The good stuff
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.