REVIEW: ‘Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning’ is a Stark Look at Trust and Betrayal

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Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning

Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning is an adaptation of the manga Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki and is streaming on Netflix. Before he came to the Kamiya Dojo, before he took up the reverse blade sword and named himself a wanderer, Kenshin fought in the revolution against the shogunate. But most did not know him as Kenshin. Then, he was the Battousai. He was the man-slayer.

Spoilers. It is a thing that the very thought of fills some with dread. To know the end of a story before you get there can induce terror in some. If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone on Twitter lose their mind because a fictional program got spoiled for them I’d never need to work again. But is knowing the ending always ruinous for an experience? Not always. And it’s a good thing too. Since if you have followed along with the previous live-action films that follow our favorite Meiji Era swordsman you’ll already know how Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning is going to end. And honestly, it only enhances the experience.

From the first instant, the viewer is reintroduced to Kenshin it is immediately obvious this is not the smiling wanderer you have come to love. All the whispers of what the Battousai was during the revolution are displayed to the viewer in the opening moments of the film in stark, crismon-bathed ferocity. Anyone familiar with the bloodier anime series knows how much the medium loves to highlight slashing wounds with overly powerful sprays of blood. Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning embraces this aesthetic completely. And while the sprays in anime often come across as ridiculous, when seen in live-action it’s a bit more horrifying. And in case you have any concerns that this movie is trading the spectacle and skill the series is known for from its sword fights for gore, fear not. For Kenshin, and every other swordsman of note that crosses his path are just as impressive as ever. Just in this movie, Kenshin is treating everyone as they try to treat him.

While the swordsmanship continues to be memorable, it is not the focal point of Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning. Instead, the movie focuses the bulk of its time on Kenshin’s struggle with all the blood he spills in the name of the new age and his blossoming feelings for a woman named Tomoe.

It is this latter focus where most of the film’s strongest, and most bittersweet moments come from. The ultimate end for Kenshin and Tomoe is never in doubt, and watching the two struggle through the movie to reach that final moment is equal parts hard and beautiful. Every detail and moment between the pair feels perfectly delivered. From lighting and cinematography to the way Kenshin struggles with expressing the feelings he has. Everything is presented in a pitch-perfect way to pull you in and get you committed to the story that unfolds before you.

So, to bring it all together, Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning serves as a magnificent, bittersweet piece in the story of Kenshin Himura. It manages to balance the need to show Kenshin as the Battousai, while never losing sight of Kenshin the human. A much-watch entry for any fan of the series.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning is streaming now on Netflix.

 

Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

So, to bring it all together, Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning serves as a magnificent, bittersweet piece in the story of Kenshin Himura. It manages to balance the need to show Kenshin as the Battousai, while never losing sight of Kenshin the human. A much-watch entry for any fan of the series.