Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014)

Directed by
Good if not quite great conclusion
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-06-17

This is the third film in the RUROUNI KENSHIN trilogy - spoilers for Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno.

Kyoto Inferno ends as the middle part of a trilogy is supposed to, with our heroes scattered and defeated and the villain on course to victory. There wouldn't be much point making the third film otherwise, I suppose. In the final shot Kenshin washes up on shore unconscious and is recovered by a mysterious stranger. At the beginning of The Legend Ends we learn that the mysterious stranger is none other than Kenshin's sensei, the man that taught him his sword skills - and still has some more skills to impart, if Kenshin can convince him that he deserves them.

The film gets off to quite a slow start, with the first 50 minutes covering Kenshin's new training and self examination, intercut with finding out what the Meiji government are up to and what Shisho's plans are when he arrives in Tokyo. We gradually learn where everybody that survived the battle for Kyoto has ended up, and eventually they all start making their way towards Tokyo for the big showdown - a battle that accounts for most of the last 40 minutes of the film.

The Legend Ends is a few minutes shorter than Kyoto Inferno but feels a bit flabbier, it has more dead spots and didn't keep my emotional investment engaged as efficiently - I think that is quite often the result when the main characters are each following their own separate stories, but it's also because some parts just don't add much for me.

The film's action is mostly concentrated in the protracted battle at the end but there are some nice shorter fights along the way. The action is again of a very high standard - Takeru Satoh really seems to have got his style down by this point, and he has some worthy adversaries. I don't think his rematch with Ryunosuke Kamiki is quite as thrilling as their fight in Kyoto, and the overall lack of ninjas is a bit disappointing, but the final fight is suitably epic.

I couldn't help notice that the female characters all seem to be more passive this time around, which is disappointing for a series that has usually given them important roles and plenty of agency. Yu Aoi only appears in the film briefly and Emi Takei is comatose for half of it, and even ninja girl Tao Tsuchiya is defined almost entirely by the men in her life this time.

As with its predecessors the film is very beautiful, indeed some of the shots in the bamboo forest where Kenshin fights with his sensei are possibly the most stunning in the series - up there with Zhang Yimou or King Hu's use of foliage.

Overall RUROUNI KENSHIN: THE LEGEND ENDS is my least favourite of the trilogy but it's not an actually bad film, and you would be daft not to watch it if you've seen the first two. Obviously the legend didn't in fact end, it just went on hiatus for 7 years, as there are two new films dropping on Netflix this weekend. Apparently they haven't learnt the lesson about terminal names since one of the new ones is called Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, and I'm not sure it's even the last film of this new duology!