Rurouni Kenshin

Alt title: Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan

TV (94 eps)
1996 - 1998
Winter 1996
4.13 out of 5 from 29,296 votes
Rank #486

In the revolutionary Meiji period, Japan is undergoing enormous political change. It is a time when vagabonds and terrorists will use any method to prevent the modernization of their country, even if it means trampling on the innocent in the process. In such a time, Himura Kenshin, a wandering samurai, has dedicated his life to protecting the weak and desperate peasants from those who would oppress them. However, Kenshin has a dark past which threatens to destroy the values he is fighting for. When he meets his new friends Kaoru, Sanosuke, and Yahiko, and tries to build a peaceful life with them, events conspire against him. Can Kenshin overcome the demons within and without, and finally ensure the peaceful future that Japan deserves?

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StoryPerhaps the astonishing thing about Rurouni Kenshin’s consistently strong following over the years is that the series is staggeringly inconsistent. For the first thirty episodes, it’s quite possible that I watched the same cliché on repeat. Some glory-hunting thugs or evil yakuza challenge a buffoonish Kenshin to a fight, only to end up beaten to a pulp at his feet. What’s more, roughly thirty episodes from the end, Rurouni Kenshin plunges into a cesspit of filler arcs from which it never recovers. The result is that, out of ninety-five episodes, less than half that number actually consists of must-watch storytelling. Put in another way, out of thirty-eight hours of your life that this anime will claim, twenty-six of those will constitute a tragic waste. Following this, do the middle episodes of dark samurai tragedy make Rurouni Kenshin worth following as a whole? The short answer is no. Spend thirty-eight hours doing something else. The long answer is no… well, yes… okay, quite possibly. However, individual enjoyment will clearly depend on how keen you are to experience exceptional shounen action, and, more importantly, how forgiving you are when you don’t. To describe Rurouni Kenshin at its best, namely during the Kyoto arc, is to say that it stands head and shoulders above the vast majority of other shounen anime - yes, damnit, it's better even than Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann. In my view, the Kyoto arc is so powerful because the conflicts are rooted in the tragedies of the Meiji revolution. In this period, democracy and gunpowder are pushing an unknown modern frontier. Often, Kenshin faces embittered traditionalists (now turned vagabonds and terrorists) who are desperate to slow the wheels of change. Tailing thirty episodes of lacklustre mini-stories, the Kyoto arc introduces a revved up Kenshin full of torturous inner conflict and a political backdrop steeped richly in Japanese history. While I accept that the educational value of the series is very low (there are men in trench coats, for God's sake, shouting cheesy martial arts moves that produce lightning), the bittersweet setting, so full of painful dilemmas, still feels like the next best thing to actual history. For Western audiences, in particular, this romanticised combination of old Japan (dojos, tatamis, and katanas) with modern age trimmings (guns, edgy costumes, and informal dialogue) will be highly appealing. Significantly, even the fights are more enjoyable during the Kyoto arc than all the other periods. Mostly, the battles follow the same wearisome recipe: the opponents bluster for one minute, fight for two, and then spend ten more recounting their lives in an explanatory flashback. While the fights are technically unimpressive (bar one or two notables) and their outcome always predictable, the drama surrounding them in the Kyoto arc is intense and, thus, raises their entertainment value. Everything else, unfortunately, is either redundant claptrap or just a less convincing copy of the Kyoto arc.AnimationIn terms of style, Rurouni Kenshin is closer to the likes of Ninja Scroll than, say, Stranger – Mukou Hadan. By this, I mean that motion is not exactly intricate, but the flashy use of still shots, pans, cuts, bold camera angles, and lightning special effects more than make up for the lack of detail. With that said, the quality of the animation, just like that of the plot, varies from scene to scene, and arguably from arc to arc. For example, when comparing the Kairyu pirate attack in episode twenty-five to the outstanding battle between Kenshin and Saito at the beginning of the Kyoto arc, the two action scenes look as if they come from different anime. While the first is plagued by awkward movement, flat colours, and inconsistent character proportions, the second is a nonstop thrill ride involving fluid movement, inventive stunts, and careful use of light.SoundThe music during the episodes consistently provides memorable accompaniments to perfectly capture every character and atmosphere. Besides this, it also achieves one of the most brilliant uses of an established classical piece, namely the intermezzo from Mascagni’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ during a touching farewell scene. However, while the creators of Rurouni Kenshin certainly know their mood music, they suffer a curious lapse in judgement when it comes to the main themes. Considering that the opening credits consist of macho montages and atmospheric close-ups, the choice of Dokuro-chan as lead vocalist warbling about two hearts fusing together seems unfortunate. I guess the second ending theme with its up-beat electronic pop isn’t too awful, but, generally, the main themes suck. As for the voice acting, I only wish to stress one point: watch the American dub at your own peril.CharactersRurouni Kenshin’s population, as expected from any epic, is massive. Luckily, most of them are enjoyable, from the ludicrously clad Chou, whose hair looks like a broom, to the beautiful Doctor Megumi, who gets a lot of pleasure from teasing Kaoru. Most of the characters are likely to make a lasting impression, even if remembering their specific names might be difficult in the long term. More importantly, the significant antagonists are of the kind that most will love to hate (or maybe even love to love). For example, Shishio might be relentlessly cruel and also look like a mummified version of Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Nevertheless, there is much pathos about Shishio’s twisted personality – no less because of his gruesome past – which makes watching his terrible actions a guilty pleasure. If there is one criticism of the characters worth noting, it’s that too few of them show any kind of forward development. How they behave is almost exclusively defined by their past and always by way of lengthy flashbacks right in the middle of a fight. Some will turn from their bad habits (usually because of Kenshin’s heroic influence), and some will simply get physically stronger. Generally, though, they are what you see. Whilst this makes the characters highly memorable and highly sympathetic, each one tends to be a predictable and cheesy addition to the cast.OverallRurouni Kenshin is indeed awe-inspiring in several places, displaying the kind of jaw-dropping climaxes that would turn any anime into an instant favourite classic. Alas, these ‘wet my pants’ moments also come sandwiched between long intervals of epic mediocrity; too often during the first and final arcs the content is repetitive and tedious. As such, Rurouni Kenshin is memorable more for its defining moments than its plot as a whole. I will certainly not revisit the series in its entirety since so much of it is worthless, however, the Kyoto arc and a few choice mini-stories will no doubt continue to entertain me for years to come. Rurouni Kenshin comes highly recommended for those who specifically love shows about invincible tragic samurai, or else those with herculean stores of patience.


Synopsis The Revolution of Bakumatsu marked the end of the Edo era in late 18th century Japan. In the wreckage of the final battle, the most legendary combatant disappeared into the darkness, never to be seen again. Ten years have since gone by, and the ways of the sword have been outlawed. Not all is well however, as a certain few survivors of the rebellion still lie in the shadows, awaiting an opportunity to seek vengeance upon the newfound government. Amidst the chaos of the Meiji regime wanders Himura Kenshin, a swordsman bent on maintaining peace and order. Kenshin's travels bring him to the doorstep of the Kamiya Dojo, where he meets the establishment's young instructor Koaru. The two become quickly acquainted, and along with new friends, Kenshin begins to construct a new life amongst the crowded streets of Tokyo. In spite of all this, Kenshin is not as he appears. Although on the front he is simple and ever optimistic, during the revolution of ten years past, he was known by a different name: Battousai the Manslayer! Story (8.5/10) Rurouni Kenshin was recommended to me a few years back, but I was initially drawn away from the series due the mature age of the main protagonist. I realize how ridiculous it must sound, but for the most part, I tend to rest within my comfort zone of stories with characters aged 12 to 17. Despite this fact, I found myself enjoying the delicately constructed plotline that Rurouni Kenshin brings into the controversial world of Shounen with increasing interest. With that said, I now harbor an extreme appreciation for the series, less the dreadful bundle of filler episodes that brought it crashing down to Earth in its prime. Alas, I must let filler be filler, and refrain from dreading upon the past, and instead focus upon the aspects of Rurouni Kenshin that remain both original and entertaining for young and old anime fans alike. One of the most amazing things about Rurouni Kenshin, is how well it plays on the classic "repenting for one's sins" plotline. More than anything, the story follows the life if Himura Kenshin, the tranquil yet deceptively dangerous male lead, as he attempts to overcome and quell his violent nature. Though it's an outlook that has been done literally since the first epic was written, Rurouni Kenshin really introduces new guidelines, and in my opinion raises the bar slightly in comparison to many other so-called-epics I've seen and read. Arcs are meticulous as well as interesting, and move at a pace that is neither too slow nor too fast. The plot is stuffed full with historical messages and symbolism. Although the story of Rurouni Kenshin itself is entirely fiction, the settings and time periods are based upon, or twirled within real historical events. The Edo period truly was a violent era in which Japan was controlled mercilessly by shoguns of the Tokugawa family. The main purpose of this shogunate was literally to pacify the country of Japan, so it is easily relatable to Rurouni Kenshin as a whole. Assassins such as Kenshin were utilized left and right while different areas and troupes struggled for power. As such, Rurouni Kenshin can safely be considered a story of historical fiction, but is also a bountiful account of fascinating developments and beautiful narratives. Still, even with all this, Rurouni Kenshin is considered to be a classic Shounen. Why wouldn't it be? It's beautiful and moving, but it also contains many entertaining battle sequences and the Shounen stereotypes that I personally never grow tired of. This of course includes random fire breathing men and so-called "normal" people having the ability to jump 15 feet over stonewalls. Rurouni Kenshin proves without a doubt that a Shounen doesn't need magic, giant swords or even monsters to honor and donate to its genre. Animation (6/10) Like many Shounen, Rurouni Kenshin's animation has its moments, but for the most part is riddled with bad lighting and strange facial expressions. Backdrops and coloration are not used to their best advantages, but considering the fact that this is an anime from 1996, my complaints in regards to quality should be limited. I don't hold high expectations for the animation of old shows, simply because artists didn't have the same technology they do today. Thankfully though, there were no attempts at early CGI whatsoever, unlike later episodes of the year 2000's Saiyuki, which included terribly rendered scenes of CGI smoke. Battle sequences are shaky and contain many-a-still frame of Kenshin wielding his reverse-blade sword, or leaping through the sky with inhuman practice. Still, when the animation wants to be nice, it proves that it can deliver breathtaking scenes; Kenshin's fight with Hajime Saito at the beginning of the second season for example. In this case, the frames are fluid and well developed, which is rather disappointing considering the remainder of the series. Sound (6/10) The music quality of Rurouni Kenshin is just that... music. It isn't wonderful, terrible, or even average. In fact, as I sit here typing I can't bring myself to remember anything other than the strange chipmunk-like opening, or the panflute introduction theme. While I'm on the topic of music, that first opening was great... no not really, it was awful, but somehow I still can't stop myself from humming along with its chirrpy tune whenever I play it on iPod. As far as voice actors go, Rurouni Kenshin is still one of the best performed series I've ever seen. I've heard quite a few complaints in regards to Kenshin's Japanese voice, but I found nothing to grumble about myself. Of course, he is voiced by a woman, but I truly can't see him being played by any other Seiyu at this point, because she does such a wonderful job at bringing Kenshin to life. His constant screams of "Oro" always made me smile while I was still in the watching phase, and his transformations from optimistic Kenshin to Battousai Kenshin were both incredible and painful to observe. Characters (9/10) I would be outright lying if I said that I dislike the characters of Rurouni Kenshin. In fact, I love them all. Kenshin is beautifully developed, with symbolic references and well-placed foreshadowing elements throughout the plot. Now, writing entirely from personal experience, I would have to say that I hate series' that accompany a group of older, more mature characters. Perhaps this is simply because I myself am an adolescent, but I have always had difficulties relating to characters over twenty. With that said, I was easily able to skate though Rurouni Kenshin without percieving that awful sensation of irritation that always comes hand-in-hand with a mainly adult cast. Although Kenshin is almost 30 when he is first introduced, he somehow felt much younger than that. He doesn't have that air of arrogance that usually terrorizes older characters; on the contrary, he is wise and intelligent enough to realize that he isn't perfect, and that there will always be more to learn and experience from life. Kaoru and the remainder of the cast serve mainly to accent Kenshin, but also unfurl on their own terms over time. Kaoru is his new "sheath," and Yahiko plays the role of comic relief, as well as Kenshin's eventual successor. The interplay between the characters is quite astonashing, and for that, Rurouni Kenshin deserves definite praise. Overall (7.4/10) All in all, Rurouni Kenshin is an amazing anime series, and a wonderful work of historical fiction. With such a well planned out story and beautiful characters, how could this an epic not be observed with such detail? Of course, Rurouni Kenshin isn't an utter masterpiece; nor does it try desperately to mimic one. It succeeds brilliantly at being a genuinely good show that even those who despise Shounen entirely will be able to enjoy.  


Rurouni Kenshin is without a doubt one of the most memorable and successful action titles of the 90’s. It combined a lot of elements that were quite popular and likable back then, creating an immerse fanbase who had it in their tops. Even I was quite fond of it. But as much as I liked it for what it offered, there is very little actual good story in it and it was left incomplete, and murdered by the F-ing DEEN’s Filler Killer TM.The 90’s were a pure time. You could take any simple premise and make a huge success out of it as long as it had likable characters and nice pacing. A good story, or a not predictable/repetitive/original one, was not an issue back then. You could be watching a hundred Slayers or Sailor Moon episodes and you wouldn’t feel bored. That is why a series such as RuroKen was able to reach great heights, as it actually had far more than a simple story. It was the ongoing tale of a samurai, who after a very brutal past decides to never kill again but instead fight for peace alongside a group of normal people. Well … the normal part was a bit off and everybody was doing their best to make him kill again, so that internal struggle was quite interesting.Everything in the setting smelled pure win, as it was a historical era where Japan was exiting a long period of conservatism and bloody civil strife, where new ideas and technologies were entering their society and rapidly changed their traditional ways of life. All the fighters of that era are now considered a thing of the past, many of which are not fond of this and do their best to maintain Japan as it was. The struggle of leaving the era of war behind for an era of western influence that was not positive all the time, created a huge emotional impact on the viewer. The best term to describe this is “elegiac”, the sadness which the passing of time has on people who grow old and see their traditions and pure child innocence fading away under the cruelty of change and uncertainty. The overall story was also very good, being about a powerful swordsman who doesn’t want to kill anymore, settle down, have a normal life, yet at the same time being constantly thrown in the midst of remnants of his past, people who don’t like their way of life to change for something they see as frail and foreign. There were no real good or bad sides in here despite the fact that anyone Kenshin fought was presented as pure evil to the most part. In reality it was just a clash of civilizations and ideologies. You can’t really blame a man who trained all his life in the way of the sword to one day be told to throw away all his skills and start plowing the fields. The general plot was also very good in terms of build up, as Kenshin was slowly facing more and more grim sides of his past coming back to haunt him, while at the same time protecting all those he loves around him. The story is without a doubt a solid 10 … if it was not so goddamn erratic, butchered, watered down and thrown away in the bin!Although the manga version offers a complete story with a beginning, a middle and a powerful ending, the anime did the usual shit most series that want to drag things resort to. They called in the Filler Monster. Yup, fillers are abundant, to the point were the series was canceled because of poor ratings. So ok, the manga was still on-going at the time and they were making fillers until it was complete. Thank you very much, here are the results: You killed the show. Out of the 3 arcs the third is useless filler where nothing is going on, and on top of that it was animated by DEEN, by far the most despicable studio of all times. The other two have a rather high amount of stand alone short arcs between important events but they are still better because they were not animated by f-ing DEEN. Some were funny or semi-good in terms of action but overall they were without replay value. That alone takes out a lot of the charm of an otherwise good story. Especially the third arc is a bunch of BS, full of events that are out of context with the rest of the show. Onwards with the cast. Kenshin is the epicenter of the story and truth be told, only he gets all the focus. If you follow his story, you really sympathize him for all the things he has done in the past, both good and bad, and how he tries to amend for the sins of all those he killed in the name of peace. A really great guy. So great, his style of “never kill” was copied later in other shows who wanted to profit from this, the most famous being Trigun’s Van. They still occasionally make characters with this feature today but it no longer has the same appeal. “Never kill” is after all a stupid way to follow if you expect to change the world. Heck, how shorter would each battle be if the all-powerful Kenshin was just going in for the kill? It would take away his charm for sure but come on, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some <s> necks </s> eggs. But anyways, the whole deal is taken very lightly and most of the time you get to see him doing silly stuff rather than looking grumpy. During peaceful times the guy acts like a clown! And damn, he really looks far younger than he really is. All the rest of the characters feel more like supplementary to the main lead, as they are all there just to bring out different facets of his personality. Not a bad thing but they don’t seem to be able to stand on their own without Kenshin around. Kaoru, Yahiko, Sano, all have their different goals in life, as simple as they may be; but let’s be honest; they are just underlings to the lead. But heck, they are not cardboards as, let’s say, the Z Warriors were in Dragonball Z, where joining Goku is the same as throwing away your free will. The main antagonists and/or villains, Aoshi, Saito, Shishio, seem to have it better, as they are leaders of their respective teams and have portfolios of their own. All the supporting characters besides them are just… there. Some have personality but none does anything special. As for the filler villains, well, screw them, any attempt to develop those means nothing to the story and it happens in a rushed and uninteresting way. But heck, they are a colorful bunch who is overall treated with more respect than most casts. Many are memorable, likable, interesting. If only the story was complete, they would feel somewhat more complete (but not too much more). Artwork and sound are good. Actually they are very good. Actually … they are great! Although there is a high amount of realism in terms of how people dressed or how buildings looked back then, Kenshin still wears pink. And a few other things here and there. Not anything major but it’s not historically accurate all the time. The battles are rather dull when it’s up against minor or filler villains and that makes a big chunk of episodes to have no replay value. As for the rest of the big ones … the magic of cinematics! They pulled out any trick of the book to make any slash or eye contact to create tension and excitement … even when it’s just a simple attack. Now that is what good action is all about! The actual choreography may be simple but the feeling it transmits with its use of music score, camera angles, split screen, shading, insane looks, etc, THIS IS ORGASMIC. Yeah, you get to enjoy every bit of it. This is the REAL samurai action. Most other shows make it look like they are having a picnic while fighting for the salvation of the world. The only downside I can find in it is that they … err … yell the names of their attacks. And some of those techniques are damn long. Which feels weird when Kenshin yells “Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki” for an attack that lasts a fraction of a second. But heck, times freezes all the time during attacks and as I said it builds proper tension, so I excuse it. Besides some sloppy looks here and there and the occasional frozen panels, it’s good stuff. And this applies only to the action scenes as the peaceful moments don’t pull the same powerful cinematics and thus the excitement is also a bit lower. Sound is on an even better level as things sound good even in peaceful moments. The soundtracks are amazing pieces of work, silly pop songs included. I still listen to them from time to time. They really do fix your mood when you are down. Voice acting is also great, making all characters sound properly funny in comical moments and dead serious during grave moments. Down to it, it really is a great show whose biggest error was bringing in the Filler Monster and switching the animation studio to f-ing DEEN. From the three parts, the third one has no value at all (because DEEN made it and because it has the most ridiculous storilines you can imagine). The first is semi-interesting to follow again in the heavy on action moments and the second is pure joy all the way. It can be extremely good if supposed you just skip all fillers and boring episodes. SUGGESTION LIST The manga versionDon’t miss the Trust and Betrayal OVAsSword of the StrangerSamurai Champloo

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