Director: Keishi Otomo
Notable Cast: Takeru Satoh, Kasumi Arimura, Issey Takahashi, Nijiro Murakami, Masanobu Ando, Kazuki Kitamura, Yosuke Eguchi, Towa Araki, Shima Onishi, Takahiro Fujimoto
With the fifth and (possibly) final installment of the Japanese box office juggernaut series, Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning might be one of the boldest ways to cap off a franchise. After the successful trilogy run previously, the series came back with what constitutes a two-part finale. The first portion of that, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, was only released a handful of months prior to this one and acts as a final stamp on the series. It gives the red-haired wandering swordsman his peace to cap off a rather remarkable character arc that covered four films and featured some of the best action set pieces of the series, a bombastic set of spectacle-driven moments, and all of the characters that fans loved. It was the feather in the cap of one of action cinema’s most balanced and effective franchises.
In the fourth film though, there are flashbacks to an origin for the titular character, Kenshin, that are the core for this prequel. Hence the title, Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning. Just in case there may be those who are new to the series or simply want to know just how upfront the filmmakers wanted to be with this entry. Yes, this fifth entry is a prequel to the entire series and, no, it does not suffer at all from the narrative setbacks and leaps of logic that plague so many prequels.
To be frank, The Beginning might be the most daring in its tone, atmosphere, and artistic merits of the series. It’s an almost fully different experience than the others, cinematically speaking, and yet is the perfect lead-in for the story, character, and narrative build for all of the rest. It’s incredibly well-executed and ranks up there as one of the best.