Hey there guys, thought I’d share one of my favourite Japanese anime series with you guys. I am of course talking about Rurouni Kenshin, also named Samurai X in English.
The series was written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The fictional setting takes place during the early Meiji period in Japan. The story is about a fictional assassin named Himura Kenshin, or often referred to as Himura Battousai as he was called during the revolution, from the Bakumatsu who becomes a wanderer to protect the people of Japan. Watsuki wrote this series upon his desire of making a shōnen manga different from the other ones that were published in that time, with Kenshin being a former assassin and the story taking a more serious tone as it continued. Although the tragic tone was highly expanded as the manga advanced, Watsuki became determined to give it a happy ending as it was aimed at teenagers.
The manga was adapted into an anime series which aired in Japan from January 10, 1996 to September 8, 1998. Besides an animated film, two series of original video animations (OVAs) were also produced. Several video games have also been released for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles.
The story of Rurouni Kenshin takes place during the early Meiji era in Japan, which was shortly after the revolution. The series features a peaceful wanderer named Himura Kenshin, who was known as Hitokiri Battousai during the revolution. After fighting in the Bakumatsu war, Kenshin wanders all around Japan offering protection to those who need it, as a way to atone for all the people he murder back when he was an assassin. The series starts when he arrives in Tokyo in the 11th year of Meiji (1878), where he meets a young women by the name of Kamiya Kaoru who is in the middle of a fight with a man who claims to be the legendary Hitokiri Battousai. Kenshin jumps in and defeats the fake Battousai. Kaoru offers him a place to stay at her dojo. Kenshin accepts and begins to establish relationships with people such as Sagara Sanosuke. Myojin Yahiko, Takani Megumi, Shinomori Aoshi and his life-long rival Saito Hajime.
After several months of living at the dojo and fighting off small-time villains who threaten his new friends he discovers that his successor as assassin, Shishio Makoto, has set a devious plan to take control of Japan in motion. Kenshin goes off to meet Shishio alone in order to defeat him, however, a couple of his friends race after him to help him in his fight against Sishio and his band of followers. In the end he beats Shishio, who dies as a result of his wounds and a dramatic rise in body temperature.
There are a couple of other story arcs, but I really recommend stopping at the Shishio one, because it gets kind of boring after with the introduction of a story line about Christians and one that features Feng Shui for some reason.
Moving on to the OVAs, of which there are 2 series. The first one, Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal, collectively known in Japan as Tsuiokuhen. It is set during the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate and during Kenshin’s job as an assassin.
The second one, Samurai X: Reflection, acts a sequel to the manga’s plot various years after its end. It follows a Kenshin who has left Kaoru in order to protect people from Japan, by medicating them rather than fighting. As the First Sino-Japanese War ends, Kenshin is suffering from an unknown disease which is weakening his body and forgets about his identity. Sanosuke finds Kenshin and takes him to Kaoru, where Kenshin gently dies in her arms.
I must say that the OVAs are simply sublime. The art style has been changed to be more realistic, the setting is darker and emotions are much more present. Opposed to the anime, the atmosphere is a lot darker and more serious.
The anime series and the OVAs are characterized by their romanticized scenery and in the case of the anime, often lighthearted and humorus dialogues. If you’re interested in this anime I recommend watching the anime series first, and then move on to the OVAs. Also, I recommend watching it in Japanese as I think the voice acting is better, and offers more realism than the English version.
Below you’ll find the opening theme to the anime series, and one of my favourite fights throughout the series which is when Kenshin fights against Saito Hajime and loses himself and returns to the way he was in the revolution, a manslayer. Please ignore the bad quality of the second one. Enjoy!