Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno/The Legend Ends (Sato, 2014)

Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno The Legend Ends

     The 2014 2nd and 3rd films of the Rurouni Kenshin live-action film trilogy make up a single massive story in two parts.  In this 4.5 hour epic, the former "manslayer", Kenshin, is called out of peaceful rural retirement in order to defend the "new age" against the nefarious plans of the betrayed assassin Shishio, and his army of mercenaries.  In the first part, "Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno" (るろうに剣心 京都大火編), Kenshin makes new friends in Kyoto, and has separate confrontations with Sojiro and Cho, two of Shishio's lethal swordsmen.  After a successful defense of the city of Kyoto, Kenshin nonetheless winds up defeated and washed up on a beach, with his friends in a bad spot.  In the final film, "Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends" (るろうに剣心 伝説の最期編), Kenshin reunites with his old teacher, discovers new insights about himself, and eventually finds new allies to help him defeat Shishio's plans for nationwide chaos.

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno
     In the first Rurouni Kenshin film (2012), composer Naoki Sato featured the skillful use of ethnic instrumental soloists (oud, bansuri, fiddle) over ambient electronic textures.  For the sequels, many of the tracks from the first were retracked, and though these don't always function as character-specific "themes", they do serve to create a consistent sound-world across all 3 films.  Sato of course also composed many new cues, and these provide musically thematic material for the new characters and new locales.  Shishio gets an epic "Fate" theme, as well as a recurring texture for scenes at his battleship hideout ("Scene of Carnage").  New arrangements of themes from the first film also appear ("No Killing", Kenshin's theme, "Karaku's Dream").  Basically, familiar musical elements from the first film reappear in old and new guises, mixed with brand new themes and textures.  The featured ethnic instruments in "Kyoto Inferno" include the sho, koto and shehnai (harmonized), as well as some new electronic grooves and more electric guitar.

Trk Dur Title Film Sequence/Music Elements
1 6:38 運命 ~
Overcoming Fate
0:00: Saito and his police force enter an abandoned building.  Men are picked off singly and in groups by Shishio's henchmen (also flashback of Shishio's betrayal and burning by the Emperor's men, and also: at the end when Sojiro kidnaps Kaoru after the battle, Kenshin realizes Shishio plans to attack Tokyo and then chases Sojiro).
Held drones/ambient textures joined by sho, koto and male choir chant, rubbed strings, ambient howls, building choir elements.
3:26: Saito alone reaches Shishio's hellish stage, surrounded by chanting monks and with Saito's men held hostage over flames (also in flashback, a burnt up Shishio crawls out of the body pile; in the present Kenshin is informed that Shishio plans to overthrow the new government, also: at the end when Kenshin chases Sojiro on horseback in the rain and Shishio's battleship launches).
Shishio's Fate theme in strings/anvil/low brass figure.
4:25: Shishio tries to convince Saito to join him (also: Kenshin boards Shishio's battleship and confronts Shishio a 2nd time, Shishio holds Kaoru as a threat). 
No Killing theme variation in string figures with some swirling elements joined by low pulses.
5:19: When Saito refuses, Shishio signals for the hostages to be killed.  Saito tries to fight through to Shishio but a tower falls in between them and Shishio escapes (also: Shishio starts threatening Kaoru to make Kenshin fight seriously).
Shishio's Fate theme in strings/anvil/low brass figure reprise, low end texture cadence.
2 2:27 新風
New Style
Montage of sunlit scenes of Kaoru teaching at her dojo and with Kenshin.
No Killing theme variation on gentle strings, developed, then returning to opening figures.
3 2:40 狂信
0:00: Aoshi appears before Sanosuke looking for the Battousai. 
Low metallic ambient textures with impact/scraping accents.
0:52: They fight and Sano is defeated.  Aoshi threatens Megumi and then leaves.
Layered drums with various delays in bursts of march rhythm, intercut/blended with high ambient textures.
4 3:14 凶夢
At night, Kenshin and Misao come across the victim of a village attack by Shishio's men.  The man dies.  The next day, Kenshin and Misao enter the village.
Low ambient textures joined by koto figures (often with some tremoli). 
5 4:07 宿縁
0:00: After Kenshin defeats Shishio's mercenaries at the village, Sojiro appears and invites him for an audience with Shishio.  Shishio kills a few men on his grounds to test out a sword.
Low synth textures/ambient male choir (slowly rising)/low pulses and swells.
1:13: Kenshin arrives at Shishio's room.  Shishio taunts Kenshin, and then tells him that his injuries made him stronger and wiser.  Kenshin challenges Shishio, but Shishio asks Sojiro to handle him (and then leaves).
Shishio's Fate theme in strings with low synth/strings/bass pulses, No Killing theme variation in strings with low accents, Shishio's Fate theme with strings/brass/timpani.
6 1:31 京都
Kenshin walks down a busy street in Kyoto.  Misao offers him a place to stay and drags him through the streets.
Busy, optimistic string rhythms, female vocal and drums with cymbalom and low syncopated accents.
7 2:35 逆刃刀 ~
Reverse Blade Sword/
Kenshin stands before the grave of the man he had needed to repair his shattered sword.  He has a flashback of Shakku Arai giving him the reverse blade sword.  He arrives at Shakku's son's home.
Ambient textures/low strings/overtone male choir into variation of Karaku's Dream on wistful strings, joined by electric guitar swells.
8 3:58 新世 ~
Shin Yo -
Those Who Defend
0:00: Kenshin confronts Cho the Sword-Hunter and they fight.
Sinister synth ostinato joined by drums/samples and low string tremoli accents.
0:56: Kaoru and Yahiko hear about the fight in the village.  They head over.  The fight continues.
Subdued groove under concerned violins, intercut with modulated previous fight groove.
2:03: Kenshin and Cho talk about the past.  Kenshin vows to save the hostage child even if it costs him his life.
Distorted rhythm with distant electric guitar solo/strings, becoming low synth rhythm and string figures, variation of No Killing theme on strings/brass with rhythmic accents.
9 2:51 修羅道
Scene of Carnage
0:00: At Shishio's hideout, Sojiro arrives with news of Kenshin's progress towards Kyoto.  Shishio plans a trap (also: Shishio tells Sojiro to gather the 10 Swords).
Drums with overtone male choir layers, synth and taiko accents.
0:51: Shishio rallies his mercenary army for an attack on Kyoto at midnight.
Repeating sinister rising brass figure with taiko accents, developing into ominous strings/drum accents. 
10 4:10 逆刃刀真打
Reverse Blade Sword Master
0:00: After Kenshin defeats Cho, he finds out he had used a back-blade and didn't kill him.  The police take Cho away.  Kaoru and Yahiko address Kenshin but he staggers away.
Cymbalom ostinato/held strings/piano ornaments, strings based on Karaku's Dream theme.
1:31: That night, Kenshin inspects the back-blade.  He flashes back to a conversation with Shakku's son who explains that this is the "true" back-blade.  Shakku's son lets Kenshin have the sword.  Kenshin reads the inscription.
Karaku's Dream theme developed on strings/synth/electric guitar swells, leading to swells with timpani.
11 3:53 臨月天光
Heavenly Light
Shishio tells the 10 Swords to begin their attack on Kyoto.  Saito, Kenshin and the Hidden Watchers prepare for the attack.  Shishio's fireworks go off.
Low drones with harmonized and delayed shenai.
12 3:15 飛天 ~京都大火
Hiten -
Kyoto Inferno
The police and Shishio's mercenaries engage.  Kenchin and Saito calmly enter the fray.  Kaoru and Yahiko fights with wood staves.  The Hidden Watchers attack the mercenaries who try to set fires.  Sano arrives and enters the battle.   The ninja Elder Okina senses Aoshi.
Distant Kenshin vocal wails leading to bass pulses, slams, Kenshin theme on strings/drums/vocals/electric guitar, electric guitar rhythm over drum rhythm, electric guitar solo over rhythm, Kenshin theme vocal/brass/strings resumes, joined by noble counter-figure, ending in low bass hum.
13 1:34 撹乱
Kenshin is attacked by a squad of Shishio look-alikes.  At the same time, Okina fights Aoshi in front of the inn.
Rhythmic staccato string layers with brass chord accents and ambient elements, joined by vocal accents and swirling strings.
14 1:44 闇の現
Darkness Flows
Aoshi and Okina fight in an upstairs room.  The fight leads outside and Misao arrives.  Aoshi lethally wounds Okina.
Ambient textures and breathy vocal chant.
15 2:16 雷光
0:00: Okina falls under flashing skies.  Aoshi puts away his weapons and leaves before a stunned Misao. 
Poignant, disturbed string figures.
1:16: Kenshin continues fighting the Shishio decoys.  Sano arrives and pushes a tower onto the decoys.
Somber variation of Kenshin theme on held and swirling strings with ambient/choral synth.
16 0:57 煉獄の悪巧
Warutakumi’s Purgatory
On board Shishio's battleship, Kenshin fights more of Shishio's men in order to save Kaoru.  Kaoru is tossed overboard and Kenshin runs into Shishio.  Kenshin jumps overboard after Kaoru.
Swashbuckling brass/timpani with string accents, rising cadence into falling brass/string figure, ending in a rising cadence.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends
     In this final installment, Sato concentrates more on heroic action grooves and textures than in the previous films' scores (though "The Legend Ends" does retrack some material from "Kyoto Inferno").  In some sense, this is also a somewhat more conservative score (not so many ethnic solo improvisations), but this approach better suits the epic nature of the story.  There also isn't much in the way of new character themes except for the "Master's theme" (an ostinato-driven, fateful string texture explored in the first part of the film), but considering that this film is the continuation of the previous entry, it wasn't really necessary to create much brand new character material.

Trk Dur Title Film Sequence/Music Elements
1 2:57 降誕
0:00: A young boy buries his former slave trader owners and is confronted by the man who freed him.
Low ambient textures joined by cymbalom improvisation.
1:55: The man gives the boy a new name: Kenshin, and offers to teach him the way of the sword (also when the Master spars with Kenshin in the rain with flashbacks to his childhood training; the Master tells Kenshin to bring back his childhood stubbornness).
Master's theme in violins with celli ostinato and bass layer building and joined by cymbalom/anvil/choir.
2 3:10 奥義~
The Secret of Hiten Mitsurugi
While tending to the unconscious Okina, Misao realizes Aoshi is now an enemy.  The Master asks Kenshin why he needs more training for killing.  They spar in the forest and the Master overpowers Kenshin.
Master's theme in string/cymbalom ostinati figures with fateful soft synth/strings, becoming string layers with taiko accents, adding percussion/falling brass layers.
3 5:07
0:00: The Master challenges Kenshin to a lethal duel in a bamboo forest.
Ambient textures with a desolate, distant female chant.
1:45: Kenshin eventually realizes that he has lost the will to live due to guilt from his lethal past.
Slow, concerned strings building in layers, becoming relieved.
3:20: The Master tells Kenshin that he has placed the welfare of others too far above his own happiness.  They re-engage.
Held strings with return of desolate female chant/ambient textures, rising into the Master's theme with string/cymbalom ostinato/anvil/fateful strings/delayed electric bass.
4 3:18 冀望
0:00: Kaoru wakes up and walks in a grassy green field by the beach.
Held string and synth with piano ornaments leading to relaxed piano figures.
0:56: Sano and Yahiko find her.  They decide to return to Tokyo to wait for Kenshin there.
Poignant strings, becoming hopeful.
2:05: Artillery is prepared for use against Shishio's battleship.  Kenshin prepares to leave the Master.
Foreboding low string ostinato with drums/anvil, joined by rising brass/Master's theme violin ostinato.
5 1:12 怒気の矛先
Force of Anger
After Misao is injured, the duel between Aoshi and Kenshin becomes more intense.
Metallic textures into tribal drum/synth groove and fateful strings, accented string/brass rhythm figure into held strings.
6 1:14 再臨
Second Coming
Kenshin leaves Misao and Aoshi and travels back to Tokyo on foot and by boat.
Master's theme variation as an energetic/heroic violin and percussion rhythm with bass figures and synth pulses, joined by drums/anvil/brass.
7 2:54 画策
Kenshin tells Governor Ito that he can kill Shishio if he gets close enough.  Ito tells him that he will get a "legendary end".  Kenshin is marched out and then put on a horse heading towards an execution site.  Sano, Kaoru and Yahiko follow.  More artillery is prepared on the beach.
Percussion rhythm joined by a variation of the Master's theme ostinato as falling "Mission" strings/rising violins/brass, tribal drum march with slow, rising string melody, joined by brass, at the end the falling Master/Mission string figure briefly returns.
8 3:19 悔恨の念
0:00: On the beach, Hoji reads out the names of Kenshin's war victims.  Kenshin has a flashback to the young warrior he killed who gave him his first cheek scar.
Poignant string layers, developed.
2:26: Kenshin's head is bowed for his execution.  The sword falls but Kenshin is unharmed.
Alarmed string accent, fateful string figures/accents.
9 2:08 疾風怒濤
Sturm und Drang
0:00: Kenshin and Sano start fighting the deck warriors on Shishio's battleship.
Synth/drums/brass/strings action groove.
0:34: On the beach, Saito confronts and kills Shishio's blind priest warrior.
Falling string figure with drums/brass accents, rising figures.
1:13: Kenshin and the police enter the lower decks.
Synth/drums/brass/strings action groove with tremolo accents/brass fanfare accents, ending in an rhythmic string accents.
10 1:36 刺客
Sojiro appears and begins fighting Kenshin.
Rising string gliss into drum/taiko/synth groove with samples/dissonant string cluster ornaments, leading to rising brass figure/fateful strings, string tremoli/synth pulses.
11 6:57 仇敵
Bitter Enemy
0:00: The beach artillery begins firing on Shishio's battleship.
Lumbering drums/brass march.
0:47: Kenshin dodges Hoji's gatling gun fire.  Shishio appears and taunts Kenshin.  They begin dueling but Shishio gets the upper hand.
Shishio's Fate texture: sho/koto/male choir chant/ambient textures, choir textures rise.
3:45: Shishio takes a bite out of Kenshin's shoulder and throws him into a pile of cargo boxes.  Saito appears and begins fighting Shishio.  Sano appears and starts fighting Shishio as well.
Version of "Overcoming Fate": Shishio's Fate theme in strings/anvil/low brass figure.  No Killing theme variation in string figures with some swirling elements joined by low pulses.  Shishio's Fate theme in strings/anvil/low brass figure reprise, low end texture cadence.
12 1:52 狂瀾
In the final battle, Aoshi appears and engages Shishio.  Kenshin, Sano and Saito join in the fight but Shishio holds his own against all four heroes.
Heroic string/brass figures with drums, string ostinati with noble brass, developing, fateful accent chords with low brass counter figures, high held strings.
13 2:20 刻限
0:00: The fight continues, as time runs out for Shishio.  Shishio pauses and says he is getting hot.
String gliss into tribal drums with synth/rhythmic brass accents/string glissandi, intercut with timpani rolls/string accents, then joined by noble brass/strings, ending in danger fanfare.
1:45: Yumi runs to Shishio but Shishio runs her through in order to strike a hit on Kenshin.
Staccato string rhythm with suspense string/brass figure becoming tremoli.
14 3:55 終焉の炎
The End of the Flame
0:00: Kenshin says farewell to the flaming, laughing Shishio.  Sano helps the weakened Kenshin off the collapsing ship.  The survivors row back to shore.  The police round up Shishio's mercenaries on the beach.
Held strings/male choir texture, joined by full choir/building strings, developed in rising choral figures, ending in reverent choral/string cadence.
2:15: Kaoru appears and happily greets Kenshin.  Misao greets Aoshi.  Shishio's battleship explodes and sinks.
Poignant strings, becoming relaxed and joined by choir, brass, timpani rolls, ending in somber strings.
15 5:01 飛天~
The Legend Ends
0:00: Kenshin's bonds snap and his beach executioner is revealed to be Saito.  Saito, Kenshin and the soldiers fight Shishio's men.  Sano and Kenshin reach a boat and head towards Shishio's battleship.  Saito continues fighting on the beach.
Ambient texture/pulses with Kenshin theme vocal wails, Kenshin theme with vocal/drums/strings/male choir/electric guitar, electric guitar solo layers over drums, strings return as guitar solos continue.
2:35: (briefly used) Shishio's battleship begins shelling the beach.
Ambient textures/pulses with distant bansuri improvisation, Kenshin theme with vocals and rhythm resumes, string/brass counter-figure joins, ending ambient drone/pulses.
(Track edit also used for the end scene on the beach: Governor Ito proclaims that the Battousai is dead.  The soldiers salute the heroes.  The heroes depart for home).

Naoki Sato Wiki Entry
Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Wiki Entry
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends Wiki Entry


  1. This breakdown is awesome! I've been spending days trying to figure out what the track is when Sano shows up to fight Shishio in The Legend Ends (Bitter Enemy). By any chance, do you have the MP3 files for these albums, particularly The Legend Ends? I've been looking for them everywhere and I can't find them. If you could please send it/them to I would be forever grateful. Thank you so much!

  2. This breakdown's great and preety in-depth at covering all the thematic development across the scores. I hope to eventually see you cover The Final and The Beginning's soundtracks as well.