By this stage, the humble tale of the first film and the bombastic masterfully shot darkness of the second film should prepare you for what is in store in Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends
. Namely, a lot of exposition, happenstance and meandering until the final utterly jaw dropping fight sequence. Facing facts, it is clear that fans are here for the long haul; to just spend time with Kenshin and his cronies in this period is justification enough for another film.
It can be argued that films two and three could have been combined to create a much more powerful experience, but this would be discounting all the additional story adapted from the manga, delving into Kenshin's psyche and reasoning. Like it or not, the overlong third film in this pretty great trilogy caps proceedings off, regardless of length or filler.
Following on immediately from the Kyoto Inferno cliff-hanger, Kenshin find himself face to face with his Master, Seijuro Hiko. Realizing that he is unable to defeat the villainous Shishio, he tries to find a way to convince his master to teach him the ultimate technique. In a bout of telegraphed self-actualisation, Kenshin must learn how to unlock the power within. It all comes down to the clash that should have happened in the second film, but on their final encounter, who will prevail?
It is worth noting that the third film is ending the original arc from the manga. Director Otomo has worked to adapt the precious original story that fans have adored for years. The trilogy has been designed so as to be watched back-to-back. Unfortunately, the third film, which shares the running time of the previous film (140 minutes), needs the support of the second film. It acts as a cool-down from the amazing action sequences that closed Kyoto Inferno. It is these quiet moments that become a chore to watch for non-die hard fans. Kenshin receives training from his master for well over an hour in what can only be described as filler.
Thankfully, this wait is justified by two very important aspects of this trilogy. Firstly, by the final film all of the characters are truly embodied by the actors and there is cracking chemistry throughout. Secondly, the boorish scenes in the third installment build to a spectacular finale that, by contrast, is a shot of adrenaline and has a major impact.
The Legend Ends is shot in the same style as Kyoto Inferno, and although it does not feature the awesome set piece of a city in flames, it more than makes up for that with impeccable choreographed fight sequences and high stakes tension.
Like the previous films, the female characters continue to suffer obscurity. Emi Takei, who plays Kaoru, is barely in the film, and when she reunites with the main character it is without fanfare. Other cast members including Sanosuke and Shishio are at the top of their game; this really is a masculine film, despite Kenshin's feminine qualities.
Ultimately fans will love The Legend Ends, and it serves as a competent finale. The Kenshin Trilogy is a blockbuster Warner Brothers production, saved by slick production value and excellent acting, and is a faithful adaptation. Despite its filler moments in an epic run-time, and considering audiences will have most likely watched the previous two films, The Legend Ends is well worth the mandatory watch.
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