And it didn't disappoint. If the tons of applause during the closing credits is any indication, the movie gives justice to the much loved anime and the fans appreciate it. I remember watching Samurai X right after I got home from school almost a decade ago. And what I felt then when I watched it on TV was magnified a hundred folds whenever Sato Takeru appears on the screen and perfectly brings to life Himura Kenshin's character.
I remember very little from the anime and I haven't read the manga, so I cannot give a fair comment whether the movie stayed faithful to the original material. But I can tell you that they chose a perfect actor to embody Battousai. It's a delight to watch Sato Takeru because you don't see an actor playing Kenshin, but you see Kenshin himself. He is so so so perfect as Kenshin and I seriously have no idea how to say that without being too biased.
I cannot cite a specific flaw in the movie because I am way overwhelmed with what makes it amazing. There are too many reason so let's just enumerate them:
The perfect Kenshin. As I've mentioned and emphasized and raved about, Sato Takeru is the perfect Kenshin. I wondered why they decide only decided this year to make a movie out of the manga, and I realized that maybe they're waiting for Sato Takeru to appear. There's a lot of pressure on him since he's playing one of the most celebrated anime characters of all time. Heck, even people who don't really watch anime know him! And there he is, proving in every scene why he's the right choice. He can pull off the silly Kenshin with his hunger issues and child-like approach to things, and he can also pull off the fierce Battousai who can wipe out an entire personal army. And when he did that Hiten Mitsurugi stance, oh my god. SATO TAKERU I LOVE YOU. I can't stress that enough. This movie cemented him on top of the list of my favorite Japanese actors. I just love everything he's in.
Kickass action sequences. My jaw dropped a couple of times during the movie, and it's mostly because of the fight scenes. How they make it seem so realistic, I'll never know. Sato Takeru can't be that fast in real life! But really. It's all well-executed! And who could forget that comic but intense fist fight between Sanosuke and Inui Banjin? Definitely one of the most enjoyable parst of the movie. My second favorite is definitely the one between Kenshin and Sanosuke because that's all laughs and stunts, too, though Kenshin doesn't exactly do anything. Heh.
Awesome set of cast. I still feel like Aoki Munetaka is too small to be Sanosuke but he has that charm that I think my other choices for the role can't pull off. Aoi Yuu is perfect as Megumi, of course. I actually didn't expect her to be a fantastic Megumi since I only saw her in subdued roles, very feminine ones, too. But her flirty, sassy, and smart Megumi pawns Takei Emi's Kaoru. Though many people don't really like her portrayal of Kaoru, I don't have much complaints, mostly because I had never been a fan of the character, anyway. But overall, I think they did a pretty good job! Even the villains are amazing! Kagawa Teruyuki's crazy Kanryu is enjoyable to watch. He's the kind of villain you won't exactly hate because he's doing such a fine job creating an exciting conflict for our hero. Also, Tanaka Taketo's Yahiko is too adorable! I can't even. To think that I didn't really like anime Yahiko. Anyway.
Compelling narrative. For a two-hour long movie, it manages to fit quite a lot of events in the story. There's no filler scenes, only essential ones to create an exciting narrative. Though you'd feel it's too short because you want more, it's safe to say that the movie feels complete. Even people who have no Samurai X background won't get confused since the movie has a cohesive flow. It doesn't assume anything by ommitting scenes, thinking that it's unnecessary since the audience know it already. Many adaptations tend to do that, and I'm just glad Rurouni Kenshin didn't take that path.
I may be biased in this little commentary, but this movie only strengthens my love for the wanderer. Adaptations are often categorized under good or bad, and this one definitely falls under the former. With a pretty tight writing, strong ensemble cast, and amazing direction, this is probably best anime adaptation I have watched. Though many people have made this live action movie possible, I cannot thank Sato Takeru enough for exceeding the expectations of fans and only leaving us craving for more. I cannot wait for the promised sequels.