Following directly on from the preceding endeavour’s exploits, we find Kenshin Himura (Takeru Sato) washed up on a beach, saved by his former master Seijuro Hiko (Masaharu Fukuyama). Desperately wanting to be reunited with his love interest Kaoru (Emi Takei), Kenshin has other problems to focus on, knowing that time is running out to prevent the nefarious, brutal rebel Makoto Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara) from succeeding in overthrowing the government. Kenshin prides himself on being a warrior who doesn’t resort to murder – using a back blade when in combat with adversaries – but for Shishio, it seems the only way to come out on top may be to make an exception.
Where The Legend Ends can be compared to the first two pictures, is the immensity and scope of the project, making for an immersive cinematic experience. It’s the visuals which really bring this tale to life – as essentially it’s a somewhat hackneyed narrative of a renegade hero seeking peace and attempting to overcome a savage antagonist – something we’ve seen countless times before, but not always presented in such a stylistic, almost surrealistic manner, certainly taking pointers from anime in how vibrant the gratifying aesthetic experience proves to be. While the frenetic, well-choreographed action sequences compliment and embellish that fact.
But where this franchise has survived, predominantly, is within the hero, as Kenshin remains an empathetic and wholly investable protagonist, who we can abide by and root for. But a hero is only as strong as his adversary, and in this case, Shishio remains an infallible and seemingly indestructible villain, which is essential in allowing the viewer to adhere to the narrative at hand. If defeating the enemy feels like a walk in the park, it detracts significantly from the intensity and suspense of the piece, but where this title is concerned, you honestly can’t fathom quite how Shishio can ever be defeated.
There is no denying that Rurouni Kenshin is a worthy trilogy, and in spite of the huge success on home soil, could consider itself unfortunate not to have broken further into the wider public eye outside of Japan. But that being said, there hasn’t been that one stand out endeavour, as each and every one of the three films have received three stars a piece by this writer. It says all you need to know – that yes, while there may be a lot to admire, it hasn’t quite been special enough.
Though it is worth noting that to maximise your enjoyment, you may want to catch up with the first two productions first, as this final offering doesn’t accommodate those who are new to the franchise, and a previous knowledge is completely essential. Just don’t watch all three back to back, because otherwise, and if there is one criticism about these films, is how unnecessarily long they all seem to be.