Why Rurouni Kenshin sequels matter 4

image …or why you should line up at the malls with people thinking that the long queue you’re in is for Kathniel’s recent movie’s extended run. (Context: I overheard passersby say “ang haba ng pila sa pelikula nina Jose at Wally” when I was in line for my 3rd serving of Rurouni Kenshin last time) Read: Why Rurouni Kenshin matters (Dec. 2012)

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Taika-hen (Kyoto Inferno) opens today in Japan. For the Philippines, D-Day is August 20, but Takeru Satoh (Kenshin), Emi Takei (Kaoru), and Munetaka Aoki (Sanosuke) will be in town on August 6 for the premiere at SM Megamall and August 7 for the public press conference in Glorietta, Makati.

Would be awesome if someone shows up in a Kamen Rider Den-O costume, and Takeru Satoh henshin’s with that person on the Red Carpet. Photo from Warner Bros. PHL

Bringing the stars in from Japan just reflects how the first movie was immensely received by kids who got to watch it on ABS-CBN, Studio 23, or AXN. Those kids now have jobs, and will most likely catch the film at least thrice when the two follow-up movies hit Philippine cinemas. But why should you see the Rurouni Kenshin sequels? 1) It is not 47 Ronin Oh come on, Ronin. You didn’t even watch the film. To be quite honest, I tried to watch 47 Ronin at the last minute. One, it’s because I just read Keanu Reeve’s alleged quote saying “‘You need to be happy to live, I don’t.” Two, I know how it feels to be a poster boy of sadness, and I wanted to cheer up Sad Keanu even if watching him fight Rinko Kikuchi, who was more daring in Babel, would make me scratch my head more. (If you haven’t seen Rinko Kikuchi before Pacific Rim, it’s time to ask Google’s dark side for those screencaps.)


Poster boy of Philippine sadness. Serbisyong Totoo, people.

But I missed it. Yet it seems I haven’t missed anything. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Karl de Mesa’s review of the film for GMA News Online:

My main problem with “47 Ronin” is that the tale aspires to the epic, but twists the gravitas of the original folk tale into a phantasmagoric Hollywood parody of itself—a pitfall with many of the original Japanese horror adaptations as well. Those became brusque and leached of subtlety.
On top of it all, it also mixes in the tale of angst of a half-breed Caucasian pariah which, for all its “13th Warrior” sense on paper, isn’t anywhere in the original folk story. C’mon, aren’t the ins and outs of Japanese politics, ritual combat, and honor complicated enough?

With some minor tweaks, Rurouni Kenshin has been loyal to its source material during the first film. Although some purists might throw a fit since it seems that an iconic evening scene was shot in the day for, but that’s just a small thing compared to what happened in 47 Ronin.

47 Robin meme

I’m not sure if this could have been a better film. I don’t want to know. A friend made a poster with 47 me in it, but I’ll leave it for my private circle. 47 of me would be awesomely catastrophic. Photo is from Flippish

2) It’s the first sequel of a Japanese movie to be commercially shown in the Philippines, at least in recent history. Fool, you haven’t seen Always: Sunset on Third Street trilogy on Eiga Sai. ‘Commercial’ is the key word for Rurouni Kenshin’s showing in the Philippines. We don’t have to line up at free screenings in malls (Eiga Sai used to play in UP, I don’t know what happened) to catch Kenshin face Shishio Makoto in two movies. But we have to pay!  But have you seen how long the Eiga Sai lines could go? 3) Shishio Makoto If you have seen the very child-friendly movies Battle Royale and Battle Royale II: Requiem, then Tatsuya Fujiwara, playing the lead Shuya Nanahara, should be a familiar face in Rurouni Kenshin. Only he’s covered in bandages. You should also recognize him for his role as Light Yagami in the Death Note movies we all watched online should remind you how good he is.

The bomb necklace around his neck blew up, that’s why he now wears a bandage as he seeks to control Japan with a deadly notebook and pen.

Shishio Makoto is perhaps the most favorite antagonist by Rurouni Kenshin fans in the Philippines. His theme, The Last Wolf Suite, is also iconic that if you’re not guilty of humming it while pretending to Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki with an umbrella, I’d doubt you watched the series. Here’s the lovely portion from The Last Wolf Suite, which is originally 5-8 minutes long.

If you liked the Christian Swordsman, please do let me know why. Shishio Makoto seems like a hard character to play, since he’s all wrapped up and does a lot of talking in the anime. But Expect Tatsuya Fujiwara’s caliber to transcend his character’s bandages and pull-off a fitting Shishio. This may also be the first time he willl be shown on the big screen, and his craft deserves to be experienced by Japanese movie fans and casual watchers alike. If Warner Bros. Philippines brings Tatsuya Fujiwara here for Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, I will be very disappointed if nobody shows up in a Shuya Nanahara (BR II version) garb and tries to get the actor’s autograph on a Death Note. Make this happen, people! 4) Seta Soujiro and Hiko Seijuro Merciless killing machine in the body of a perpetually-smiling boy? Seta Soujiro was the perfect image of a sinister young slasher. Hiko Seijuro, meanwhile, was a 40-year-old muscle man who was Kenshin’s sensei. No spoilers on who their characters are, for those who will watch the movie for the first time. But let me put this here.

The Shinigami call it Shunpo.

5) Misao How dare you leave out Emi Takei! Calm your short swords, folks. I wrote about Emi Takei and Yuu Aoi in “Why Rurouni Kenshin matters.” Those reasons still stand, I’m just providing more in this post.

Tao Tsuchiya, everyone.

6) Maryjun Takahashi is half Filipino If you’re in the business of looking for fractions of Filipino blood in almost every major event in the world, you’re in luck. Maryjun Takahashi, who plays Shishio’s lover Komagata Yumi and has an undoubtedly Filipina first name, posted on Instagram that she wanted to promote Rurouni Kenshin in the Philippines. Who here hopes she comes with Tatsuya Fujiwara for the next movie? 7) Love for Kenshin Himura Remember when our afternoons and early evenings were spent with cartoons, and rear pages of our school notebooks were filled with sketches of our favorite characters? Kenshin Himura was one of those characters for most of us. Seeing him come to life on the big screen was hair-raising: when he came out of the dojo wearing his iconic red gi, taking a deep breath as the leaves rustle with the wind. See, Kenshin lives in these films. Characters were given due justice by the chosen cast in the first movie that its right to expect nothing less from the sequels. Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends adapts arguably the best arc of the anime. As Kenshin struggles to wield his reverse-edged katana with his principles being tested by Shishio, we too face our own battles. Most of us know how Kyoto burns, or how a legend falls. But if you haven’t seen the first Rurouni Kenshin movie, it’s not yet too late to jump in… …unless Dragon Ball was your favorite anime-to-movie adaptation of all time.