"Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno" picks up where the excellent first episode left off. The year is 1878, the New Age of Japan had taken over the Imperial/Samurai Age.
A ruthlessly ambitious assassin bandaged from head to foot, Makato Sishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara), had been wreaking terror in the countryside. Government officials seek out Himura Kenshin, the young ex-assassin with the X-scar on his left cheek, as the only possible match against Sishio. Upon witnessing the terrors inflicted by Sishio and his goons on the citizenry, Kenshin decides to take up his sword again and sets off to Kyoto to try and put an end to Sishio's mad plans.
From the first film, we still have Kenshin (Takeru Sato) and his friends: the peaceful fencing instructor Kaoru (Emi Takei), brash street fighter Sonosuke (Munetaka Anoki), dedicated doctor Megumi (Yu Aoi) and the young boy Yahiko (Kaito Oyagi). We also see samurai-turned-police chief Hajime Saito (Yosuke Eguchi), ever with a lit cigarette on his lips. The actors still act in their anime best. Those distinct mannerisms expected from these characters are there.
Aside from a couple of big battle scenes where Kenshin practically single-handedly plows through entire troops of Sishio's soldiers, we also see Kenshin in a number of impressively choreographed one-on-one fights scenes with major supporting characters. He had a funny fight scene with feisty little Misao Makimachi (Tao Tsuchiya), who tries to steal his sword. Kenshin had an elegant fight with Sojiro (Ryunosuke Kamiki), Sishio's effeminate but highly-skilled right-hand man, where his old trusty back-bladed sword actually broke. After a big brutal fight with the crazy blond fighter, Cho (Ryosuke Miura), Kenshin would gain a new sword to continue his fight with.
Happening parallel to the huge Kyoto Inferno scene was another big fight scene between Elder Nenji Kashiwazaki (Min Tanaka), the leader of the Hidden Watchers, a group of vigilante ninjas of which Misao is a member, and an enigmatic man in a white overcoat Aoiji (Yusuke Iseya), an ex-Hidden Watcher who was now on a singular mission to kill the Battosai (a.k.a. Kenshin). Aoiji's role in this film is quite puzzling, so we expect his character to be important in the next film.
As with the first film, the cinematography, costumes and production design are all so meticulously good. The execution of the sword fight scenes are so very well-done. The musical score ranged from traditional Japanese melodies to rock music during the climactic and fiery Kyoto Inferno scene.
However, this second film is clearly just a bridge between the first and a future third film. Even if this film ran for a long 2-and-a-half hours, its main purpose was set up a battle-royale between Kenshin and Sishio in the third and final film. Unlike the first movie, this film does not really stand by itself. The ending of this one is obviously set up as a cliffhanger for bigger things to come. Fortunately for us, we will only have to wait just another more month to watch that ultimate war. 7/10.