Fans of Rurouni Kenshin can now watch the first-ever live-action adaptation on Netflix, making this the third addition to the platform's collection of Kenshin films. This belated release begs questions about when the remaining films in the series will get added.
Back in 2016, Funimation acquired the live-action Rurouni Kenshin films which were a trilogy at that time. They even brought the films to US theaters for limited runs and released them on Blu-ray and while the physical releases can still be found online, Netflix is slowly bringing the films to their platform as well.
The Origin Story
The first film, released in 2012, titled "Origins" in the west, was an adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki's manga of the same name, about a wandering ronin who vowed never to kill again as recompense for their assassin past. The film is a culmination of multiple arcs from the manga's beginnings, combined to tell the origin story of Kenshin and introduce the wide cast of characters from the series.
Here's the synopsis for the original film, according to Netflix.
In 1868, after the Bakumatsu war ends, the ex-assassin Kenshin Himura traverses Japan with an inverted sword, to defend the needy without killing.
The Rurouni Kenshin live-action series from Warner Bros. Japan is directed by Keishi Ohtomo and stars Takeru Satoh as Himura Kenshin, Emi Takei as Kaoru Kamiya, and Munetaka Aoki as Sagara Sanosuke, among others. It's regarded as one of the best anime-to-live-action film adaptations. The first film was followed by two sequels in 2014, Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends.
The Missing Pieces
In 2021, Netflix brought the newest live-action Kenshin films, The Final and The Beginning, to the platform and only those. This meant that the original trilogy that set up such conclusive film projects was missing. A peculiar decision indeed, but with the addition of the first film, it's looking like audiences are getting closer to the full series being available for streaming.
As the titles suggest, The Final is the culmination of all the films leading up to that point, with a final confrontation against a villain from Kenshin's past, forcing him to bring together all his allies to save Japan. Fascinatingly enough, the last film to be released is "The Beginning" which goes back to Kenshin's days as an assassin and adapts the "Trust and Betrayal" story thought to be one of the best in the series. The animated OVA of that arc is one of the most highly regarded OVAs in anime.
It could be speculated that Funimation's exclusive streaming rights could be running out, allowing Netflix to get in on the action as well. There aren't any signs of Kenshinleaving Funimation as of the time of writing, but the company has been known to lose the rights to certain franchises as time goes on. The Crunchyroll acquisition of Funimation has left a lot up in the air.
Funimation's store page directs visitors straight to Crunchyroll's store page, which only has the third film available as of the time of writing. The other films are available through Amazon, but for how much longer is unknown. Whether Crunchyroll renews the acquisition of the films or not, it's too early to tell. It's just as likely Netflix will snatch up the rights and complete the collection on their platform.
As it is now, viewers curious to check out the films on Netflix won't have the full picture, but having the introductory film is better than nothing at all. Without the second and third films, numerous side characters that have a big impact on the plot are absent, a big sacrifice in a series with such a colorful cast of characters.
Rurouni Kenshin is available for streaming on Netflix, in addition to the final two films, The Final and The Beginning.
Source: Rurouni Kenshin on Netflix