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Produced back-to-back with the fifth and final installment of the series (The Beginning), The Final marks the return of the big screen live action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin’s manga, after The Legend Ends seven years ago. Everything is still the same. Keishi tomo is still directing and writing the script, Kenji Tanigaki is still in charge of choreographing the action, almost all of the cast also returned, except for Kaito Oyagi who was replaced by Riku nishi as Yahiko.

So, the end result is not much different. If you liked the first three titles, this film will satisfy you. If not (which is most likely because you are not a manga reader), the narrative of Rurouni Kenshin: The Final will be less friendly.

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Adapting the Jinchū Arc as the closing arc of the Rurouni Kenshin manga, the story brings Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) against Enishi Yukishiro (Mackenyu Arata), the younger sister of Tomoe Yukishiro (Kasumi Arimura), Kenshin’s wife who died 15 years ago. Together with his men, Enishi spread terror throughout Tokyo, in order to avenge his brother’s death. Kenshin was forced to look back at his past wounds, which were like scars on his cheeks, as if refusing to disappear even though it had been so long.

In the manga, the complex Kenshin-Tomoe romance (because it involves a clash between revenge and love) is delivered completely in a special chapter, in between the main story. The reader also gets a complete understanding of the dynamics of all the characters. Why his wife means so much to Kenshin, why Kenshin is the greatest source of sadness and happiness for Tomoe, why Enishi holds such a deep grudge, and so on.

In the film, flashbacks are also inserted, but only in passing, presenting ambiguous points, which instead of strengthening the characterizations through the addition of new information, it appears confusing, especially for those who have not read the source of the adaptation. Rather than a substantial story element, the flashback is like an extended teaser for Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning. This weakness makes Kenshin’s inner turmoil feel shallow and bland. Guilt as a battousai is always a motivation, and this film should take that turmoil personally. It’s worth noting that I’m not complaining about the decision to split the story into two films. Because it’s not a problem, as long as it’s handled properly. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Movie Review

Entering the fourth film, as a reader of the manga as well as an audience of the anime, I have already accepted some of the inaccuracies that bothered me when Rurouni Kenshin was released nine years ago. Sanosuke (Munetaka Aoki) who is more like a village thug, Saito who is less-pyschopathic (Yōsuke Eguchi did a great job though), so some examples. All are forms of interpretation of an adaptation. Modifications were also made by The Final, including a cameo from one of the most popular figures as fan service.

The biggest change comes in line trimming, which in the name of saving duration is understandable. But the loss of phase when Enishi was able to drop Kenshin into the deepest hole, actually hurt his character. If Shishio is the antagonist who managed to corner the protagonist in physical terms, Enishi on the other hand (although he still has good sword skills), presents the toughest psychological test. Removing that, which automatically lowers the storytelling stake, also erases Enishi’s appeal.

Narratively speaking, The Final is disappointing (in terms of potential that can be achieved). How about the action? Of course, it’s hard to match the foursome in The Legend Ends (2014), but the combination of Keishi tomo’s direction, Kenji Tanigaki’s choreography, Takuro Ishizaka’s cinematography, and Takeru Satoh’s ability to sell every move convincingly, still produces stunning treats, especially entering the third act.

Since the first film, the main achievement of this adaptation has been a matter of bringing over-the-top sword fighting in manga, to a more realistic live action realm, without losing its uniqueness and excitement. The bombastic visuals in the manga panels translate into camerawork that captures the director’s imaginative vision, which is filled with complex choreography, as well as Naoki Satō’s intense music. The action is perfect. Maybe not to the point that Rurouni Kenshin: The Final deserves to be called “good”, but for longtime fans, as well as viewers who come purely to see the swordsmen colliding, this “semi-final round” has enough ammunition to give satisfaction. Top Movie

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