Rurouni Kenshin

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Rurouni Kenshin
28th tankōbon volume cover, featuring Himura Kenshin (front) and Kamiya Kaoru (back)
るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚-
(Rurōni Kenshin -Meiji Kenkaku Roman Tan-)
Genre
Manga
Written byNobuhiro Watsuki
Published byShueisha
English publisher
ImprintJump Comics
MagazineWeekly Shōnen Jump
DemographicShōnen
Original runApril 12, 1994September 21, 1999
Volumes28 (List of volumes)
Manga
Anime series
Anime film / Original video animations
Live-action films

Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story (Japanese: るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚-, Hepburn: Rurōni Kenshin -Meiji Kenkaku Roman Tan-)[a] is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The story begins during the 11th year of the Meiji era in Japan (1878) and follows a former assassin from the Bakumatsu, known as Hitokiri Battosai. After his work against the bakufu, he becomes Himura Kenshin, a wandering swordsman who protects the people of Japan with a vow never to take another life. Watsuki wrote the series upon his desire to make a shōnen manga different from others published at the time, with Kenshin being a former assassin and the story taking a more serious tone as it continued.

The manga was serialized in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine from April 1994 to September 1999. The complete work consists of 28 tankōbon volumes, while years later it was reprinted into 22 kanzenban volumes. Studio Gallop, Studio Deen, and SPE Visual Works adapted it into an anime television series, which aired from January 1996 to September 1998. Besides an animated feature film, two series of original video animations (OVAs) were also produced. The first adapted stories from the manga that were not featured in the anime, while the second was a sequel to the manga. Several art and guidebooks for Rurouni Kenshin have been published, and writer Kaoru Shizuka has authored three official light novels, which were published by Shueisha. Many video games have also been released for the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable consoles. A series of five live-action theatrical film adaptations were released from 2012 to 2021. A second anime television series adaptation by Liden Films premiered in July 2023.

The manga, as well as the first light novel and first guidebook, have received a complete North American release by Viz Media. Rurouni Kenshin is subtitled "Wandering Samurai" in some English versions. The Rurouni Kenshin manga has over 72 million copies in circulation as of 2019, making it one of the best-selling manga series of all time. The series has received praise from various publications for manga, anime, and other media, with both receiving good responses for the characters' designs and historical setting. In 2017, Watsuki began a direct sequel titled Rurouni Kenshin: The Hokkaido Arc in Jump Square.

Plot[edit]

The series takes place in 1878, eleven years after the beginning of the Meiji era. After participating in the Boshin War as the assassin Hitokiri Battōsai, Himura Kenshin wanders the countryside of Japan with a reverse-bladed katana. He is offering protection and aid to those in need as atonement for the murders he once committed. When arriving in Tokyo in the 11th year of Meiji (1878), he meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru, who is in the middle of a fight with a murderer who claims to be the Hitokiri Battōsai, tarnishing the name of the swordsmanship school that she teaches. Kenshin decides to help her and defeats the fake Battōsai. After discovering that Kenshin is the real infamous assassin, Kaoru offers him a place to stay at her dojo, noting that he is peace-loving and not cold-hearted, as his reputation implies. Kenshin accepts and begins to establish lifelong relationships with many people, such as Sagara Sanosuke, a former Sekihō Army member; Myōjin Yahiko, an orphan from a samurai family who is also living with Kaoru as her student; and a doctor named Takani Megumi, caught in the opium trade. However, he also deals with his fair share of enemies, new and old, including the former leader of the Oniwabanshū, Shinomori Aoshi.

After several months of living in the dojo, Kenshin faces a rival from Bakumatsu turned police officer, Saitō Hajime. This challenge turns out to be a test to face his successor, Shishio Makoto, who plans to conquer Japan by destroying the Meiji Government, starting with Kyoto. Feeling that Shishio's faction may attack his friends, Kenshin meets Shishio alone to defeat him. However, many of his friends, including a young Oniwabanshū named Makimachi Misao, whom he meets in his travels, decide to help him in his fight. After his first meeting with him, Kenshin realizes he needs to get stronger to defeat Shishio without becoming the cold assassin he was in the past and returns to the man who taught him kenjutsu, Hiko Seijūrō, to learn the school's final technique. He finally accepts his friends' help and defeats Shishio in a close fight. After that, Shishio dies, burning to ashes, after passing the limit of his abnormal body condition. A reformed Shinomori stays in Kyoto with the surviving Oniwabanshū.

When Kenshin and his friends return to Tokyo, he finds Yukishiro Enishi, who plans to enact revenge. At this point, it is revealed that, during the Bakumatsu, Kenshin was to be married to a woman named Yukishiro Tomoe. She initially wanted to avenge the death of her first fiancé, whom Kenshin had assassinated, but instead she and Kenshin fell in love, and he proposed. It is eventually revealed that Tomoe was related to the Edo guards who wanted to kill Kenshin. They outwitted Tomoe after realizing her deception first and captured her to use as bait. Kenshin rushed to the rescue. Although the ambushers severely injured him, Kenshin managed to kill almost all of them and move on. In the final fight against the group leader Kenshin accidentally kills Tomoe, who jumps in at the last moment creating an opening for Kenshin to win the battle. Wanting revenge for the death of his sister, Enishi kidnaps Kaoru and leaves behind a corpse doll bearing a stunning resemblance to her for Kenshin to find and momentarily grieve over. Discovering that Kaoru was alive, Kenshin and his friends set out to rescue her. A final battle between Kenshin and Enishi follows, and the former assassin emerges as the victor. Misao brings Tomoe's diary to Enishi, who keeps it in a village to hide alongside his missing father.

Four years later, Kenshin has married Kaoru and has a son named Himura Kenji. Now at peace with himself, Kenshin gives his reverse-blade sword to Yahiko as a ceremonial gift.

Production[edit]

One-shots[edit]

A prototype series titled Rurouni: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story appeared as a pair of separate short stories published in 1992 and 1993.[3][4] The first story, published in December 1992 in the Weekly Shōnen Jump Winter Special issue of 1993, featured an earlier version of Kenshin stopping a crime lord from taking over the Kamiya family dojo. Watsuki described the first Rurouni story, echoing the "Megumi Arc," as a "pilot" for Rurouni Kenshin. According to Watsuki, the final Rurouni Kenshin series was not composed entirely of his free will. Describing the creation of historical stories as "hard," Watsuki initially wanted to make his next series in a contemporary setting. An editor approached Watsuki and asked him to make a new historical story. With the historical concept, Watsuki intended to use the Bakumatsu period from Moeyo Ken (Burn, O Sword) with a story akin to Sanshiro Sugata. Watsuki experimented with various titles, including Nishin (Two-Hearts) Kenshin, Yorozuya (Jack-of-All-Trades) Kenshin, and variations of "Rurouni" and "Kenshin" with different kanji in that order.[3]

The second Rurouni story, published in April 1993 in the Weekly Shōnen Jump 21–22 double issue of that year, featured Kenshin helping a wealthy girl named Raikōji Chizuru. Watsuki recalled experiencing difficulty when condensing "everything" into 31 pages for that story. He said that he "put all [his] soul into it," but sighs when looking at it from his perspective after the publication of the first Rurouni Kenshin volume. Watsuki said that the second Rurouni: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story received mediocre reviews and about 200 letters.[4] He referred to it as a "side story."[3]

The design model for Hiko Seijuro, Kenshin's master, in Rurouni Kenshin is the character of the same name from his one-shot manga "Crescent Moon of the Warring States," but Watsuki also added some influences from Hiken Majin Hajerun in Takeshi Obata's Arabian Lamp-Lamp. At the time, Watsuki said that he was fascinated by images of "manliness" and that Hiko was one of the first characters to reflect this fascination.[5] Since Watsuki's debut work contained a tall, black-haired man in "showy" armor, he wanted to make a character "completely opposite" to the debut character; the new character ended up "coming out like a girl". According to Watsuki, he used "no real motif" when creating Kenshin and placed a cross-shaped scar on his face "not knowing what else to do". Like several characters, Kenshin was influenced by the Shinsengumi, with Kenshin being affected by Okita Sōji and Saitō Hajime in order to give him an air of mystery.[6]

Publication and influences[edit]

The final scene of the Kyoto arc was influenced by the animated adaptation due to its focus on the wanderer Kenshin being accepted into Kaoru's dojo.

During his childhood, Watsuki used to practice kendo, which influenced the making of the series. Although Watsuki developed various one-shots before the official serialization of the series, while naming the characters, he based some of their names on places he used to live, such as Makimachi Misaos's "Makimachi" and Sanjō Tsubame, who are named after places in Niigata.[7]

When the manga series started to be published in Weekly Shōnen Jump, Watsuki had little hope in the development of the series. He planned to finish the story in approximately 30 chapters, ending with Kenshin's departure from Tokyo similarly to the one from volume 7. Kenshin's enemies would have been people from Kyoto who would send an assassin to kill Kenshin. When the Oniwabanshū were introduced during the serialization, Watsuki noted that the series could be longer as he had created various main characters. At that time, there was a survey, and the series had become very popular.[8]

For its seventh volume, Watsuki's boss suggested to him that it was time to make a longer story arc, which resulted in the creation of the fights between Kenshin and Shishio Makoto. The arc was only meant to be serialized for one year, but it ended up being one year and a half long. This arc was also done to develop Kenshin's character, as he considered him not to have a weak point. Watsuki commented that his artistic skills were honed with this arc, as he could draw everything he wanted to. The last arc from the manga was meant to be much shorter, but it turned out to be a fairly long one as he could not present it simplistically. Watsuki originally made this arc prior to the series' start, having already thought about how Kenshin's scar would have been made.[8] Because of the dark style of the Kyoto arc, Watsuki created the comical Mikimachi Misao in order to contrast Kenshin's serious side.[9]

Being fascinated by the Shinsengumi, Watsuki designed the characters by basing their characteristics on those of the real Shinsengumi members and also using fictional representations of them and other historical characters from the Bakumatsu period of Japan.[10][11] The historical characters were considered a hard task by Watsuki. Due to problems with the characterization of Sagara Sōzō, Watsuki decided to illustrate Saitō Hajime in his own style, avoiding the historical figure. He felt very good about Saitō's character, having noted that he fit very well in the manga.[8] However, Watsuki mentioned that many Japanese fans of the Shinsengumi complained about the personality of Saitō, as he was made sadistic.[10] Additionally, the final shot of Kenshin returning to Kaoru's dojo was inspired by the final shot of the Rurouni Kenshin anime's first opening theme, "Sobakasu", by Judy and Mary.[12]

In the final arc of the manga, Watsuki wanted to make the five comrades in this storyline as "scum-like" as possible. But because he created villains with no ideals or beliefs, it was difficult to portray them as an enjoyable read.[13] The story took on a darker tone as most of the characters believed Kaoru was killed by Yukishiro Enishi, which made Kenshin question his own way of living and escape to a village of wanderers. Watsuki did not enjoy the angst in Kenshin, so his friend Myōjin Yahiko took over as the series' protagonist until Kenshin recovered.[8] Even though the plot for the "remembrance episodes" of Kenshin's past was already set before serialization started, which was three and a half years before her debut, Watsuki was filled with regrets about how he portrayed Yukishiro Tomoe for unspecified reasons.[14] The final villains, the Sū-shin, had no personality models and were created simply to "fill out the numbers". As the story advanced towards Kenshin's final battle, Watsuki realized that the other characters would have no "glamour" and created the Sū-shin on the spot.[15]

Ending[edit]

Watsuki also had ideas to create a "Hokkaido episode, a sequel," but wanted to start a new manga, so he ended Rurouni Kenshin with the last arc he made.[16] Due to the dark nature of Kenshin's life, Watsuki ended the manga in the Jinchu arc, afraid that if he continued writing, the series would not fit the shōnen manga demography.[17] In 2012, Watsuki revealed that when he clashed with the editorial staff at the end of the series, his editor, Hisashi Sasaki, understood his intentions, saw that he was at his physical limit, and backed him up. He said it was out of respect and appreciation for the readers that he ended the popular series while it was still popular.[18] Nevertheless, Watsuki was happy with how he ended Rurouni Kenshin. He felt it was a good place to end the narrative. In contrast, most series keep being pushed and pushed until they lose popularity and are cancelled. Watsuki was glad Rurouni Kenshin did not end like this.[19]

For the series' ending, Watsuki conceived new designs with the potential for a sequel in the future. Initially, Watsuki had planned to make Kenshin's hair shorter before the end; however, he found this to be similar to the character Multi in To Heart. Additionally, Himura Kenji was introduced in the finale as the son of Kenshin and Kaoru; even though the character was "cliché", Watsuki felt that Kenji had to appear.[20] An elder Sanosuke was drafted by Watsuki to appear in the manga's finale, but this idea was scrapped. In the manga's final story arc, the design was used for Sanosuke's father, Higashidani Kamishimoemon.[21] The author added that he felt attachment towards Enishi and that he would someday like to use Enishi in a future work.[22]

Another idea explored for a sequel was the handling of Yahiko as a teenager. Watsuki had redesigned his appearance. He wanted Yahiko to impress manga readers so that he could be the protagonist of a possible series sequel. He said this goal influenced his design of Yahiko with Kenshin's physical appearance as well as Sanosuke's personality. He added Sanosuke's kanji for "evil" (, aku) to the back of his clothes and was pleased that various readers recognized it. Although he suggested he was not going to make a sequel, he said the main characters would be Yahiko, Sanjō Tsubame, and Tsukayama Yutarō. Watsuki thought about writing a story in which Yahiko and Tsubame would have a son, Myōjin Shin'ya, who would become a skilled swordsman.[23]

Themes[edit]

The series' main theme is responsibility, as seen through Kenshin's actions, as he wants to atone for all the people he killed during the Bakumatsu by aiding innocent people by wielding a non-lethal sword.[24] Marco Olivier from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University said that the sakabatō symbolizes Kenshin's oath not to kill again, which has been found challenging by other warriors appearing in the series.[25] This theme also encourages former drug dealer Takani Megumi to become a doctor upon learning of Kenshin's past and actions. Another theme is power, which is mostly seen by Sagara Sanosuke and Myojin Yahiko. However, like Megumi, these two characters are also influenced by the main character, as they wish to become stronger to assist Kenshin across the plot. Additionally, the series discourages revenge, as seen in the final arc when Yukishiro Enishi believes he succeeded in getting his revenge on Kenshin but starts having hallucinations of his late sister with a sad expression on her face.[24] As an "outlet" for Watsuki's kendo emotions, Yahiko "knows a pain that hero-types like Himura Kenshin and Sagara Sanosuke can never know".[26] As a result, Yahiko was made a stronger character little by little to relate to the demography. eventually giving him a stronger characterization during the Kyoto arc, which surprised his readers.[27]

When questioned about the series' theme being Kenshin's self-redemption, Watsuki mentioned that when he was young, he used to read shōjo manga and that it influenced his writing of Rurouni Kenshin. He added that he wanted to make the story different from other comics as he considers the main character, Kenshin, neither a good nor evil character. Since volume 7, Watsuki mentioned the series took on a more adult tone due to the various conflicts in the story, but commented it was influenced by the shōjo manga he read. Through the series' development, Watsuki was deciding if Kamiya Kaoru's character was going to die before the end. However, he later decided to keep Kaoru alive as he came to the conclusion that he wanted a happy ending and that the manga was aimed at young readers.[8] In The Oxford Handbook of American Folklore and Folklife Studies, Kenshin is regarded as a "far cry" from American superheroes due to his androgynous look and self-deprecating personality. However, the character is said to be relatable to the Eastern audience through Kenshin's quest for redemption, which is called the main theme of the manga. The manga is further noted to have a balance between individualism and community.[28]

Watsuki said he was an "infatuated" type of person rather than a "passionate" kind of person; therefore, Rurouni Kenshin is a "Meiji Swordsman Story" as opposed to a "Meiji Love Story".[29] According to the book Bringing Forth a World: Engaged Pedagogy in the Japanese University, the manga reflects the confusion of Japanese society after the big economy disenchantment in the early 1990s. It confronts visualizations of Japanese education in a manner that contrasts school books, especially because of the series' young demography.[30] Since the manga focuses on realism but is aimed at young readers, the series is notable for changing the portrayals of samurais in order to create a more optimistic take in comparison to real-life events. The unique take on Kenshin's handling gave the manga the concept of "neo shonen" due to how different it was from previous Weekly Shonen Jump series.[31]

Media[edit]

Manga[edit]

Written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki, Rurouni Kenshin was serialized in Shueisha's shōnen manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from April 12, 1994,[b] to September 21, 1999.[c] The 255 individual chapters were collected and published in 28 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha, with the first volume released on September 9, 1994, and the last on November 4, 1999.[38][39] They re-released the series in a 22-volume kanzenban edition between July 4, 2006, and May 2, 2007.[40][41] Shueisha published a 14-volume bunkoban edition between January 18 and July 18, 2012.[42][43] A single-chapter follow-up to the series that follows the character of Yahiko Myōjin, Yahiko no Sakabato (弥彦の逆刃刀, Yahiko's Sakabatō), was originally published in Weekly Shōnen Jump in 2000 after the conclusion of the series. Left out of the original volumes, it was added as an extra to the final kanzenban release.[41]

In December 2011, Shueisha announced Watsuki would be putting his series, Embalming -The Another Tale of Frankenstein-, on hold to begin a "reboot" of Rurouni Kenshin, called Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration, as a tie-in to the live-action movie. The series began in the June 2012 issue of Jump Square, which was released on May 2, 2012,[44] and ended in the July 2013 issue on June 4, 2013.[45] The reboot depicts the battles that were featured in the first live-action film. Another special, titled Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story: Chapter 0, was published in Weekly Shōnen Jump in August 2012 as a prologue to Restoration and included in its first volume.[46] In 2014, Watsuki wrote a two-chapter spin-off titled Rurouni Kenshin: Master of Flame for Jump SQ., which tells how Shishio met Yumi and formed the Juppongatana.[47][48][49]

Watsuki and his wife, Kaworu Kurosaki, collaborated on a two-chapter spin-off titled Rurouni Kenshin Side Story: The Ex-Con Ashitaro for the ninth anniversary of Jump SQ. in 2016.[50] It acts as a prologue to Rurouni Kenshin: The Hokkaido Arc, which began in September 2017 as a sequel to the original manga series. In 2021, Watsuki created the manga "Sakabatō Shogeki" (逆刃刀 初撃, "Reverse-Blade Katana: First Bout") that was exclusively shown at an exhibition celebrating the 25th anniversary of Rurouni Kenshin. It serves as an epilogue to chapter 81 of the original manga and shows the first time Kenshin used his sakabatō.[51]

Rurouni Kenshin was licensed for an English-language release in North America by Viz Media. The first volume of the series was released on October 7, 2003.[52] Although the first volumes were published on an irregular basis, since volume 7, Viz has established a monthly basis due to good sales and consumer demands.[53] Therefore, the following volumes were published until July 5, 2006, when the final volume was released.[54] Yahiko no Sakabatō was also published in English in Shonen Jump during 2006.[55] Between January 29, 2008, and March 16, 2010, Viz re-released the manga in a nine-volume omnibus format called "Viz Big Edition", which collects three volumes in one.[56][57] The ninth and final volume includes Yahiko no Sakabato and Cherry Blossoms in Spring.[57] They released a similar "3-in-1 Edition" across nine volumes between January 3, 2017, and January 1, 2019.[58][59] Viz uses the actual ordering of Japanese names, with the family name or surname before the given name, within the series to reduce confusion and because Rurouni Kenshin is a historical series.[60]

Anime series[edit]

An anime television series adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin, produced by SPE Visual Works and Fuji TV, animated by Studio Gallop (episodes 1–66) and Studio Deen (episodes 67–95),[61][62][63] and directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi, was broadcast on Fuji TV from January 10, 1996, to September 8, 1998.[64]

A second anime television series adaptation by Liden Films was announced at Jump Festa '22 in December 2021.[65] The series' first season was broadcast from July 7 to December 15, 2023, on Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block.[66][67] A second season, subtitled Kyoto Disturbance, was announced at Jump Festa '24 in December 2023 and is set to air sometime in 2024.[68]

Animated film[edit]

An anime film with an original story, titled Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 維新志士への鎮魂歌, Rurouni Kenshin: Ishin Shishi e no Chinkonka, lit. Rurouni Kenshin: Requiem for Isshin Patriots), also known as Rurouni Kenshin: Requiem for Patriots, originally released in North America as Samurai X: The Motion Picture, premiered on December 20, 1997.[69]

Original video animations[edit]

A 4-episode original video animation (OVA), titled Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal, which served as a prequel to the first anime television series, was released in 1999.[70]

A two-episode OVA titled Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection, which served as a sequel to the first anime television series, was released from 2001 to 2002.[71][72]

A two-episode OVA, Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc, which remade the series' Kyoto arc, was released from 2011 to 2012.[73][74]

Live-action films[edit]

Five live-action films have been released theatrically. The live-action film adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin was announced on June 28, 2011.[75] Produced by Warner Bros., with actual film production done by Studio Swan, the films were directed by Keishi Ōtomo and starred Takeru Satoh (of Kamen Rider Den-O fame) as Kenshin, Munetaka Aoki as Sanosuke Sagara, and Emi Takei as Kaoru.[76] The first film, titled Rurouni Kenshin, was released on August 25, 2012.[77] In August 2013, it was announced that two sequels were being filmed simultaneously for release in 2014. Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends adapt the Kyoto arc of the manga.[78][79][80] On April 12, 2019, it was announced that two new live-action films will adapt the Remembrance/Tenchu and Jinchu arcs.[81] The films, titled Rurouni Kenshin: The Final and Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning, premiered in 2021.

Stage shows[edit]

In 2016, the Takarazuka Revue performed a musical adaptation of the manga called Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story. The show ran from February to March and starred Seina Sagiri as Kenshin and Miyu Sakihi as Kaoru.[82] The musical was written and directed by Shūichirō Koike.

In 2018, a stage play adaptation was performed in the Shinbashi Enbujō theater in Tokyo and Shōchikuza theater in Osaka. Seina Sagiri returned to play Kenshin, while Moka Kamishiraishi played Kaoru. Kanō Sōzaburō, an original character introduced in the previous musical, made a return appearance, played by Mitsuru Matsuoka. Shūichirō Koike returned as the director and the script writer of the play.[83]

In 2020, a stage musical adaptation of the manga's Kyoto arc was scheduled to be held from November to December 2020 at IHI Stage Around Tokyo. Starring Teppei Koike as Himura Kenshin and Mario Kuroba as the antagonist Makoto Shishio, Shūichirō Koike returned as director and script writer of the play.[84] This stage musical was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[85]

Art and guidebooks[edit]

Two encyclopedias of the Rurouni Kenshin manga were released; the first one, Rurouni Kenshin Profiles (原典), was released first in Japan on July 4, 1996, by Shueisha and in the United States by Viz Media on November 1, 2005.[86][87] Kenshin Kaden (剣心華伝), released on December 15, 1999, includes the story Haru no Sakura (春の桜, lit."Cherry Blossoms in Spring"), which details the fates of all of the Rurouni Kenshin characters. The story takes place years after the manga's conclusion, when Kenshin and Kaoru have married and have a young son, Kenji. Many of the series' major characters who have befriended Kenshin reunite with him or otherwise reveal their current whereabouts at a spring picnic.[88] For the anime, three Kenshin Soushi artbooks were published from 1997 to 1998. While the first two were based on the TV series, the third one was based on the film. The film one was named Ishin Shishi no Requiem Art Book and was released along with the movie.[89][90][91] Also released was the Rurouni-Art Book, which contained images from the OVAs. A guidebook from the kanzenban imprint of the series was published on June 4, 2007.[92]

Light novels[edit]

The Rurouni Kenshin light novels were published by Shueisha's Jump J-Books line and co-written by Kaoru Shizuka. Most of them are original stories that were later adapted into the anime. Others are adaptations of manga and anime stories. The very first novel, Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World, which was published in Japan on October 10, 1996, and in North America on October 17, 2006, details another adventure involving the return of Tales of the Meiji Season 3's Beni-Aoi Arc characters like Kaishu Katsu and the Kamiya Dojo's third pupil, Daigoro.[93][94] The second, Yahiko's Battle, was released on October 3, 1997. It retells various stories featured in the manga and anime series.[95] The third novel, TV Anime Shimabara Arc, was published on February 4, 1999.[96] A novel adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin Cinema-ban, titled Rurouni Kenshin -Ginmaku Sōshihen- (るろうに剣心 ―銀幕草紙変―) and written by Watsuki's wife Kaoru Kurosaki, which was released on September 4, 2012, is a Japanese light novel version of America's Restoration's New Kurogasa (Jin-E) Arc mangas featuring Banshin and a different younger Gein. Both are Ishin members of Enishi's team in the Jinchu/Tenchu (Judgment of Earth/Heaven) portions of the Enishi saga in the main plot manga series.[97]

Video games[edit]

There have been five Rurouni Kenshin video games released for the PlayStation series of consoles. The first, Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan: Ishin Gekitōhen (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 維新激闘編), was released on November 29, 1996. It was developed by ZOOM Inc. and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The game is a 3D fighting game with nine playable characters, with the plot being based on the first seven volumes of the manga.[98] The second one, Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan: Jūyūshi Inbō Hen (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 十勇士陰謀編 - The Ten Warrior Conspiracy), was released on December 18, 1997, and was re-released in the PlayStation The Best lineup on November 5, 1998. The game is a role-playing video game with an original story unrelated to either the manga or anime.[99]

Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan: Enjō! Kyōto Rinne (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 炎上!京都輪廻) is the only video game for the PlayStation 2 console. Its Japanese release was slated for September 13, 2006.[100] The game has sold over 130,000 copies in Japan.[101] The game was developed by Eighting and published by Banpresto. A 2D fighting game titled Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan: Saisen (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 再閃) was released for the PlayStation Portable on March 10, 2011.[102][103] On August 30, 2012, a sequel, Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan: Kansei (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 完醒), was released.[104] Both games were developed by Natsume Co., Ltd. and published by Bandai Namco Games.

Himura Kenshin also appears in the 2005 and 2006 Nintendo DS games Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars as the sole battle character representing his series, while others are support characters and help characters.[105] Kenshin and Shishio appeared as playable characters in the 2014 PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita game J-Stars Victory VS[106][107] and in the 2019 game Jump Force for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.[108]

Audio dramas[edit]

Several drama CDs that adapt stories from the Rurouni Kenshin manga were released. They feature different voice actors than those that later worked on the anime adaptation.[109] In Volume 5 of the manga, Watsuki stated that he was anticipating the third installment, which would adapt the Udō Jin-e arc. He expected it to be "pretty close" to his original, but with additional lines for Sanosuke and Yahiko.[110]

Merchandise[edit]

Watsuki commented that there had been a lot of Rurouni Kenshin merchandise released for the Japanese market. He recommended that buyers consider quality before paying for merchandise items and that they consult their wallets and buy stuff that they feel is "worth it". Watsuki added that he liked the prototype for a stuffed Kenshin doll for the UFO catcher devices.[111]

Reception[edit]

Sales and popularity[edit]

Rurouni Kenshin has been highly popular, having sold over 55 million tankōbon copies in Japan alone up until February 2012, making it one of Shueisha's top ten best-selling manga series.[112] In 2014, it was reported that the series had 70 million tankōbon copies in circulation.[113] By December 2019, the manga had over 72 million copies in circulation, including digital releases.[114] Volume 27 of the manga ranked second in the Viz Bookscan Top Ten during June 2006,[115] while volumes 21 and 20 ranked second and tenth, respectively, in the Top 10 Graphic Novels of Viz of 2005.[116] Rurouni Kenshin volume 24 ranked 116th on USA Today's best-selling book list for the week ending February 26, 2006.[117] During the third quarter of 2003, Rurouni Kenshin ranked at the top of ICv2's Top 50 Manga Properties.[118] In the same poll from 2005, it was featured at the top once again based on sales from English volumes during 2004.[119] In the Top Ten Manga Properties from 2006 from the same site, it ranked ninth.[120] In November 2014, readers of Da Vinci magazine voted Rurouni Kenshin as the thirteenth Weekly Shōnen Jump's greatest manga series of all time.[121] On TV Asahi's Manga Sōsenkyo 2021 poll, in which 150,000 people voted for their top 100 manga series, Rurouni Kenshin ranked 31st.[122]

Critical response[edit]

The manga has received praise and criticism from various publications. Mania Entertainment writer Megan Lavey found that the manga had a good balance between character development, comedy, and action scenes. Watsuki's artwork was said to have improved as the series continued, noting that characters also had reactions during fights.[123][124] Steve Raiteri from Library Journal praised the series for its characters and battles. However, he noted that some fights were too violent, so he recommended the series to older teenagers as well as adults.[125] Surat described the series as an example of a "neo-shōnen" series, where a shōnen series also appeals to a female audience; Surat stated that in such series, character designs are "pretty" for female audiences but not too "girly" for male audiences. Surat cited Shinomori Aoshi and Seta Sōjirō, characters who ranked highly in popularity polls even though, in Surat's view, Aoshi does not engage in "meaningful" battles and Sōjirō is a "kid". Surat explained that Aoshi appears "like a Clamp character wearing Gambit's coat and Sōjirō always smiles despite the abuse inflicted upon him.[126] Surat said that the character designs for the anime television series were "toughened up a bit". He added that the budget for animation and music was "top-notch" because Sony produced the budget.[127] Watsuki's writing involving romance and Kenshin's psychological hidden weakpoints also earned positive responses from other sites, with AnimeNation also comparing it to Clamp's X based on the multiple elements of the series.[128][129] In general, Mania found Watsuki's art appealing as well as its evolution across the twenty-eight volumes, as it made female characters more attractive while the male characters seemed simpler while retaining the early handsome looks.[130]

As a result of the series taking a darker tone in later story arcs with Kenshin facing new threats and at the same time his Battosai self, Kat Kan from Voice of Youth Advocates recommended it to older teens. Kan also found that anime viewers will also enjoy Watsuki's drawings due to the way he illustrates battles.[131] This is mostly noted in the "Kyoto arc", where Mania Entertainment writer Megan Lavey applauded the fight between Himura Kenshin and anti-hero Saito Hajime, which acts as the prologue of such a narrative.[124] Mania remarks on the buildup Aoshi, Saito, and other characters bring to the story due to how they share similar goals in the same arc, with newcomer Misao helping to balance the style by bringing more comical interactions with the protagonist.[132] Although the site Manga News enjoyed Seta Sojiro's fight and how it connected with Shishio's past, they said the sixteenth manga's best part was Kenshin's fight against Shishio due to the buildup and symbolism the two characters have.[133] The eventual climax led to further praise based on how menacing Shishio is shown in the battle against his predecessor, although he questioned if Kenshin had been a superior enemy if he had kept back his original killer persona.[134]

Critics expressed mixed opinions in regards to the final arc. Zac Bertschy from Anime News Network (ANN) praised the story from the manga but noted that by volume 18 of the series, Watsuki started to repeat the same type of villains who were united to kill Kenshin, similar to Trigun. Although he praised Watsuki's characters, he commented that some of them needed some consistency due to various "bizarre" antagonists.[135] Due to Kaoru, Kenshin, and Sanosuke missing from the final arc during the Jinchu arc, Manga News described Aoshi as the star of the series' 24th volume due to how he explores the mysteries behind Enishi's revenge and his subsequent actions that made him stand out, most notably because he had been absent for multiple chapters.[136] IGN reviewer A.E. Sparrow liked the manga's ending, praising how the storylines are resolved and how most of the supporting cast ends up. He also praised the series' characters, remarking that Kenshin "belongs in any top ten of manga heroes."[137] Otaku USA reviewer Daryl Surat said that the manga's quality was good until the "Revenge Arc", where he criticized the storyline and the new characters.[138] Carlo Santos from the same site praised Enishi and Kenshin's final fight despite finding the ending predictable.[139] While also liking their final showdown, Megan Lavey from Mania Entertainment felt that the twist that happens shortly after the battle is over serves to show Enishi's long-life trauma and, at the same time, Kenshin's compassion towards others.[130]

In Bringing Forth a World: Engaged Pedagogy in the Japanese University's seventh chapter, "The Renegotiation of Modernity", by media studies professor Maria Grajdian, Kenshin's heroic nature as a wanderer was compared to both Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter due to how he wishes to protect the weak people, seeing nothing wrong with such trait. This is heavily explored in the series when confronting the young Seta who had opposite values in terms how should the strong men act. This soft masculinity is exemplified as a result. There is also a balance between Kenshin's supernatural strength and small design, led a major impact in the audience due to how likable the protagonist is. His introduction marks his values with the sword which also affected Kaoru, Yahiko's and Sanosuke's values upon their meetings. In doing so, Rurouni Kenshin laid" more than twenty years ago the foundation of a fresh paradigm of humanity based on tenderness and mutual acceptance as a counter-movement to the individualism, competition and efficiency that characterize the project of modernity".[140]

Cultural impact[edit]

Before becoming an official manga author, Naruto's author, Masashi Kishimoto, decided that he should try creating a chanbara manga since Weekly Shōnen Jump had not published a title from that genre. However, during his years of college, Kishimoto started reading Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal and Rurouni Kenshin, which used the said genre. Kishimoto recalls having never been surprised by manga ever since reading Akira and finding that he was still not able to compete against them.[141] Hideaki Sorachi cited Rurouni Kenshin as a major source of inspiration for his manga series, Gintama. He also said numerous other historical manga were influenced by Rurouni Kenshin, stating that the "reason why historical stories are being dealt with in all sorts of manga and game media today, and why they are being supported by the younger generation, is undoubtedly because of "Ruroken" and that they "are all children of the "Ruroken" bloodline."[142]

For the series 25th anniversary in January 2021, 15 manga authors sent congratulatory messages: three of Watsuki's former assistants, Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Hiroyuki Takei (Shaman King), and Shinya Suzuki (Mr. Fullswing); Nobuyuki Anzai (Flame of Recca); Riichiro Inagaki (Eyeshield 21); Takeshi Obata (Death Note); Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto); Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro (Toriko); Hideaki Sorachi (Gintama); Yasuhiro Nightow (Trigun); Kazuhiro Fujita (Ushio & Tora); Yūsei Matsui (Assassination Classroom); and Kentaro Yabuki (Black Cat).[143] In an interview for the event, Oda told Watsuki that Rurouni Kenshin is popular due to his loyalty to his fans.[144] Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba's protagonist, Tanjiro Kamado, was influenced by Kenshin's design, as the author combined the character's androgynous design with a scar similar to Kenshin's in order to balance it properly for the audience.[145]

Watsuki felt that Kenshin was a "King Type" character similar to Monkey D. Luffy from Eiichiro Oda's One Piece as a result of how heroic they are. Watsuki also reflected on Kenshin's pacifism, which became a common trend among other heroes in Weekly Shonen Jump, like Luffy and Naruto Uzumaki, who fight but are against the idea of killing their enemies, while in the case of Dragon Ball, dead characters are often revived. He believes newer series like Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, and Jujutsu Kaisen explore more of the concept of death. Nevertheless, Watsuki continued to depict Kenshin sparing his enemies in the Hokkaido Arc.[146]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Epic Tale of a Meiji Swordsman: The Wanderer, Kenshin". The word Rurōni (るろうに) is the author's altered reading of the word Rurōnin (流浪人), that means 'wanderer'.
  2. ^ It debuted in the magazine's 19th issue of 1994 (cover date April 25),[32][33] released on April 12 of that same year.[34]
  3. ^ It finished in the magazine's 43rd issue of 1999 (cover date October 4),[35][36] released on September 21 of the same year; Naruto's debut issue.[37]

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Further reading[edit]

  • "Rurouni Kenshin, vol. 1". Voice of Youth Advocates. E L Kurdyla Publishing LLC. 29 (5): 399. December 1, 2006. ISSN 0160-4201.
  • "OPINION: Japanese fiction holds life lesson". Quay County Sun (Tucumcari, NM). McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. March 15, 2011.
  • Dennys, Harriet (November 11, 2005). "Big in Japan, America and now the UK: manga novels are moving from niche status into the UK mainstream.(GRAPHIC NOVELS: MANGA)". The Bookseller. The Nielsen Company (5204): S10(2). ISSN 0006-7539.
  • "Publications of the week.(book lists )". The Bookseller. The Nielsen Company (5173): 39(13). April 8, 2005. ISSN 0006-7539.

External links[edit]