亜人 (Ajin)

After a six-month delay, Ajin live-action finally gets released in our local cinemas. The showing date, however, falls at the time when I’m supposed to leave the country for a quick vacay. Films like this don’t usually last in theaters longer than a week. So after my morning job, I quickly packed my luggage and went to the mall to catch the first screening on the first showing day. It was a Wednesday. 12nn. Once again, I had the entire theater to myself.

The movie starts at the operating (torture) table where Nagai Kei lies to get mutilated, die, and “reset”. As he asks why of all people these horrible things have to happen to him, we get a quick flashback of how he survives a tragic car accident that reveals his identity to the world.

Sato, a highly skilled and influential Ajin, comes to his rescue. He aims to take the government down and wants Nagai Kei to be a part of his revolutionary team. But his ambition and thirst for blood is so off-putting, Kei abruptly rejects his invitation. More so, his refusal to kill his captors makes Sato reveal his true violent nature. 

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So as not to be confused with the lead actor’s name (Sato Takeru) and the antagonist’s name (Sato), let’s address the actor by his first name from hereon.

To match Takeru’s real age, the high school student from the original is changed into a medical intern. Nagai Kei, who is emotionally distant and was even regarded as a sociopath in the manga and anime, becomes more cooperative and less of a jerk in the live-action movie. Thus, giving us a hero worth rooting for. Takeru proves that he is made for shonen and seinen roles. Though he’s also good at other genres, it’s apparent that he totally shines when it comes to more action-heavy scenes. Choreographed by the same action team of Rurouni Kenshin, he puts Ajin on top of the Japanese box-office during its run. 

Sato is the stereotypical bloodthirsty villain but somehow, viewers can sympathize with him since humans aren’t exactly on the moral side either. The government conducts inhumane experiments on Ajins and Sato’s been on that torture chamber for 20 years. Despite being too young for the role, Ayano Go (who appeared as Gein in the Rurouni Kenshin movies and Goemon in Lupin III live-action) shows his versatility as he plays the charismatic but malevolent terrorist.

Yu Shirota is a pleasant surprise since he’s too handsome for the role of Koji Tanaka, the second Ajin discovered in Japan. Not that I’m complaining. It’s a real delight to see his face on the big screen and he has some smashing action scenes together with former AKB48 member Rina Kawaei who plays Yu Tosaki’s loyal bodyguard.

Tosaki, however, is a bit disappointing in the live-action. As a high-ranking member of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, he is a morally ambiguous character who has an ironic working relationship with Kei. Tetsuji Tamayama is a talented actor but the live-action version doesn’t give him the same level of authoritative air as the original.

Yudai Chiba who plays Masumi Okuyama (Sato’s underling who has a weak leg but is an expert when it comes to computers and weapons) is one of the best live-action actors I’ve seen. His babyface allows him to convincingly play student characters despite being 28 years old and it doesn’t matter whether he plays a good genki guy or in this case, a bad expressionless one, he always has a way of totally bringing out cool anime-ish vibes to real life.

Yuki Yamada also looks too cute to play Takahashi. He should’ve played Kaito instead. Sadly, Kei’s best friend gets written out in the film and his absence gives more screen time to Kei’s sick younger sister. I Want To Eat Your Pancreas’ adorable lead actress Minami Hamabe plays Eriko Nagai whose illness was not explained even in the manga. Originally, she harbors some resentment towards his brother but in the live-action, they’re in good terms and they even ran away together.  

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Ajin follows the formula for generic action flicks: garden-variety protagonist with newfound abilities, seemingly invincible antagonist who wants to take over the world, and a sick younger sister who gives the protagonist the motivation to fight. People might say it doesn’t offer anything new to the table but being formulaic is exactly what makes it a good live-action movie. It’s fast-paced, straightforward, and gives a clear a distinction between the good guys and the bad.

Having characters who can revive themselves after death may seem a bit tedious to watch, but their “immortality” only increases the tension since the battle has become more than just a physical one. Kei and Sato are equally incisive.

Directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro, Ajin successfully puts together some exhilarating video game-like action scenes with energetic background music and impressive computer graphics particularly the IBMs. It’s also worth nothing that Kei’s “ghost” is voiced by famous seiyuu Mamoru Miyano (the voice actor of Nagai Kei in Ajin‘s animated series).  

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I was really tired on the day I watched the movie but the suspense (and the eye candies!!!) kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I chose Ajin over sleep and I don’t regret it one bit. I loved it so much I even bought this “awesome!” magazine at MagFreak when I arrived in Taiwan.

 

 

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Sato Takeru: Ajin and Inuyashiki

The Japanese word, “seinen” (青年), means youth but when it comes to manga, this genre is marketed to 18–30 year old male audience and at times, to businessmen who are well over 40. Compared to Shonen, Seinen anime and manga are usually more mature, violent, and psychological. Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, falls under this genre. While this Japanese classic gets its Hollywood remake, Japan continues to produce fresh source materials as two recent seinen manga series are set for live-action adaptations both starring Sato Takeru, no less.

Sato Takeru

 

Born on March 21, 1989 in Iwatsuki-ku, Saitama, Sato Takeru is a Japanese actor from Amuse Inc. He debuted in 2006 after getting scouted in Harajuku. He first appeared on television in the cross-dressing series, Princess Princess D, but he gained his popularity in Kamen Rider Den-O, the seventeenth installment in the popular Kamen Rider (Masked Rider) series. His breakout role was in the 2008 primetime drama, Rookies, where he played a minor supporting character named Yuya Okada. Rookies is based on Masanori Morita’s baseball-themed shonen manga of the same title. His live-action appearances continued when he starred as the best friend of the protagonist in Bloody Monday with his real life friend and equally popular actor from the same agency, Miura Haruma (the lead in Attack on Titan’s live-action). From shonen, he switched to shojo (the genre aimed at a teenage female audience) when he played Kento Shibata in Mei-chan no Shitsuji alongside Hiro Mizushima (the lead actor in Black Butler’s live-action). Then they reunited in the live-action movie based on the slice of life manga, BECK.

In 2010, Sato Takeru appeared in his first historical fiction drama, Ryōmaden, under the direction of Keiishi Otomo. After witnessing his powerful performance as the samurai Okada Izō, Keiishi Otomo believed he had found the perfect actor for Himura Kenshin. The director was right, as the 2012 Rurouni Kenshin live-action film went on to break domestic and worldwide box-office records, followed by the release of its DVD that was distributed in over 60 countries. Due to the movie’s success and unanimous positive reviews, the main actors reprised their roles for the 2014 two-part sequel entitled Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends. As expected, both films were well-received, often debuting at the top three in the box-office rankings and praised by critics for the impressive execution of its action choreography. In between the Rurouni Kenshin films, Takeru starred as a genius composer in The Liar and His Lover, the 2013 live-action adaptation of the shojo manga, Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru, by Kotomi Aoki.

After the tremendous success of the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, Sato Takeru proved his versatility in Bakuman。, a slice of life movie adaptation based on the manga by Death Note creators, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. In this 2015 film directed by Hitoshi One, Sato Takeru and his Rurouni Kenshin co-star, Kamiki Ryunosuke, played two aspiring mangakas (comic artists). Bakuman。 was number one at the Japanese box office on its opening weekend and was presented with the Popularity Award at 39th Japan Academy Prize. In 2016, Takeru, who’s a real life cat lover, played a dual role in the novel-based movie, If Cats Disappeared from the World. It is followed by another adaptation based on the 148th Naoki Prize winning novel, Nanimono.

Ajin: Demi-Human

 

This 2017, Sato Takeru will play the lead in Ajin: Demi-Human. The movie is based on the 2012 manga written and illustrated by Gamon Sakurai. In 2015, Polygon Pictures produced its anime adaptation in the form of a trilogy: Ajin Part 1: Shōdō, Ajin Part 2: Shōtotsu, and Ajin Part 3: Shōgeki. The same producer released a two-season anime television series in 2016.

The story centers on the plight of the Ajins, humans who have the ability to literally return from the dead. Physically, they are not different from normal people so the only way to find out if they are Ajins is for them to die and be revived. This discovery comes to protagonist, Nagai Kei, when he gets killed on the spot in a traffic accident, revealing his Ajin identity not only to himself but also to several witnesses. With a bounty on his head, he goes on the run since captured Ajins are experimented and executed in various ways in attempts to discover the secret of their immortality. Death triggers their power to regenerate but they can feel all the pain of the torture process.

Kei soon learns that he possesses the Black Ghosts called IBM that are usually manifested by Ajins. An IBM serves as an Ajin’s second body and eventually, it will be revealed that Kei’s IBM is a unique one compared to the other Ajins.

Sato Takeru is Nagai Kei, the 17-year-old character in the manga is altered to a medical intern in the movie to match Takeru’s real age. Ayano Go (the lead in Shinjuku Swan live-action) plays the charismatic but sinister Sato, a powerful villain who uses his Ajin abilities, innate combat skills, and ingenious tactics to carry out several terrorist attacks. The supporting cast includes Yuu Shirota as Koji Tanaka, Yudai Chiba as Masumi Okuyama, Yuki Yamada as Takahashi, Tetsuji Tamayama as Yu Tosaki, Rina Kawaei as Izumi Shimomura, and Minami Hamabe as Nagai Eriko.

Directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro, Ajin: Demi-Human is slated to be released on September 30, 2017.

Inuyashiki

 

From anti-hero to downright villain, Sato Takeru will play the antagonist in the 2018 live-action movie, Inuyashiki. It is based on the 2014 manga written and illustrated by GANTZ’ creator, Hiroya Oku. It tells the story of Inuyashiki Ichiro, an elderly salaryman who doesn’t have any friends and is neglected by his own family. One fateful day, he is caught in the blast of an explosion caused by extraterrestrial entities. Upon waking up, he realizes that despite his human exterior, he has been completely transformed into a cyborg with extraordinary powers. He decides to use his abilities to fight crime and cure sick people.

However, he isn’t the sole victim of the said explosion. Shishigami Hiro loses his humanity in the same way but whereas Inuyashiki uses his powers to save others, Shishigami uses them to kill the people whom he doesn’t like. Completely thrilled about his newfound abilities, he starts to take innocent lives just for amusement. His murderous actions go beyond control and now it’s up to Inuyashiki to try and stop him.

A member of the comedy duo, Tunnels, Japanese comedian Noritake Kinashi will play Ichiro Inuyashiki while Sato Takeru will play Shishigami Hiro. The movie boasts a solid supporting cast which includes Kanata Hongo as Naoyuki Ando, Fumi Nikaido as Shion Watanabe, and Yusuke Iseya as Detective Hagihara. Their filming with GANTZ live-action director, Shinsuke Sato, has just started this March 2017.

While waiting for the film to be released next year, check out its anime series that will premiere in October 2017.

17 New Japanese Live-Action Films (Coming Out In 2017)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Power Rangers and more. It seems that we will see a lot of superhero blockbusters, both sequels and reboots, from Hollywood this year. Producers also boast the acquisition of rights to several well-known Japanese source materials. These include: Ghost In the Shell, starring 2016’s Forbes Top-Grossing Actor, Scarlett Johansson, Netflix’s adaptation of the supernatural manga, Death Note, and still in Lionsgate’s pre-production is the long-running manga Naruto.

Meanwhile, Japan refuses to be outshined and has prepared a plethora of homegrown live-action movies for this year. Since it’s 2017, it’s only apt that I make a list of 17 films. They are arranged according to their release date in Japan.

1. Saki

  • Release date: 3 February 2017
  • Director: Yûichi Onuma
  • Cast: Minami Hamabe, Nana Asakawa, Aika Hirota

Saki Miyanaga (Minami Hamabe) grew up playing mahjong with parents who get upset whenever she wins or loses. For this reason, she learns to keep her score at zero, which is actually more difficult than winning. Then, an old friend convinces her to play at their school’s mahjong club. From then on, the girl who used to hate mahjong learns to love the game. She officially joins the mahjong team to enter her prefecture’s high school tournament with the goal of reaching the national high school competition.

2. One Week Friends

  • Release date: 18 February 2017
  • Director: Shôsuke Murakami
  • Cast: Haruna Kawaguchi, Kento Yamazaki, Seika Furuhata

The story revolves around Yuki Hayase (Yamazaki Kento), who becomes friends with his lonely classmate Kaori Fujimiya (Haruna Kawaguchi). He then discovers that the reason for her social isolation is the fact that she loses all memory of her friends every Monday. In spite of this, Yuki still continues to approach her and befriend her every week.

3. Closest Love To Heaven

  • Release date: 25 February 2017
  • Director: Taisuke Kawamura
  • Cast: Taishi Nakagawa, Marie Iitoyo, Shôno Hayama

Adapted from the shoujo manga Kyo no Kira kun, Marie IItoyo plays Ninon Okamura, an introverted girl whose only friend is a pet parrot. She lives next door to a popular boy, Yuuji Kira (Taishi Nakagawa), but they have never spoken to each other. Her life changes when her mother asks her to befriend him. Eventually, she learns about his secret: Kira is terminally ill and only has a year left to live.

4. March Comes In Like A Lion

  • Release date: 18 March 2017
  • Director: Keishi Ohtomo
  • Cast: Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Kasumi Arimura, Shota Sometani

The actor who played Sojiro Seta reunites with his Rurouni Kenshin director, Keiishi Otomo for this two-part adaptation. Kamiki Ryunosuke is Kirayama Rei, a 17-year-old shogi genius. This slice-of-life movie shows Rei’s growth, as well as his relationship with the Kawamoto sisters and his prominent rivals in shogi.

Kamiki will also face his Bakuman rival, Shota Sometani, once again as the latter makes an almost unrecognizable transformation to play Harunobu Nikaido, Rei’s friend and shogi rival. The release of the first part of the film is on March 18, 2017 and the second part is on April 22, 2017.

5. Daytime Shooting Star

  • Release date: 24 March 2017
  • Director: Takehiko Shinjo;
  • Cast: Mei Nagano, Shohei Miura, Aran Shirahama, Maika Yamamoto

Daytime Shooting Star is based on the manga, Hirunaka no Ryuusei, by Mika Yamamori. Suzume Yosano transfers from the countryside to Tokyo. She runs into a good-looking man and falls in love with him. The man happens to be her homeroom teacher, Satsuki Shishio (Shohei Miura). Meanwhile, Suzume become friends with shy classmate, Daiki Mamura (Alan Shirahama), who soon develops romantic feelings for her.

6. Sagrada Reset (Part 1)

  • Release date: 25 March 2017
  • Director: Yoshihiro Fukagawa
  • Cast: Shûhei Nomura, Yuina Kuroshima, Yûna Taira

Based on the light novel series, Sakurada Risetto (written by Yutaka Kōno and illustrated by You Shiina), and adapted into a manga by Monthly Shonen Ace magazine, the two-part adaptation is set in Sakurada, where most residents hold various superpowers. Among them are two high school students: Kei Asai (Nomura Shuhei), who has the ability to perfectly remember everything he sees and hears, and Misora Haruki (Yuina Kuroshima), who can turn back time or reset for a maximum of three days. They are members of the Service Club, the administration bureau that monitors people’s powers to maintain the peace in town.

Under the English title, Sagrada Reset, Part 1 will be released on March 25, 2017 while Part 2 will be on May 13, 2017.

7. Policeman And Me

  • Release date: 25 March 2017
  • Director: Ryuichi Hiroki
  • Cast: Kazuya Kamenashi, Tao Tsuchiya, Mahiro Takasugi

The shoujo manga, P to KJ (by Maki Miyoshi) centers on Kako Motoya (Tsuchiya Tao), who pretends to be a university student and attends a group date where she meets policeman Kota Sagano (Kamenashi Kazuya). They become attracted to each other, but things change when Kota learns that Kako is still in high school. Despite their age gap, they decide to get married in secret, keeping it under wraps until Kako graduates.

8. ReLIFE

  • Release date: 15 April 2017
  • Director: Takeshi Furusawa
  • Cast: Taishi Nakagawa, Yûna Taira, Mahiro Takasugi

Taishi Nakagawa leads another live-action film. This time, he plays a 27-year-old unemployed man who agrees to be a part of a scientific experiment that makes him 10 years younger. The ReLIFE project sends him back to high school where he meets and falls in love with his classmate, Chizuru Hishiro (Yuna Taira).

9. Teiichi: Battle Of Supreme High

  • Release date: 29 April 2017
  • Director: Akira Nagai
  • Cast: Masaki Suda, Yûdai Chiba, Shôtarô Mamiya

There is no stopping the skyrocketing career of Masaki Suda, who had nine films last year and is also playing a major supporting character in Gintama live-action this year. As Teichii Akaba, he dreams to become a prime minister in the future. For now, he must do everything in his power to win their prestigious school’s Student Council presidential election, including sucking up to his senpai (thus, the shoe licking in the movie poster).

Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High is directed by If Cats Disappear from The World director, Akira Nagai.

10. Blade Of The Immortal

‘Blade Of The Immortal’ [Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Release date: 29 April 2017
  • Director: Takashi Miike
  • Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sôta Fukushi

Japanese icon Kimura Takuya and prolific auteur Takashi Miike work together for the first time on this film. Kimura Takuya plays Manji, a samurai who is cursed with sacred bloodworms. To regain his mortality, he vows to kill 1,000 evil men. He then meets Rin Asano, a massacre survivor who hires him as a bodyguard on her quest for revenge on the group of swordsmen called Itto Ryu led by Kagehisa Anotsu. This is Sota Fukushi’s first villain role.

11. Peach Girl

‘Peach Girl’ [Credit: Shochiku]
  • Release date: 2 May 2017
  • Director: Kôji Shintoku
  • Cast: Mizuki Yamamoto, Kei Inoo, Mackenyu

Mizuki Yamamoto is Momo Adachi, a member of the high school swimming team. She is often stereotyped as promiscuous due to her ganguro look: tanned skin and bleached hair. In reality, she is actually shy, insecure and conflicted with her feelings over Toji (Mackenyu) and Kairi (Kei Inoo).

12. Gintama

  • Release date: 14 July 2017
  • Director: Yûichi Fukuda
  • Cast: Shun Oguri, Masaki Suda, Kanna Hashimoto

One of Japan’s favorite leading men, Oguri Shun plays eccentric, laid-back, and Weekly Shōnen Jump-obssessed, samurai Gintoki Sakata. The story is set in an alternate world of the late-Edo period where humans are ruled by aliens after a shogun’s betrayal made the government powerless. The reference-filled comedy features Gintoki’s adventures and alien encounters as he does various freelance odd jobs together with his friends Shinpachi Shimura (Masaki Suda) and Kagura (Kanna Hashimoto).

Gintama is an episodic series, but it seems that the live-action will focus on one of its majors arcs — the Benizakura Arc. The film is directed by Yuichi Fukuda, who has collaborated with Oguri Shun in the drama Tokyo Dogs and the movie adaptation of Hentai Kamen.

13. Tokyo Ghoul

  • Release date: 29 July 2017
  • Director: Kentarô Hagiwara
  • Cast: Masataka Kubota, Fumika Shimizu, Yu Aoi

After successfully bringing Yagami Light to life in the 2015 Death Note series, Masataka Kubota plays another psychologically unstable character. Kaneki Ken is just an ordinary student who transforms into a half-ghoul after undergoing a surgery that transplanted ghoul organs into his body. He stays at a cafe called Anteiku with ghouls who help him adjust to his new life while he tries to suppress his ghoulish tendencies and cling to his human side.

14. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable

  • Release date: 4 August 2017
  • Director: Takashi Miike
  • Cast: Yamazaki Kento, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Nana Komatsu

Diamond is Unbreakable is the fourth arc of the epic saga that is Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The story is set in the fictional world of Morioh. Yamazaki Kento plays Higashikata Josuke, the illegitimate son of Joseph Joestar. He uses a Crazy Diamond Stand that has the power to restore objects to their original form. He has an amiable personality but prepare to get hurt if you insult his well-maintained pompadour. His friend, Hirose Koichi, gains a sound effect Stand called Echoes. Together with Josuke’s older nephew, Jotaro Kujo, who is in search of a powerful bow and arrow, they protect Morioh from some crazy and evil Stand users.

Takashi Miike and popular actors Yamazaki Kento, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Yusuke Iseya, Komatsu Nana, Takayuki Yamada, Masaki Okada, and Mackenyu are all involved in this film. However, even with a famous director and a talented cast, adapting one of the best selling manga series in history is such an ambitious move.

15. Ajin

Ajin: Demi-Human
  • Release date: 30 September 2017
  • Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro
  • Cast: Sato Takeru, Gô Ayano, Tetsuji Tamayama

Sato Takeru leads another highly anticipated action-packed film, but unlike Rurouni Kenshin and Bakuman, Ajin:Demi Human is an underrated manga. He plays Nagai Kei, a medical intern who discovers that he is an ajin after surviving unscathed a traffic accident that would have killed an ordinary human. The immortal ajins are being captured and locked up in a research facility as subjects for painful experiments. With a price on his head, Kei has no choice but to make a run for it. He does, however, feel the need to return and help humans stop a vicious ajin named Sato from executing acts of terrorism in a plot to take over the country.

16. The Disastrous Life Of Saiki K

  • Release date: 21 October 2017
  • Director: Yuichi Fukuda
  • Cast: Yamazaki Kento, Hirofumi Arai, Yoshizawa Ryo

Regarded as the prince of live-action, Yamazaki Kento stars in this movie based on a gag manga as the pink-haired, expressionless student Saiki Kusuo, who can literally control the world if he wants to. The title, Saiki K, is a play on “psychic.” He doesn’t speak using his voice. Instead, he projects his words via telepathy into the mind of the other person. Thanks to his antenna-like limiters, he can keep all his ESP-related superpowers in check. This guy who’s addicted to coffee jelly and TV drama tries to live a normal life but in spite of his attempts to keep his abilities a secret, his eccentric classmates and their hilarious school hijinks won’t allow him to do so.

The film is directed by Gintama director Yuichi Fukuda, who is known for his fourth wall-breaking comedies. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K released a teaser featuring Yamazaki Kento as he speaks to the audience and pokes fun at himself to demonstrate his ability to read people’s minds.

17. Fullmetal Alchemist

  • Release date: 1 December 2017
  • Director: Fumihiko Sori
  • Cast: Ryôsuke Yamada, Tsubasa Honda, Dean Fujioka

Hey! Say! JUMP’s Ryosuke Yamada dons long, blond, braided hair to play Edward Elric. Set in the fictional country of Amestris, Edward and his brother Alphonse performs alchemy to revive their dead mother. After attempting this taboo practice, Edward loses a limb and Alphonse loses his whole body. The story follows the brothers’ adventures as they set out on a journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone, which is believed to have the power to bring back what they have lost.

2016 was a mediocre year for Japanese live-action films. There was box-office success for Oguri Shun’s Nobunaga Concertoand Ryosuke Yamada’s Assassination Classroom: Graduation. The films Wolf Girl and Black Prince and Drowning Lovegarnered the support of shoujo fans. On the other hand, we also witnessed the travesty that is Terra Formars, the underwhelming Death Note: Light up the NEW World, and the flop remake of MARS.

2017 has a stronger lineup and reliable lead actors. With action-adventure, comedy, historical, romcoms, sports, and supernatural, this year’s selection offers a variety of genre that caters to a wide range of audience.

Regardless of the outcome, I am totally hyped about Tokyo Ghoul and Ajin, featuring two of my favorite live-action heroes — Masataka Kubota and Sato Takeru — both playing physically strong but mentally scarred characters.

How about you: Which live-action movie are you most excited to see?

世界から猫が消えたなら (If Cats Disappeared From the World)

If Cats Disappeared from the World is based on Sekai Kara Neko ga Kieta Nara, the first published novel of film producer Genki Kawamura. Cat people will probably go berserk if they see the title but don’t worry, no cats were harmed in the making of this movie. Lead actor Sato Takeru is a big time cat lover in real life, too.

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Just three minutes into this Akira Nagai-directed film and I’m already in love with its cinematography.

Shot in Hakodate (Hokkaido, Japan), Sato Takeru plays a 30-something postman who has just found out that he has an incurable brain disease that leaves him with only a few more days to live. Frightened and devastated, he comes home to what should have been an empty room but instead, there sits his doppelganger who claims to be the devil and offers him a deal that he just can’t resist.

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With a cheeky grin, the devil breaks the news that the postman will die tomorrow. BUT! If he agrees to obliterate something from the world, one at a time, then his life will automatically be extended for another 24 hours. I laughed out loud at the parsley response. The removing-of-the-parsley-from-the-omurice scene is necessary after all. However, the choice is not up to him. The devil is after more important things. It turns out that each item that the devil wants to get rid of has a strong connection to someone who is close to the postman: his ex-girlfriend (Aoi Miyazaki) , his best friend (Gaku Hamada), his father (Eiji Okuda), and his mother (Mieko Harada).

And so the film poses the question, “Is it worth losing all these for the sake of keeping yourself alive for another day?”

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The whole narrative seems corny and gimmicky and I was worried that this is going to end up like the underwhelming Real Kanzen naru Kubinagaryu no Hi, Sato Takeru’s 2013 sci-fi movie with Ayase Haruka). Even though both movies totally defy one’s logic, Cats is nothing like Real. Director Akira Nagai successfully presented strong fantasy elements layered with metaphors through picturesque rural backdrop, intense vanishing sequences, and dramatic shots from Argentina featuring the Iguazu Falls.

It’s an exquisite film but aside from the fantastic visuals, much of the credit for the effectiveness of this kind of storytelling goes to the brilliant performance of its cast especially Sato Takeru and his adorable feline buddy!

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After Rurouni Kenshin, Sato Takeru starred in tearjerker dramas such as Tonbi and Tenno no Ryoriban; and now with If Cats Disappeared From the World, he continues to prove that he is more than just the go-to live-action hero.

If Cats Disappeared From the World is a sentimental fantasy so watch it without expectations that the events that will transpire are going to make sense since deleting the fact that movies and gadgets were ever created will certainly cause a butterfly effect in the world. The point of the film, however, is not how technology has evolved and how things would have changed once we turn back time. Rather it’s more focused on human elements that make us, the audience, reflect on how we view death and how we have been living our lives thus far. And I have to admit, I was left teary-eyed.

バクマン。(Bakuman)

 

 

Bakuman does not have a legendary epic hero like Himura Kenshin or a following as huge as Shingeki no Kyojin, but this manga is made by the creators of the famous Death Note.

In a world where people live to work instead of work to live, Bakuman serves as a reminder for one to acknowledge and realize his/her passion. Moritaka Mashiro (Saiko) is an ordinary student student who doesn’t dream of becoming big someday. He just goes with the flow, following the routine of society. He just wants to graduate and do whatever desk job he ends up with in the future. His life changes when Akito Takagi (Shujin) urges him to create manga together. Fueled by his promise with a long time crush Azuki Miho, as well as the memory of his favorite uncle and famous mangaka Kawaguchi Taro; Saiko agrees to draw Shujin’s storyline.

They eventually find themselves in the Weekly Shonen Jump office to present their creation. They are lucky to meet a good editor named Hattori but the road to being a mangaka is not easy to take and for sure there are adversaries along the way. It’s especially difficult for newbies like them who are up against a young genius named Niizuma Eiji, played by real life acting genius Shota Sometani. Manga-manga is indeed a competitive world and their rivals include the devil-may-care Shinta Fukuda, background expert Nakai Takuro and the funny money-hungry Hiramaru Kazuya.

Bakuman deserves all its rave reviews. I’ve read a few chapters of the manga and saw the anime’s first season. When I heard about the live action plans, I was extremely curious as to how they’d come up with an exciting movie with such storyline. Director Hitoshi One cleverly utilized CG together with the actors’ comic chops and live action experiences. Sato Takeru (Himura Kenshin) , Kamiki Ryunosuke ( Seta Soujiro), Takayuki Yamada (Serizawa Tamao), Kiritani Kenta (Tatsukawa Tokio), Shota Sometani (Shinichi Izumi) and Hirofumi Arai (Uragami): This is Rurouni Kenshin meets Crows Zero meets Parasyte. A dream cast for every live action fan!

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Sato Takeru hits another jackpot with this role after playing the legendary swordsman, Himura Kenshin. I think he’s more suited as a shonen hero instead of a shoujo lead like in Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru. He just keeps getting better at acting and his delivery made everyone in the theater laugh out loudly. He’s not a novice when it comes to comedy since he’s done it in Bitter Blood and a bit in Tenno no Ryoriban but he’s funnier in Bakuman since playing a teenager gives him a reason to let go and do all those over-the-top expressions.

People might say that he looks a bit old for his role but if Oguri Shun can play a high schooler in Nobunaga Concerto, why can’t he? All ink-smeared and sleep derived, once again, Sato Takeru has turned into the hero you’d root for.

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Critics commend Kamiki Ryunosuke for being able to match Takeru’s energy but I think it’s the other way around. Generally, when Kamiki plays supporting roles, it’s the lead who has to keep up with him. He is just naturally good at whatever he does, making him a highly effective deuteragonist. The outcome depends on the lead star’s ability to carry the role.

If the main actor isn’t capable, then he’d crush him with his natural acting abilities in no time. In Kamisama no Iutoori, Fukushi Sota’s lack of expressive eyes allowed Kamiki to steal the spotlight right on the onset. In Bakuman, since he and Takeru have been together in Amuse, are friends in real life, and are equally good actors, they’re able to complement each other and create the same intensity of the bromance in the manga.

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And when you’ve got talented young actors who played skilled swordsmen Himura Kenshin and Seta Soujiro together, going head-to-head against Kiseijuu lead Shinichi Izumi, there’s no way there wouldn’t be a battle scene in this film. This time, instead of swords, they’ve got giant pens spewing ink in manga frames. Definitely an ingenious physical representation of their battle to take the number 1 spot.

I just didn’t like the way the movie turned Niizuma Eiji into a Ei-jerk. He’s my personal favorite and this poll on Bakuman’s wikia site proves that he’s neck and neck with Saiko as most people’s choice.

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From accent to mannerisms, Shota Sometani’s performance was spot on and I love him to bits; but this live action version is a tad manlier and douchier than the childlike and eccentric Eiji. His scenes while drawing with his trademark sound effects in his dark lair were shot with some antagonistic vibes. I felt bad for Saiko when Eiji stepped in to draw the eyes of his own heroine for him. It was condescending when in fact Eiji is supposed to be a fan of Ashirogi Muto (Saiko and Shujin’s pen name). Saiko actually values his opinions and even tried to learn something from him when he agreed to be an assistant for Crow. Even Fukuda recognizes his talent and addresses him as “Master Niizuma”. In the movie, Fukuda called him a brat.

Eiji is originally oblivious towards the other rivals and he actually gets all excited knowing that he’d have same-age “friends” like Saiko and Shujin working together with him while competing against him at Shonen Jump. Eiji’s a weird but adorable character just like L in Death Note. Had his character been developed the exact same way as he was in the manga, Shota Sometani could’ve been remembered as Eiji more than Shinichi just as people will always remember Kenichi Matsuyama as L.

b4.jpgTakayuki Yamada seems overqualified to play Akira Hattori. He’s too good-looking for his role so that’s probably why his version of Hattori is somewhat dorkier than the calm and calculating one in the series.

Despite the limited screen time, he managed to show his versatility in his dramatic scene with Kamiki. Aside from Sion Sono’s Shinjuku Swan, he will also star in a couple more live action movies for next year: Nobunaga Concerto and TerraFormars.

b5Takayuki’s Crows Zero bff Tokio played Fukuda with his usual badass, rockstar aura. If Eiji is like Death Note‘s L, Fukuda is like Mello. They both have the tendency to throw tantrums and resort to violence when things don’t go their way. Kiritani Kenta have always been effortless when it comes to “cool” characters since Beck.  

He’s included in the cast of Too Young to Die! which stars Kamiki Ryunosuke. This upcoming film is written and directed by Kudo Kankuro who’s playing Saiko’s uncle Nobuhiro Mashiro in Bakuman. 

bakuman-movie-poster-and-date-revealed6If there’s one rival who induced laughs in the theater as much as Saiko did, then it’s Hirofumi Arai’s Kazuya Hiramaru. His money obsession and obvious laziness were magnified.

Though he’s also a genius, he is somewhat different from Eiji. Eiji’s been drawing since he was young and hasn’t let go of his pencil since. Kazuya, on the other hand, just happened to pick a manga on the metro and thought he could make a living out of it. 

When it comes to manga, deadline is your worst enemy. The sleepless nights and constant stress could take its toll on one’s health, just as what it did to Saiko’s hardworking uncle. Saiko saw the downside of being a mangaka and in those dark times, Sasaki was his uncle’s editor. Much to Saiko’s annoyance, the latter is now Shonen Jump’s chief editor. The person he blames for his uncle’s death in the past is the same person he needs to impress now.

The film’s weakest point is probably the romantic part. For some reason, when it comes to Sato Takeru’s projects, I’m just not buying the romance. It doesn’t help that even in the original, I am more interested in Shujin and Miyoshi’s love story than Saiko and Azuki’s. 

b2 Nana Komatsu is Miho Azuki, an aspiring seiyuu who works hard to achieve her dream so that she could get to play the heroine’s voice once Saiko and Shujin’s manga gets adapted into an anime. Nana has a mesmerizing presence, it’s quite understandable that Mashiro fell head over heels with her even without the whole childhood sweetheart backstory. However, just like Eiji, Miho’s character also took a different path towards the end.

I never really liked her anyway. I prefer her best friend Miyoshi’s personality. Sadly, this character was written out of the live action.  

The changes in some of the characters’ personalities were quite a a big deal for me and the movie’s ending was a bit anti-climactic when reality sets in after the victory. With the use of an effective video montage storytelling, exquisite artworks, sly humor, manga references, and an energetic soundtrack; the movie sends a strong message in the most entertaining and uplifting way. Who would’ve thought that a slice-of-life could be this lively.

I flew all the way to Singapore to watch this film and just as this review said: Bakuman is worth one’s time and money !

Singapore 2015

A lot of Japanese live-action movies have been released in our local theaters recently. Sato Takeru, Emi Takei, and Munetaka Aoki together with director Keiishi Otomo even came here for Rurouni Kenshin‘s red carpet premiere. Bakuman live-action is top billed by two of the most popular Amuse actors who also played significant roles in the Rurouni Kenshin films so I was expecting that Bakuman would also be shown in my country this year. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the announcement for its screening schedule but unfortunately, there’s none.

I rarely do fangirl stuff, but when I do, I do it big time.

When the official Amuse page announced that Bakuman (English subbed) will be released on November 19, 2015 in Singapore, I booked a flight on a whim. Due to the APEC summit, there was a no-fly zone all over our airports for a week. I had to wait another week to avoid the hassle and to manage my own work schedule. I expected that the movie would at least run in cinemas for two weeks so imagine the devastation when I checked the Golden Village site on the day of my flight and not find it on the movie schedule. The last screening was at 9:20 PM on November 25. My flight’s at 8:30 PM. I arrived at Changi Airport at 12:05 AM, November 26! I was like a walking zombie, unable to grasp the whole situation and regretting the fact that I didn’t choose a flight schedule at least a day earlier. Luckily, when I refreshed a page from an unofficial site, a recently updated screening schedule suddenly appeared: One day. One theater. One screen time.

My friend and I stayed at the airport until the trains started operating. And then we checked in early at our accommodation and rushed to Plaza Singapura for the one and only 12:20 PM screening. I can’t believe I did all these just for one movie.

Amuse Trifecta

My Bloody Monday boys: Fujimaru, Otoya and Hornet. It’s been around 6 or 7 years since that drama came out and these 3 just keep on getting the role of their lives and expanding their international success.

I’ve just finished watching Gakkou No Kaidan. I think it’s just an average high school drama made special by Kamiki Ryunosuke’s performance. It started off interesting as Hirosue Suzu plays a Tsukushi Makino-like character. She plays Tsubame,a special program student gets elected as the Student Council President so that the group of spoiled rich brats called Platinum 8 can bully her even more. Their plan backfires when Shuzukui Kei enters the picture and gives Tsubame the power of speech to turn things around. The premise was interesting,it’s just that,the long and dramatic speeches could get a bit too cheesy. Nevertheless, Kamiki Ryunosuke stole the show.

He showed off his trademark “unconscious acting” once again and gave a stellar performance as the diabolical genius speechwriter determined to get his revenge. He goes over-the-top encouraging and funny then devious and enraged and occasionally sweet… his body,restricted by a wheel chair,won’t allow him to physically act out his emotions, but all of them conveyed flawlessly through his expressive eyes and voice (coz he’s a damn awesome seiyuu).

This isn’t the first time he played cray and we all know how brilliant he is when it comes to conflicted characters such as Hornet,Ninomae Juuichi and of course, Seta Sojiro. Sojiro may not be the lead character in the Rurouni Kenshin series but he stands out among Kenshin’s rivals the same way Kamiki does whenever he gets supporting roles in movies and dramas. He is phenomenal when he gets the lead roles but he still gets critical acclaims and audience’s attention for supporting roles and even cameos. He plays a villain so well, he’d make you want to cheer for the bad guy. Surely,there are no small parts for a young man with such massive natural acting talent like him. I’m looking forward to Bakuman’s live action adaptation wherein he stars alongside Kenshin himself,Sato Takeru.

It’s only been a few days since Takeru’s 26th birthday. He probably never would’ve thought that at this age,he’d already become a huge international star. A movie franchise with a legendary character and a solid following has skyrocketed his career,and he totally deserves it for being passionate about the role,doing his own stunts and all.

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The future looks bright and Takeru doesn’t show any signs of fatigue. Right after Rurouni Kenshin Densetsuno Saigo Hen,he went back to the small screen as the cute,dorky,rookie policeman,Sahara Natsuki in Bitter Blood.

This year,he didn’t even have time to receive his Best Action Actor Award for Rurouni Kenshin as he was filming his latest drama,Tenno no Ryoriban where he plays a chef for the Emperor in the Imperial household and as mentioned,the release of Bakuman live action TBA.

Not to be left behind is his Amuse bff with an equally huge fandom. His other half. The H in HT.

The romantic lead material,Miura Haruma is out to reclaim his spot on top.

With the release of his Chinese movie Five Minutes to Tomorrow and the upcoming Shingeki no Kyojin live action movie, Bloody Monday’s “Falcon” continues to soar high in overseas stardom. It was totally unexpected when the casting news for SnK came out since if canon, Mikasa should’ve been the only Asian in the group. There’s still a lot of hate from hardcore fans but obviously the live action movie would not be completely faithful to its written source. Huge risk! I’ve read the manga and watched the anime.My only complaint is that there’ll be no Levi. Oh well he’s too badass to be true anyway.  The movie has just released its trailer and it’s just as dark as I expected. Hopefully, they’d focus on the theme more than CG.

If done right ,this would put Miura Haruma on the same height as Sato Takeru’s Kenshin Himura international fame so Please. be. good.

るろうに剣心 伝説の最期編 (Rurouni Kenshin Densetsu no Saigo hen)

Due to the number of positive reviews for Densetsu no Saigo hen, I can’t help but set some high expectations for the trilogy’s final installment. I ended up having mixed feelings about the movie.

SATO TAKERU

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Sato Takeru is definitely one of the reasons why the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy will go down as one of the best adaptations in live-action history. Who would’ve thought that this skinny swordsman from Ryomaden would end up playing one of my dearest and one of the greatest childhood anime heroes. He wasn’t kidding when he said he gave his 110% in this movie. I certainly saw it in his eyes flooded with tears as he fought passionately, covered in dirt and bathed in blood.

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With Director Keishi Otomo, Sato Takeru, Aoki Munetaka, Yu Aoi, Yusuke Iseya, Min Tanaka, and Tsuchiya Tao already onboard, a Ryomaden reunion will not be complete without Ryoma himself. And the perfect character was just waiting for him to take it. The huge star, popular heartthrob, and Takeru’s real-life senpai, Fukuyama Masaharu, is aptly playing Hiko Seijuro XIII who is technically the strongest man in the Rurouni Kenshin universe. We got a few good scenes to build up his character but he ended up quite bland because of the lack of the original character’s dry humor.

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The movie opened with a flashback of Hiko Seijuro and young Shinta. It was a clever introduction for Hiko to find Kenshin unconscious on the shore mirroring their first meeting when he found him burying dead bodies from the massacre the night before. I prefer the latter, the original story, wherein Kenshin intentionally searched for him. When he sought for Arai Shakku’s sword and his master’s guidance, it meant that he has a plan. He knew what he needed to accomplish his mission. However, in the movie, these events are purely coincidental.

HISTORY AND POLITICS OVERLOAD

Rurouni Kenshin is filled with political conflicts as it is set in the Bakumatsu towards the Meiji era. That’s what made it a rich, dark, and compelling manga with so many layered characters.

As a movie meant for international release, it shouldn’t have been written under the assumption that everyone in the audience knows about Kenshin’s story and has a bit of a background in Japanese history.
“Who’s Perry?”, my brother asked. I had to explain a bit of the Bakumatsu: the Ishin shishi vs. The Shinsengumi, the arrival of Commodore Perry and the black ships and why it was so wrong that the film allowed Shishio to arrive in town, aboard the Rengoku. The first two movies were already hard to explain to non-RK fans, this one would probably cause some nosebleed.(^་།^)

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

Kyoto Taika Hen focused on Kenshin’s shaky walk between the borders of being a hitokiri and a wanderer, Densetsu no Saigo hen concentrated on the value of one’s own life. The sad thing is that while Kenshin was given a huge amount of time to grow, the other characters remained stagnant and/or even reduced.

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Kaoru turned into this helpless girl who had nothing to do but long for Kenshin’s return. Originally, she didn’t waste her Kamiya kasshin techniques as she joined forces with the Oniwabanshu against Shishio’s troops in Kyoto. I was waiting for the ultimate catfight when Kaoru and Misao came face-to-face with Juppongatana’s Kamatari but it didn’t happen since Kaoru is too busy missing Kenshin.

Sano isn’t the type who’d stay still especially when it seems that Kenshin and Kaoru are in trouble but instead of doing something, he stayed with Yahiko and wasted time when he should’ve been learning the Futae no Kiwami. I understand that the movie doesn’t have enough time to show his development but they could’ve just made it look like he disappeared for a while, had some training, and came back as a stronger man.

Yahiko, as I’ve mentioned in my previous review, should’ve had his moments to shine. He is after all a legit samurai and the future heir of Kamiya Kasshin and Sakabatou. He lost another chance to show what he’s got since he was glued to the endlessly yearning lovestruck Kaoru instead of fighting against Henya of the Juppongatana.

I’m still disappointed that the film chose the perfect actor for Saito but fails to show why this character is such charismatic one. When Shishio ordered the new government to execute Kenshin in public, Saito isn’t the kind of character who would put up with such nonsense. Aku.Soku.Zan! He would’ve wiped them all out if the officials carried out such injustice. Eguchi Yosuke plays Saito but most of the time, we get to see his alter ego, Goro Fujita, instead. Well at least, we got to see his famous Gatotsu again. Usui is a menacing character but the Gatotsu finished him off in a second. Literally.

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I miss the highly respectable, swoonworthy, stoic but caring, Oniwabanshu okashira.
I was waiting for a change of heart but he was still driven by thirst for revenge even when he fought on Kenshin’s side against Shishio. It’s tiring to watch a character who doesn’t show any remorse. I couldn’t blame Misao for losing her temper at some point because Aoshi allowed himself to sink so low to the point of no salvation.

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The Juppongatana was nothing but a spectacular cosplay. Their powers were not fully utilized and the reasons why key members like Hoji,Soujiro, and Yumi joined Shishio were just explained in passing.

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Kamiki Ryunosuke was born to play Soujiro Seta. Soujiro is like Kenshin’s evil child counterpart. Both physically gentle and effeminate,they grew up in a world filled with violence and were saved by powerful mentors. He proved to be Kenshin’s equal in speed and sword technique and Kamiki’s acting abilities surfaced once again when he went cray but the implication of Kenshin’s philosophy against his was so abruptly done, removing the pathos and justification of his breakdown. If his “The strong shall live and the weak shall die.” motto was already included when he first fought Kenshin in Shingetsu village, their emotional connection would have been more firmly established.

Meanwhile, Shishio Makoto escalated into an all-powerful,almost invincible monster who could crush a team of formidable fighters. Even though it was made clear why in his condition he was only given a 15-minute limit for battle, the source of the fire from his sword was not explained.

Aside from lack of development, there was also a lack of connection. Aoshi kept challenging Kenshin for a fight even though the latter wasn’t even involved in his past. Sano fought Anji without the emotional pressure of attacking the one who actually taught him his fist technique. When Shishio fought with Sano, he was like,“Who are you?”, but then he just kept on pounding him to a bloody pulp.

Aoshi’s Oniwabanshu, Saito’s Shinsengumi, Sano’s Sekihoutai, Kenshin’s Ishin shishi -they were warriors fighting for their own respective factions then, and for principles they live to uphold now. They fought for different reasons but they acknowledge and respect each other’s philosophies and strength. The admiration they have for one another was missing in the movie since the characters barely know each other.

BONDS

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One of the endearing themes I enjoyed about Kyoto arc, which sadly wasn’t totally emphasized in the film, is the strong teacher-student ties. Shishio and Soujiro’s relationship is parallel to Hiko and Kenshin’s. This senior/father/teacher-figure arrived in their lives at the very moment when they needed someone to help them the most. It’s the same with Misao who looked up to Aoshi all her life and Sano who respected Anji so much.

PLOT HOLES

Densetsu no Saigo Hen has many non-canon scenes that placed fans and non-RK fans on equal footing. I appreciate the movie staying faithful to the manga’s central theme but problems come along once you deviate from the original story. Altering events and sequences mean that the characters’ feelings would be different as well. When Kenshin woke up and was hit by the reality of possibly losing Kaoru, of course, he was upset but it didn’t bother him as much as it did in Jinchuu arc. He’s the kind who goes berserk when someone lays a finger on Kaoru. Instead, he remained focused on the task of defeating Shishio by learning his master’s ultimate technique. Like he just assumed that she’s alive somewhere.

I also don’t understand Kenshin’s public parade and execution. It was such an illogical move to make the execution public when in the first place, the government’s concern was to save face and keep it under wraps that Shishio has been controlling them.

And then there was Kenshin’s sudden appearance at the Kamiya dojo. It just didn’t make sense that he had time to come back just to get into his signature red garb for the sake of inserting an appearance by Megumi. If it were so easy to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo and vice versa then what’s the point of a dramatic goodbye.What’s the point of leaving for Kyoto when the final battle would take place in Tokyo anyway?

IMBALANCE

There was too much talk in the first hour of the film and too little on the second. There was enough electrifying action but too little humor. There could have been a lot of comedic sources aside from Sano’s antics like Hiko’s actual personality-being a condescending apathetic mentor with a kind heart. I can’t forget the way he narrates the story about Kenshin wetting his bed deadpan. Old grandpa Okina has a funny side and Oniwabanshu has a stupid member like Owanbu.

The scenes which I thought unnecessary were prolonged. Does Hoji really have to read the names of the retainers the Battousai has killed? One by one, really?? While the things I deemed essential were overlooked; like,the fact that passing on the final technique of the Hiten Mitsurugi style would cost your sensei’s life, or if you fail, your own.

FINAL SHOWDOWN

The moment everyone’s waiting for was the exhilarating action sequence that kept me on the edge of my seat. Finally, the movie’s highlight and probably the sole reason I’d be willing to excuse Aoshi’s existence: The 4 vs.1 final battle that took place in the Rengoku that didn’t sink til the last minute.

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If you blink or look away, you might miss Takeru’s breakdancing moves incorporated in sword fights and, of course, the flawless execution of the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki. It all happened too fast though. Non-RK fans would probably not be able to marvel at the magnificence of this technique and the only thing they’d remember is that Shishio died of literal self-destruction.

THE NEW AGE

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I couldn’t guess how this is going to end since the original Kyoto arc ending was already used in the 2012 movie.

Kenshin and Kaoru were totally bringing on the pretty and the chemistry on screen. I love the symbolism of a new beginning. The romance is subtle and heartfelt. It’s just not as impactful as the Okairi- Taidama ending.

HEARTACHE

One Ok Rock’s song befits the film’s dramatic finish. It’s a bittersweet moment, leaving the theater both happy about impressive adaptations but sad that they’ve come to an end.