[From September Issue 2014]
Rurouni Kenshin (Wandering Swordsman Kenshin):
A Romantic Tale of a Meiji Swordsman
Set in the closing days of the Edo period (19th century), the main character is HIMURA Kenshin, a master swordsman widely feared as Hitokiri Battosai (Battosai the Killer Swordsman). The tale is set in a dramatic period when the governing Shogunate is overthrown by force and political machinations, bringing about a dramatic change from the Edo period to the Meiji period (the 19th to 20th centuries). This series was published in Weekly Shonen Jump between 1994 and 1999, and it was also adapted into a variety of media, including movies and novels. It’s popular both in Japan and overseas.
“Rurouni” is a coined word that means “aimless wanderer.” Having carried out assassinations as an anti-Shogunate swordsman, Kenshin is forced to quit because of an unfortunate incident. When the Meiji period arrives, he vows to never kill again, instead becoming a wanderer who travels around the country.
One day, Kenshin saved a girl named KAMIYA Kaoru in downtown Tokyo. Kaoru has inherited the dojo of Kamiya Kasshin School from her father, however, it is just about to fail financially. Kenshin and Kaoru develop feelings for each other. Now living in Kaoru’s home, he becomes good friends with MYOJIN Yahiko and SAGARA Sanosuke, spending his days peacefully in their company.
However, his past as a killer relentlessly comes back to haunt him. Because of an incident, Kenshin’s ability becomes known to the authorities, and he began to receive requests to escort military officials. Eventually he is challenged to a duel by UDO Jin-e, a man obsessed with perfecting his deadly swordsmanship. Though Kenshin wins this duel to the death, Jin-e tells him with his dying breath that Kenshin is a killer at heart.
After some heavy fighting, Kenshin discovers that his instinct as a killer swordsman is reawakening. While fearing that he might lose sight of himself, he resolves to do battle against SHISHIO Makoto, who is plotting to wage war against the Meiji government.
Just when it seems as if Kenshin has conquered his fear of losing control of himself and going on a killing rampage – that he has finally freed himself from the past – a man named YUKISHIRO Enishi appears. Enishi is the younger brother of Kenshin’s deceased wife, Tomoe. Enishi saw Kenshin kill his sister in the confusion of battle. Determined to take his revenge Enishi kidnaps Kaoru. Kenshin must once again come face to face with his greatest sin – of having lost his lover by his own hand.
Set at the historic turning point from the Edo period to the Meiji period, the tale introduces characters that really existed and events that really happened at that time, giving the drama a realistic appeal. The characters in the tale, while being thrust into the upheaval of the times, struggle to live life to the fullest according to their own principles.
Text: HATTA Emiko