The final part of the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy tells the story of the legendary swordsman Kenshin Himura (Takeru Sato) as he battles against Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara), a fellow former assassin who has turned to a life of crime. This film picks up where the last one ended, with Kenshin training with his former master, Seijuro Hiko (Masaharu Fukuyama) and asking him to learn the ultimate technique of his “High Heaven” style.
The biggest fault with this film comes from the fact that, after an incredible build-up in the previous film “Kyoto Inferno”, we return to Kenshin training to take on Shishio again. This almost seems like a backwards from where we were in the story, but it is understandable that they cannot rush straight to the climactic battle scene. The film has a much slower pace, and more time for character development, in many ways a more sedate affair than the previous films. While it is a little frustrating to have to wait for the climactic duel, this does allow us to see a different side of Kenshin, a more vulnerable, mortal, human than the unbeatable hero that he had become. When the film does reach the final fight it is as spectacular as anything that has gone before, and you can appreciate the build-up as it adds a definite weight to their struggle to defeat Shishio, and Shishio’s own hatred of the government. Again there are certain characters in the ensemble who fall by the wayside, receiving only a short amount of screen time, but the film is told with such assuredness of direction that it is easy to forgive its flaws. Having the same director and cast ensures that each film is of comparable quality, and they do their best to introduce new elements to each story. The score, by Naoki Sato, emphasizes the sense of scale and it is hard not to feel emotionally engaged when various themes begin, familiar from previous films.
This is really a part two with “Kyoto Inferno” bringing to a close a trilogy of fantastic historical action epics, probably one of the best live-action adaptations of a manga out there, which respects its characters enough to spend significant time developing them and also takes its story seriously. The consistency in quality, with the same cast and crew, mean that if you enjoyed the earlier films, you are very likely to enjoy this final instalment, which brings things to a satisfying conclusion.