The wandering swordman Rurouni Kenshin
Rurouni Kenshin – Meiji Kenkaku Roman Tan (Rurouni Kenshin – Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, or in short, Rurouni Kenshin) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The author wrote Rurouni Kenshin with the intention to set it apart from other manga series at the time, as the story took a more serious and darker tone as it continued.
Rurouni Kenshin was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from April 1994 to September 1999. After gaining huge popularity, the manga was adapted into an anime series and aired from January 1996 to September 1998. Aside from anime adaptations, Rurouni Kenshin also inspired several video games which was released for PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable consoles.
Its live-action adaptations, with the first film released in 2012, has achieved massive success and received praise for the compelling story and high production value. A total of five live-action films was produced by Warner Bros and star Japanese top actor Takeru Satoh as Kenshin. Two new films, titled Rurouni Kenshin: The Final and Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning premiered in 2021.
Trailer for Rurouni Kenshin: The Final/The Beginning live-action films
The beginning of the Rurouni Kenshin’s story
The main protagonist, Himura Kenshin, was a former legendary assassin known as “Hitokiri Battousai” during the Japanese Revolution War. At the end of Bakumatsu – the final years of Edo period, as Japan changed from a feudal Tokugawa shogunate to the modern empire of the Meiji government, Kenshin became a wandering swordman.
Arriving in Tokyo in the 11th year of Meiji (1878), Kenshin met a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru. She was in pursuit of a mysterious murderer, who claimed to be Hitokiri Battousai and used the name of her family dojo to tarnish their reputation.
At first, Kaoru mistakenly thought Kenshin was the culprit of those murders because he was carrying a sword. This action was against the Sword Abolishment Edict, issued by the Meiji government, that prohibited normal people from carrying weapons in public.
When Kaoru started to attack, Kenshin didn’t retaliate. He claimed he was only a rurouni (wandering swordman) that just arrived in town. Kenshin showed Kaoru that he was wielding a sakabato (reverse-blade sword), which was a katana that has the cutting edge on the inwardly curved side of the sword. Because of this unique design, his sword was nearly incapable of killing.
Both of them suddenly heard the police whistle and rushed to the scene. There, they found a man who was cutting down the police. Kaoru charged in but she was also cut. Before the mysterious man ran away, he claimed that he was the “Hitokiri Battousai of Kamiya Kasshin Dojo” – Kaoru’s family dojo.
Kenshin prevented Kaoru from chasing after the guy any further since she was hurt. He carried her back to her dojo.
Kaoru told Kenshin that she took over her father’s dojo when he passed away. It was a small but proud dojo. Kaoru’s father built the dojo with the ideal of using the sword to protect other people, rather than killing. However, her student all left and the townspeople hated the dojo because their name was associated with a murderer – Hitokiri Battousai.
Kenshin stated that Kaoru and her father’s ideal was noble but naive as he truly understood the terrifying power of the sword. Kenshin said Kaoru shouldn’t pursuit the culprit anymore because her father would not want his dojo protected at the cost of his daughter’s life.
The swordman with a dark past
Kaoru met Kenshin the next day when he was being arrested by the police for carrying a sword. She started to argued with the police but a man named Kihei stepped in and diffuse the situation.
Kihei collapsed in front of Kaoru’s family dojo one day and she took him in. Since then, he has been staying with Kaoru and became her house keeper. Kenshin said that Kaoru was too trusting. “Everyone has something about their past that they don’t want to talk about” , Kaoru said, “Aren’t you the same?”
Back at the dojo, the house keeper Kihei showed Kaoru the agreement papers to sell her dojo. Kihei has been persuading Kaoru to sell the dojo but she would always refuse. This time, Kihei said that the papers were already settled and he just need Kaoru’s seal.
Suddenly, a large man appeared right behind Kihei. He was the culprit of all the murders who appeared in front of Kaoru and Kenshin the other night.
It turned out that they were brothers. The elder brother Himura Kihei tried to gain Kaoru trust and persuade her to sell the dojo, while his younger brother Himura Gohei committed murders using Kamiya Kasshin’s name to ruin their reputation. They wanted to destroy the dojo and sell the land for a large sum of money.
Just when the Himura brothers were about to kill Kaoru, Kenshin arrived to save her.
He has been secretly tracking the Himura brothers’ base of operation and already defeated the crooks staying at the base. In just a few minutes, Kenshin charged in and defeated all of them. Kenshin practiced the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu (Flying Heaven Honorable Sword Style) that allowed him to exercise superhuman speed and perform unmatchable sword techniques.
Most of his techniques were originally intended to end the life of his opponent in a single strike. However, Kenshin has since changed them in keeping with his vow that he would never kill again.
With a powerful strike, Kenshin took down Gohei and scared Kihei so much that he lost consciousness.
After discovering Kenshin’s past as the legendary Battousai, Kaoru still invited him to stay in her dojo. “I didn’t say I want the Battousai to stay” , Kaoru said, “I want the Rurouni to stay.”
Kenshin smiled and accepted Kaoru’s offer, telling her to call him “Himura Kenshin”. Thus, it was the beginning of their story.