Reflections — Rurouni Kenshin

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.)

One thought on “Reflections — Rurouni Kenshin

  1. Very impor­tant infor­ma­tions there are.Though the author has com­ment­ed that the pic­tures are few but I think they are much and they are very beautiful.I like them all.However I’m very fan of Kenshin,I’ve found very few sites of Ken­shin like this.Best of luck.

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