Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

In taking a story from manga to anime, to live action, there are bound to be changes that make it more format- and audience-friendly. As we saw a couple weeks ago, it doesn’t always come out successfully, but in the case of today’s subject, the combination of writing, acting, directing, and the rest of the crew has come together to put out a truly excellent product.

RK Kyoto Inferno

This time I’m looking at volume two of the Rurouni Kenshin film series, “Kyoto Inferno”. With Takeru Sato and Emi Takei reprising their roles as Kenshin and Kaoru, respectively, the story picks up not long after where it left off at the end of the first movie. The audience is introduced to Makoto Shishio in all his insanity, and it becomes obvious to newcomers that he’ll be the primary antagonist going forward. The movie covers the section where Kenshin is egged into going to Kyoto out of a responsibility for resolving the fact that Shishio even exists in the first place, up through the encounter on the ships in the harbor. Fans of the source material will hopefully recognize the new character brought in at the very end.

Rurouni Kenshin fans will also probably pick up on the fact that even though this second movie follows closer to the original story, it is still constrained by the changes made to it in the first one. Sanosuke’s loyalty is established, so that’s not such a big deal, but we don’t see as satisfying an explanation of the level of motivation associated with Aoshi Shinomori’s obsession with Kenshin as we’re familiar with because he wasn’t part of Kanryuu’s crew this time around. That all being said, everything fits well within the existing parameters of this modified version, and it’s a beautiful ride all over again. The only story element I was truly disappointed in was that Kenshin’s departure was so close to the beginning. I felt like we didn’t have enough of a chance to get back into the right emotional head space, to have it hit as hard as it did in the manga and anime.

This movie could exist in a vacuum if it wanted. Viewers don’t necessarily have to be familiar with the first installment or the source material to get something out of it, and that’s definitely a good thing. You will be left wanting for part three, though, and that’s a good thing too. If you have any feelings about the story, actors, setting, or any other relevant element, I highly recommend checking this one out. I know I’m eagerly waiting for the ‘end of the legend’.

Rating: 5th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Princess Princess D

 I apologize for not sharing any insights with you last week, having been in the midst of preparing to attend Setsucon. However, to make up for it, here’s what you would have seen:  

Every once in a while, it seems necessary to share something I didn’t particularly enjoy, just to keep things interesting (I have a tendency to gravitate towards stories that pique my attention, but for the purpose of this column, I may have to move away from that). In this instance, I’m talking about “Princess Princess D”, based on the manga and anime “Princess Princess”.  

Before we go any further, I’d like to mention that I did in fact (intentionally) complete the anime before sitting down to the drama, so that I’d have an idea of what was coming. The anime was quirky and funny, but also heartfelt, and so even though I’d been warned against watching the live action series, I was wondering whether it could really be that bad.

Princess Princess D, main cast

Princess Princess D, main cast

 

Princess Princess is the story of students in an all-boys school that has a tradition of choosing a few of the prettier freshmen to dress up as girls for school events and club activities to relieve the stress of being in an environment of all boys, all the time. In the anime, Tooru Kouno transfers into the school mid-year and is immediately chosen to join the existing princesses Mikoto Yutaka and Yuujirou Shihoudani (in the live action, he transfers in at the beginning of the year and is elected at the same time as the other two). The plot focuses mostly on their struggle to find balance between their school lives, private lives, princess responsibilities, and relationships with each other.  

The biggest draws for me to the live action series were Takeru Sato (Rurouni Kenshin, Kamen Rider Den-O), who played Tooru, and Ray Fujita (Garo, Zero: Black Blood), who played Yuujirou. It’s really a shame that even with their skills, they weren’t able to carry it as well as the anime. Probably the main reason it fell apart was because of the budget. The story demands a lot of extra actors to fill in gaps when the princesses are appearing in their female garb, to give the illusion that this is in fact a popular activity at the school. Unfortunately, aside from the three princesses, the student council, and the drama-only “dark princesses” the student body was incredibly sparse. Pairing that with princesses that while are good looking guys, are very awkward as girls, and the live action sadly falls flat.  

I ignored the warnings to stay away from this one, but I hope you’ll take it seriously.

Rating: 1st gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Real

If you’re looking for a Takeru Sato movie to tide you over until the next installment of “Rurouni Kenshin” is released, take a look at “Real”.

 

In this movie, Sato plays a man named Koichi Fujita, whose significant other (I don’t recall whether they said she was his fiancee or girlfriend), played by Haruka Ayase, has fallen into a coma after a suicide attempt. The hospital that’s been caring for her in the interim has developed technology to allow people to connect and communicate at the subconscious level, as if in a dream state, so he agrees to use it to try to bring her back to the real world. Over the course of the exposition, the audience finds out that she’s a manga artist. She feels like she’s lost her way, and the only way to get her motivation back is for him to find a picture of a plesiosaur she drew in a sketchbook as a child.

 

The psychology of the situation only intensifies as Koichi goes looking for the drawing. He starts to hallucinate in the real world, things that he saw Atsumi drawing in the dream world. And just when he thinks he found it, things get even more complicated.

 

I admit that I was too busy trying to piece together what I was watching, to see the twist coming. In fact, it took me so by surprise, that I stopped knowing what to believe… which I imagine was the point. The cast and staff had me completely consumed by what I was watching, though, which is always a good thing, and the costuming and set design choices were excellent.

 

I really enjoy watching Sato-san work, and while I like psychological thrillers well enough, the ones that introduce undead and things that require liberal amounts of creepy makeup aren’t quite my cup of tea.

 

Rating: 3rd Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]