The Rurouni Kenshin films have been dubbed one of the best Japanese anime/manga live-action adaptations since the first instalment premiered in 2012. And good news — all five films are now ready for binging on Netflix (within the region and in other select territories). The series wrapped up with a prequel (more on this later), so what’s the best viewing order to watch it in?
But first: what’s the hype around Rurouni Kenshin?
Before we get to it, here’s a quick primer about the Rurouni Kenshin films: the original manga source material was published in Japan from 1994 to 1999, with newer volumes released up to the present. The anime, on the other hand, aired in 1996 to 1998, with one film and a couple of original videos (OVAs) released in 1999, 2001, and 2011.
Set in the beginning of the Meiji era (1868 to 1912), it focuses on the story of Kenshin Himura, a rurouni (wanderer) who was formerly known as a legendary assassin called Hitokiri Battousai (sword-wielding manslayer). His most recognisable feature is the cross-shaped scar on his cheek, which earned the series its alternate title outside Japan, Samurai X. Trying to get over his past, he vows never to kill again by only carrying a sword with a reverse-blade edge.
The films in the series were released as follows: Rurouni Kenshin Origins (2012), Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (2014), Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014), Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021), and Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (2021).
The titles can get a little confusing if you omit the release dates. That’s because the franchise was meant to be a trilogy, with The Legend Ends providing the ultimate conclusion to Kenshin Himura’s story as the titular rurouni. However, because the films were such huge hits, they extended the series to include the last two films, The Final and The Beginning. These shed more light on Kenshin’s dark past as the manslayer, something that the first three films showed only in passing.
But that’s enough spoilers. Let’s start mixing and matching your viewing experience.
The Rurouni Kenshin films are similar to the Star Wars movies whose film order can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, each one providing a different viewing experience.