Story: Himura Kenshin (Takeru Sato) is found by his former master Hiko Seijiro (Masaharu Fukuyama) badly injured at a beach. After a few
days of recuperating Kenshin asks his master to teach him the secret technique of his swordfighting style. Seijiro agrees, but in return wants his student
to do some soul-searching and find out what kept him from using his full potential in a fight up until now. Kenshin eventually masters the secret technique
and leaves in order to face Shishio Makoto (Tatsuya Fujiwara). Shishio has already threatened the government to take over the country by force if Kenshin
wouldn't be publicly executed and the government wouldn't confess to its atrocities in the past. Makoto's fortress-like warship and the warriors standing by
his side give his demands enough weight for the government to actually issue an arrest warrant for Kenshin. In the meantime Kenshin learns that
Kaoru (Emi Takei), who he believed drowned in the sea, is still alive. Kaoru and Kenshin's friends Sanosuke (Munetaka Aoki) and Yahiko (Kaito Oyagi) are
already looking for him, but Kenshin wants to face Shishio alone...
Review: After the introduction "Rurouni Kenshin", in which the world of the manga/anime by the same name has
been adapted quite successfully, "Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno" turned out to be a significantly
darker and more subtle composed action flick, which absolutely made you look forward to the third part. "Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends" brings the
trilogy to a close with a big display of fireworks, almost leaving nothing to be desired. The movie isn't entirely perfect, but it is outright
breathtaking where it needs to be. The fight sequences are second to none and the drama revolving around Kenshin's vow makes for a good counterweight. The
predecessor all in all seems to be a bit smoother and the conclusion of the trilogy slightly repetitive, which for most part is because of a plot that
doesn't really move forward, but the movie's strengths clearly outshine those flaws.
The story picks up exactly where the second part left off. Kenshin finds himself at the place of his master Hiko Seijiro, played by Masaharu Fukuyama
("Suspect X"), and has to do some soul-searching in order to leave behind his past as an assassin and find inner peace. This may cause the beginning to be
a bit slow-paced, but it also puts a very important focus on the inner workings of the protagonist and the drama that is his life. Where the second installment
only made some hints the third one goes into more detail, which at times also means that you get the feeling that a few things are getting repeated. A little bit
disappointing is the fact that Kenshin's inner struggle of his vow not to kill anymore and the fact that he probably will only be able to defeat Shishio if
he becomes the assassin from the days of old is dealt with halfheartedly, which results in a rather anticlimactic resolution.
It's also a shame that the side effects of Kenshin's extremely fast swordart, which constantly drains his health, isn't depicted, because here we would have had
a nice parallel to Shishio's continually rising body temperature, which naturally is one of the movie's key elements. Which already brings us to the finale. The
last third of the film is one single giant action sequence and all the promises made before are kept! Kenshin fights against Aoshi, Soujiro and Shishio! And
every single one of those fights is breathtaking. One reason for this being that the fight choreography is superb, managing to combine realism with extreme
quickness and anime elements, and the other reason being a fantastic camera work. Despite the quickness of the movements and the fact that the camera is never
standing still the cinematic eye is always where it needs to be.
Many fans of the source material have a big problem with Kenshin not facing Shishio alone during the showdown. It actually is a bit of a bother, but in the end everyone else isn't really a challenge for the villain and Kenshin has to face his rival alone after all. Next to the incredibly inventive chogreography the special effects deserve some praise as well, whereas particularly the none-CGI effects give the movie a nice groundwork. But Shishio's supernatural fire attacks also don't need to hide! Tatsuya Fujiwara ("Death Note") manages to play the mad villain with all the right facets that are necessary for us to also pity him for his past. Aoshi, by the way, also plays a more prominent role in the third part, excusing his appearance in the second one (if his fight against Misao's grandfather didn't already achieve that).
"Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends" has the big benefit that the characters are already introduced and being a direct sequel the chemistry between them is just right as well. Yosuke Eguchi ("Goemon") as Hajime Saito is oftentimes stealing the spotlight with his merciless swordfighting technique and Sanosuke is lightening up the pretty dark and drama-heavy tone of the movie. But the film is certainly Takeru Sato's vehicle who depicts Kenshin in an impeccable manner. Only the women truely fall by the wayside. Kaoru appears very rarely and there also isn't an action scene involving Misao. But you can easily overlook this as well as the ending dragging on a bit too much. At the bottom line, there are a few scenes that could have been cut down a bit considering a running time of 135 minutes. The plot remains where it already was in the second part, but instead the film works more with the characters, which works out well enough thanks to good actors. Director Keishi Ohtomo is making use of the high budget at hand perfectly and brings some exquisite sets, great costumes and terrific action sequences to the screen, underlined by an epic soundtrack. Therefore, "Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends" is a great conclusion to an epic trilogy despite some minor flaws, showing how to adapt a brilliant manga/anime for the big screen the right way.