The cult of ‘Kenshin’

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Karen Kunawicz

Karen Kunawicz

I came in cold to the third film in the Rurouni Kenshin saga. I had not heard about the series until 2012 when fan power got the first film screened here at the SM Cinemas.

My friend Mary Ann got me up to speed in the commute heading to the premiere. While listening to the story, I could not help but take note of her enthusiasm for the material.

At the cinema, the fans showed their enthusiasm by cheering on their favorite characters and gushing throughout the movie. The newbie in me loved that the story was easy to follow, as the pirate in me loved that there was a great swordfight on a ship.

Most of the fans I talked to got hooked on Rurouni Kenshin a.k.a. Samurai X in the late 1990s to early 2000s when AXN showed it. Others got to see it dubbed in English on Channel 23 and in Filipino on ABS-CBN.


My friend Pat says, “I watched it in three languages, in any media format available.” Ian says, “I happened to catch the first episode, and it just consumed me. It got to a point where catching the afternoon airing became part of my schedule, and I made the effort to keep it clear of nasty meetings.”

In late August of 2012 when the release of a live action Rurouni Kenshin film was imminent, fan Glenmarc went all over Facebook posting about all sorts of campaigns and petitions to have it screened it here. He lobbied so hard and folks like Mary Ann and Pat were ready to sign and support all online campaigns to get that film released here.

In December 2013, SM listened to the fans and announced they would screen it for a week. The week turned to two weeks; two weeks turned to one month. Samurai X fans were pleased and went in for repeat viewings. New fans jumped on board.

The concluding samurai battle of the ‘Ruruoni Kenshin’ saga takes place on a battleship

The concluding samurai battle of the ‘Ruruoni Kenshin’ saga takes place on a battleship

Flash forward to August 6, because the Filipino audience loved Rurouni Kenshin so much, the producers and Warner Brothers had the Asian premiere here—at Megamall with director Keishi Otomo and actors Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei and Munetaka Aoki in tow. They were welcomed like rock stars with crowds and the accordant screaming.

This is what fans say they love about Rurouni Kenshin:

History: “I’m pretty much into Asian history before the turn of the 20th century as well, and the events and political upheavals of the Meiji era onwards got me curious.” (Chiqui)

“I was already a sucker for samurai dramas, and I’m a history buff, and so the combination was just irresistible. The fact RK featured some real-life historical figures like Kogoro Katsura and events like the assassination of Toshimichi Okubo in its episodes, and that the character of Kenshin was based on a real assassin, was just the perfect icing on the cake.” (Mary Ann)

Great Fights: “I love swordfights in any form: wuxia dramas, knight / musketeers / highwaymen crossing swords, light saber duels in a galaxy far, far away, Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts.” (Pat)

“The fight scenes were also impressively drawn and choreographed in the anime, and the live action films replicated those perfectly.” (Mary Ann)

Soundtrack: “The soundtrack was amazing. J-Pop is trippy in the sense it has all these eclectic influences and just goes with it—one song can be super bubblegum pop, the next can be heavy metal, or a power ballad. I’m not a music snob so all this diversity appealed to me. Learning the lyrics also helped me apply my Japanese grammar lessons, I took 12 units for my required foreign language elective.” (Pat)

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends opened in Manila on Wednesday.

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