Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X) Review & Characters - Heart of the Sword


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Heart of the Sword

  • Episodes : 94
  • Genre : : Action, Shounen, Adventure, Comedy
  • Airing Date : January 1996 – September 1998
  • Producers :Studio Gallop, Studio Deen, SME Visual Works, Fuji TV, Media Blasters

Rurouni Kenshin Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)

Taking place in the late 1800s known as the Meiji Era, the authority has been restored to the emperor and Japan has begun to modernize. Swords are now outlawed and former samurai turned bandits continue to wield them to carry out their crimes and protest the new government though some former samurai have also taken part of the new government as well. However, there is still one man who continues to carry a sword to protect the innocent and that man is Himura Kenshin, a former “hitokiri “or “manslayer” once feared as Battousai. Ever since the end of the revolution, Kenshin has been wondering around as a “rurouni,” or wanderer, to atone for his sins. What’s also special about Kenshin’s sword is that the blade is reversed so it will not kill, but rather inflict heavy-duty permanent bodily harm. His days as a wanderer now come to an end when he comes to Tokyo and has to restore his reputation and the reputation of a young woman’s kendo dojo.

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Who does Rurouni Kenshin cater to?

I say if you are into high-octane action which manages to tell a great story with a great cast of characters both good and bad, then this is the anime for you. Also, Watsuki Nobuhiro, the original creator, took a lot of influences from western comics like Marvel, and you can see some of these influences with characters like Jin-e.

What's so appealing about this piece of work.

The greatest thing about this series is the characters, whether good or bad, all have likable qualities to them. When you learn about of the characters, I believe you can find yourself sympathizing with them. The motivations are straight to the point and some of them are very admirable, and in some cases with other characters, their methods are just flat out wrong. For example, Shishio, one of the main villains, you can understand why he wants to fight the government and for those that have been disappointed with the performances of their own country’s government, it makes you want to cheer for him. The individual attention given to the characters is enough to establish and further develop them is surprisingly equal in ways audiences get to connect with them and feel like they are part of their journeys.

In addition, the soundtrack is why I love J-pop and J-rock. The third ending theme, “Heart of the Sword,” made me a fan of TM Revolution, who would also later do songs for “Gundam SEED.” “Heart of the Sword” is a must have for anyone’s top ending songs lists. The other opening and ending theme songs are all excellent in their own ways in capturing the audience that they will be on an action packed adventure with a bit of romance and comedy.The general background music perfectly uses a mix of traditional percussions and acoustics, along with modern day rock and techno, and knows how to utilize them at the right moments. So if quality music is a condition to anime you want to watch, this is the series for you.

Rurouni Kenshin Trailer

Rurouni Kenshin Main Characters List

Himura Kenshin

rurouni kenshin himura kenshin

Voice Actor :Suzukaze, Mayo

Kenshin is influenced by a real life samurai known as Kawakami Gensai, who was also an assassin for the imperial side of the war. Despite his appearance, he is really 28 years old. He is a master of the Hiten Mitsurugi Style which requires great speed, timing and agility. Working on the side of the emperor during the war, Kenshin killed a lot of people. Despite that, he now vows to never kill again and has dispelled the killer inside of him. But when push comes to shove, we don’t know if that part of him can resurface. He cares deeply about his friends he and tries to live a life of peace but knows he must fight to protect the innocent.

Kamiya Kaoru

rurouni kenshin kaoru

Voice Actor :Fujitani, Miki

A 17-year-old young lady who inherits her father’s kendo dojo to carry on the Kamiya Kasshin Style. Her style is to promote Japanese sword fighting as a sport that builds character as opposed as a means to kill. She first meets Kenshin when someone is framing both him and her dojo for a series of criminal activities. After clearing their misunderstandings, she lets Kenshin move into her home and they begin a relationship that will only further deepen their bond. Despite her youth, she has a very maternal role which may have been common for 17-year-olds in that era. Even though she tends to be the damsel in distress throughout most of the story, she brings Kenshin down to earth and she even has her moments.

Sagara Sanosuke

rurouni kenshin sagarasanosuke

Voice Actor :Ueda, Yuuji

Despite his appearance and his mannerisms being a common street thug in the Meiji Era, he is a man of high principles and of masculinity. Like some characters, Sanosuke, or “Sano” for short, has a strong distrust for the Meiji government for all the right reasons, which took influence from a real life event. In his childhood, Sano was a member of an imperial army known as the Sekihoutai. In real life, The Sekihoutai were actually ordered by the Meiji Government to spread the news about tax cuts. Unfortunately, the government could not afford them and to cover up for this mistake, the government branded them as a false army. Then their leader, Sagara Souzou (who Sano took his name from), was executed for his head to displayed. After a battle with Kenshin, he joins his sideto fight for the innocent but still has a strong dislike for the Meiji government.


Contains Spoilers

Rurouni Kenshin Review

What is really cool is that it implements real life Japanese historical figures and events into the story. For example, Saitou Hajime, a real life former Shinsengumi captain turned police officer. Another real life figure and event that is used to tell the story of “Rurouni Kenshin” is the assassination of Okubo Toshimichi, an important man who helped make the Meiji Era possible. In addition, he is also a great-grandfather to a former prime minister of Japan, Aso Taro, who is also known to be a very open anime and manga fan.

Another great quality of this series is its very cultural but yet, universal themes. Such as loyalty, honor, redemption, family, a sense of belonging and what it means to live. I say the best quality of this series is that it demonstrates a great balance of the comedy, action, and drama which is what I feel makes it appealing to all people. However, fans of the manga who watched the anime tend to agree that the filler episodes in the last third of the series didn’t know how to balance those qualities. In addition to the uninspiring fillers, the biggest flaw of this anime is that the final arc from the original manga, the Jinchu arc, was never animated (though one of the ending themes did have pictures of Enishi, the main villain of that arc).

The character design works in good conjunction with other “Shounen Jump” titles and the “style” of the 1990s which has a more “sharper” sense of design and a more grainy color palette. Still, this series has unrealistic hair colors such as Kenshin’s red hair and Sano’s spikey do. The clothing and environments are appropriately in conjunction with the time period it is set in and does not really try to give it a futuristic or a steam punk kind of feel. The coloring and resolution, especially during the night scenes, are really breath taking while bringing a darker element to some of the action sequences. Another trait that I personally liked which diversifies its qualities between its action and comedy is how Kenshin’s eyes are drawn. Whenever he's in a normal mood, the look of his eyes are rectangular-circular, but in his warrior mode, his eyes are more diagonal and slanted. This quality may be generic for some people, but I think it is a nifty touch.

What I love about the action is how it emphasizes on technique. Of course the attacks are very “shounen”, but I like how it explains its foundational principles such as the footwork, speed, how to grip the sword, the condition of the blade, and other realistic factors which makes the action immersing. The only negative thing I can say about the action is sometimes when Kenshin will swing his sword. The screen turns black, you see a blue line of light, and next thing you know, Kenshin wins.

Suzukaze Mayo, who is normally a stage actress, plays the role of Kenshin. Her performance captures a balanced pitch between his kind and serious qualities. Outside of Suzukaze Mayo, the series features some hot name Japanese voice actors. For starters, Ueda Yuuji as the voice of Sano. You may know him as Kei from “Love Hina”, Tasuki from “Fushigi Yuugi,” and Akito from “Nadesico.” He is simply born to play Sanosuke. He captures all of his meathead qualities with his rough voice.

Next, we have the late great Suzuoki Hirotaka who you may know as the voice of Bright from the “Gundam” franchise, Kuno from “Ranma 1/2,” and Shiryu from “Saint Seiya” as Saitou Hajime. He brings an overwhelming sense of intimidation and seriousness to the character. And last but not least, we have the voice of the Red Comet, Char Aznable, from the “Gundam “series, Ikeda Shuuchi as Kenshin’s master, Hiko Seijurou. The charisma he brings as Char is also present as Hiko. These names alone should tell you the quality you are getting with the Japanese voice acting which I could go on forever with.

1. Kenshin vs Jin-e

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Like Kenshin, Jin-e was a former assassin during the war and didn’t care who he killed, he did it for the thrills, and he continued to do so long after the war. This is the first battle that pushed Kenshin to a limit in which he could possibly break his vow to never kill again. Plus, Jin-e had a very terrifying technique that could paralyze you. However, being the old school samurai that Jin-e was even for those times, defeat was just as good as death and felt there was no point in going on living.

2. Kenshin vs Saitou Hajime

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The great thing about this rivalry is that there was never any definitive winner and later they form an alliance due to similar interests and goals. Kenshin and Saitou’s rivalry dates back to the war when Kenshin was fighting for the emperor, and Saito was fighting for the shogun as the 3rd squad captain of the controversial Shinsengumi. The thing about their resumed rivalry is not entirely based on what happened between them in the war, but more as a matter of honor between men and proving who is the better swordsman. Their highlight battle gets intense to a point where the audience feels in which one had to win, one has to kill the other.

3. Kenshin vs Shishio

rurouni kenshin kenshin vs shishio

The last awesome part of this anime is the final battle between the two former assassins. By the time this battle starts, both men are at their respective limits from the battles they individually had prior to their own. For Shishio and his condition, time is of the essence but his skill and power rival Kenshin’s which is both good and bad for you to see to believe.


As stated before, the only way that could make this series complete is an adaptation of the Jinchu Arc. What makes that arc unique is that it brings all the main characters and the story in full circle. It is about Kenshin finally coming to terms with the sins of his past as a killer and how people were personally affected by his actions. Unfortunately, we never got that story in the series. So after Shishio or the anime as a whole, I strongly recommend reading the manga for the Jinchu arc.

Justin

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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