Rurouni Kenshin (Ruroni Kenshin: Meiji kenkaku roman tan) (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 13-Mar-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Featurette-Making Of-(19:28)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye trailers x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 134:17
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Keishi Ohtomo

Madman Entertainment
Starring Emi Takei
Takeru Sato
Yû Aoi
Teruyuki Kagawa
Yôsuke Eguchi
Munetaka Aoki
Kôji Kikkawa
Taketo Tanaka
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Naoki Sato

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Japanese Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Japan 1868: it is the last days of the Shogun and the start of the Meiji Restoration that brought Japan into the modern era. Fighting for the Emperor is the efficient and deadly assassin Battosai (Takeru Sato) who kills so that the bloodshed might end, and Japan enjoy peace. At the Battle of Toba-Fushimi the Emperor’s forces are successful. Battosai vows never to kill again, and disappears.

     Ten years later Japan is at peace and rapidly modernising. Battosai, now calling himself Kenshin Himura, is a lone wanderer, aiding people who cannot protect themselves. He carries a sword, but the sharp edge is on the inside, the outside is blunt so that he can maintain his vow not to kill. But the peace for Japan has brought unexpected consequences; gone are the samurai but in their place peace has brought evil businessmen such as Kanryu Takeda (Teruyuki Kagawa). With the unwilling help of the beautiful doctor and chemist Megumi (Yu Aoi) Kanryu has developed a very potent and addictive strain of opium and with the money he makes Kanryu buys modern weapons and expands his landholdings while recruiting starving ex-samurai to enforce his will. One business he wants to buy is the Kamiya Dojo, run by Kaoru (Emi Takei) after her father’s death, but she refuses to sell. Kaoru is put under pressure by the activities of a man calling himself Battosai, who claims to be from the Kamiya Dojo and is killing government officials. In reality, he works for Kanryu. When Kanryu sends a group of thugs to terrorise Kaoru, Kenshin helps her and easily defeats the thugs without drawing his sword.

     Megumi, meanwhile, has escaped from Kanryu. She seeks shelter at the Kamiya Dojo where she joins Kenshin, Kaoru, the urchin Yahiko (Taketo Tanaka) and street fighter Sanosuke (Munetaka Aoki) in providing medical assistance to the local people. But when Migumi’s whereabouts are discovered by Kanryu, the stage is set for a showdown. And in the end Kenshin must face his alter-ego, the false Battosai, and discover just how difficult his vow not to kill becomes when those he cares for are in mortal danger.

     Rurouni Kenshin was first a manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki that commenced in 1994 and ran until 1999 completing 28 volumes. From 1996 to 1998 an anime series aired on Japanese TV and various DVD releases of that series are still available. The adventures of Kenshin have also been chronicled in an animated feature film, 2 series of OVAs, (which appeared under the title of Samurai X in the US), novels and numerous video games, so it was about time for a live action feature. Apparently this film follows the first two arcs of the manga and anime. Fans of the series have been positive about this live action feature, but how successful is it as a stand-alone film for viewers unfamiliar with the source material? The answer is that Rurouni Kenshin (Japanese title Ruroni Kenshin: Meiji kenkaku roman tan) is a spectacular, exciting historical action adventure in its own right, one of the best for some time.

     This is how historical action adventure should be done and in Rurouni Kenshin director Keishi Ohtomo (principally a TV director) gets most things right. The set design is spectacular and opulent, with the interiors of Kanryu’s mansion intricately detailed while the outside set with its streets and canal are beautiful to look at. The action and stunts are exhilarating and innovative, forgoing CGI enhancements in the main for wire work and old fashioned athleticism. The fight sequences include a full on battle scene in the snow with canons and explosions, one-on-one duels using swords and fists, a machinegun and a marvellous, funny sequence between Kenshin and Sanosuke that includes a pole vault over a canal. Baby faced Takeru Sato is fabulous; he looks great and is genuinely athletic in the action scenes but he can play humorous as well, and his scenes with Emi Takei are delightful. Indeed, most of the cast are very good, including Yosuke Eguchi as an old enemy of Battosai turned police officer, Koji Kikkawa as the deadly pretend Battosai and Teruyuki Kagawa as the totally over the top villain. In most things, the bad guys have all the fun, and Kagawa seems to be having a ball.

     Yet Rurouni Kenshin is far more than spectacular action sequences. It retains throughout a sense of humour and a light hearted touch yet raises questions about the use of violence to protect society: is it possible to protect the defenceless and innocent from those who enjoy killing without killing yourself? It features likeable people we care about, looks wonderful and is very entertaining. A quote on the Blu-ray cover from the Kotaku site states: “Rurouni Kenshin may be the single best Japanese live-action adaptation I have ever seen”. I would say that Rurouni Kenshin in its own right as a standalone film is one of the best, most interesting and entertaining historical action film I have seen for quite some time.

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Transfer Quality


    Rurouni Kenshin is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Like many recent films, Rurouni Kenshin has been shot using digital cameras, in this case Red Epic and Red One. The footage has also been colour manipulated giving a rather harsh and unnatural colour tone to some scenes, such as the blue palate in the opening battle in the snow. Many of the later scenes evince a yellow/brown tint, but on other occasions, especially in outdoor sequences, the colours are vibrant. Close up detail is wonderful but many of the backgrounds have a hazy look. I don’t believe this is the authoring of the Blu-ray, but the way the film was intended to look. Skin tones do look brownish, but blacks are rock solid, shadow detail good, brightness and contrast consistent.

     Other than slight ghosting with movement in front of mottled surfaces, the print is artefact free.

     English subtitles are provided in a clear yellow font in American English. I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.

     A sometimes spectacular print that has been manipulated, creating a somewhat hazy appearance.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a choice of Japanese DTS-MA HD 5.1 or Japanese LPCM 2.0 at 1536 Kbps. I listened to the DTS audio.

     The dialogue is clear but sometimes seemed to be quite soft in the mix. This is not a problem for those listening with the subtitles enabled, but may be an issue for Japanese speakers. The rest of the sound stage is a constant barrage of music and sound: gunshots, explosions, swords clash, punches connect but outside the action there is frequent ambient sound, weather effects such as thunder and rain, and some panning effects. The subwoofer provides good support as well to the thunder and explosions.

     The music by Naoki Sato, who also scored Space Battleship Yamato (2010), is epic and expansive, greatly adding to the enjoyment of the film. At times it sounded almost Hans Zimmerish, which is not a bad thing.

     Lip synchronisation fine.

     A nice enveloping audio track, enhancing the visuals.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Making Of (19:28)

     This featurette is exclusively behind the scenes footage without captions, narration or interviews. However, it is quite interesting and one of the better “making of” of this type I have seen; we get a look at the filming the opening battle, other fight scenes including wire work, the director giving instruction to actors, rehearsals and the goodbyes. There are burnt in yellow subtitles for the Japanese language on set.

Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

Eastern Eye Trailers (7:38)

     Trailers for other films from Madman: The Thieves, Space Battleship Yamato, Gantz 2: Perfect Answer and The Front Line.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There are no current releases of Rurouni Kenshin in either Region A US or Region B UK. There are two Region All Japanese Blu-ray releases, a deluxe and a normal version; the deluxe is a two Blu-ray set that includes a cast and crew commentary, interviews and featurettes but neither the feature nor extras are subtitled. The only other release at the moment is a Region A Hong Kong version that has English subtitles and a Cantonese audio track. There is no listing of extras, and the aspect ratio of this release is given as 1.78:1, not the correct ratio, although I cannot confirm if this listing is correct. For English speakers, our Australian release is the best option.


     Originally a manga, then a long running anime series, Rurouni Kenshin is a wonderful, spectacular, exciting historical action adventure in its own right. If you are a fan of the manga or anime, you should like this. If you are someone who likes martial arts or historical epics done well, Rurouni Kenshin is one of the best, most interesting and entertaining action films for quite some time. I loved it.

     The video has been manipulated but mostly looks spectacular, the audio is very good. The making of is good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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