I watched the film when it opened here in the Philippines, and it took me days just to write a proper film review. Revisiting my review of the first film, I said that "the original movie is one tough act to follow" and much to my surprise,Kyoto Inferno exceed my expectations and without a doubt, a better film compared to the first movie. To prevent this review to sound like a broken record, most of my thoughts about the film are similar to my thoughts about the first film. Namely, the film is not a frame by frame adaptation of the source material and just takes elements from the story arc it was based on, and the filmmakers weave it into a good 2-hour film.
But if there is one original cast member that surprised me when it comes to performance, it would be Emi Takei as Kaoru Kamiya. My problem with Kaoru in the previous film is that she is your standard Yamato Nadeshiko kind of character but lacks her unique toughness. In this film, we actually see some more depth in her character. Giving her more students showed us that Kaoru is a teacher, not some chick who supports Kenshin from time to time and gets kidnapped from time to time. We see her display such raw emotion when Kenshin leaves her to go to Kyoto.
Now for the story, the Kyoto Arc is probably the manga's most well-known story arc as it was adapted in the TV series and was later adapted into two anime films. Unlike those two anime films that I got to be honest, I find disappointing, the first part of Kyoto Arc's live-action film adaptation was fantastic. Similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Kyoto Arc was divided into two parts, Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends. Just like Deathly Hollows Part 1, Kyoto Inferno sets up some elements that will play a greater role in the next film while trying to be a good film on its own.
As for the people that surround Shishio, the only one that stands out for me was Sojiro and Cho. The rest of the Juppongatana are not that interesting. Granted, they need to compress everything within the allotted time, but not giving them enough talking scenes gave this impression that these guys are just disposable henchmen, not Shishio's most powerful fighters. Another thing worth noting is that I don't see any chemistry between Shishio and Yumi. In the source material, these two felt like a powerful couple, in this case, Yumi felt like she is some hot generic hot chick beside a powerful man and that's it.
Kenshin's motivation in the film sums up the overall theme of the entire film: closure. He wants to end Shishio because it was because of him that he started killing people for the government in the first place. Shishio wants this different kind of closure by destroying what was established by the men who caused him his suffering. Aoshi wants to fight Kenshin because he saw him as a way to avenge his fallen comrades. To put it simply, defeating Kenshin is the only way for him to achieve closure in life. But sadly, these guys can't achieve this kind of closure right now especially after what happened in the film's climax.
My biggest nitpick about this film is the fact that they didn't the follow some of the over the top moments of the source material. By over the top, I mean Cho's belt blades or some of the fight scenes not using some of the character's signature moves. As one of my friends pointed out while we are watching the film, the duel between Okina and Aoshi didn't feature any of the two doing their signature finishing moves. But what the heck, the fights are real good that I just ignored it... except the belt blades. I mean, if the previous film has those psychic eyes thing, why not those belt blades?
Originally posted on Orends: Range back in September 18, 2014.