Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning Review: The Philosophy of Killing–I never expected that an action film would be as poignant and thought-provoking as this.
For someone who watched the entire Rurouni Kenshin movie series and is a fan of the OVA, one would expect a touching drama that finally closes the entire franchise. Although Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning did not have a lot of politics and action-packed fighting scenes, the weight goes to an entire philosophical and romantic puzzle.
This film shows that Kenshin, a no-mercy assassin, was already ready to atone for his offenses. Before the new regime came, Kenshin had been riddled with guilt, especially after killing Kiyosato Akira and leaving her fiance Tomoe Yukishiro devastated.
Kenshin and Kiyosato’s encounter scene has been repeated often in all the previous Rurouni Kenshin films because it emphasizes why Kenshin vowed never to kill again in the new age. The scene was recreated in Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning and added the scene where Kenshin left a “Justification for Assassination” note after killing the poor samurai. That gesture showed that he was only doing it for a more significant purpose–something that would be better for many.
Almost everyone in the film believes that Kenshin is the evilest and most brutal killer of their time–that he is emotionless, but the truth is, unlike the other less capable assassins, he is not a psychopath. After he kills, he has feelings of guilt and sadness that further intensify his itch to completely change the course of society and give rise to a new age.
While Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning also shows a bit of politics, the need for a new order, and the sacrifices it entails, it delved more into personal emotions and the philosophy of killing. The feelings of guilt and the desire for vengeance take over but are thoroughly repudiated because of humanity’s capacity to fall in love and focus on the good things instead of the bad.
It’s easy to romanticize Kenshin and Tomoe’s relationship. At first, Tomoe only thought of revenge for her late fiance, but as she saw through Kenshin’s sadness, guilt, and, more importantly, his intentions to create a new age and not just kill for its sake, she changed. Apart from that, she was incredibly touched that Kenshin protected her. Eventually, as expected, she fell in love with him.
These feelings of love were also another obstacle for the damsel in distress. Her eventual change of heart was an evident struggle, but she was brave enough to face it. Her late fiance was no longer there, but Kenshin, whom she could still change, was present.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning is a slow but in-depth sequence of emotions in romantic and poetic elaboration. Its dark, blueish visuals indicate the star-crossed lovers’ agony and complications. Nevertheless, when day comes, the film’s colors and elements, such as blooming flowers, indicate a new sense of hope–about Tomoe finally forgiving and loving Kenshin and that Kenshin is soon to be free from all the pitfalls he is dealing with.
Like Romeo and Juliet, the love of Kenshin and Tomoe is pure but was conceived at the wrong time. They weren’t meant to be together. Nevertheless, Tomoe played a huge part in Kenshin’s vow never to kill again.
The Philosophy of Killing and Sacrifice
The entire franchise of Rurouni Kenshin creates a very idealistic view of humans and society, but its prequel offers us a deeper look into the philosophy of killing.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning is poignant, heartbreaking, and philosophical. It renders us to think about our sense of self and how we revolve around the world and its different viewpoints and realities. I, too, am stuck with Tomoe’s question to Kenshin, “Is there really such a thing as fighting for peace?”
Does any call for change justify its means? Do we ever get a way out of this question? Even when a lot of people or governments abhor killing and sacrificing lives, those are just words. They hide the truth. Even they have no way out of bringing peace and change except for murders and other devious means. In fact, in certain political wars, killing is considered moral and ethical.
Most of the time, we cannot justify killing, even if the one being killed isn’t innocent. There are many other ways in which we can bring about change, but why is killing sometimes deemed a necessary evil?
Despite being encouraged by Tomoe not to kill anymore in the first half of the film, Kenshin isn’t swayed. Many fans overly-romanticize Tomoe’s role in Kenshin’s vow not to kill again in the new age, but in reality, even after Tomoe died, Kenshin was still assassinating people.
It wasn’t until the new age began that Kenshin stopped killing. It was also apparent in Kenshin’s sadness and loneliness before meeting Tomoe that he wanted it to end–to end all of his assassinations. And while Tomoe stops him from killing, ironically, she herself sacrifices her life for Kenshin to get to his senses. Isn’t that also killing (herself)?
Nevertheless, despite the heartless villains that Kenshin took on during the new age, there is not one soul that he killed. He kept his vow never to kill again. So yes, we can say that Tomoe’s sacrifice worked after all.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning Review: Conclusion
Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning and Tomoe’s role in Kenshin’s life culminate the entire idea and philosophy of the Rurouni Kenshin franchise. What’s great about it is its idealism and the ironies it inflicts. Reflectivists and philosophers who are not fans of the Rurouni Kenshin series and haven’t seen any films at all would be delighted by Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning’s philosophical feast.
Have you ever thought killing is sometimes a necessary evil? Why do you or do you not think so? Comment your thoughts below.