or why the hell you should watch this movie (spoiler-free)
No Filipino-authored Rurouni Kenshin assessment has ever come close to nailing the significance of the Japanese film so far (expect perhaps this one penned by my good friend Mikael Francisco, who is nice to those who are unfamiliar with Himura Kenshin’s glory). So to dismiss this movie as another Asian flick that merely caters to super-kawaiied fanatics is nothing but ignorant.
Rurouni Kenshin, after all, is not just an anime/manga adaptation. It’s a “near perfect” adaptation.
So if you didn’t grow up running around the house pretending to unsheathe your sword and striking an imaginary opponent’s 9 vital points at once while shouting, or if you did and you want reasons to justify spending the whole weekend watching the film six times, here are some details that should get you covered.
1) Rurouni Kenshin is the first Japanese movie to be commercially released in the Philippines since Letters from Iwo Jima.
Then again, the Flag of our Fathers companion film was a Clint Eastwood creation, so Rurouni Kenshin must be the first timely Japanese produced film to reach our big movie houses… legally.
I wrote timely, because enthusiasts of Japanese film who want to watch on the big screen get their fix from the annual Eiga Sai organized by the Japan Foundation. Otherwise, you watch them from the comfort of your computer through sources which I will not name.
To watch relatively recently-released films from Japan, you have to resort to piracy. By resorting to piracy, I mean waiting-for-the-DVD-to-be-released-in-Japan-and-for-kind-subbers-to-translate-the-movie-and-provide-context-to bits-of-the-film-that-is-foreign-for-foreigners kind of piracy, which is free (unless you get them from your suking-pirata, who might have some of the titles you want mixed with K-Pop shiz and Pinoy scandals).
It’s not your standard kinunan-ni-manong-pirata-sa-sinehan-gamit-ang-digicam. Fans from all over the world lived with this system for years, except subtitle-phobic US (more on that later). As for the rest of the fans, and us Filipinos, we have come to know Battle Royale, Death Note (the movie), and Ameri Ichinose through the internet
Going beyond Japanese pop culture, it’s important to note that K-pop and Thai star Mario Maurer’s local fame were brought to our shores by online piracy.
As for Rurouni Kenshin, we get to see it the same month the DVD goes on sale in Japan. If that’s not recent, think about Spain and their February 2013 release date for the film.
2. You get to watch Rurouni Kenshin the way filmmakers wanted it to be watched (well almost).
Since not all of us have at least N2 level (or higher) Japanese language proficiency, we only understand a Japanese film if it has subtitles or if it is horrendously dubbed.
US, because it’s US, gets to have a US premiere of select Japanese films. They use this privilege well replacing the entire voice line with American speakers.
When manga adaptation Gantz was shown in the US, actor and Arashi member Ninomiya Kazunari lamented that most of their acting got lost in the dubbing. See, actors actually act with their voices in Japan, like our indie movies, and definitely unlike our commercial films where actors make up for their lack of live voice acting with dubbing, which, more often than not, is not any better.
Don’t let the subbed trailer fool you. It was a clear case of ‘paasa’
“So you’re expecting me to watch a movie and read subtitles at the same time, just so I can hear Kenshin say ‘oro’ instead of ‘what’?”
Yes. You hear the lines delivered by actors the way film makers wanted you to hear them. You get to feel the scenes more effectively, without being disturbed by an American-sounding slasher.
Unless The Last Samurai was the best “Japanese movie” you’ve ever watched.
Watching through this process may require some practice, but it’s mental exercise mind you. It’s also helpful since you get to learn a few Japanese words along the way, but do not expect to reach even N4 level through this method.
Besides, the only video where dubbing is totally unnecessary and subtitles are just a plus is when you’re watching Ameri Ichinose.
You also don’t need subs for this either.
Speaking of The Last Samurai…
3. Rurouni Kenshin is a fitting portrayal of a Japanese story
It’s not an American movie with a Japanese theme, like where Tom Cruise outlasts a whole army of experienced samurai because he’s American and has the genes to achieve a high skill set in an extremely short amount of time. (more on that later). Not everything has to be viewed from the Western perspective, where the white man is strong and the Asians are the allies that die.
Speaking of Western perspective…
4. Rurouni Kenshin is no Dragon Ball Evolution.
Both are anime-inspired adaptations. One was US produced, while the other one was done in Japan. Be the judge. Also, feel free to Google the abomination that is M. Night Shyamalan’s movie version of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
5. Rurouni Kenshin is extremely action-packed.
Wires were heavily used in the film making, which means that when one of the character flies, the actor really did “fly.” Since Rurouni Kenshin is also a movie about a former slasher (SPOILER! Oops, too late for that), expect to see blood. Lots of it.
6. Kaoru is cute.
Same goes for the actress playing Megumi.
As for Kenshin, I honestly can’t tell. Sorry!
7. Rurouni Kenshin has a well-done story that has captivated a generation.
Ask any 90’s kid about their favorite cartoon and more than half will answer with anime Samurai X or Dragon Ball Z, shown on ABSCBN and GMA7 respectively during that decade.
Seeing an action-packed anime with its identity faithfully transformed into a live-action film is a feast to all senses and a warm hug to the kid in us that refused to grow and/or still want to secretly slash irritating people on the road or at the office.
Rurouni Kenshin also brings nostalgia, the same type that made males buy tickets to Backstreet Boys concert in Manila and wish that Michelle Branch goes to the country for another visit. Seeing Rurouni Kenshin on screen is like watching Frank Magalona rap his father’s lines in Parokya ni Edgar’s “Bagsakan” which also featured Gloc-9, or seeing the Eraserheads play their final set after years of separation.
The anime and manga itself has left fans both happy and frustrated, and Rurouni Kenshin the movie opens a whole new canon for the well-loved series. Also, knowing Japanese movies, there’s bound to be a part two (hello Battle Royale, Death Note, and Gantz).
8. Because Himura Kenshin wants you to have a Merry Christmas.