Title: Rurouni Kenshin
Based on: Rurouni Kenshin (manga)
Production: Studio Gallop, Studio Deen (episode 66+), Aniplex
Japan 1867… the Tokugawa Dynasty stands upon failing lengths. An invincible samurai, Kenshin Himura, walks upon a path of death and destruction ushering in a new regime. Hated and feared by many, he is known as “Hitokiri Battōsai”, the man-slayer (hitokiri = man-slayer). Repenting for his deeds in the revolution, he has taken an oath: to protect the innocent and to never kill again. Although he now lives a life of a rōnin, old memories seldom fade and return to haunt him but… bad habits die hard.
Before I came across Cardcaptor Sakura, almost everything I watched were English dubs. I remember when I used to toon into the Rurouni Kenshin dub on Toonami every night. Of course, back then almost everything I frequently watched was Dragon Ball Z (Japanese and English dub) and the Pokemon dub, so I guess this was my first dose of what anime was really like; diverse and not everything being about superpowered men/creatures beating the **** out of one another. What I liked about Rurouni Kenshin was that it was the first anime I watched to be based on an aspect of Japan and portray it accurately, historically. Take Naruto for example, it takes a historical aspect of Japan (ninja) and adds some sort of fantasy aspect to it and they don’t really feel like ninja anymore. The samurai and the ninja in Rurouni Kenshin really felt like they were portrayed like the real things, given that alot of them were based on and modeled after real life people during that era.
Of course, alot of them didn’t actually wear what they were supposed to wear, mainly the samurai (no armor… just hakama and yukata 😉). But that’s beside the point.
Let’s take a look at the characters:
Kenshin Himura – The main character of the story, based on one of The Four Hitokiri of Bakumatsu, Kawakami Gensai. A very calm and cool character and rarely gets mad at anyone. He probably has one of the most tragic and extreme pasts that he wants to put behind out of all the characters in the anime. If you watched the OVA Tsuiokuhen *spoilers ahead*, you’d see that he wasn’t always the calm and cool person we’ve seen him to be in the anime. Back in the revolution, he was literally a killing machine for the Imperialists and easily kills at least 10 people within one strike of his blade, and with the realistic animation in the OVA, it does look pretty disgusting. He also accidentally and unintentionally killed his first wife when she tried to block a blow for him, which forshadows his oath to never kill again.
He used the sakabato during the anime, which is basically a katana which has the cutting side on the wrong side, therefore not giving it enough force to kill anyone. However, in some episodes of the anime, he runs into some people who were from the revolution – some forcing him to revert back mentally into the Battōsai once again and at times even making him go as far as to turn around his sakabato to the sharper edge of the blade. However, he always manages to revert back to the current Kenshin and keeps his oath to never kill anyone. He uses the Hiten Mitsurugi style of swordmanship which his old master Hiko Seijūrō taught him, the ultra sonic blade technique that hardly fails to kill anyone unless being used with a sword like the sakabato. Unlike most heroes of shounen tales, Kenshin seems to be very intelligent and wise, often the one teaching the morals to the wrong do-ers and the people that are in need of help in the anime.
Kamiya Kaoru – The primary teacher of the Kamiya Kasshin dojo and teaches the Kamiya Kassin style of swordmanship, a dojo that believes swords can help people, not to kill them. Despite her age (17 in the Eastern Asian way of counting your age), she’s very agressive and even scares the legendary Hitokiri Battōsai! ^^; She lets Kenshin live at the dojo ever since he helped her defeat a former student of the Kamiya dojo, a person who posed as the Battōsai and wanted to have his revenge on the dojo because Kaoru’s father punished him long ago for attempting to kill the other students by disabiling his left thumb. *spoilers* She secretly is in love with Kenshin and they get married by the end of the series, having a child named Kenji.
She’s a very bad cook and only Kenshin likes to eat her food for the only reason that it’s not that bad each time he eats it. ^^;
“Wow, I’ve never seen a sword like this before! The blade is on the wrong end!”
“It’s a sakabato, it cannot slay anyone nor does it look like it was ever meant to slay anyone…”
Yahiko Myōjin – A little boy *gets punched by Yahiko* that is a samurai descendant pf a long line of samurai who had to pay a debt to the yakuza for buying his mother medicine, even though she died anyway and there was no debt. After being saved from his life of pickpocketing, he trains under the Kamiya Kasshin style often wnating to aid Kenshin in his battles. A annoying little boy, I wasn’t very fond of him, even though he did have his charm every so often.
Sanosuke Sagara – Modeled after Harada Sanosuke of the real-life Shinsengumi. In the anime, (taken from Wikipedia because I’m being lazy right now) Sanosuke left home at an early age to join the Sekihoutai, leaving behind his father (Kamishimoemon), his mother (Naname), and his younger sister (Uki) who adored him. He would return home years later to discover that his mother was dead, having died a couple of years after the birth of his younger brother, Ota, who immediately began to admire Sanosuke for his bravery and boldness. Sanosuke would also find out that his family name was now Higashidani, although he would never use it himself. His sister, after Sanosuke’s disappearance and then her mother’s death, became overprotective of her younger brother and father, who worked as a local merchant and farmer with the infamy of being a local fighter. Ota, after Sanosuke leaves his family again, would eventually follow his brother’s advice and train at the Kamiya Kasshin-Ryu style dojo to become strong.
The Sekihoutai fought for the imperial alliance at the end of the Tokugawa regime and Sanosuke admired his captain, Sagara Sōzō and took the surname Sagara from him. The Sekihoutai were on assignment to spread word of the halving of taxes proclaimed by the revolution. However, when the revolutionary government encountered financial problems, they labeled the Sekihoutai as frauds to bury their promises. This setup was engineered by Shindō Tatewaki, a former officer in the imperial alliance. The Sekihoutai were designated scapegoats and to be executed; Sanosuke was the only survivor, other than his friend Tsukioka Katsuhiro. The exact circumstances of Sōzō’s death differ between the animated version and the manga; in the manga Sanosuke realized he had been killed after seeing his decapitated head on display as a warning, while in the anime a wounded Sozo pushed Sanosuke to safety off a cliff in order to save him before dying himself.
Full of anger and bitterness, Sanosuke made a living as a fighter-for-hire who bore the nickname “Zanza” derived from his weapon, the zanbatō. Eventually, he was hired to kill Himura Kenshin, but after being defeated by the former assassin and learning of Kenshin’s no-kill approach, Sanosuke becomes a valuable ally. He later adopts a boxing-like fighting skill, known for the strength of his right fist. Because the zanbato was broken during the fight, Sanosuke no longer wields it on a regular basis.
I liked Sanosuke because he provided some good comedy relief from time to time with Yahiko and how the series pokes fun at his freeloading habits. (:
…. blame Wikipedia for the long description.
There are many more side characters and antagonists that contribute to the story somewhat, and with pasts that connect with, yes you guessed it – the revolution. There are many characters that I won’t even bother to list any more… that, and due to laziness.
As for the story; it put me in a wide range of emotions, an emotion that will soon follow when I watch other historical series. Just as the beginning of the post suggests, it’s about a ronin who’s put his murderous past behind him and plans to help people in need. Quite a reoccurring thing that appears often is that Kenshin encounters figures from the revolution who can’t seem to put behind the past and challenge him. The story gets heated up starting from the 6 episode, where Jin-e (with the alias of “Kurogasa”) kidnaps Kaoru and Kenshin is forced to revert back to the Battōsai in order to save Kaoru since Kurogasa’s “spell” has Kaoru sufficate and the only way to stop it is to kill him.
We get a fun anime with a very accurate essence of early Japan in every episode. Lots of political things are touched upon in this anime, an example is a couple of drunks arguing about democracy and such. Seems to portray the past pretty well, with the views of an imperfect government.
I liked Kenshin’s quote in episode 3 where he manages to get a trio of poilice swordsmans arrested for abusing their power.
“If people don’t agree then-“
“… You’ll make them agree. That is the very thought, that creates corrupted men like them.”
Very true indeed.
The anime didn’t end on a good note though. No, it didn’t. It ended in filler. After the Makoto Shishio arc, the anime was borderline of going ahead of the manga, so they had to go into filler for the next [whatever number] of episodes so the manga could have some time to get ahead. They were pretty boring too and because of that the ratings dropped. Unfortunately, this led to them having to cancel it before they got back to the canon material. A shame, since I was looking forward to the last arc being animated. I recommend reading the manga to find out what the last arc is about, as to not spoil the experience.
“Ha! Another fool who thinks a sword can bring out people’s potenial!“
“No… a sword is a weapon. The art of swordsmanship is learning how to kill. That is the truth. What Miss Kaoru says… is only sweet and innocent talk that only those whose hands have never been stained with the blood of men can believe… But to tell you the truth, I much prefer Miss Kaoru’s sweet and innocent talk over the truth, that indeed I do. I hope that someday her words would become the truth for all of us to live by.”
I also recommend watching the two OVAs after watching the anime. The animation of the OVAs is absolutely brilliant and of higher quality than the animation in the anime. The animation of the anime is good for an anime of its time, but the animation for the OVA is, comparable to the animation in Hayao Miyazaki’s films, brilliant. The second OVA ties some loose ends to the ending-less anime (even though I believe that the manga’s ending is better!) and the first OVA tells us about Kenshin’s bloody past.
Overall, the anime may not be the best historical anime out there (esspecially since it didn’t even finish adapting the manga and the main characters went through a rather ironic ending in the last OVA), but it’s worth a watch.
(FYI, I took alot of screens from episode 1. Shame I only got to use a few in this post. Boo.)