films seen
average score
Japan - 58 years old
Alive and kicking
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A very capable blockbuster director. Otomo made a name directing the live-action Kenshin adaptations, but he does also well with tech/supernatural thrillers. There are few fully-fledged masterpieces in his oeuvre, but he rarely disappoints.


The Top Secret: Murder in Mind

Himitsu: The Top Secret
2016 / 149m - Japan
Sci-fi, Thriller
The Top Secret: Murder in Mind poster

Surprisingly good investigation flick, with some slight scifi touches to make things more interesting. Delving into people's brains to uncover crimes isn't a very novel idea, but the plot packs some nice surprises and the execution is extremely slick. Definitely one of the better films in its genre.

Rurouni Kenshin: Final Chapter Part I - The Final

Rurôni Kenshin: Sai shûshô - The Final
2021 / 138m - Japan
Rurouni Kenshin: Final Chapter Part I - The Final poster

Several years after concluding his Kenshin trilogy, Ohtomo returns with an extra encore. Two films to add some extra lore to the Kenshin universe, one sequel and one prequel that are tied together. If you've seen the trilogy you should have a good idea what to expect, if you liked the trilogy then make these films a priority, as Ohtomo added a layer of extra polish.

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Kenshin is enjoying a period of peace with his friends, but trouble is coming his way. An old enemy has worked himself up in the Chinese mafia and is finally strong enough to avenge the death of his sister. Together with an army of dangerous foes, he seeks out Kenshin and challenges him for a battle.

There's still a bit too much inconsequential drama for my liking, which also bloats the runtime, other than that this is a near-perfect blockbuster. The film looks lush, the action sequences are thrilling and the pacing is perfect. Ohtomo handles these types of films really well, looking forward to the second part already.

Rurouni Kenshin: Final Chapter Part II - The Beginning

Rurôni Kenshin: Sai shûshô - The Beginning
2021 / 137m - Japan
Drama, Action
Rurouni Kenshin: Final Chapter Part II - The Beginning poster

As weird as it may sound to have "The Beginning" as the final entry in a 5-film series of films, it's fitting nonetheless. This is the film that tackles Kenshin's darker past and since he's the hero of the story, it's much easier to have his more ambiguous actions at the very end of the films rather than at the start.

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Battosai is a ruthless killer who is deployed to fight against the shogunate. He's an enigmatic character that shows little emotion, until he meets the quiet Tomoe. She has no one and starts following Battosai around. She's not just drawn to Battosai's enigmatic aura though, as Tomoe has ulterior motives to stick with him.

The production values of this film are first class, the actors feel comfortable in their roles and the film offers a very solid mix of action and drama. It's a strong remake of the Trust and Betrayal OAV, at the same time it means the film is rehashing familiar territory for me, which did make it slightly less special than it could've been. But this was no doubt a worthy finale to Ohtomo's series of Kenshin films.

Beneath the Shadow

2019 / 134m - Japan
Drama, Mystery
Beneath the Shadow poster

A surprisingly low-key and mysterious film from Ohtomo. I've got pretty used to him as a capable blockbuster director, I didn't quite expect this sullen drama with mystery elements driving it forward. He does pretty well in fact, though part of that is due to the very strong cast, who take some pressure off of Ohtomo's direction.

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When Konno moves towns for his new job, he finds himself all alone. At work, he connects with Hiasa, a guy who's about the same age as Konno. They spend some time together, but then Hiasa suddenly quits his job and their relationship grinds to a halt. Some time later they meet up once more, but then Hiasa goes missing.

With guys like Ayano, Kunimura and Matsuda around, you know the cast is going to do its thing. The pacing is deliberate, the way the story unfolds smart, the cinematography stylish. There's no extra sparkle to make this a real stand-out feature, but Beneath the Shadow has no obvious weak points. Prime filler in other words.


2016 / 132m - Japan
Horror, Thriller, Crime
Museum poster

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

Rurôni Kenshin: Kyôto Taika-hen
2014 / 138m - Japan
Action, Adventure
Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno poster

It's been years since I watched the first entry in the live action trilogy, but now that they are continuing the series I figured it was time to get back on board. I'm certainly not the biggest Kenshin fan, but I've seen bits and pieces of the TV series and appreciated the OAVs, so I didn't come in blank.

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Even though I couldn't remember much from the first film, the intro quickly refreshed my memory. The film is basically one big trek, with Kenshin setting out to find Shishio, the big adversary of the series. There are some stops along the way and some time spent with people helping him out on his journey, but it's really just getting from A to B with a bunch of fights in the middle.

Ohtomo feels well at ease with the material. The fight scenes are impressive, the sets are lush and expensive and Shishio is a pretty bad-ass villain. It's no real surprise that the film doesn't stray too much from conventions, that's what you get with insanely popular IP like Kenshin, but all in all this was a very capable live action adaptation. On to part three.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends

Rurôni Kenshin: Densetsu no Saigo-hen
2014 / 134m - Japan
Action, Adventure
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends poster

The third entry in the live action Kenshin series. Shot back to back with the second film, this film benefits from having the same director and cast present to complete Shishio's story arc. Like the other two films, it's a competent adaptation that doesn't take too many risks, but delivers when needed.

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Shishio turns up in an impressive war ship and threatens to bring the Meiji government to its knees, hoping to take over Japan. The Meji officials are powerless against Shishio, but Kenshin still has a score to settle with Shishio and takes up his sword once more, hoping to get rid of him once and for all.

The sets look lush, actors are really settled into their characters, and the action scenes are impressive. I'm not sure how faithful this adaptation is to the manga/anime, but I honestly don't care too much about all of that. For non-Kenshin adepts, this is a fun and entertaining series, with The Legend Ends being a perfect finale.

March Comes in Like a Lion

3-Gatsu no Raion Zenpen
2017 / 138m - Japan
Drama, Sport
March Comes in Like a Lion poster

Otomo comes with a sports drama. Go and Shogi are pretty popular in Japan, but they aren't the most cinematic of sports. Even someone like Toyoda burned his hands on the genre, Otomo too struggles to keep the matches interesting, but all in all he did a pretty commendable job.

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Kiriyama Rei is a young shogi prodigy, but his life takes a turn for the worse when his parents die. He has a difficult time adjusting to his foster family, it isn't until a finds a new home that he can finally put all his focus on becoming a better shogi player. From that moment on, Rei is unstoppable.

The performances are a little shaky, the overt manga influences don't work too well and the shogi games are slow and tactical, meaning there's a lot of heavy frowning and looking troubled at a shogi board. Otomo finds ways to make the drama a bit more interesting and some matches do get tense, but it's far from his best work.

Platinum Data

Purachina Dêta
2013 / 133m - Japan
Sci-fi, Crime
Platinum Data poster

A crime mystery spruced up with minor sci-fi elements. Though it seems to be an original film, it still felt like a feature episode of an existing TV series. Ohtomo does his best to elevate the material and there are some above average moments, but Platinum Data is not really up there with his best work.

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The Japanese government has a DNA-mapping program that helps them solve crimes. Everybody is convinced this system will lead to a better society, until the inventor of the system is suddenly being accused of murder. Something is not right and detective Reiji is put on the cast to find out who is gaming the system.

Apart from the slightly futuristic elements, this is really just a police/crime flick with its share of twists and turns to keep things interesting. The cinematography is decent but basic, the plot is okay, and the performances are sufficient, but there's nothing here that really stands out.

Rurouni Kenshin

Rurôni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Roman Tan
2012 / 134m - Japan
Rurouni Kenshin poster

The Legend & Butterfly

Rejendo ando Batafurai
2023 / 168m - Japan
Drama, Romance
The Legend & Butterfly poster

One of Otomo's weakest films to date. He's known to make big blockbuster epics, so it's not that my expectations were off, but they tend to come with an edge. An edge that is pretty much absent here. The Legend & Butterfly was a bit too soft and sentimental for my taste, especially considering its runtime.

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An arranged marriage to bring two neighboring countries closer together ends up an unsurmountable challenge for the unfortunate couple, who really can't stand each other. When their country is under attack, Oda despairs as his military power doesn't seem able to withstand the enemy. But then his wife comes to his aid and together they draw up a plan to defend their borders.

The back and forth between the couple isn't too interesting, the battles are very oldskool (they reminded me of Kurosawa's work, which in my book isn't positive) and the runtime is excessive. There are still some interesting scenes and the performances are solid, but Otomo can do a lot better.