Lupin III isn’t the only anime character coming to life on the big screen this summer. Building off the success of the first live-action adaptation of comic artist Nobuhiro Watasuki’s immensely popular tale of samurai redemption, the cast of Rurouni Kenshin returns for not one, but two sequels before the leaves change color in the fall.
Releasing two films in such rapid succession is a bold move, but if this newly released trailer is anything to judge by, the producers’ confidence isn’t misplaced.
Most live-action versions of popular anime are met with a lukewarm reception, failing to leave much in the way of a lasting impression on either audiences or studio investors. The 2012 Rurouni Kenshin film was an exception though, and a pair of follow-up films were quickly green-lit.
Takeru Sato reprises his role as the physically and emotionally scarred Kenshin Himura. Once a feared warrior, the many lives Kenshin has taken prior to the story’s opening weigh heavy on his soul, leading him to vow never to kill again.
▼ Is this a flashback, or has Kenshin been picking at his iconic scar?
Kenshin’s commitment to non-lethal force often puts him in a difficult position, especially when he’s up against foes as bloodthirsty as Makoto Shishio, covered in bandages and portrayed by actor Tatsuya Fujiwara. Fujiwara is no stranger to the world of anime, having starred in live-action versions of supernatural thriller Death Note and gambling saga Kaiji, and also voiced a character in Studio Ghibli’s animated The Secret World of Arrietty.
Making things even harder for our hero is the second major foe he’ll face off against, the cold and cunning Aoshi Shinomori. Stepping into the role is Yusuke Iseya, whose live-action anime film career includes appearances in Kaiji 2, boxing story Ashita no Joe, and coming of age film Honey and Clover.
A new trailer for the two upcoming films has been released, which shows off all three of these skilled swordsmen.
Even with a run time of just two minutes, the film checks all the boxes for the things that made the anime a hit with such a wide cross section of fans. There’s action….
…and even a driving rock anthem. Just as they did for the first Rurouni Kenshin film in 2012, the band One Ok Rock provides the theme song, “Mighty Long Fall,” which the two sequels share.
“Everything about these movies is bigger and more action-packed than the first time around,” says vocalist Taka, “so we had to do the same with our music.”
He’s not kidding about the bigger scale. The battleship seen late in the trailer, the Rengoku, was a massive set measuring 20 meters (65 feet, 7 inches) across and 120 meters from stem to stern which took the crew five months to plan and build.
The visuals in general seem to have more detail than in Kenshin’s first outing, as several scenes are filled with rich colors.
If there’s one complaint that can be leveled against the trailer, it’s that after doing such a good job of building excitement and tension, it ends with an ad not only for advance tickets, but for the decidedly cute yet silly Rurouni Kenshin Kumamon straps that can be bought with them.
▼ We have to admit, though, we do kind of want one.
The first of the two sequels, Rurouni Kenshin: The Great Kyoto Fire, hits theatres on August 1. The second, Rurouni Kenshin: The Death of a Legend, is scheduled for release on September 13.