I would like to take this opportunity to express the following caustic opinion: Rurouni Kenshin is what Ninja Scroll wishes it were in its wildest wet dreams.

Kenshin has a great anti-hero whose skills make sense (if not in terms of physics, then at least terms of plot).

Kenshin has interesting supporting characters. And interesting bad guys. And is set in an interesting historical period (the Meiji Restoration).

The main themes of "Kenshin," which set it apart from its lesser bretheren (the aforementioned Ninja Scroll, Dragonball Z) are love, redemption, the morality of killing, and the subsuming of the samurai way to European modernity. It has weaknesses; a fetishization of strange sword techniques, romantic attractions that take way too long to play out, and storytelling that is not, perhaps, economical, but overall it's an entertaining anime, especially if you can groove on the sword fights. I don't really care, but then I wouldn't.

Also, Kenshin has great music.

The above are all interesting takes on two different shows.

Himura Kenshin is the main character in ni different show.

The show most people are familiar with is Rurouni Kenshin, translated literally as Kenshin the Wandering Swordsman. The story of Kenshin is as fascinating as it is historically informative. It takes place during the Meiji era of Japanese history, in the year 11. (1878 to us.) Kenshin was (as mentioned above) an assasin during the violent uprising which lead to the Meiji era. His skill and poise were instrumental in bringing the former government down. He became known as the Battosai, a title based on his skill at a certain sword style. The series Rurouni Kenshin surrounds the events which take place when Kenshin meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru in the streets of Tokyo. He, the young woman, the young thief Myojin Yahiko and the ex-mercenary Sagara Sanosuke form a kind of family unit, with Kenshin protecting the people of Tokyo from the likes of gangsters, and remnants of the violent Meiji revolution.

The show combines moments of Samurai action (The above mention of Ninja Scroll paling in comparison to this show is accurate, I think.) with a well thought out and well written plot. While the show does have its moments of levity, this series is more serious than shows like Ranma 1/2.

The other show starring Kenshin is the (also excellent) 4 part OAV series, Samurai X. I actually like Samurai X better, for reasons I mention in the node for that series.
There is some confusion about this, because Samurai X is the name of the OAV series, as well as a movie, in the Rurouni Kenshin timeframe.

For more information on Kenshin, check out http://oro.simplenet.com/oro/ . It's slightly out of date (Kenshin is now available in the states, thanks to Media Blasters), but has in depth information on the show and characters.

If there's one thing that this series has taught me, it's that domestic violence is funny when it's a woman throwing the blunt objects. Kaoru, the young and nubile owner of the dojo that Himura Kenshin lives at (along with the rest of the cast), is constantly berating or beating the master swordsman for his percieved ineptitude with her bokken, a handy cooking pot, or the vegetables in the soup she was making for the whole gang.

Like the pacifist he is, Kenshin doesn't do anything about her abuse- it just wouldn't be anime if the guy resisted the gal's anger (and that Kenshin would probably remove her head with his mad l33t skillz if he fought back with any seriousness at all).
Unfortunately, the anime series Rurouni Kenshin dosen't really get interesting until the Kyoto Chapter of the series (Also called the "Shishio Saga"). This doesn't begin until some time around episode 25 or so. This is most unfortunate, because skeptics or the unopinionated tend to lose interest before the series gets truly interesting.

Although many die-hard fans of the anime call this blasphemous, when I introduce a new viewer to Kenshin, I begin by showing them the four-part OAV that serves as a prequel to the entire series. Called "Recollections" (or "Samurai X" for the US release), this four part movie is much higher-quality animation, and is the story that takes place ten years before the beginning of the anime's TV episodes (and should NOT be confused with the "Kenshin Movie" that takes place chronologically halfway through the series). Thankfully, the OAV has been released across two DVDs here in the states (Finally!).

It is the OAV, in my opinion, that elevates kenshin from a "good" anime to a "great" one. I must have seen it about 10 or 15 times or so, but each time still brings tears to my eyes. Before you write this anime off completely, borrow the OAV, trust me.

My biggest problem with Kenshin (besides the slightly silly "Tokyo Chapter" that begins the series) is that the end of the series portrayed in the Manga (Japanese comic book) is not produced in the Anime series. For those of you who have not read the Manga, the last part of the story (called the "Revenge Saga") deals with Enishi, the brother of Kenshin's Ill-Fated love, Tomoe. Yahiko also returns in this chapter, as an adult Hitokiri.

All of the episodes of Kenshin (the anime) after the Shishio Saga are rather pointless, in the grand scheme of things, and fail to bring closure to the truly epic and heart-rending saga.

Although the Anime had many brilliant points in it, it suffered heavily from "episode bloat".

Rurouni Kenshin struggles with one of the most cliched and unimaginative plots ever. I recently watched it at my schools anime club (of which I am a member) where to my great dismay I found people appreciating it for all the wrong reasons. To put it bluntly it's a great action flick with a weak story line. Before I start some stort of flame war with the other anime fans on E2 lemme explain myself.

First of the symbolism used in rurouni kenshin is very weak. The bleeding cut on his face is entirely too obvious a symbol and doesn't provide much depth to the story. If such a symbol were used in any literary work, like a book, it'd be regarded as stupid and overly obvious. The show goes entirely out of its way to stress this symbol, as if they think that this makes more something with a profound meaning. It doesn't, and ends up being everything but profound.

Second is the plot line, it's decent, but not wonderfull. It's a generally entertaining story to watch develop, but doesn't warrant the rave reviews everyone gives it.

The characters also lack dimension. They are not truly human and have one deciding mindset and are highly predictable. One is reminded of early European Theatre where characters were defined by one defining trait (love, loyalty, virtue, etc). Now, on to why it's a good anime. The art and fight scenes are terrific, if only that were the whole show. But still these make a mediocre plot into a great experience. I highly recommend watching this anime, but, don't expect the amazing plot that others have built up. It's not on the same level as published literature as some would compare it to.

NOTE: This node was made regarding the OAV not the series, which I havn't seen

The pacifist nature of the main character, Himura Kenshin also leads to another weak point about the series. Kenshin doesn't kill people, but he does kill valuable time in unending monologues trying to convince his opponents to give up fighting. This is mostly done to fill episodes so one fight fills up an episode at time, sometimes even two. Very annoying when one loves the plot and would like to see it continue. Kenshin seems to think that talking your enemies to death, making them suffer his monologues until blood comes pours from their ears does not count as killing them.

But Kenshin is not alone in this: Aoshi, leader of the Oniwabanshu constantly remembers his fallen comrades, on whose behalf he continues fighting. If you don't know the names Hanya, Beshimi, Hyottoko and Shikijou by heart up to the middle of the series, you have not been watching very closely.

This might be a reason fans like Saitou Hajime so much, as he does less talking and more fighting.

Still, I enjoyed the series very much, but sometimes wished to fast-forward the plot a bit. Some episodes were just _that_ annoying.

One thing everyone seemed to forget mentioning was the main plot lines of the entire series. Typical of us guys, I assume, who would over look them and pay attention to the never ending monologues of Kenshin and the sword fights. They seem to forget that starting very early in the series, while fighting Udo Jin-e, there is a very obvious consistancy in the plot. Love and the desire to live.

There are several (main) love pairings in the series; Kenshin and Kamiya Kaoru, the owner of the Kendo School and master of the Kamiya Kasshin style budo. Kenshin and Takani Megumi; the woman doctor that the Kenshin gumi rescue from some drug dealer. Myoujin Yahiko and Tsumbame; Kaoru's apprentice and a waitress girl at a restraunt frequented by the Kenshin Gumi, respectively. Later in the series (after the aforementioned Kyoto or Shishio saga) a pseudo-relationship develops between Megumi and Sagara Sanosuke, after Megumi realizes that Kenshin has more feelings for Kaoru than for herself. And Misao and Aoshi; but nothing ever really comes about from that relationship, even though Aoshi's eyes do open up to see how Misao feels for him.

Those are just the good guys. Most of the bad guys aren't in enough episodes for you to notice love relationships, but there is one that is obvious, and one that is implied if you look for it. The obvious relationship is between Shishio and his concubine/wife/girlfriend Yumi. The implied one is a yaoi (gay) relationship between Shishio and his left hand man, Hoji. A friend of mine and I can't figure out just how it would work, but we believe that there's something going on.

So obviously love is a very important theme in Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin's own love for Kaoru is what allows him to surpass his own physical limitations and master the final move of his Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu budo. Another thing that allows Kenshin to be so damn good at winning sword fights with his long winded speeches is the love of life concept that is also apparent throughout the series; especially after the Kyoto saga. When mastering the final move, Kenshin recalls some of his earliest memories of women, whom he had not known for more than a day, trying to protect him from bandits and pleading with him to "live on." This carries on to how Kenshin talks his opponents to death (please don't get me wrong, I'm in love with the series, but come on. You can't convince some guy trying to kill you to put down his sword using words...) by convincing them to give up their grudges of the past and to continue living how (usually) the people they are seeking revenge for wanted them to. Surprisingly, Sanosuke also adopts this tactic when he defeats Yukyuzan Anji of the Juppon Gatana.

I do not know how these themes carry over into the OAVs. I have not seen them. From what I hear, however, and from what I gathered from above, Samurai X is about Kenshin's past, while focusing mainly on his first love (coincidently a girl who first set out to kill kenshin, but fell in love back). And the second OAV (or maybe in the manga?), I do not know what it is called, Kaoru and Kenshin have a child, Kenji, Yahiko and Tsunbame get married and have children, and oddly enough, (from what I hear) Sanosuke marries random Chinese Gypsy woman and grows a goatee.

SPOILER ALERT if you haven't finished the series yet...

...but a large part of me thinks the series should've ended with Kaoru actually dying, as opposed to just seeming to die.

The author of the manga even mentioned this in one of his writeups, claiming the main reason he let Kaoru live is because shonen manga should end with smiles and a happy ending. He was 50-50 on the choice of whether or not to kill Kaoru for a while.

But the means by which they kept Kaoru alive are pretty patently ridiculous. I was reading the manga thinking, "Ho, damn, things are getting pretty dark... but there's no way Kaoru can be not-dead, right? Like, her corpse is right there on the page." So then of course they pull some ridiculous bullshit about some really skilled dollmaker just made a facsimile of Kaoru's corpse, and Enishi couldn't bear to kill the real Kaoru because bla bla bla sister complex something. Really, guys?

And thematically — it arguably does work better if Kaoru were to die. The ghosts of Kenshin's past as a hitokirki, the idea of justice coming back for him, the idea of finding a way to repent for the sins of the past... All that would be pushed to the forefront with an event like that.

Though... there's some themes that would be squashed with that kind of ending. Though ending with Kaoru's death would feel less contrived and more brutally honest/real, Kenshin was never quite the same feel as, say, Cowboy Bebop. The inevitability of having to deal with one's past actions and the affect of the past on the present were big players, but so too were the ideas of redemption, the warmth within Kaoru and Kenshin's pseduo-family-unit, and so on. If everything had ended with Sano leaving, Kaoru dead, and Kenshin dying of despair in the outcast village, it would've been a huge letdown. It'd be the vanquishing of Kenshin's sakabatou and his vows. Bebop could pull this off because the whole series, you had a sense that Spike was running away from something, and you knew things couldn't end well when they came back for him. Kenshin, on the whole, despite having similar themes, had a much more optimistic overall feel.

Kenshin's an interesting series in that it balances these competing "dark" and "light" themes throughout.

The manga Rurouni Kenshin is set in the 11th year of Japan's Meiji Era, or 1878 to we Westerners. It centers around a swordsman named Himura Kenshin. Kenshin is a small, unassuming figure with long red hair, tied in a low ponytail, large violet eyes and a huge cross-shaped scar marring his left cheek. Kenshin's humble demeanor belies his dark past. During the violent Bakumatsu, Kenshin functioned as a hitokiri or assassin for the Ishin Shishi, a group of revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the Tokugawa Bakufu which had ruled Japan for 300 years. After a series of tragic circumstances, Kenshin swore off killing and exchanged his katana for a sakabatou or reverse blade sword after the war ended. After ten years of wandering and helping people in order to atone for all the killings he did, Kenshin wanders into Tokyo and is almost immediately accosted by a young girl wielding a bokken or wooden sword. She accuses Kenshin of murdering people at night in her sword style's name. Kenshin decides to help the girl, Kamiya Kaoru to stop the fake Battousai.

Tokyo Arc

The most pedestrian of the three arcs, the Tokyo Arc serves as an introduction to the setting and characters. Aside from Kenshin and Kaoru, we are introduced to foul mouthed pickpocket Myojin Yahiko, the pugnacious gangster Sagara Sanosuke, the coquettish Takani Megumi and the silent, brooding Shinomori Aoshi. The battles in this arc are not very memorable outside of Kenshin's battles with crazed assassin Udo Jinei and Aoshi, who is a skilled onmitsu of the Oniwabanshuu.

Kyoto Arc

The epic middle arc starts off by introducing an old enemy from Kenshin's past in the Bakumatsu, former Shinsengumi captain, Saitou Hajime. Saitou reeks havoc by severely injuring one of Kenshin's friends while holding the other two hostage in their own home, all without their knowledge. An epic battle ensues and Kenshin discovers that his past nature as an assassin is not as distant as he would like to believe. The assassination of an important government official forces Kenshin and Saitou to put their rivalry aside and join forces to fight a formidable foe, Kenshin's own successor as an assassin, Shishio Makoto. Shishio is a swordsman of unbelievable skill who actually rivals Kenshin's abilities. Kenshin is forced to leave his happy life in Tokyo and journey to Kyoto, a city he had hoped never to return to. Kenshin must attempt to defeat Shishio without killing all while battling with the assassin mindset that is still embedded deep within his heart.

Jinchuu/Revenge Arc

This most riveting conclusion of the story finds Kenshin and his friends home from Kyoto and ready to pick up where their lives had left off before the battle with Shishio. However, the ghosts of Kenshin's past will not remain quiet for long. Deep in Kenshin's past as an assassin is an unspeakable tragedy, which led to Kenshin's cruciform scar, his sakabatou and his vow not to kill. Now a man associated with that tragedy comes to Tokyo, bringing with him chaos, grief and guilt for little rurouni who has already been through so much. Will Kenshin survive this clash with his sanity intact or will Yukishiro Enishi succeed in breaking Kenshin's spirit in a way no enemy before has been able to?

A solid story line, a historical setting and loveable characters are what make this series memorable. All the characters, even the antagonists are fleshed out and at least believable, if not always likeable. Rurouni Kenshin is a manga worth reading!

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