagnant venue into a wandering viewfinder, a fluid peeping hole that just goes with the flow of life, travel and movies.

Today, this venue will be your viewfinder to the world; a place where you will visit not only to check on different destinations around the globe but also on the people behind and in front of the cameras. Today, Baggage Counter grows up not only to be a travel blog and a venue for films and movies, but also to find a new viewpoint in life.

Today, Baggage Counter is signing off.

The Viewfinder is signing on.

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Asian Cinema Glamour at the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars

Alfred Hitchcock. Director. The Carpenters. Musicians. Audrey Hepburn.  Actress. The Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California is able to immortalize their sheen in the entertainment industry by providing each of them a star along Hollywood Boulevard.

jet li avenue of stars

But the stars are not concentrated only in America. Asia also has her very own definition of “cinema.” She has Wong Kar Wai, Gong Li and Bruce Lee, whose shimmer also extends beyond death. Located near Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, along Victoria Bay, an equally grand honorarium is established to immortalize these passionate movers of Hong Kong cinema.

 

THE IN-BETWEEN CINEMA

According to Prof. Poshek Fu of the University of Illinois, Hong Kong has become “a principal ideological battleground between the Free World and the Communist Bloc in Asia.” Being geographically located at the middle of mainland China and Taiwan, Hong Kong’s beliefs has always been politically divided, plus the fact that they have been a British colony for more than a hundred years.

And this philosophical identity crisis has greatly influenced their cinema. On Prof. Fu’s article at the American Historical Association website, he has said that Cantonese filmmakers have showed the everyday life in Hong Kong during the time, but have “generally refrained” from giving any sensitive opinions about China nor about the foreign government.

viewfinder avenue of stars

The viewfinder.

By the end of World War II, Hong Kong has started to take sides. Films featuring martial arts have become the trend and is said to be the outlet of the “anger and discontent” of the society towards Communism.

On his last note, Prof. Fu has said, “I came to recognize that movies, even those with apparent entertainment values, are never ideologically innocent. They are intricately and often ambiguously intertwined with history and politics.” Because of this, Hong Kong industry practitioners really deserve to be commemorated in this 440-meter walk along the bay.

THE STARS

The Hong Kong Film Awards Association Limited recognizes excellent performances in the industry by etching their names on shimmering stars.

bruce lee

The “Clark Kent who didn’t need to change outfit…”

One of the more prominent names along the avenue is that of Bruce Lee’s. His contributions to both the worlds of film and martial arts are not only honored with a star along Hollywood Walk of Fame but also with a star and a bronze statue along the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong. He has not just been a star but also a shape-shifter of the Asian image as it struggles against the racial discriminations in the United States. In an article published by Time, writer Joel Steinn said, “In an America where the Chinese were still stereotyped as meek house servants and railroad workers, Bruce Lee was… a Clark Kent who didn’t need to change outfits.”

wong kar wai avenue of stars

“I hate love stories.”

On the other hand, being the first Asian to win a Best Director award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has automatically granted Wong Kar Wai a spot along the bay. Known for the romance of Happy Together, Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, Wong has said in an interview by Time that, ironically, he hated love stories. “They sell prettiness. I don’t do that. There’s more to life than love,” uttered the filmmaker who has given love a different definition in his films.

Another name that has made waves across the globe is Gong Li’s. In an interview by The New York Times, she said, “An actor should not memorize every line but should allow new things to happen. I need a collaboration with the director and other actors, something at the location that allows something else to emerge.” And true enough, working with different directors has earned her numerous prestigious awards including Best Actress at the 49th Venice International Film Festival.

THE AVENUE

The star-studded walk along Victoria Bay has not just acted as a tribute but has also boosted tourism in Hong Kong.

hong kong film awards diva

Hong Kong Film Awards Diva.

At the entrance, guests are welcomed by a 4.5-meter giant replica of the Hong Kong Film Awards diva. There is also a bronze statue of McDull, Hong Kong’s most sought-after animated pig. There are also sculptures portraying key people in a film set like a director, a sound man, and a cinematographer. The newest attraction is a monument of Cantopop singer and actress, Anita Mui, who also owns a star along the bay.

At the Symphony of Lights

The Symphony of Lights.

The area also offers a magnificent view of the Victoria Harbour during the day. After sunset, establishments along the bay turn their lights on and dance to the tune of upbeat rhythms at the 13-minute show called the Symphony of Lights.

camera

Asia has its own talents. Photo by Mai Calapardo.

Hollywood may have been the biggest film outfit but it cannot deny the fact that it doesn’t own all the talent in the world. At the other side of the globe, there exist fine artists pushing for the richest culture and ideologies that Asian cinema can offer.

Traveling through Films

I stand there, eye to eye, with the Great Sphinx of Giza as my feet imbibe the warmth of the sand. Afterwards, I put on my backpack to trek and get lost at the Grand Canyon. My unreliable sense of direction manages to find the way out to one of the stalls in Akihabara district in Tokyo, Japan.

mt damas tarlac lost rocks river hopping

I also got lost at Mt. Damas in Tarlac, Philippines. Photo by Karah Decapia.

How am I able to do all of these in just one sweep? I watch a movie, or a TV drama.

Production companies are like travel agencies, offering package tours to consumers, in the form of movies. A film is like a comprehensive tour, complete with transportation, accommodation, food, culture, music, art and most specially, story and experience.

Movies can also be considered the best tour bargains. Only a small portion of one’s salary is needed, plus it will not require full-blown leaves from work. More or less two hours is enough, unless one is catching films from Filipino director Lav Diaz, whose movies range from more than an hour to almost 9 hours of running time.

So sit back, relax and join me in this trip.

cine adarna university of the philippines

The old seats at the University of the Philippines Cine Adarna.

Business class or economy?

Seats and services depend on what movie we are seeing. Hollywood movies will always offer the finest cruise cabins of Titanic. The science fiction genre may even give us an exclusive cockpit tour to outer space, like in Gravity. Aladdin‘s magic carpet ride is also always available for those who seek Alice in Wonderland.

Upon arrival at our destination, there is always a choice between the local bus or a local taxi from our favorite crime film, and make a Pulp Fiction kind of confession. Who will not want a rickshaw ride with Bruce Lee from the Fist of Fury. Or we can try the Philippine kalesa from the historical film Jose Rizal, for a more nostalgic effect.

For accommodation, an independent film, may not be able to book us a first class hotel. But it can definitely remind us that there probably is “no place like home” just like the Cinemalaya 2005 Best Production Design winner, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros. And we can always lie down with Mother Earth, or even over a frozen body of water, like that star-watching scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

But for budget travelers like me, we can always experience luxury treatment, every once in a while, through movies. Biopics can always grant us a chance to sit on the royal throne from The King’s Speech. Political films may give us exclusive passes to the official Presidential residence like in White House Down. A movie adaptation, on the other hand, can guide us through the Hogwarts castle of Harry Potter.

After settling down in our choice of accommodation, it is now time to mingle with our destination.
Complimentary Gourmet Meals

Stomachs growling from the long journey? The national cinema can offer us the best food tripping experience, from gourmet cuisines to budget meals.

For the first course, we can have a Korean soup from Le Grand Chef. This appetizer also comes with a free historical discourse between Korea and Japan. Then we can try some Jiro Ono sushi to stimulate our palates and learn the culinary discipline from the full-length documentary about the first sushi chef to receive three Michelin stars.

For the main course, we can have satisfying Filipino dishes from the upcoming Cinemalaya 2016 entry Kusina by Cenon Obispo Palomares and David Corpuz. This film will feature how we Filipinos make our cooking special by using a secret ingredient called pagmamahal (love). For dessert, we can enjoy the enchanted sweets from a small French village in Chocolat.

After that, we can enjoy our to-go coffee, just like Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s while we search for some Hong Kong street food from Chungking Express. Then there is always the popular Filipino fertilized duck egg called balut which we can enjoy through Balut Country, an official entry to Sinag Maynila Film Festival 2015.

Exclusive Gig passes

Experiencing the culture of each destination is a must for every traveler. And every film is also somewhat a virtual recital of some of the famous and award-winning artists in the world.

The Star Wars saga will never be complete without the signature John Williams symphony. Hayao Miyazaki films will not feel as magical if not for the accompanying music of Joe Hisaishi. Polish music can also be appreciated through the movie The Pianist.

Films also feature actual artist performances, like that Madonna act on the 1985 film Vision Quest. Ang Nawawala (What Isn’t There), an official entry to the 2012 Cinemalaya Film Festival, is an on-screen gig of Philippine indie rock musicians like Pedicab, The Strangeness, Flying Ipis, Ang Bandang Shirley and Ebe Dancel.

We can also tag along a whole European tour of one of Japan’s most promising bands today, ONE OK ROCK, through their full-length documentary, Fool Cool Rock.

There are also art gigs from Frida, showcasing Mexican art to the world. Still Life, on the other hand, another entry to Cinemalaya 2007, is a showcase of Filipino talent.

Free Counselling

When we travel, specially when we are alone, we discover a lot of new things about ourselves, as much as about our destinations. Traveling acts as our own personal psychologists, healing us every time we go out together.

Films also offer free life counseling, especially if we can relate to the stories of the protagonists. Ordinary People, the 1981 Academy Best Picture, features one of the most healing conversations of all time.

The drama series Hannibal also gives us an interesting relationship between therapist and patient.


Indeed, films have that ability to take us to our next destination, be it magical or realistic.

So while saving up for my next trip, let me enjoy some more films first, and use my imagination to go anywhere I want.

hong kong avenue of stars director

“So, Direk, what’s our next film?” At the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong. Photo by Mai Calapardo.

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.

U.P. kong Pinakamamahal

Congratulations to all the University of the Philippines graduates today! Let’s look back to where it all started, in a paper called “Admission Slip.” So for you, here is a poem I wrote in Filipino a year ago.

The Viewfinder

University of the Philippines Sunflower The U.P. Sunflower

Sa paglilinis ng bodega
Isang Linggo ng umaga
May mga bagay na nakita
Na nagpanumbalik ng mga alaala

University of the Philippines Admission Slip “… you qualified for admission… to U.P. Diliman… for a DEGREE PROGRAM W/ AVAILABLE SLOTS…”

Taos-puso ang aking tuwa
Noong sa akin ay inihatid
Ang iyong liham ng pagtanggap
Na may basbas na kalakip

University of the Philippines Oblation Atat.

Lumuwas na dali-dali
Patungong Quezon City
Upang litrato’y maiguhit
Kasama ang rebultong kapuri-puri

University of the Philippines Ikot Map Oo, nag-print pa ako ng mapa. Bakit ba? 🙂

Nguni’t sa aking pag-ikut-ikot
Ay may mga nagpaabot
Na ang pagpapalitrato’y
May sumpa sa pagtatapos

Nihonggo quiz Shin Airikku Sekku. Minus 0.5 points for the non-Japanese numberings! 🙂

Nagsimula ang unang taon
Sa pagbati ng Ohayou

Panonood ng horror,

eiga sai 2005 flyer Eiga Sai 2005 Flyer. Required at may reaction paper. Pero hindi pa naman in Nihonggo. In English lang muna. 🙂

At pag-aaral ng mga sailor

Vampires, Psychic Girls, Flying Women and Sailor Scouts: Four faces of the young female in Japanese Popular Culture Hindi ko rin akalaing may ganitong klaseng pag-aaral. 🙂

Nandiyan…

View original post 279 more words

Partner in Crime

bare, first home

It is bare. Yes. I am living alone in this apartment for almost five years now, but it is still bare.

I was invited by Urban Compass to participate in a new project of theirs called Starter Stories, wherein a few select bloggers were asked about their first place.

Urban Compass is a real estate platform that connects folks searching for apartments with the neighborhood that matches their personality and taste for finding NYC apartments.

I started living alone in May 2011, around 7 months after I got my first regular job. Most of the stuff here were given by my father: an old tv, table, chairs, LPG tank, coffee maker.

kitchen first place

Some stuff on the kitchen counter. Rice coffee from Ilocos. Durian Coffee Jam from Davao. Corn Coffe from Cotabato. Chocolate-coated sunflower seeds from Dagupan.

 

I never bought and wouldn’t be buying any furniture because, first of all I was the thrifty kind of housekeeper.  When you were self-supporting, you tend to track down and think twice to where you would spend your next pay check.

And besides, I was the only one living here. All that I needed were a bed (actually just a mattress), a table as work space, and a chair.

Secondly, I always thought of this place as something temporary, so I wasn’t dressing it up that much. I dream of course of giving myself my own permanent home someday. Yeah, someday.

But I also never thought that something temporary would produce permanent and lasting memories.


This post had been transferred by the author to another blog named “Nimotsu Counter.” To read the rest of this article, kindly click here.

 

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

Keishi Otomo-sensei2 copy

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.