Rurouni Kenshin, or as it’s also known as… Samurai X, is one of the “old but gold” anime. The balance between story, fighting and drama make it one of the best of its time, and its genre.
Rurouni Kenshin is a show about redemption and atonement, filled with sword fighting, and the philosophical conundrums to never kill. The story takes place in the 11th year of Meiji Era and it revolves around a wondering samurai, Kenshin Himura.
While he has a silly look in his eyes and “X” scar on his left cheek, Himura holds a dark past. In the first episode, Kenshin reveals that he is Battousai, The Man Slayer from a revolution long past. Back then, he was a feared samurai; Known for his unmatched swordsmanship skills, in particular his mastery of the Hiten Mitsurugi style, and his cold ability to kill.
However, that is not who he is anymore, as he lives to protect others by wielding the “reverse blade sword”. Which is incapable of killing anyone. Nevertheless, despite his best efforts of concealing his past, dramatic events transpire throughout the show that force Himura to tap into his killer instinct. Thus, pushing him closer to the edge of becoming the Battousai once more.
The show does an extremely good job at building the intensity in each episode, leaving the fighting to almost the end. It also shows how strong Kenshin really is, always elevating the strength of his opponents, as well as their indirect connection to him. But it also opens the imagination as to how strong he was as a Battousai.
However, the main attraction are not the fights, but rather Kenshin’s perspective and approach to each obstacle. This is man who is trying to live with the sole purpose saving others. Parallel to that philosophy, he has also vowed to never kill again. No matter how evil his opponent is, he always chooses to let them live.
While some could see this as boring or naïve, it cannot be overlooked that he once killed without hesitation or mercy. Which makes him the perfect person to understand the value of life. Therefore, by never killing his opponents with his reverse blade sword, he fulfils his life promise to himself and to those around him.
On multiple occasions he is pushed to convert back to the legend that he once was; even those who understand his new way of life try to turn him to a killer for the sake of the greater good. However, just before his fight with Makoto Shishio, he understands that his life is not his to sacrifice anymore. Rather it belongs to those he cares for. Which, in turn, only strengths his resolve to wield the reverse blade sword.
Centred Around Love
While Rurouni Kenshin is a story of redemption, it is also a story of love. Kenshin became a wanderer seemingly for two reasons: To protect as many people as he could; and because he could never have a normal life again. But, after meeting Kaoru Kamiya – a young woman who runs a small dojo – his life changes.
Kenshin vows to always protect her, but most importantly, to never disappoint her. After all, Kaoru only knows Kenshin the wonderer, not the Battousai. And, if he ever turned back to his old ways, it would shatter her image of him. Their emotions towards each other are almost unspoken but always present. But it is this unspoken bond that helps Kenshin stick to his conviction and never shed another person’s blood again.
This makes Kenshin’s fighting scenes more intense as he is pushed to the limit. While Kenshin is often a funny, composed and almost goofy character, his attitude changes in an encounter. During these fight scenes, Kenshin’s eyes turn cold, his tone of voice changes and his attitude shifts. But more importantly, his fighting style is more direct, aggressive, and decisive on delivering the fishing blow. But if one takes into account Kenshin’s feeling for Kaoru, they’ll see how much he struggles to keep his promise.
The Beautiful Sword Fights
Lastly, Rurouni Kenshin does a great job at intensifying its fighting scenes. Since this is one of the “old” anime, the shows focuses on the dramatization of the encounters between two samurai. Involving high speed movements, counterattacks, and finishing blows. The screen changes colors depending on the intensity or importance of the fight, making them incredibly grim and fierce. Although the fighting sequences are not as fluent as one usually expects, they do improve as the show goes on.
The story of Kenshin Himura is great! It takes the viewer through the mixed emotions of the main character as he struggles to right his wrongs. It also shows the perspective of Kenshin while he is fighting and why he chooses to never kill again. Rurouni Kenshin deserves to stand on the list of ‘Old but Gold’.
You can find watch the show on Hulu and Funimation. However a word of advice, if you want to enjoy the essence of the show, you are better off stopping at Season 3, Episode 10. Since it allows for the story to come full circle.
Rurouni Kenshin also has two animated movies: Rurouni Kenshin: Love, and Betrayal and Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection. The former gives insight into Kenshin’s life as a Battousai. The latter tells his entire life’s story, including what happens years after the end of the show. Although they are non-canon, both adaptations add further substance to the show and even an acceptable ending.
So that was Hugo recommending another anime! Will you jump in on Rurouni Kenshin? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @thecognetwork. Whilst we’re stuck at home you can also check out his ‘top 4 short anime to watch’.
As always, thanks for reading COG!