Flashback to December 2012. The Philippine run of the first live-action film adaptation of “Rurouni Kenshin” was so successful that it was extended to a few more weeks.
Two years later, Warner Bros. Pictures made otakus’ most fervent dreams come true by announcing the release of not just one, but two full-length movies that will bring to life one of the greatest battles in manga/anime history.
Naturally, Pinoy anime fans started clamoring for a local release. The good news is that it’s actually coming to our shores faster than you can say “Amakakeru-ryu-no-hirameki.”
You don’t have to be a fan, or even be remotely familiar with the franchise, to enjoy the “Rurouni Kenshin” films. If you love a good action flick with intense, jaw-dropping sword fights, a touch of dramedy and a gripping storyline, you might want to check out the two-part sequel, “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno/The Legend Ends” when it hits theaters in the coming weeks.
But first, here’s a primer to help you prepare for what’s to come.
The wildly popular anime known to foreign audiences as “Samurai X” is inspired by the seminal manga series “Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan” (Kenshin the Wanderer: The Romance of the Meiji Swordsman). Created and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki, the manga has sold more than 5.8 million copies and has been translated into more than 20 languages since its inception in 1994.
It has spawned more than 20 volumes, a long-running anime series, several original animation videos and feature films and, most recently, three live-action film adaptations.
Set in the early Meiji era, “Rurouni Kenshin” is about Kenshin Himura, a red-haired former Bakumatsu assassin with a cross-shaped scar who wanders around Japan helping people in need with the use of his reverse-edged sword.
The first film adaptation, released in 2012, saw Kenshin wandering into Tokyo and getting involved in a battle with opium dealer Kanryuu Takeda and sellsword Jin-e, who had been committing heinous crimes using the name of Kenshin’s cold-blooded alter ego, Hitokiri Battousai.
The film also introduced the people who would eventually change Kenshin’s life—young kendo instructor Kaoru Kamiya, street brawler Sanosuke Sagara, samurai orphan Yahiko Myojin, lady doctor Megumi Tanaka, and former Shinsengumi leader Hajime Saitou, all of whom play pivotal roles in the coming sequel.
The sequel is split into two parts: “Kyoto Inferno” and “The Legend Ends.” Based on the manga’s climactic “Kyoto Arc,” the story begins just months after Kenshin has settled in at the Kamiya dojo in Tokyo. A new threat emerges in the form of Shishio Makoto, a former assassin and Hitokiri Battousai’s successor who was brutally stabbed and left to die engulfed in flames.
Hell-bent on exacting revenge on the government that betrayed him, Shishio emerges from the Kyoto underworld to overthrow the current regime with his group of disaffected samurai called the Juppongatana (“Ten Swords”).
Acceding to Home Minister Okubo’s request to stop Shishio and his gang, Kenshin must now figure out how to defeat his most fearsome adversary while keeping his sworn oath never to kill again. But at what and whose cost?
Takeru Satoh (“Kamen Rider Den-O”), Emi Takei (“Ai to Makoto”), Munetaka Aoki (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”), Yuu Aoi (“Honey and Clover”), and Yousuke Eguchi (“Goemon”) reprise their roles as Kenshin, Kaoru, Sanosuke, Megumi, and Saitou, respectively, while Tatsuya Fujiwara of “Death Note” fame takes on the mantle of the heavily bandaged Shishio Makoto.
Joining them for the sequel are Kaito Oyagi as Yahiko, Yusuke Iseya as Oniwabanshu leader Aoshi Shinomori, Min Tanaka as former spy Okina, Tao Tsuchiya as young ninja Misao Makimachi, Ryunosuke Kamiki as Shishio’s right-hand man Soujirou Seta, Japanese-Filipino actress Maryjun Takahashi as Shishio’s lover Yumi Komagata, and Ryosuke Miura as Juppongatana member Cho Sawagejo.
The release dates
“Kyoto Inferno” hits local theaters on Aug. 20 while “The Legend Ends” premieres on Sept. 24. Fans will be happy to know that the release dates are scheduled just a few weeks after the actual Japan premiere.
RK newbies don’t have to watch the anime or read the manga; watching the first movie will suffice, as it pretty much sticks to the original storyline with only a few minor modifications.
The surprise visit to Manila
And now, for the sweetest news of all: The main people behind the movie are coming to Manila for a two-day event next week.
Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, Munetaka Aoki, and director Keishi Ohtomo will be in town for the invitational red carpet premiere of “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno” at SM Megamall on Aug. 6 and an open-to-the- public press conference at the Glorietta Activity Center on Aug. 7. For those who have been dying to see Kenshin in the flesh and ask some burning questions, now’s your chance.