In this undying classic by Watsuki Nobuhiro, Rurouni Kenshin is packed with some of the most spectacular fights in all anime! A majority of its appeal is in the intricacies of its strategy and reliance on technique as opposed to brute force. The fights may seem stylish, but strongly substance defined.
Due to the emotion and sense of danger, the fights immerses the audience in, they are always going to be on the edge of their seats. So grab your swords and assume a battoujutsu stance for Honey’s Top 10 Rurouni Kenshin Fights. But for some of you hardcore fans that have read the manga, we would like to disclaim that being an anime-centric site, this list will be limited to what has been portrayed in the anime series.
10. Hiko Seijuro vs. Fuji
Starting off this list is Hiko, Kenshin’s master, going up against Fuji, one of the enforcers of the Juppongatana. Fuji is literally as tall as a skyscraper and naturally, people fear him (and his design was inspired from the mechs in Evangelion). Thankfully, in one of the very few instances he disregards his playful and provoking nature, Hiko manages to appeal to Fuji’s humanity and embraces him as a fellow warrior. Though Fuji is nonverbal, he can physically return Hiko’s respect and accepts his duel of honor.
In this David vs. Goliath inspired battle, calling it a fight is just not enough. In the end, it was just a simple one-sided ass beating just to show how awesome Hiko is because he is Kenshin’s master. Fuji tries to take a swing with his giant sword, but Hiko just manages to hang onto his blade and returns the strike with his trademark move, Kuzuryusen, easily gaining the victory like it was child’s play.
9. Himura Kenshin vs. Sagara Sanosuke 2
This is one scene in the anime that probably does a much superior job than the original manga. In this part, Sano reunites with his old friend from the Sekihoutai, Katsu. Katsu still harbors feelings of revenge towards the Meiji administration for what they did to their former organization and their founder and surrogate father, Sagara Sozo. As an explosives expert, Katsu manages to make a warehouse full of them and convinces Sano to bomb a government building. But for the ever so sharp ears of Kenshin, he’s there before anything can happen. In the manga, Sano knows he can’t beat Kenshin and lets go of his revenge and ends it there. But in the anime, Sano, still consumed by his rage, decides to fight Kenshin.
This fight is an excellent representation on how Kenshin relies on reading his opponent’s emotions to anticipate how they will attack. Even though Kenshin humiliated Sano in their first encounter, Sano is driven by his vendetta and gives it all he’s got but is no match for our main hero. Kenshin even holds back for most of the fight and still once again embarrasses Sano, but doesn't report him or Katsu to the authorities out of their friendship, and his need to give people a second chance at life. Thankfully, Sano stays on as a valuable ally.
8. Mayojin Yahiko vs. Kariwa Henya
In Yahiko’s biggest test in the series, he faces off against one of the trickiest members of the Juppongatana, Henya. Though Yahiko is just a child and his skill set is not as gimmicky as his adult peers, this fight shows you don’t need any extreme tricks to win a fight, but a clever mind and big balls! Yahiko knew what his limits were but still found a way to win.
Though he is not to the level of Kenshin, after observing him in action, he decides to do a "What Would Kenshin Do" moment by using his opponent’s attacks to his advantage. When Henya dropped a bomb, he would jump on flying debris to get above Henya and finish him with his own version of the Ryu Tsui Sen gaining one of the coolest victories of the series. From this fight, we can learn that if there’s a will, there is always a way.
7. Himura Kenshin vs. Sawagejo Cho
In Kenshin’s first major test since his loss to Sojiro, Kenshin faces Sawagejo Cho, one of Shishio’s henchmen. However, Kenshin (under the initial assumption) does not have his new sakabato ready yet so he has to fight more conservatively which puts him at an initial disadvantage. Seeking the same sword as Kenshin, both men duel for the right to use it. But due to Cho’s dirty tactics by using a baby as a hostage, Kenshin is nearly pushed to his Battousai and he draws a new sword given to him only to discover it was a Sakabato thus gaining the victory and saving the baby.
This fight demonstrates that a devastating loss is not enough to put Kenshin down and he still has what it takes to not only fight but to protect the innocent. This should teach fans that when you get knocked down, you get back up and fight again!
6. Himura Kenshin vs. Shinomori Aoshi 1
In Kenshin’s second test in the series as a swordsman, he squares off against Shinomori Aoshi, the leader of the Oniwabanshu, who are being used as hired guns for Takeda, a drug smuggler. However, they are not motivated by his goals, but simply fighting for the sake of fighting. Aoshi wants to defeat Kenshin to be recognized as the best warrior ever.
Initially, Aoshi gives Kenshin a good number of problems. Despite his superior size, he likes to use the smaller kodachi, which is more appropriate for him as a ninja. Its size and lightness also allow him to use punches and kicks allowing him full use of his skills. Thanks to the size of his sword, he also has the advantage in reaction times for both offense and defense. Kenshin instantly recognizes this and grips his Sakabato above this scabbard for quicker defense and countering. Aoshi then resorts to his final technique temporarily knocking out Kenshin (with the expectation that Kenshin was killed).
Thankfully, Kenshin’s sheath acted as a shield diminishing its deadly effects. Aoshi attempts the same move again but Kenshin manages to find a way to counter it by watching the blade barehanded, and pushing the grip of the sword to Aoshi’s throat by gaining a clever and clean victory.
5. Himura Kenshin vs. Saito Hajime
At number 5, we probably have a fight between the most intense rivalries from this series. The thing about this rivalry is is that it is not motivated by someone with the need to take revenge against the Meiji Government or rule Japan, but it is a personal feud. Not a feud of hate, but a feud fuel by who is the better warrior. The rivalry between Saito and Kenshin goes back to the Boshin War, more than 10 years before the series starts. With the war over, their feud is not about who was right, but unfinished business between two men.
In their fight in the Kamiya Dojo, they fight to their limits and in some instances, if Kenshin used a regular sword, he could have beheaded Saito and come out the winner. But Saito with his monstrous stamina and instant recovery, he manages to fight Kenshin to a stand still. The fight is pushed to the point that Kenshin has to go hitokiri on Saito in order to keep up with him. When Okubo Toshimichi, another real-life figure in this series, steps into to stop the fight and begs for both of their help to save the nation and their relationship throughout the series continues as reluctant allies out of necessity.
Thankfully, their honor as warriors allows them to see the bigger picture and that the fate of the nation comes before their rivalry
4. Sagara Sanosuke vs. Yukyuzan Anji
Prior to this fight, Sano and Anji were briefly acquainted while on their ways to Kyoto (without any awareness that they would fight each other). While spending time with together, Sano learns Anji’s trademark technique, the Futae-no-Kimwami (which he learns in a week!). However, upon their reunion, Sano learns that Anji is associated with Shishio and feels it is an obligation to fight him. So this leads to one of the very few fights in Kenshin that does not use weapons.
This is a great fight that battles skill vs. will. Though Sano has no formal training besides Futae-no-Kiwami, his will to go on and his natural abilities are the foundation of what keeps him to together. But in addition to their previous relationship, Sano is fighting to save Anji from his own darkness, who wants to fight the Meiji Government for killing orphans he was caring for. Sano convinces Anji that living for revenge is wrong and barely pulls out the victory. Anji comes to terms with his sins and accepts a simple prison sentence to repent.
3. Himura Kenshin vs. Udo Jin-e
At number 3, we have one of the first “boss” battles from the series, Kenshin’s fight against Udo Jin-e, a fellow hitokiri (and his design is obviously inspired by Gambit from the X-Men). The reason why this fight is considered a “boss” battle because Jin-e is one of the first opponents to give Kenshin a run for this money, and almost making him revert to his inner killer. What also raises the stakes of this fight is that Jin-e has Kaoru hostage and she is paralyzed with poison. If Kenshin doesn't stop him in time, Kaoru may die!
Thanks to Kaoru’s presence and support, Kenshin does not succumb to his former hitokiri persona and defeats Jin-e with his batto-jutsu technique. Not wanting to live with the shame of losing, Jin-e decides to end his own life by seppuku.
2. Himura Kenshin vs. Seta Sojiro 2
In this epic rematch, Kenshin makes his comeback with his new sakabato to defeat Sojiro, his much younger opponent, and Shishio’s strongest henchman.
In addition to his nimble footwork and frightening use of angles, what makes Sojiro a unique opponent is that he constantly smiles which makes him difficult to predict how he is going to attack. Kenshin decides to use a little bit of reverse psychology to get Sojiro to crack. They argue about killing vs. protecting, and in the midst of the argument, Sojiro’s abused childhood where he had no protector like Kenshin makes him give into his rage and gives Kenshin the opportunity he needs. With one last attempt with the Shukichi, Kenshin manages to win with his newest counter taught to him by his master.
Thankfully, this defeat humbles Sojiro to find a new path in life and redeem himself just like Kenshin.
1. Himura Kenshin (with Saito Hajime, Shinomori Aoshi and Sagara Sanosuke) vs. Shishio Makoto
After numerous episodes and many battles, our main hero and villain finally trade blades. Since Kenshin had to face Aoshi and Sojiro before fighting Shishio, it is only fair that Shishio has to be worn down by fighting multiple opponents himself.
Thankfully, Saito, Aoshi and Sano come in and help out, but Shishio at 100% makes easy work of Kenshin’s most valuable allies. This fight shows that Shishio is a well-rounded fighter and is always prepared. Shishio demonstrates that he can fight without his sword against Sano, who he makes quick work of, and he also shows his readiness (and how he learns from previous experiences) by having a steel protector in his bandana while Saito strikes him in the head. Due to Shishio’s condition where he must need to cool down (due to not having any sweat glands), the fight has to be a battle of attrition and stamina.
This fight demonstrates Shishio’s knowledge of fighting and physics by having his blade chipped in a certain way where if he collides it with the ground, he can make flames. But Kenshin’s determination and his developed skills allow him to emerge as the final victor with superior technique. Shishio accepts his defeat like a man and due to the time limit his body can go without cooling down, he allows himself to be consumed by flames as he dies with both his lover and his business associate as they plan to take over Hell.
As highlighted, the attraction of Kenshin’s action is the psychology behind it. Yes, the fights are very exciting but the series provides the audience how the action works and why it works. Based on this criterion, we put together the best fights that best reflect those qualities. So how do you feel about this list? What are your top 10 fights from this awesome series? Leave your thoughts in the comments!