The Rurouni Kenshin franchise will be coming to an end with its fifth and final film The Beginning, which is being released globally on Netflix on July 30th.
The film, which is once again helmed by director Keishi Otomo, follows lead character Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) in his early days as an assassin of the Choshu clan, and their fight to bring down the Tokugawa shogunate.
Set prior to his oath to use a backwards-blade sword and no longer kill, Kenshin is a hardened killer who is lost to the bloodshed he has left in his wake, but finds solace in a woman he meets after one of his violent assassinations, Tomoe Yukishiro (Kasumi Arimura).
Unbeknown to him, Tomoe is the former fiancée of one of his past victims, Kiyosato Akira, and is keen to have revenge on her late fiancé’s killer, but finds herself falling in love with Kenshin instead.
The film revolves around their romance and the dire consequences of the secrets they have kept from one another, but how does it fit into the franchise as a whole?
Otomo’s adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s classic manga series consists of five films: Rurouni Kenshin, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, and Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning.
While the films were released in that order, The Beginning is in fact a prequel to the entire franchise and can be viewed prior to its four predecessors.
As well as being Kenshin’s origin story, it also reveals how the swordsman got his iconic cross-shaped scars.
The film also directly links to The Final, which centers on Kenshin’s fight with Tomoe’s brother Enishi (in) after he returns to Japan following a decade in China, where he was preparing to get his revenge on Kenshin for his sister’s death.
While The Final briefly alludes to Tomoe through her brother, and through Kenshin’s own admission to his loved ones that he was at fault for her death, it does not give viewers the whole story.
Therefore, The Beginning could also be viewed by fans before they watch The Final as it will give them a better understanding of the reasons behind Kenshin and Enishi’s fight.
The Rurouni Kenshin franchise in timeline order:
- Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (2021)
- Rurouni Kenshin (2012)
- Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (2014)
- Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014)
- Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021)
Despite originally being published in Shonen Jump between 1994 and 1999, Watsuki’s iconic manga has never been fully adapted for the big screen until the live-action films, as the anime adaptation ended in 1998 before the creator had finished writing the story.
Instead, the anime went in its own direction following its take on the manga’s “Kyoto Inferno” arc in its second season, with the third following Kenshin as he embarked on a number of short-lived adventures.
Three original video animations (OVAs) were released shortly after, with Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal focusing on Kenshin and Tomoe’s tragic story.
The aftermath of their ill-fated love story, and how Tomoe’s brother Enishi seeks his revenge, was not adapted until the live-action films, over two decades after the original manga ended.
The Final and The Beginning dominated the Japanese box office upon release in June, ranking number one and two—the first time in Japanese cinema history that two films from the same franchise have done so.