Home > Reviews > RURÔNI KENSHIN: KYÔTO TAIKA-HEN – Naoki Sato


ruronikenshinkyototaikahenOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Rurôni Kenshin: Kyôto Taika-Hen (Rurôni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno) is the second film in the ongoing Rurôni Kenshin series of period action movies telling the story of the “romantic swordsman” Himura Kenshin, directed by Keishi Ohtomo, and starring Takeru Sato and Emi Takei. Following the events of the first movie, Kenshin has settled into a new life with his wife Kaoru and his other friends, when he is approached with a request from the Meiji government. Makoto Shishio, who like Kenshin is a former assassin, has been betrayed, set on fire and left for dead. Despite suffering grievous injuries, Makoto survived, and is now in Kyoto, plotting with his gathered warriors to overthrow the new government. Against Kaoru’s wishes, Kenshin reluctantly agrees to go to Kyoto and help keep his country from falling back into civil war.

Naoki Sato has scored all three of the Rurôni Kenshin films, which began with Rurôni Kenshin – Meiji Kenkaku Roman Tan in 2012. The music is rooted in contemporary action stylings, despite the historical setting of the film, but Sato’s creativity is such that they never really feel anachronistic, instead giving energy and drive to Kenshin’s adventures. This score is a combination of orchestra, subtle electronics, traditional Japanese instrumentation, and voices, resulting in a powerful, enjoyable work which fans of modern action music should enjoy immensely. The opening cue, “Overcoming Fate”, builds from a moody, almost liturgical-sounding opening featuring a Miserere Latin chant, eventually emerging into a Christopher Young-style theme full of stately drama and portent. The tolling bells are a nice touch, especially when they combine with the soulful, searching string writing.

As the score develops it progresses through multiple different emotional styles. “New Style” is romantic, but just a little melancholy; “Destiny” revisits the ghostly vocal work and emotive string writing of the first track, offset by some dark, Vangelis-style synth chords; “Reverse Blade Snow Expert” has a warm, lyrical quality, again with strongly emotional string writing, and “Heavenly Light” is a haunting, abstract track for a massed section of what sound like hichiriki Japanese oboes, played with massive amounts of reverb to give them an enveloping, overwhelming sound.

The action music has a kinetic, percussive style, with cues like “Fanaticism” jangling the nerves with its frenetic rhythms, “Kyoyume” making excellent use of a koto Japanese dulcimer, and the superb “Kyoto” exploding into a flurry of slashing string rhythms accompanied by a colorful bed of regional Japanese instrumentation. “Those Who Defend” is a defiantly contemporary cue with more than a hint of Daft Punk about it, and “Disturbance” enters Hans Zimmer territory via the ‘horn of doom’, but the standout is the title track, “Kyoto Inferno”, which again begins with voices, before exploding into a macho, driving, almost dance-music style piece with a delicious rhythmic core and a hint of heavy metal. The finale, “Warutakumi’s Purgatory’, is one of those wonderfully vibrant fully-orchestral stingers – all brass fanfares and huge crescendos – that sets up the third film perfectly.

Buy the Rurôni Kenshin: Kyôto Taika-Hen soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overcoming Fate (6:37)
  • New Style (2:26)
  • Fanaticism (2:40)
  • Kyoyume (3:13)
  • Destiny (4:07)
  • Kyoto (1:30)
  • Reverse Blade Sword/Memories (2:34)
  • Those Who Defend (3:57)
  • Scene of Carnage (2:50)
  • Reverse Blade Sword Expert (4:09)
  • Heavenly Light (3:52)
  • Kyoto Inferno (3:14)
  • Disturbance (1:33)
  • Darkness Flows (1:44)
  • Lightning (2:16)
  • Warutakumi’s Purgatory (0:56)

Warner Music Japan WQCQ-596 (2014)

Running Time: 47 minutes 48 seconds

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