Stephen reviews: Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal (1999)

Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal [るろうに剣心 追憶編] (1999)
AKA Rurouni Kenshin: Reminiscence, Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuioku-hen

Starring Mayo Suzukaze, Junko Iwao, Nozomu Sasaki, Masami Suzuki, Shuichi Ikeda, Hirotaka Suzuoki

Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi

The Rurouni Kenshin series has never been one of my favorites. In fact, I rather disliked the TV series when I gave it a try many years ago. But I’ve heard great things about the film version, which was renamed to Samurai X because that made it sound cooler. The TV series was a misguided slapstick comedy that really didn’t hit very well with its humor. I only watched a few episodes before writing it off as bland and unappealing. This film on the other hand (which is actually a re-edit of a direct-to-video mini-series) is an intense historical drama about a man gone numb from killing, and his growth towards becoming the character portrayed in the TV series.

As an origin story, you don’t need to have any knowledge of the series. It makes just as much sense either way. It starts with a boy nearly getting killed by bandits who massacre the slave caravan he had been trapped in. But a kindly wandering samurai wipes out the brigands and takes the boy under his wing, naming him Kenshin. Kenshin grows up to be a master swordsman with a burning desire to fight for justice. In so doing, he abandons his master’s seclusion and joins a rebellion against the shogun.

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Stephen reviews: Kakurenbo (2004)

Kakurenbo [カクレンボ] (2004)
AKA Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek

Starring Junko Takeuchi, Makoto Ueki, Masami Suzuki, Ryo Naito, Mika Ishibashi, Akiko Kobayashi

Directed by Syuhei Morita

I think someone tried to follow the hype over Voices of a Distant Star and throw out another short indie anime. Kakurenbo however doesn’t quite meet that level of quality. It’s a half-hour horror film that draws a parallel between the children’s game of hide and seek and the basic horror concept of victims being chased around by monsters. This is furthered by the Japanese language. In English, the player that searches for the other kids is simply called “it.” Stephen King associations aside, it doesn’t really sound very scary. But the Japanese word for that player is “oni,” which translates to “demon” in English. Suddenly the idea of bloodthirsty demons chasing children around becomes a lot more apparent, and that’s pretty much the plot of this film.

There’s not much to distinguish the plot from any number of other horror films. There’s a bunch of kids that go off to the neighboring town to play hide and seek, only to find that they really are being chased around by demons, and the poor fools get picked off one by one. The main character is looking for his sister who vanished when playing the game before, and his buddy tags along to help out. The plot is fairly predictable, and if I delved any more into it, it would probably spoil everything, assuming I haven’t already. However, I did find the explanation for the ending to be interesting, even if the ending itself was obvious.

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