The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Rurouni Kenshin

Title: Rurouni Kenshin aka Samurai X
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Studio Gallop/Studio DEEN
Format: 95 episodes
Date: 10 Jan 1996 – 08 Aug 1998

Synopsis: Himura Kenshin is a poor ronin who wields a reverse edge sword and vows never to kill anyone. But unknown to many people, he used to be the legendary and ruthless samurai Hitokiri Battōsai who spearheaded the Meiji Restoration and ended the Edo Era. Now living peacefully with a feisty kendo instructor named Kamiya Kaoru, Himura still has many enemies out to kill him because of his past. Can he protect the ones around him, and more importantly, can he do so without killing anyone and returning back to his old ways?

The Highlights
Characters: Well-explored; some are unforgettable, but too many forgettable extras.
Story: Good mix of light-hearted and grim moments; a tad too many filler episodes.
Kyoto arc: Best arc of the series, and arguably one of the most memorable even to this day.
Post-Kyoto arcs: Rubbish; the series should have ended after the Kyoto arc.
Last word: Like it or not, one of the most loved anime series of the 90s.

Rurouni Kenshin is a series that has a special place in my heart. It’s not because of its pure merits; it’s about my personal sentiments toward the show, as it was one of the first that triggered my love for watching anime. And I believe that this is the case for most anime viewers as well; like it or hate it, it is one of the most popular and beloved shows of its time. It’s not one of the best titles of that era, something I think many people would agree as much as they love it, but it nevertheless serves as a landmark that a lot of anime lovers started from, and it still defines late 1990s anime alongside the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop.

There are a few reasons why Rurouni Kenshin is beloved by so many people, but one main reason is its cast. All the characters have a story to tell in the show, and the plot always takes its time to explore each of them, rendering them sympathetic and likable most of the time. In particular, protagonist Himura Kenshin embodies all that in his character: He’s a compassionate and noble individual who was a fearsome and much antagonized killer in the past. The story takes its time to fully explore him and the rest of the cast, and how his past affects both his present and the lives of those around him. The only problem is that, as expected from a long running series, there are too many extra characters who come and go all too quickly, and only a few prove memorable.

The story is also another huge aspect of Rurouni Kenshin, where the most befitting word to describe the story would be “mixed”. Generally made up of arcs with varying levels of interest, most are merely side stories featuring Kenshin and company’s daily experiences. There are others which are more interesting, and in particular, one outstanding arc overshadows the others with its sheer riveting storyline and iconic characters. It is the Kyoto arc, and it distinguishes itself from the rest by exploring the dark and gritty side of the series such as Himura battling with his inner devil and past ghosts. It also features an unforgettable cast including Shishio Makoto, who is one of the most badass villains of all time in my books. To this day, the arc remains one of the striking stories that defines the series and convinces people to watch the whole show because of it.

While the Kyoto arc is the shining moment in Rurouni Kenshin, everything after it is pretty much the opposite. The subsequent arcs all seem to be fillers ranging from mundane to even ridiculous, and while some are still interesting to watch, none really adds anything to the main storyline. The anime continues way beyond its prime; the series should have ended after the climatic Kyoto arc signed off on a high note.

While it has its share of high and low points, Rurouni Kenshin has nevertheless won the hearts of many, both fans and non-fans of the show. It’s the kind of show that perseveres against the test of time, identifying itself as a classic title that is watched and loved by many viewers. Although the main series isn’t great per se, and isn’t even the best within its own franchise (Tsuiokuhen [1,2] immediately comes to mind when it comes to best), it still scores a lot of nostalgic points from me. While almost all the anime series I watch these days are from the PC monitor, Rurouni Kenshin is one I remember watching from a TV screen instead, and that is a memory I will cherish for years to come.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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