The most interesting thing about Rurouni Kenshin is the ethical conduct of its titular protagonist. Having grown up as a murderer in service of a revolutionary movement which later took over the country, Kenshin has seen no shortage of bloodshed, and is trying to put it as far behind him as possible. He’s taken up a vow never to kill again, and to use his superhuman swordsman abilities only to protect those in need.
But what particularly fascinates me about Kenshin is his combination of optimistic pacifism, and down-to-earth realism about what it means to protect others. In an early episode of the series, one of the government officials whom Kenshin helped bring to power offers him a job within the government, imploring him to help to effect change on a broader social level. However, Kenshin understands that in order to unify a people under one ideology of peace, a regime will have to combat anyone with different ideas about how society should operate–thereby perpetuating a cycle of questionably-justified violence and politics.
Rather than trying to fight in the name of any ambiguous ideals, or to try and force his own ideas about the betterment of society onto others, Kenshin instead chooses to do good on a moment-to-moment basis, protecting only those who are obviously suffering immediately in front of him. He harbors no illusions that he’s making any kind of broad social change in doing so, or that all of his actions are necessarily justified–he is simply helping out where he can and hoping that what he does is going to benefit those whom he protects.
This methodology is hardly uncommon for this type of superhero-like character, but what makes Kenshin so interesting is that he’s at least thought through all of this and come to the conclusion that this is the life he wants to lead. His discomfort with participating in government comes from his own dark past, and the violence in which he partook to make the current government possible–notwithstanding what he’d need to do to keep it in power. At 28 years-old, Kenshin is one of the older and more storied shounen anime protagonists, and his age lends him a depth of wisdom not often seen in anime characters.
Personally, Kenshin’s philosophy resonates with me in particular as an entertainer. I know that what I’m doing is not going to effect any kind of large-scale change on the world around me, and that my work is of questionable benefit to humanity on the whole–but if something I made can at least brighten people’s day and help them to deal with the general bullshit that they have to put up with in their everyday lives, then I feel like I’ve at least helped out in passing to make things better for whoever happens to stop by and see my videos. I have a difficult time putting stock into any one ideology’s ability to lead humanity towards a brighter future, so for me it’s easier to sidestep the issue entirely and just try to make people happy as much as I can.
If this kind of video is something which interests you, then be sure to stick around on my channel as I continue this new series talking about what I find to be the most interesting aspects of various media which I don’t have much else to say about. Support me on Patreon to help keep these videos coming, and to more easily keep up with the endless deluge of content that I release across a ridiculous number of channels. Thank again for watching, I’ll see you in the next one!