Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014)

Posted in Reviews by - November 15, 2021
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014)

“The legend ends” after a bloated four-and-a-half-hours of storytelling – if you include the previous movie – highlighting how brevity is clearly not one of filmmaker Keishi Ōtomo’s strong suits. Also, despite the huge running-time, these films have been rife with plot-holes, with random characters appearing out of nowhere and things happening with little or no reason or context. This concluding chapter is probably the most effective in fully committing to its wacky manga origins, setting the scene for an all-out battle to save Tokyo from Shishiro (Tatsuya Fujiwara) – a maniacal killer-for-hire who was burned alive and is now seeking revenge – and his gang of grotesque, anti-governmental horror-shows. We pick up three days after the events of the second film, with Kenshin (Takeru Satoh) having his own Empire Strikes Back moment in which he is miraculously saved, taken into the woods and nursed back to health by his childhood sensei (it is never explained how his sensei would have known of his whereabouts, so you will just have to go along with it). With his amour Kaoru (Emi Takei) still missing, Kenshin eventually returns from boot camp to find Tokyo under siege, his buddies in crisis, and the coppers on his tail. He must use his blunt sword to finally confront Shishiro, teach a lesson in humility, and unite a conflicted nation still finding its feet in the new world. Despite starting the series with such promise, the franchise’s strong female characters have now been completely marginalised. Kaoru owns her own dojo, but is left vacant in a fawning support role; and Misao (Tao Tsuchiya), who was so wonderful kicking ass at the end of the second film, is similarly left to care for the wounded men in her life. On the plus side, the energetic action scenes are great – as per the previous high-standards – and Takeru Satoh really shines in the lead, showing a more rounded performance and fully engaging with the emotions at the heart of the character. These films may be laboured, but at least they have a fun knack of combining the sublime with the ridiculous, with highfalutin ideas around ‘the sword that brings life’ and the conflicted morals of a pacifistic assassin, mixed with scenes of a mad samurai in full-body bandages shooting fireballs from his katana. It may not be the memorable conclusion we were all hoping for, but it’s still a fun, frivolous ride nonetheless.

AKA: Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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