Live action versions of anime have a long and storied history, a bad one. Leaving aside big blockbuster adaptions of cartoons like Transformers and GI Joe, most live action anime fails to capture what we love about the show, either by cramming too much or too little into the time frame, choosing poor actors, special effects that don’t live up to what they were able to achieve with animated cells, or dreaded things like the Bleach Musical.
That said, this trailer does show some promise that the movie might be at least as good as the live action Blood: The Last Vampire, which while not excellent, at least captured some of the OVAs spirit. So in the spirit of “Let’s Rush To Judgment” I thought I’d give you some of my impressions:
1) It’s a little weird seeing Kenshin look … well … Japanese – It totally make sense that the cast would be of Chinese or Japanese descent, given that this is a product not only of their pop-culture, but their history as well. But anyone who has watched anime for a while knows that many of the characters look … well … American. Certainly a long shock of red hair on the character wouldn’t look natural on this actor, and I’m glad that it seems they have muted this considerably.
2) Where’s Yahiko? – Even with a lot of fast cuts, this movie shows a lot of characters that would be instantly recognizeable to fans of the Manga or Anime, except one, the young Samurai brat Yahiko. I’m sure some people will be bummed by his absence, but given the arc this movie seems to cover, it would over complicate things to include him. I think this is a good decision. The tone of this movie seems a little serious minded, and Yahiko’s presence in the early arcs was largely for comic relief. A good Kenshin will accomplish enough of this on his own without needing a little sidekick. And Sagara’s there so Kenshin still has an ally / adversary to play against.
3) We’re covering a lot of ground – The presence of the Gatling gun means we’re probably going at least through the Oniwabanshu arc, which concludes at the end of Volume 4 of the Manga. The prescence of a Megumi looking woman seems to confirm this, as her arc takes the bulk of Volumes 3 and 4. But Kaoru screaming at the end seems to be from the when Udo Jin-e captures her in Volume 2 and tries to bring out the killer in Kenshin. In the Manga these are two separate story arcs, and I’m not sure how the movie will treat them. I have a feeling there will be some blending going on, which might result in the elimination of the Aoshi character altogether, or making him Kenshin’s adversary in some other way, possibly resulting in his death which would significantly change canon. Okay, this is a lot of speculation, but given the elements we’re seeing, some kind of blending has to be going on. Thankfully, they at least seem to be getting rid of the stupid fake Battosai from the opening arc. If he really turned out to be Jin-e, I’d be okay with that.
4) Oro sounds weird coming out of a person – He says it, at least twice in the trailer, though both times it seems like its out if sync. That said, this is a defining character trait of Kenshin, and would be missed if not there.
5) The scar is exaggerated – If you think about the actual injury, maybe not, but it does stick out at moments.
6) Action is a little frantic – One of the fun parts of the anime in particular was getting inside Kenshin’s head. His finishing moves were always well laid out, often his opponent thought he recognized the move, but then Kenshin would throw in a little surprise. One of the first I remember of these was him using the sheath of his sort as a second weapon as he whirled around, seemingly missing with the sword. This might be a little hard to convey convincingly in live action, but I hope we still see some insight into his technique.
Overall my impressions are that this looked good. I have a feeling there will be some of the same mash-ups of plot we’ve seen before, but the trailer does give me hope that they’ve got the tone right, both the action and the humor. Casting can always be better, but I’ll give this guy a chance, whenever this movie comes out in America (late 2013)?