Entertainment

Rurouni Kenshin and the Philippines' Love Affair with the Wandering Samurai

In 2012, a live-action Rurouni Kenshin movie was released in Japan. Adapted from an anime series and manga of the same name, it is about a killer-turned-wanderer named Kenshin Himura and his battle against the demons of his past that continue to haunt him.

The manga to anime series was very popular back in the late 90’s, with numerous re-runs and localized dubbing making the show a staple within the Filipino memory.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Road to Philippine Cinemas

In 2012, when the international release of the first live-action Rurouni Kenshin action movie was announced, it was natural that fans would begin pleading to bring the film into the Philippines. When I was browsing Warner’s Facebook page in May 2012, all I read were pleas to bring Rurouni Kenshin to the country. Forget Hollywood. Forget the yearly movie festival in December. Rurouni Kenshin was THE film Manila wanted to watch the most at that time.

Eventually, it happened. Late in 2012, the film was released. Originally planned to have a one-week theatrical run, it was extended further and went on to earn around Php 40M during its entire theatrical run.

As a gift to fans, the studio decided to bring the cast of the 2nd Rurouni Kenshin film for its Asian premiere last August 2014.

Why Was It So Successful?

The biggest contributor to the first film’s success in the country is probably the growing Anime, JPop, and Asian subculture scene. The love affair with Hollywood and everything western is still evident, but now you can see Filipinos clamoring over Asian music, films, and shows.

For example, KPOP was one of the biggest search term in Google Philippines last year. It was predictable; Korean shows are a staple in evening television broadcast schedules. Kpop artists continue to visit the country. You can even see Asian horror films being shown in the cinemas on a usual basis. Even Thai horror-comedy Pee Mak had a premiere event in Manila.

While you don’t see much of Anime big wigs coming to the Philippines, the subculture does exist; the growing number of anime convention attendees are a testament to this fact. There is also a growing JPop fan scene. When Japanese musician Inoue Joe went to Manila last year, a large number of people came to greet him, prompting him to return to Manila this year for an anime event as the show’s host.

 

The Cast and Director of Rurouni Kenshin in Manila as they posed for a shoot with a Rurouni Kenshin-themed Jeepney behind them Credits: Rappler
The Cast and Director of Rurouni Kenshin in Manila as they posed for a shoot with a Rurouni Kenshin-themed Jeepney behind them
(Image Credit: Rappler)

It seems that bringing the cast of the 2nd Rurouni Kenshin film serves as a culmination of more than ten years of fan requests for Japanese artists to come to the country. While they are hardly the first response to the fan requests, bringing the Rurouni Kenshin cast, complete with a press event, a red carpet premiere, media interviews, and symbolic accolades from the government really took the cake.

Was Bring The Cast To Manila Worth It?

rurouni kenshin philippines tour takeru satoh
Rurouni Kenshin stars Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, Munetaka Aoki, and director Keishi Ohtomo at a press event in Manila
(Image Credit: Warner Bros Philippines)

When it was time for them to leave, it was also time to prove that bringing them was worth it. And it really was. Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno grossed Php 7.3M on its first day, the biggest opening day for a foreign language film. Yeaps, that means it was bigger than any Hollywood films shown in the country. The movie went on to earn more than Php 42M in its first 5 days, surpassing everything that the first movie earned in 2012.

According to Warner Bros. Manager Francis Soliven, “This is a phenomenal bow for `Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno,’ one that surely exceeded even our aggressive estimates.” He went on to thank the cast Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, and Munetaka Aoki along with director Keishi Otomo for coming to the Philippines to promote the film.

“We have no doubt that their visit enabled us to launch the film in the best way possible,” Soliven says.

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno went on to become a blockbuster in the Philippines and Singapore. As the Philippines watches the sequel (Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends) film this week in September, I expect the love affair with the samurai with a dull blade will reach its peak and will never wane.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends is now showing this week. It will be released in Singapore on October 2, 2014 and in Taiwan on October 24.

 

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