Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning reveals the tragedy behind Kenshin’s cross scar. Wait, it’s a repetition, not a revelation.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (るろうに剣心 最終章 The Beginning) Synopsis
Based on the short Reminiscence Arc of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s manga masterpiece, Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning depicts the struggles and tribulations of Kenshin during his bloody career as Hitokiri Battousai, the most feared hitman of the pro-emperor forces. A companion work to Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, the movie also serves as a prequel to the previous four live-action movies. It additionally explains in detail Kenshin’s determination to never again kill after the Meiji Revolution, and why Enishi Yukishiro despises Kenshin to the core.
I failed to highlight something when reviewing Rurouni Kenshin: The Final. This is my shortcoming and it was due to me knowing the Samurai X story by heart. I.E., my pre-knowledge blinded me to the fault.
As satisfying as The Final was, some parts of it would feel “glossed over” to newcomers to the franchise. Specifically, these were the segments summarising Kenshin’s complicated relationship with Yukishiro Tomoe. As well as Enishi’s destructive, almost perverse hatred of his brother-in-law.
With the release of The Beginning just days ago on Netflix, though, all becomes clear, so to speak. Obviously, The Final was leaving space for a sequel, or more accurately, a prequel. This, incidentally, mirrors what happened in the Anime department 20 years ago. The Reminiscent and the Jinchu Arc were markedly omitted from the TV series. However, they were eventually adapted for OVA series.
But the big questions! Is The Beginning a worthy watch? A must-watch too for fans of the live-action adaptations? Well, I’d say that if you can’t get enough of Takeru Satoh’s Kenshin, the way his slashes kill before you can blink, it is. While the story contains no big secrets, it still expands the Kenshin persona too. Sort of.
On the other hand, despite all the tragedy and action, the movie never reaches the heights of The Final, or for that matter, Kyoto Inferno. As with the case for most prequels, established knowledge of events down the road hangs over the viewer like a thick layer of snow. It’s all still elegant and emotional to watch, but somehow, there’s just isn’t that raw poignancy.
Moreover, there feels to be too much fan service this time, in the form of fleeting Shinsengumi cameos. Now, I’m aware that these “wolves of Mibu” were the original inspiration for the Rurouni Kenshin franchise. It was also thoughtful of director Keishi Ōtomo to hint at the actual death cause of the legendary Okita Sōji. (Seta Sōjirō was inspired by Okita)
But did these cameos truly add to the saga? I felt they didn’t. Heck, even Saitō Hajime felt as if he was merely there to do a few requisite Gatotsu.
In the same way, this prequel seems like a requisite entry. As in, it is purely for viewers who expect complete detailing of Himura Kenshin’s tragic life.
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