The first Rurouni Kenshin live action film was one of the most refined adaptations I have seen, nearly seamlessly projecting Kenshin Himura and his story onto the big screen. Better yet, the movie left a lot of potential for a sequel, which, according to Spanish distributor Mediatres Studio, is already in the works. While we’ve yet to hear an official announcement from parties that would actually be involved in the making of a sequel, the very possibility of a Kyoto arc is more than welcome. But will this major anime arc lend itself well to a live action adaptation? Let’s look at the good, the bad, and the potentially ugly facets of an adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin’s Kyoto arc.
The story of the Kyoto arc, while lengthy in its unraveling, is quite promising for Kenshin fans and general audiences alike, especially if the movie is able to incorporate some subplots left out of the first film. I would personally love to see some backstory for both Sanosuke Sagara and Saito Hajime – particularly Saito, whose hair-raising Gatotsu Ishiki in the first movie was followed by what is probably the film’s weakest point. Sanosuke’s story followed by a serious showdown with Kenshin, while predictable, will lend great depth to the first film’s effective primary source of comic relief. I would also revel in seeing Makoto Shishio’s plan of burning Kyoto to the ground play out in live action.
Another good point for a sequel will be the introduction of complex and memorable characters, some of whom were not able to make it in the first film. Oni Gang’s Aoshi Shinomori, the main arc antagonist and Kenshin’s hitokiri successor Makoto Shishio, his right hand man (or child) Soujiro Seta as well as other colorful Juppongatana members, Kenshin’s master Hiko Seijuro, and even the lively Misao and old man Okina.
We’re also in for some very good side conflicts, such as Kenshin’s journey to Kyoto in which he must leave Kaoru behind, his breaking his Sakabato in his first duel against Soujiro, both Kenshin and Sanosuke training before fighting Shishio’s group, and of course the complicated case of Aoshi Shinomori and Misao chasing after him.
Finally, I will sincerely be looking forward to some epic clashes in a Rurouni Kenshin sequel. We’ll get to see some particularly cool moves like Saito’s Gatotsu (which hopefully will strike more than a chandelier the second time around), Aoshi’s Kaiten Kenbu Rokuren, and of course the Hiten Mitsurugi styles’ secret technique, the monstrously fast and powerful Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki.
Of course, with a lot of positive points come a lot of potentially negative points as well. One major obstacle to a successful sequel is that the movie will need to deal with unrealistic aspects, which, as far as the first movie went, the producers and director were trying to minimize. In an interview, director Keishi Otomo mentioned they limited the use of wires to only simulate inhuman speed, staying true to a relatively realistic take on the anime. That said, some of the most notable hurdles the sequel will have to work around will most probably include:
- Fuji, the giant. Literally a giant with an apt name, bringing Fuji to life in an adaptation may ruin any attempts at a relatively realistic setting.
- Fuji’s master and member of Shishio’s Juppongatana, Saizuchi. Where Fuji is a giant, Saizuchi is a dwarf with a ridiculously large head to boot. He’s like the Penguin to Nolan’s Batman – he shouldn’t be there, and Nolan made the right call.
- Sword collector and Juppongatana member Sawagejo Cho’s paper thin sword. Cho’s other unique sword in his collection, the double-bladed katana, is doable. But a sword as thin as paper that lends itself well to its wielder’s control? No, definitely not.
- Hiten Mitsurugi style’s nine-headed dragon flash, the Kuzuryusen. Kenshin’s master Seijuro Hiko has a signature move that is as unrealistic as the giant Fuji whom he used it on: a simultaneous strike delivered to the nine points of attack in kendo.
- Soujiro Seta’s Shukuchi technique. A technique so fast it basically turns its user invisible can’t be brought to the big screen without problems. It’s nearly as unrealistic as the Kuzuryusen.
- Sanosuke Sagara’s Futae no Kiwami, taught by Juppongatana member Yukyuzan Anji. Saito mentions a similar technique that might be more adaptable to real life, but the Futae no Kiwami is to the fists what the Kuzuryusen is to the sword: impossible. Cool, but impossible.
Finally, some facets of the sequel can just turn plain ugly. For instance, since the Oni gang wasn’t in the first film, their introduction would nearly coincide with the introduction of Misao, Okina, and the rest of the Aoi-Ya Oniwaban. Misao is supposed to meet and follow Kenshin because Kenshin knows Aoshi, but in the sequel, he doesn’t. Not yet. Worse still is if a large part of this plot point is removed or compressed into a contrived version, we might not get to see some fight scenes involving the Juppongatana and the Aoi-Ya Oniwaban plus Kaoru and Yahiko.
The main problem is the sheer breadth of the Kyoto arc. The arc is a complex weave of interrelated events and storylines, which is already hard to adapt into a cohesive film on its own, much more so if it’ll need to adhere to the first film’s storyline. Finally, there are also some fight sequences that are impossible to translate into relatively realistic live action scenes. How can the fight between lightning speed Hiten Mitsurugi master Seijuro Hiko and giant Fuji ever be translated into live action without making it look like Ultraman? Kenshin’s final showdown with Soujiro Seta is another problem, what with Soujiro’s technique. These are just some facets of the anime that I’m sure fans would love to see, but would probably turn out ugly – which might merit their omission altogether.
What do you think? Are these good, bad, and ugly points of a Rurouni Kenshin sequel going to be insurmountable obstacles that the film will do well to circumvent? Or should they attempt to include as many of these as possible?
[By G Dino]