I believe that “Rurouni Kenshin: The Final” is a better film than the first two, and much more fitting as a finale for this series. It’s a little more focused, a little less self-indulgent, and it presents a much more satisfying end to this trilogy. In other words, it either confirms or disproves the argument that this is a better series than the “Naruto” franchise.
I just finished watching Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, the final installment of the Rurouni Kenshin anime series. The series was a reboot of sorts, following up on the franchise’s original run in the mid-nineties. Whereas the original ran for a decade, the new series only ran for a little over a year. As a result, it had a shorter life span, but a much higher quality of life.
After a slow start, a familiar name helps to bookend a series finale that is a satisfying conclusion to a familiar narrative. The final episode of Rurouni Kenshin: The Final is a good one, but it offers only a small sliver of the wild ride that the show has become.
‘Rurouni Kenshin: The Final,’ the fourth installment in the long-running series, was shot alongside ‘Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning,’ the fifth and final installment in the renowned saga, all based on a fan favorite Japanese manga. Shooting took place in 43 sites throughout Japan as part of the huge production. Keishi Otomo directed this film once again, with Takeru Satoh reprising his role as the leading man. In April 2023, only two months before the last film, ‘The Final’ was released in Japanese theaters. In June, Netflix released the fourth episode worldwide, followed by the fifth installment in July.
Kenshin’s newfound way of life is explored further in this segment as he continues his quest for atonement. With Shishio and his gang out of the way, he can finally contemplate settling down and achieving the happiness he’s craved for years. But not for long, as his newfound tranquility is swiftly disrupted by a strange band of criminals hungry for blood.
Woo Heishin, a criminal lord and Yukishiro Enishi’s second in command, leads the new team, which arrives in Tokyo ostensibly from Shanghai, China. He instigates a violent disturbance on the train that takes him to Tokyo to advertise his presence, and he gets imprisoned. He is quickly released, though, because to a commercial deal between Japan and China that grants him protection.
Woo’s goal, however, is to hunt down Kenshin and exact his boss’s vengeance after the former Battosai killed Enishi’s sister, Tomoe, back in the day, and the henchmen’s assault on his companions was done on purpose to draw Kenshin out. One piece of important information is that Tomoe was Kenshin’s sole real love, whom he murdered without his will. If you look closely at Kenshin’s face, you’ll see that he has two visible scars on his face. One of these markings was from Tomoe’s fiancé, who Kenshin killed at some time, and the other was from Tomoe herself, according to flashbacks.
Mackenyu Arata plays Enishi, a great villain. He is not only younger, stronger, and quicker, but he is also smarter and more skillful. He isn’t a selfish lunatic seeking adoration for killing Japan’s greatest Bottasai. In reality, he doesn’t give a damn who sends Kenshin to his death as long as it occurs. He also lacks a takeover philosophy, and toppling governments, inciting rebellions, or reigning over anybody aren’t among his top objectives. Enishi just wants Kenshin to go through the same ordeal he had in the past, having to watch his family members being dragged away one by one while knowing there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Overall, ‘The Final’ is a loose adaptation of the source material; although the fundamental narrative structure and themes are apparent to a greater degree, the film is an own tale. According to the original manga, this narrative arc lasted 10 volumes. Because cramming all of that into a single picture would have been a total waste of time, they had to rework a lot of the script.
The action in this film is top-notch, as is typical of the series, with skillfully choreographed scenes showcasing the two antagonists’ superior fighting abilities. The editing is flawless. It all comes together well, scene after scene, with great cinematography, unique perspectives, beautifully executed shots, little but yet impressive CGI, and overall direction by Keishi Otomo.
The majority of the soundtrack stays true to the techno feel of the previous three films, although there is a new theme song, ONE OK ROCK’s “Renegade.” The most noteworthy feature of the soundtrack is that it is absent during the climactic confrontation between Kenshin and Enishi, symbolizing the battle as a tragedy rather than a triumph.
However, when it comes to the narrative, ‘The Final’ has two major faults that are immediately apparent. To begin, the story takes two approaches: one concentrates on the action, which is excellent, and the other on the melodrama, which is also excellent. The latter is so mediocre in terms of presentation that it gets annoying after a while.
Second, Otomo didn’t allow the characters enough room to develop since most of the scenes focus on the two major characters, Kenshin and Wu, which makes the narrative seem a little pointless when the rivalry between the two is removed.
Emi Takei, who plays Kaoru, seems to be suffering in a part that might have been more fascinating, especially in light of the recent discovery. Sano becomes the story’s punching bag, absorbing an enormous amount of punches without collapsing, making him seem manly. Surprisingly, it is the supporting characters from previous films, such as Misao, Seta, Aoshi, and even Cho, who take up a significant amount of screen time.
Without a question, ‘The Final’ is a visual magnet; its costumes are spot-on, and the entire grand-scale production is well-executed, bringing to life the opposing forces of Meiji period modernity and the vestiges of tradition. It’s an interesting journey through important Japanese history that stays faithful to the manga’s themes of honor, real love, family connections, and revenge.
The greatest part about ‘Rurouni Kenshin: The Final’ is that it can be enjoyed without having read the manga beforehand. Yes, there were cuts and a lot of rewriting to fit the content into the big screen running time, which may somewhat confuse hardcore manga readers since it deviated nearly entirely from the original material, but the other components still make quite the spectacle, making it an absolute delight to watch.
SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10
‘Rurouni Kenshin: The Final’ was the final anime film based on the manga / anime franchise ‘Rurouni Kenshin’. It was released in Japan in 2014, and was released to Blu-ray and DVD in 2015. The film featured the final battles of Kenshin Himura and his sworn brother, Kaoru Kamiya. The film was directed by Keishi Ōtomo, with character designs by Takahiro Yoshimatsu. The film was released to DVD and Blu-ray, but was never released on streaming or DVD in the west.. Read more about rurouni kenshin reviews and let us know what you think.
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