Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie

Rurouni Kenshin, also known as Samurai X in the US for some bizarre marketing reason, is one of the biggest fan titles of recent memory. I've recently seen the start of the TV series, which I thought was decent but not spectacular, and the OVA series, which was indeed awesome. I wasn't sure exactly where the movie would land, but in terms of quality and storytelling, it falls almost smack dab between the two. It's not quite as fascinating as the dark, brooding OVA series that tells the back-story of Battousai the Manslayer, but it's not as silly as the TV series that chronicled his determination never to take another life.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie tells the story of our intrepid heroes from the television series as they travel to Yokohama. While they are there, they wind up meeting Shigure and his female companion Toki as they get involved in a brawl with some sailors. Things start off well, but there's a dark secret in Kenshin's past...back when he was known as the Battousai, he was responsible for a man's death that links him with Shigure and Toki in ways that threaten to tear them apart. Things take an even more serious turn when Kenshin learns of Shigure's plan to create a revolt against the government by dispatching the British ambassador who's coming to Japan. Before the story is finished, Kenshin will have to decide whether he will die by his stand never to kill again or live and shed blood.

RK: The Movie is actually quite good, and blends the concepts from the OVA series together well with the television series. (And actually, the TV series and movie came first in Japan, so this is actually quite impressive.) There is only one unfortunate thing, as I see it, and that is that the movie continues with the TV show's reliance on goofy humor to start things off. The tone of the movie is pretty serious, especially during the last hour, and so the humor in the first half hour really does the story no justice. Not to say that it should be humorless, but I really didn't like the silly bits in the TV series, and so they aren't much more welcome here.

However, the movie is still quite strong in a variety of ways. Unlike the TV show, the music is always dramatically appropriate. The animation, though not as fluid as it could have been, was still sharp, and it still looks great. Although the character designs are the same as the series rather than the particularly exemplary ones from the OVAs, this is to be expected. The story is entertaining and not all that predictable (another problem with the TV show). There's also a lot of action to move the story along, and the fight scenes are great. If there is any disappointment, it is that the movie doesn't grow the characters or resolve any relationships from the series. Still, on its own, it's an agreeable part of the story line that I enjoyed a good deal. Once the movie got moving, I was thoroughly involved.

If you have enjoyed the Rurouni Kenshin TV series, this should be a no-brainer. If, on the other hand, you've only seen the OVA series, I would suggest picking up a bit of the television show first so that you've got a better idea of what to expect from the movie. Otherwise, you might be a bit disappointed, as well as confused--the movie doesn't take much time to explain the general state of things with the characters. But overall, this is definitely a worthwhile pickup.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie -- graphic violence -- A-