A brief summary of Kenshin for those of you who are coming into this without any background. During the days before Meiji era, Himura Kenshin was the leading assassin for the Ishin Shishi and was known as the Hitokiri Battousai. Using the god like speed of his Hiten Mitsurugi, he hacked his way through countless victims so that a new era could be established. After the new government had been moved into the seat of the power, and the shogun put behind bars, Kenshin retired from a life of killing and took up a Sakabatou (a reverse blade sword, where the blade is on the back and not the front) and decided to try and repent for all his murderous deeds.
As any veteran of Rurouni Kenshin will tell you, Kenshin's past has a way of coming back to bite him. This movie is no exception. Playing out like an extra long filler episode, this movie tells the story of how back in Kenshin's Hitokiri days Kenshin killed another Hitokiri named Gatotsu. Now, in the peaceful days of the Meiji government, Gatotsu's two brothers in arms (not biological brothers, just friends really) are planning on overthrowing the government through violent revolution, and naturally Kenshin is the only one who can stop them.
This movie had every reason to be good. First off the story isn't that bad, sure it's a little boring, but it allows for plenty of dramatic moments where Kenshin finds his past coming back to haunt him, and plenty of innocents are killed for peoples dying dreams (a reoccurring theme in Kenshin). The film manages to include most of the major characters, Yahiko, Sanosuke, Kaoru and even the doctors two grand children make appearances, and the soundtrack is pretty damn good.
Unfortunately, the plot line never quite realizes its full potential, and aside from a decent (but still disappointing) action scene in the middle the movie, the entire film is incredibly poorly animated (which doesn't make sense as this was actually made after the series ended...so shouldn't the animation have been better?)While Shigure is a mildly tragic figure, i found his two cohorts far more interesting in their evil ways, and found myself wondering how this man had inspired an entire rebellion. Many people will complain about the reoccurring flashbacks to Kenshin's battle with Gatotsu. I myself, didn't mind these at all, in fact I rather enjoyed them.
Perhaps my real biggest gripe with this movie is just the animation. It's not really bad, but for fans who have seen the Kyoto arc, or seen any of the ova's, they will find these fights barely watchable. I really don't understand why the animation was so bad in this movie, and i don't think I'll ever get over it. I mean how cool would it have been to see TV Kenshin (you know, the one who says 'Oro')fight in fluid animation? To end with I'd like to note some interesting facts about this movie. First off, Nobuhiro Watsuki didn't write this story, I think he was busy on the Manga or on GUN BLAZE WEST! but this was based on an idea he had...that's all (which explains why the movie just doesn't seem to flow as well as Watsuki's other ideas).
Secondly, there has also been a lot of speculation as to when this movie takes place. Saito's in it, and the two adversaries are cordial to each other so it must take place after episode 28 of the anime, but right after that episode Kenshin leaves for Kyoto, and while in Kyoto he seals away the Hitokiri inside himself forever (and he doesn't use either of his two new techniques, Amakeki Ryu Sho Sein and Amekeki Ryu Ryu something - i honestly can't even remember their names) but at the end of this movie he goes back into Hitokiri mode. Honestly, would it have killed them to make the anime fit into series? In a perfect world, this movie would have been written entirely by Watsuki and told an untold chapter of Kenshin's life that we never knew about. Sure it probably would have been Kenshin's past coming back for him, but it would have probably had an all new twist...instead of the same old same old.
If your a Kenshin fan, you'll have to see this. But if you like Kenshin for it's well animated fights, keep moving. (It's a 6/10 if you love Kenshin, and a 4/10 if you watch it by itself, yeah it's that disappointing)