Updated 19 Nov 2016
Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal, るろうに剣心 (1999, AniDB, ann, imdb)
Action, Drama, New Brutal Action
Anime, 1800’s Japan, Samurai, Assassin
Directed by Furuhashi Kazuhiro
Written by Watsuki Nobuhiro (original manga)
This is a semi-to-not-canon adaptation of some later chapters of the manga with the same name. I am going to just ignore that and view it as an excellent stand-alone movie. If you look up the links above to the movie databases you will see that I’m not alone in admiring this movie as it sits close to a 9 score on all sites.
The importance of this movie is foremost as a pioneering action movie, in terms of animation but more importantly choreography and direction. The visual language is mesmerizing with a vibrant palette and appealing and fluid animation. More than that Trust and Betrayal is rich in whatever those other elusive qualities that I crave in my action fare are. There is something that I’ve begun to call New Brutal Action, and this movie is that and part of it’s lineage (I’ve yet to completely define NBU).
This movie is one of the first to really show off, not mere possibility, but near-realization of a new type of action (one independent of medium, I’d say); action that is next generation and stylistic transcendence of current Western trends in the genre. Excuse me, it seems I’m using current Western action trends as a definitional epicenter of reference. That’s quite perverse of me and please Lord don’t let this become another bad habit of mine. When I say it’s transcending current Western trends I don’t mean they continue them. Also, I definitely don’t mean it’s the next iteration of some childish and inane DC-Marvel whatever only with MORE SHIT GOING ON *exoplosiansn* *more Will Smith*!
No no no. Not that. Even though this movie may be “less” in many quantifiable ways, as the old trusty saying goes, say it with me now: “Less” is more.
The violence is direct and deadly and it and the themes and moods of the movie promote a sense of gravitas. Perhaps that is a big part of it, gravitas, one of the things which have been so abundantly missing from most action.
With a touch of luck and some good taste perhaps future action movies makers will be drawing from rich inspirational sources like this movie, which should lead to more sensible and beautiful action in normal Western cinema.
Anyhow, back to the movie at hand. After being an action movie it’s a drama. An understated and sincere drama on the themes of coming-of-age, morality, winds of change and of course love. As with all Japanese anime you are very likely doing yourself a disservice when you watch the English dub, instead watch the original Japanese one. Enjoy.