Creator/Studio: Nobuhiro Watsuki/Studio Gallop (first 65 episodes) and Studio Deen (66-95)
Distributor: First distributor was Media Blasters, current distributor is Sony
No. of Episodes: 95
Age Rating: 13+
My Rating: 8/10
Summary: This anime is set during Japan’s Meiji Era (1868-1912) The period marked the end of Japan’s Edo period, when they operated in a feudal system of government. Its hero, Kenshin Himora, is a former samurai whose bloodshed has earned him the name battosai. After the end of the Edo period, Himora reversed the blade on his sword and decided to atone for all the lives he had killed. At the start of the series, he meets Kaoru Kamina, daughter of a dojo that teaches the Kamina Kashin style of combat. He also meets Sanosuke Sagara (a former member of the Sekiho army who became a mercenary), Yahiko Myojin (an orphaned urchin who Kamina eventually takes in as a student), and Megumi Takani (a woman who is also a practicing doctor). Later in the series, he meetsa female ninja named Misao Makimachi.
Review: Like many anime fans, I got into Rurouni Kenshin when the show aired on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block’s original run. The block only played the first arc of the series, but I eventually found the anime on Hulu, albeit with an atrocious dub. I decided to suck it up and watch it anyway, as this was the best way I could watch it as the DVD’s are difficult to find.
Kenshin Himora is one of my all-time favorite anime heroes. He is attempting to atone for all the violence at his hands during the Edo period by solving problems given to him without killing anyone. His enemies often belittle him for this, and he even pretends to be a simpleton to give himself an advantage. He is a kind soul who always tries to see the best in people.
Kaoru Kamina is Kenshin’s primary love interest. She is a brash, fierce woman and almost as capable as Kenshin in a fight. (especially since she primarily uses a practice sword made of bamboo rather than the real one Kenshin uses) I liked their dynamic and the fact that she and Kenshin made a good team. While the series itself never tells us that they are a couple, it’s pretty obvious that they are.
Yahiko is, in my opinion, the kid sidekick done right. He is an admirable character who tries his best to live up to the legacy of his family by emulating Kenshin. My favorite story with him is the one where the show’s first villains, Hiruma Kihei and Gohei goad Yahiko into fighting them with Kenshin’s sword rather than his standard bamboo sword. Yahiko soon realizes his mistake. What I like best about him is his indomitable spirit and the way he looks up to Kenshin almost like a surrogate father.
Sanosuke is a perfect foil for Kenshin. While Kenshin is a kind, pacifist swordsman who would rather not engage in violence, Sanosuke has pent-up anger from his distrust of the Meiji government. He is not as educated as the others, and this becomes a handicap in many stories. However, he is a loyal friend to Kenshin and will do anything for him.
Megumi is a difficult character to like at first. She is somewhat clingy to Kenshin and if you like the Kamina and Himora dynamic, this makes her even more annoying. She does eventually come to realize she can’t measure up to Kaoru, and refrains from the flirting, causing her to become more tolerable.
The one character who gave me the most trouble was Misao, who is introduced near the start of the “Kyoto Arc”, in which Kenshin fights a killer who has adopted the battosai name in his absence. Her childish ways can be a bit annoying at times.
My favorite arc in the story is not the Kyoto arc, interestingly. It is the arc that comes after, where Kenshin meets a band of Christians and their bloodthirsty leader. While I am a Christian myself, I see nothing against this character. This is because the writers actually took the time to show us members of his band who are true practicioners of their faith, in addition to their leader. It was a welcome and balanced portrayal.
So, is this series worthy of its legacy? I would certainly say so. If you consider yourself an anime fan, this is essential viewing, even with the bad dub currently available on Hulu and Crackle.
Sub/Dub: The dub is intolerable. Not only are the voices atrocious, but they do not even attempt to pronounce the names right. If you must listen to it dubbed, I suggest you track down the Media Blasters dub, as they did a much better job than Sony. (And since an earlier dub existed, they have no excuse. They could’ve done exactly what FUNimation has done with all of its relicenses–repackage them and leave the dub alone.)
Music/Score: Most of the music in the show isn’t all that great. The sole exception, however, is “Heart of Sword” by TM Revolution, which plays at the end of the show during its Kyoto arc. This was the song that made me a fan of his music.
Violence: (6/10) Despite the fact that Kenshin has taken an oath to refrain from killing, there is still a large amount of bloodshed.
Language: (4/10) Most of the bad language comes from Sanosuke.
Sexuality: (2/10) Megumi is molested in her introductory storyline.
Nudity: (5/10) There are numerous bathing scenes throughout the series, which seem to often exist solely so the writers can have funny moments where the female cast members are embarrassed by the male cast members catching them bathing. They are tolerable.
Religion: (5/10) Kenshin appears to practice the Buddhist faith. Although he does meet a murderous Christian leader, he at least takes the time to get to know his followers, and does not judge the less violent members of the troupe by their leader.
Related Material: There are two anime movies that are prequels and sequels to the TV series. The OVA Trust and Betrayal provides the backstory for Kenshin, including how he got his trademark scar. Reflection is an independent storyline that does not tie into the series much. There were also three live-action movies. The series itself is inspired by the manga created by Nobuhiro Watsuki, who also created Buso Renkin.
Trivia: Many of the events and characters depicted in the anime and manga are actually based on historical fact, with very little embellishing.