December's Forty Fandoms – Part Two: Rurouni Kenshin

A post in the ‘Forty Fandoms‘ series.


Rurouni Kenshin

The History of My Fandom

I started Rurouni Kenshin when it first began airing on Cartoon Network in ’03, the heyday of my early anime fandom. It aired on Saturdays during an action block of shows that played before Adult Swim, and it very quickly and easily dominated the ranks of my favorite anime. I was a sucker for violence, especially violence involving blades (no doubt because it made for more blood) so Kenshin was like the holy grail. The character Kenshin himself was an utter badass, but it also had the young characters I could relate to (Yahiko Miyojin and later Seta Soujirou) as well as cool mother fuckers like Hajime Saitou and Sanousuke Sagara.

More importantly, Kenshin was the show I got into right when I started getting money for the first time. As such, my first ever anime DVD purchase was Rurouni Kenshin Volume 7 (because it was the one with Kenshin vs. Saitou on it, and I never again would buy a random volume from a series) as well as my first Anime CD (Best Theme Collection 2.) I also owned a Rurouni Kenshin T-shirt which I loved to death but managed to get ruined when it was washed with a ball of some kind of gack that is literally impossible to remove. For my birthday that year I had a cake of Hajime Saitou poised in First Stance to do his impaling technique. I even actually had a fanpage I made on geocities (RIP) dedicated to Seta Soujiro, whom I loved to death. I later bought the first volume of the manga, but I didn’t like it as much at the time because it had too much dialog and was more serious than the show (I may re-read it though.)

Of course, the most important part of the Kenshin franchise, and the one that has stuck with me the longest, was the Tsuiokuhen OVA (known to me then as ‘Samurai X’). At the time, it was the greatest thing I had ever seen because it was not only a backstory to Kenshin, but it had the best fight scenes I’d ever seen. Kenshin’s moments of bloodletting were truly incredible and the particular scene where he cuts an assassin clean in half vertically was long my favorite death of all time. Of course, now I like the OVA for entirely different reasons, none the least of which being that it is fucking beautiful. A heart-wrenching film that is amazing in every way a film could be amazing. A couple months ago I actually watched it twice in a day or so with the intent to write a review about it, but this never got published for various reasons – hopefully it will eventually.

The Reasons For My Fandom

As stated, the fandom was based originally violence, but thankfully there’s much more to Kenshin than just violence. i can’t speak too much for the series – No Name and I tried to watch it recently and it was painfully difficult because of the voice acting. In Japanese, Kenshin sounds like an 8-yea-old girl, but in English, while he sounds fine, everyone else (Yahiko and Kaoru esp.) has a terrible voice. I also had seen some of the early episodes SO many goddamn times that I am long through with them, so we didn’t make it past three episodes (shamefully, really.) I’ve got the first volume of the manga right next to me now, though, so maybe I’ll give it a read-through soon.


But anyway, the OVA is the biggest meat of my fandom. It’s outright one of my favorite anime, so it could have come close to this list without being tied to a franchise (though that pushed it over the line). What I love about the story so much is the character Kenshin Himura – we see his life from the earliest part of his childhood all the way to *spoilers* his eventual death in the second OVA *end spoilers.* Knowing the life of Kenshin’s character maks his backstory that much more powerful when you are thinking about the eventual results that the actions will have on his personality. I am really big on characters, largely because I am big on human psychology – I like to be ablle to truly feel a character and get into their head, and I feel that Kenshin lets us do this over the course of his life.

And as I said, it’s just such a great movie. The music, animation, voice acting, and directing are all top-notch, the script is godly perfection, and the characters are tear-jerkingly tragic. I’ve no doubt that it is one of the most beautiful anime films ever created, and to be such a thing while being part of a large shounen series is astounding and highly commendable.

The Nature of My Fandom

This is kind of difficult. As I mentioned, I am currently mostly a fan of the OVA. However, it’s not so cut-and-dried that I could say ‘I’m this much a fan of the OVA, this much a fan of the character Kenshin, and this much of the series itself.’ Kenshin has a lot of nostalgia value in it, too. I just read the first chapter of the manga and I enjoyed it a good bit, but I can’t say how much was because I was interested and how much was ‘going through the good ol’ motions’ (especially realizing how much better the first chapter is in the manga compared to the anime.)

I think the best way to put it is this: I still remember that Kenshin’s ultimate attack is called the ‘amakakeru ryu no hirameki’ without needing a reminder. I still know all the lyrics to ‘HEART OF SWORD’ as well as most of the other songs from the Rurouni Kenshin Best Theme Collection 2 (especially the 2 Animetal songs!) I still know the English lyrics to the opening song. There is nostalgia ingrained in me with this show, and the memories are all pretty good ones. It’s a show that I’ve spent 7 years being more-or-less convinced I was going to finish someday (I only ever saw what aired on CN and actually missed a lot of the Shishio arc including most of the final battle because they changed the time slots) so maybe I’ll always feel like I’m still watching it.

The Level of My Fandom

Currently, I can’t call it more than mid-level – if we were talking about just the OVA, it would be high-level, but I don’t feel comfortable calling the franchise as a whole ‘high-level’ until I’ve either re-experienced more of it, or checked out more of the stuff I haven’t seen (seasons I never watched or the manga.) I will say, though, that the franchise would not have made this list were any one part of it nonexistent. (*edits the post while listening to Shukuteki Kenzan and The Ten Swords.*)

3 thoughts on “December's Forty Fandoms – Part Two: Rurouni Kenshin

  1. I would recommend reading the manga rather than watching more of the anime, if you ever get around to it. The anime up through the Kyoto arc is a good adaption of the manga, but after that the anime completely splits off from the manga’s storyline. I started getting bored with the anime not long after that point and by the last arc I was watching just to finish it. (I always hate leaving a series incomplete when I’ve already invested a lot of time in it, unless there’s just no end in sight.) The manga, on the other hand, kept me hooked all the way through.

    Also, the Tsuiokuhen OAV is based on a section of the manga after the Kyoto arc where Kenshin talks about his past but the Seisouhen OAV is a completely different ending from the manga’s.

    • Ah yes, I know all of this (I’m the type to do horribly spoilerific and extensive research on a show I like lol) and as such I’ve started reading the manga, which I feel so far is much better since the anime added in some really pointless padding even in the early eps. I’m four volumes in and enjoying it so far although Watsuki’s notes make it sound like he really doesn’t take the series seriously at all or even find it enjoyable to make LOL.

  2. I daresay Kenshin was “the” shounen anime of the 90s (in the sense of the “critic’s choice”, i guess – i imagine Dragonball was probably more popular). I think what gives it such broad appeal is, as you’ve noted, the multiplicity of ways it engages you – there’s not only sword duels galore, but character development, a dose of a more grim feel from the OVAs, a lighter tone from the main series, and most fascinatingly for a predominantly shounen show, a historical and political backdrop that was perhaps a little exaggerated but nevertheless very compelling. I think that’s part of Kenshin’s magic; it works very well with the historical material.

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