Cover of the last volume of Rurouni Kenshin as released by Shueisha on November 4, 1999.
(Rurōni Kenshin -Meiji Kenkaku Rōmantan-)
|Written by||Nobuhiro Watsuki|
|Magazine||Weekly Shōnen Jump|
|Original run||April 11, 1994 – November 4, 1999|
|Volumes||28 (List of volumes)|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Kazuhiro Furuhashi|
|Studio||Studio Gallop (episodes 1-66)
Studio Deen (episodes 66 onwards)
|Network||Fuji TV, Animax, Studio 23|
|Original run||January 10, 1996 – September 8, 1998|
|Episodes||95 (List of episodes)|
|Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World|
|Written by||Kaoru Shizuka|
|Illustrated by||Nobuhiro Watsuki|
|Imprint||Jump J Books|
|Published||October 10, 1996|
|Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture|
|Directed by||Hatsuki Tsuji|
|Produced by||Junichiro Hisaita
|Written by||Shinichi Tsuji
|Music by||Tarō Iwashiro|
|Released||December 20, 1997|
|Original video animation|
|Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto-Hen Zenpen Homura no Ori Part 1|
|Directed by||Kazuhiro Furuhashi|
|Written by||Mari Okada|
|Music by||Noriyuki Asakura|
|Released||December 17, 2011|
|Rurouni Kenshin Restoration|
|Written by||Nobuhiro Watsuki|
|English publisher||Viz Media (digital only)|
|English magazine||Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha|
|Original run||May 1, 2012 – ongoing|
|Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto-Hen Zenpen Homura no Ori Part 2|
|Directed by||Kazuhiro Furuhashi|
|Written by||Mari Okada|
|Music by||Noriyuki Asakura|
|Released||June 23, 2012|
|Directed by||Keishi Ōtomo|
|Produced by||Shinzō Matsuhashi
William Ireton/Warner Bros.
|Released||August 25, 2012|
|Anime and Manga Portal|
Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- Rurōni Kenshin Meiji Kenkaku Rōmantan?), also known as Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The fictional setting takes place during the early Meiji period in Japan. The story is about a fictional assassin named Himura Kenshin, from the Bakumatsu who becomes a wanderer to protect the people of Japan. Watsuki wrote this series upon his desire of making a shōnen manga different from the other ones that were published in that time, with Kenshin being a former assassin and the story taking a more serious tone as it continued.
The manga initially appeared in Shueisha‘s Weekly Shōnen Jump from April 11, 1994, to November 4, 1999. The complete work consists of 28 tankōbon volumes, while years later it was reprinted into twenty-two kanzenban volumes. Studio Gallop, Studio Deen and SPE Visual Works adapted the manga into an anime series which aired in Japan from January 10, 1996 to September 8, 1998. Besides an animated film, two series of original video animations (OVAs) were also produced. The first adapted stories from the manga that were not featured in the anime, while the second was also a sequel of the manga. Writer Kaoru Shizuka has authored three official Rurouni Kenshin light novels which were published by Shueisha. Several video games have also been released for the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable consoles.
The United States release of the manga has been completed by Viz Media. Rurouni Kenshin is subtitled “Wandering Samurai” in some English releases. The TV series was later licensed in North America and released on DVD by Media Blasters. The first two seasons aired on the United States Cartoon Network as a part of the Toonami Block, while the third season was only featured in DVD. The English-language versions of the OVAs as well as the film were originally released as Samurai X, although the original title was included in the DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases. The first light novel has been translated by Viz and distributed in the United States and Canada. None of the video games of the series have been released in North America.
The Rurouni Kenshin manga has sold over 55 million copies in Japan as of 2012, while its anime has ranked among the 100 most watched series in Japan multiple times. The series has received praise and criticism from various publications for manga, anime and other media, with both having received good response on the characters’ designs and the historical setting.
Rurouni Kenshin takes place during the early Meiji era in Japan, telling the story of a wanderer named Himura Kenshin, formerly known as the assassin “Hitokiri Battōsai“. After participating in the Bakumatsu war, Kenshin wanders the countryside of Japan offering protection and aid to those in need as atonement for the murders he once committed as an assassin. When arriving in Tokyo in the 11th year of Meiji (1878), he meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru, who is in the middle of a fight with a murderer – who claims to be the Hitokiri Battōsai – tarnishing the name of the swordsmanship school that she teaches. Kenshin decides to help her and defeats the fake Battōsai. After discovering that Kenshin is the real Battōsai, Kaoru offers him a place to stay at her dojo noting that he is peace-loving and not cold-hearted, as his reputation implies. Kenshin accepts and begins to establish lifelong relationships with many people such as Sagara Sanosuke, a former Sekihō Army member; Myōjin Yahiko, an orphan from a samurai family; and a doctor named Takani Megumi. However, he also deals with his fair share of enemies, new and old, including the former leader from the Oniwabanshū, Shinomori Aoshi and his rival from the Bakumatsu Saitō Hajime.
After several months of living in the dojo, Kenshin discovers that his successor as assassin of the shadows, Shishio Makoto, plans to conquer Japan by destroying the Meiji Government, starting with Kyoto. Feeling that his friends may be attacked by Shishio’s faction, Kenshin goes to meet Shishio alone in order to defeat him. However, many of his friends, including a young Oniwabanshū named Makimachi Misao, decide to help him in his fight. He decides to accept their help and defeats Shishio in a fight; Shishio dies in the process due to the rise in body temperature caused by his burns. The anime adapts the manga until this part, later featuring new story arcs which were not featured in the manga.
When Kenshin and his friends return to Tokyo, Kenshin finds Yukishiro Enishi, who plans to take revenge by killing his friends. At this point it is revealed that, during the Bakumatsu, Kenshin had been married to a woman called Yukishiro Tomoe. She had initially wanted to avenge the death of her fiancé whom Kenshin had killed, but instead both fell in love and got married. It is then discovered that Tomoe was part of a group of assassins that wanted to kill Kenshin, and Tomoe is betrayed by them and captured to use as bait. Kenshin rushes in to rescue her, killing both his assailant and accidentally Tomoe, who jumps in at the last minute to save Kenshin from a fatal attack. Wanting to take revenge for the death of his sister, Enishi kidnaps Kaoru and leaves behind a tortured figure bearing a stunning resemblance of Kaoru for Kenshin to find and momentarily grieve over. Once discovering that Kaoru is alive, Kenshin and his friends set out to rescue her. A battle between Kenshin and Enishi follows and when Kenshin wins, he and Kaoru return home. Five years later, Kenshin has married Kaoru and has a son named Himura Kenji.
A prototype series titled Rurouni, Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story first appeared as a pair of separate short stories published in 1992 and 1993 in the manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump Special. The first story featured an earlier version of Kenshin stopping a crime lord from taking over the Kamiya family dojo. Watsuki described the first Rurouni story, echoing the “Megumi Arc,” as a “pilot” for Rurouni Kenshin. According to Watsuki, the final Rurouni Kenshin series was not composed entirely from his free will. Describing the creation of historical stories as “hard,” Watsuki initially wanted to make his next series in a contemporary setting. An editor approached Watsuki and asked him to make a new historical story. With the historic concept, Watsuki intended to use the Bakumatsu time period from Moeyo Ken (Burn, O Sword) with a story akin to Sugata Sanshirō. Watsuki experimented with various titles, including Nishin (Two-Hearts) Kenshin, Yorozuya (Jack-of-All-Trades) Kenshin, and variations of “Rurouni” and “Kenshin” with different kanji in that order.
The second Rurouni story, released one half of a year after the first story, features Kenshin helping a wealthy girl named Raikōji Chizuru. Watsuki recalled experiencing difficulty when condensing “everything” into 31 pages for the first Romantic Swordsman story. He said that he “put all my soul into it” but sighs when looking at the story from his perspective after the publication of the Rurouni Kenshin Volume 1 graphic novel in Japan. Watsuki describes the first Rurouni: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story as receiving mediocre reviews and about two hundred letters. Watsuki described the second Rurouni as a “side story.”
During his childhood, Watsuki used to practice kendo which influenced him in the making from the series. Although, Watsuki developed various one-shots prior to the official serialization from the series, he mentioned he based the series from Crescent Moon in the Warring States, a story which introduced Kenshin’s fighting style and his teacher. While naming the characters, he based some of their names from places he used to live such as Makimachi Misao’s “Makimachi” and Sanjō Tsubame, who are named after places from Niigata.
Being fascinated by the Shinsengumi, Watsuki designed the characters by basing their characteristics to that of the real Shinsengumi members and also used fictional representation of them and other historical characters from the Bakumatsu period of Japan. The historical characters were considered to be a hard task by Watsuki. Due to problems with the characterization from Sagara Sōzō, Watsuki decided to illustrate Saitō Hajime in his own style avoiding the historical figure. He felt very good with Saitō’s character having noted he fit very well in the manga. However, Watsuki mentioned that many Japanese fans of the Shinsengumi complained about the personality of Saitō, as he was made sadistic.
When questioned about the series’ theme being Kenshin’s self-redemption, Watsuki mentioned that when he was young he used to read shōjo and that it influenced in the story from Rurouni Kenshin. He added that he wanted to make a story different from other comics as he considers the main character [Himura Kenshin] is neither a good nor evil character. Since volume 7, Watsuki mentioned the series took a more adult tone due to the various conflicts in the story, but commented it was influenced by the shōjo manga he read. Through the series’ development, Watsuki was deciding if Kamiya Kaoru‘s character was going to die prior to the end. However, he later decided to keep Kaoru alive as he came to the conclusion he wanted a happy ending and that the manga is aimed at young readers. Watsuki said he was an “infatuated” type of person rather than a “passionate” kind of person, so therefore Rurouni Kenshin is a “Meiji Swordsman Story” as opposed to being a “Meiji Love Story.”
When the manga series started to be published in Weekly Shōnen Jump, Watsuki had little hope in the development of the series. He planned to finish the story in approximately 30 chapters, ending with Kenshin’s departure from Tokyo in a similar manner to the one from volume 7. Kenshin’s enemies would have been people from Kyoto who would send an assassin to kill Kenshin. When the Oniwabanshū were introduced during the serialization, Watsuki noted that the series could be longer as he had created various main characters. In that time, there was a survey, and the series had become very popular.
When the series reached seven volumes, Watsuki’s boss suggested him that it was time to make a longer story-arc, which resulted in the creation of the fights between Kenshin and Shishio Makoto. The arc was only meant to be serialized for one year, but it ended up being one year-and-a-half long. This arc was also done to develop Kenshin’s character as he considered him not to have a weak point. Watsuki commented that his artistic skills were honed with this arc, as he could draw everything he wanted to. The last arc from the manga was meant to be much shorter, but it turned out to be a fairly long one as he could not present in a simplistic manner. This arc was originally made by Watsuki prior to the series’ start, having already thought about how would Kenshin’s scar had been made. Watsuki also planned to create a Hokkaido arc and a sequel, but felt it would be better to start with another manga and so ended the series with the last arc he made.
In a manga volume prior to the release of the anime, Watsuki said that while some fans might object to the adaptation of the series into anime, Watsuki looked forward to the adaptation and felt it would work since the manga was already “anime-esque.” He had some worries about the series since he felt since the creation of the series was sudden and the series had a “tight” production schedule. In another note in the same volume Watsuki added that he had little input in the series, as he was too busy with the publishing. In addition his schedule did not match the schedule of the anime production staff. Watsuki said that it would be impossible to make the anime and manga exactly the same, so he would feel fine with the anime adaptation as long as it took advantage of the strengths of an anime format.
After the anime began production, Watsuki said that the final product was “better than imagined” and that it was created with the “pride and soul of professionals.” Watsuki criticized the timing, the “off-the-wall, embarrassing subtitles,” and the condensing of the stories; for instance he felt the Jin-e storyline would not sufficiently fit two episodes. Watsuki said that he consulted a director and that he felt the anime would improve after that point. The fact that the CD book voice actors, especially Megumi Ogata and Tomokazu Seki, who portrayed Kenshin and Sanosuke in the CD books, respectively, did not get their corresponding roles in the anime disappointed Watsuki. Watsuki reported receiving some letters of protest against the voice actor change and letters requesting that Ogata portray Seta Sōjirō; Watsuki said that he wanted Ogata to play Misao and that Ogata would likely find “stubborn girl” roles more challenging than the “pretty boy” roles she usually gets, though Watsuki felt Ogata would have “no problem” portraying a “stubborn girl.” Watsuki said that the new voice actor arrangement “works out” and that he hoped that the CD book voice actors would find roles in the anime. Watsuki said that the reason why the CD book voice actors did not get the corresponding roles in the anime was due to the fact that many more companies were involved in the production of the anime than the production of the CD books, and therefore the “industry power-structure” affected the series.
The second season of the anime TV series had some original stories not in the manga. Watsuki said that some people disliked “TV originals,” but to him the concept was “exciting”. Watsuki said that because the first half of the original storyline that existed by the time of the production of Volume 10 in Japan was “jammed” into the first season, he looked forward to a “more entertaining” second season. Watsuki added that it was obvious that the staff of the first season “put their hearts and souls” into the work, but that the second series will be “a much better stage for their talents.”
Written and drawn by Nobuhiro Watsuki, the first chapter of Rurouni Kenshin premiered in Weekly Shōnen Jump in 1994 and was serialized in the magazine until 1999. The 255 individual chapters were collected and published in 28 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha, with the first volume released on September 9, 1994 and the last on November 4, 1999. In July 2006, Shueisha began re-releasing the series in a twenty-two kanzenban special edition volumes. A single chapter follow up to the series that follows the character of Yahiko Myōjin, Yahiko no Sakabatō (弥彦の逆刃刀 (“Yahiko’s Reversed-Edge Sword”)?), was originally published in Weekly Shōnen Jump after the conclusion of the series. Left out of the original volumes, it was added as an extra to the final kanzenban release.
In December 2011, Shueisha announced Watsuki would be putting his current series, Embalming -The Another Tale of Frankenstein-, on hold to begin a “reboot” of Rurouni Kenshin, called Rurouni Kenshin Cinema-ban, as a tie-in to the live-action movie. The series began in the June 2012 issue of Jump SQ., which was released on May 2, 2012, and depicts the battles that are featured in the live-action film. Another special titled Rurouni Kenshin Chapter 0, was published in Weekly Shōnen Jump in August 2012.
Rurouni Kenshin was licensed for an English language release in North America by Viz Media. The first volume of the series was released on October 7, 2003. Although the first volumes were published on an irregular basis, since volume 7 Viz established a monthly basis due to good sales and consumer demands. Therefore, the following volumes were published until July 5, 2006, when the final volume was published. Yahiko no Sakabatō was also serialized in Shonen Jump during 2006. In January 2008, Viz began re-releasing the manga in a wideban format called “Viz Big Edition”, which is a collection of three volumes in one. The Final volume included the Yahiko no Sakabatō and an additional short manga Haru no Sakura (春の桜?, lit.”Cherry Blossoms in Spring”), which shows every main character in the series. Viz uses the actual ordering of Japanese names, with the family name or surname before the given name, within the series to reduce confusion and because Rurouni Kenshin is a historical series. On May 7, 2012, it was announced in Viz Media’s digital manga magazine Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha that Rurouni Kenshin Cinema-ban will join its line-up, being retitled Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration and published monthly starting on May 21. Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration takes a different take than the original manga
The anime, directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi, began airing on Japan’s Fuji TV on January 10, 1996 and ended on September 8, 1998. It was produced by Aniplex and Fuji TV, and was animated from episode 1 to 66 by Studio Gallop, whereas the episodes from 67 onwards were animated by Studio Deen. The final episode, episode 95, did not air in Japan, but was a bonus episode for the VHS and DVD releases. Since its premiere in Japan, episodes from the series have been collected in DVDs various times: two DVDs series with both of them featuring four episodes per volume and three DVD boxes.
In 1999 Sony tried and failed to market the series in the United States as Samurai X via an existing company. The TV series was later licensed in North America by Media Blasters, who split it up into “seasons”, and released on DVD. It started airing in the US on the Cartoon Network as a part of the Toonami Block on March 17, 2003, but ended at the completion of the “second season” (episode 62). Episodes 63-95 did not air, but were included in the DVD release. The twenty-two English DVDs from the series were released from July 18, 2000 to September 24, 2002. Each of them contain four episodes except for volume 22, which contains five episodes. The “seasons” were later released in three premium “Bento box” DVD boxes on November 18, 2003, March 30, 2004 and July 27, 2004. They were released again, but in new packaging as “economy box” sets on November 15, 2005, January 17, 2006 and February 14, 2006. Sony Pictures Television International created an English-language version of the series, titled Samurai X, that airs outside of the United States.
Ishin Shishi e no Chinkonka
The series also has a movie called Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture, known in Japan as Ishin Shishi e no Chinkonka (―維新志士への鎮魂歌 Requiem for the Ishin Patriots?) and originally released in North America as Samurai X: The Motion Picture, which tells a story where Kenshin meets a samurai who was very close to a man Battōsai murdered in the war. The samurai is trying to start a revolution to overthrow the Meiji government. The film was directed by Hatsuki Tsuji and it premiered in Japan on December 20, 1997. The Japanese DVD was released on August 21, 1998. It has been republished twice in 2000 and 2002, adding new content to the DVD. It was also released on December 7, 2005 on Universal Media Disc format. In North America, the film was released on DVD on March 27, 2001. The opening theme is “Niji” by L’Arc-en-Ciel while the ending theme is “Eternal Future” (永久の未来 Towa no Mirai?) by Animetal. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on October 26, 2011 by Aniplex of America.
The story in the film does not appear in the original manga. Daryl Surat of Otaku USA commented that the film replays the opening flashback scene “like 7-8 times within 90 minutes.” Surat said that the film is “decent.”
A new Rurouni Kenshin project was announced in April 2011’s Jump SQ. Director Kazuhiro Furuhashi, Studio Deen, and the original cast will be returning after nine years (except Hirotaka Suzuoki who passed away in 2006; Saitō Hajime will now be voiced by Ken Narita). The project will be split into two parts and be a remake of the second arc, the Kyoto arc, from the viewpoint of Makimachi Misao. Part I titled Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto-Hen Zenpen Homura no Ori (焔の獄（ホムラのオリ）?, “Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc Part I: Cage of Flames”), which was selected from a fan suggestion, ran at Tokyo’s Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro theater and Osaka’s Cine-Libre Umeda theater for one week only. Part II, (光の囀（ヒカリのサエズリ）?), was released on June 23, 2012 and ran for three weeks in ten theaters. Aniplex of America announced at Otakon 2011 that they are in “negotiations” for the English language rights to the new series. Aniplex released part I on DVD and Blu-ray on March 21, 2012 in Japan, while Part II was released on August 22, 2012. North American licensor Sentai Filmworks has licensed both films for a home video release in 2013.
Original video animations
There are also two Rurouni Kenshin original video animation (OVA) series which have respectively four and two episodes. The first of them, Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal, collectively known in Japan as Tsuiokuhen (追憶編 Recollection?) and later edited into a movie, was released in 1999 in Japan, and in 2003 was collected into a two hour feature-length motion picture with new animated sequences and released in North America as a Director’s Cut DVD by ADV Films. It is set during the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate and during Kenshin’s job as an assassin.
The second OVA is Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection, known in Japan as Seisōhen (星霜編 Time?) and later edited into a movie, composed of two episodes. The first episode was originally released on December 12, 2001 in Japan and the second on March 20, 2002. It is set both during and after the timeline of the series and tells of Kenshin and Kaoru’s later days, much of which is not derived from the manga. Although Nobuhiro Watsuki had checked the script from the OVA, he gave it disapproval due to its sad ending. It was released in the United States by ADV Films on DVD on March 25, 2003, while a Director’s Cut edition was later released. Both OVAs were eventually released on Blu-ray Disc by Aniplex of America in 2011.
On June 28, 2011, a live-action film adaptation, entitled Rurouni Kenshin was announced. Produced by Warner Bros., with actual film production done by Studio Swan, the film was directed by Keishi Ōtomo and stars Takeru Satoh (of Kamen Rider Den-O fame) as Kenshin, Munetaka Aoki as Sanosuke Sagara and Emi Takei as Kaoru. The film was released on August 25, 2012, and the staff “aims to release the film internationally and eventually make a series.”
All of the series music was composed by Noriyuki Asakura and several CDs have been released by Sony Records. The first, Rurouni Kenshin OST 1 was released on April 1, 1996 and contained twenty-three songs that were used during the first episodes of the series. The second one, Rurouni Kenshin OST 2 – Departure was released on October 21, 1996 and contained fifteen tracks that were first used before the start of the Kyoto Arc. The next one, Rurouni Kenshin OST 3 – Journey to Kyoto was released on April 21, 1997 and contained the thirteen tracks that originally used in the Kyoto Arc. For the next arc, Rurouni Kenshin OST 4 – Let it Burn was released on February 1, 1998 and contained twelve tracks.
For the OVAs series, all themes were composed by Taku Iwasaki and the CDs were released by Sony Visual Works. The first, Rurouni Kenshin Tsuioku Hen OST was released on March 20, 1999 and contained sixteen tracks that were used in Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal. For the Reflection OVA a soundtrack called Rurouni Kenshin Seisō Hen OST was released on January 23, 2002 and contained eighteen tracks.
Several compilations of the anime songs were also released in collection CDs. Thirty tracks were selected and joined in a CD called Rurouni Kenshin – The Director’s Collection, that was released on July 21, 1997. Rurouni Kenshin Best Theme Collection was released on March 21, 1998 and contained ten tracks. All of the opening and ending themes were also collected in a CD called Rurouni Kenshin OP/ED Theme Collection. The Japanese voice actors of the series also composed songs that were released as two Cds Rurouni Kenshin Songs Album. All of the anime tracks, including OVAs and films tracks were collected in Rurouni Kenshin Complete CD-Box that was released on September 19, 2002. It contains the four TV OSTs, the two OVA OSTs, the movie OST, the two game OSTs, an opening & closing theme collection, and the two Character Songs albums.
Several drama CDs, which adapted stories in the Rurouni Kenshin manga, were also released in Japan. Each of them featured different voice actors from that one that worked in the anime adaptation. In Volume 5 of the manga Watsuki stated that he anticipated that the script of the third volume, which has the stories involving the character Udō Jin-e, would be “pretty close” but would have additional lines belonging to Sanosuke and Yahiko.
Art and guidebooks
Two encyclopedias of the Rurouni Kenshin manga were released in Japan. The first one, Rurouni Kenshin Profiles (原典?), was released first in Japan on July 4, 1996 by Shueisha and in the United States by Viz Media on November 1, 2005. Kenshin Kaden (剣心華伝?), released on December 15, 1999 includes the story Haru ni Sakura, which details the fates of all of the Rurouni Kenshin characters. The story takes place years after the manga’s conclusion, when Kenshin and Kaoru have married and have a young son, Kenji. Many of the series’ major characters who have befriended Kenshin reunite or otherwise reveal their current whereabouts with him in a spring picnic. For the anime, three Kenshin Zoushi artbook were published from 1997 to 1998. While the first two were based on the TV series, the third one was based on the film. The film one was named Ishin Shishi no Requiem Art Book and was released along with the movie. Also released was Rurouni-Art Book, which contained images from the OVAs. A guidebook from the kanzenban imprint of the series was published on June 4, 2007.
The Rurouni Kenshin light novels were originally from Shueisha’s Jump j-Books. They were co-written by Kaoru Shizuka. Most of them are original stories which were later adapted in the anime. Others are adaptations of manga and anime stories. The first novel, Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World, was published in Japan on October 10, 1996 and in North America on October 17, 2006. The second, Yahiko’s Battle, was released on October 3, 1997. It retells various stories featured in the manga and anime series. The last novel is TV Anime Shimabara Arc which was published on February 4, 1999.
There are two Rurouni Kenshin games released for the PlayStation console. Neither game has made it out of Japan. The first, Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan: Ishin Gekitōhen (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 維新激闘編?) was released on November 29, 1996. It was developed by ZOOM Inc.. The game is a 3D fighter game with 5 playable characters, while the plot focuses in the first seven volumes from the manga. The second one, Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan: Jūyūshi Inbō Hen (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 十勇士陰謀編?) was released on December 18, 1997 and was re-released in the PlayStation The Best lineup on November 5, 1998. The game is a role-playing video game with a story unrelated to either the manga or anime.
Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan: Enjō! Kyōto Rinne (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 炎上!京都輪廻?) is the only video game for the PlayStation 2 console. Its Japanese release was slated at September 13, 2006. The game has sold over 130,000 copies in Japan. A 2D fighting game titled Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan Saisen (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- 再閃?) was released for the PlayStation Portable in March 10, 2011 in Japan. Himura Kenshin also appeared in the 2005 and 2006 Nintendo DS games Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars as a battle character, while others were support characters and help characters.#
In 2012, two more video games have been released: Rurouni Kenshin Saisen and Rurouni Kenshin Kansen.
Watsuki commented that there was a lot of Rurouni Kenshin merchandise released for the Japanese market. He recommended that buyers consider quality before paying for merchandise items and for them to consult their wallets and buy stuff that they feel is “worth it.” Watsuki added that he liked the protoype for a stuffed Kenshin doll for the UFO catcher devices.
Rurouni Kenshin has been highly popular, having sold over 55 million copies in Japan alone as of February 2012, making it one of Shueisha’s best-selling manga series. Volume 27 of the manga ranked second in the Viz Bookscan Top Ten during June 2006, while volume 21 and 20 ranked second and tenth, respectively, in the Top 10 Graphic Novels of Viz of 2005. Rurouni Kenshin volume 24 also ranked in 116th position in the USA Today’s best selling book list for the week ending February 26, 2006. During the third quarter from 2003, Rurouni Kenshin ranked at the top of ICv2’s Top 50 Manga Properties. In the same poll from 2005, it was featured at the top once again based on sales from English volumes during 2004. In the Top Ten Manga Properties from 2006 from the same site, it ranked ninth.
The manga has received praise and criticism from various publications. Mania Entertainment writer Megan Lavey found that the manga had a good balance between character development, comedy and action scenes. The artwork of Watsuki was said to have improved as the series continued, noting that characters also had reactions during fights. Zac Bertschy from Anime News Network (ANN) praised the story from the manga, but noted that by volume 18 of the series, Watsuki started to repeat the same type of villains who were united to kill Kenshin. Although she praised Watsuki’s characters, she commented that some of them needed some consistency due to various “bizarre” antagonists. IGN reviewer A.E. Sparrow liked the manga’s ending, praising how the storylines are resolved, and how most of the supporting cast end up. He also praised the series’ characters, remarking that Kenshin “belongs in any top ten of manga heroes.” Otaku USA reviewer Daryl Surat said that the manga’s quality was good until the “Revenge Arc,” where he criticized the storyline and the new characters. Surat described the series as an example of a “neo-shōnen” series, where a shōnen series also appeals to a female audience; Surat stated that, in such series character designs are “pretty” for female audiences, but not too “girly” for male audiences. Surat cited Shinomori Aoshi and Seta Sōjirō, characters who ranked highly in popularity polls even though, in Surat’s view, Aoshi does not engage in “meaningful” battles and Sōjirō is a “kid.” Surat explained that Aoshi appears “like a Clamp character wearing Gambit‘s coat and Sōjirō always smiles despite the abuse inflicted upon him. Surat said that the character designs for the anime television series were “toughened up a bit.” He added that the budget for animation and music was “top-notch” because Sony produced the budget.
When TV Asahi, a television network in Japan, conducted a nation-wide survey for the one hundred most popular animated television series, the Rurouni Kenshin anime came in sixty-sixth place. They also conducted an online web poll, in which Rurouni Kenshin was placed at number 62. Nearly a year later, TV Asahi once again conducted an online poll for the top one hundred anime, and Rurouni Kenshin anime advanced in rank and came in twenty-sixth place. It also ranked at tenth place in the Web’s Most Wanted 2005, ranking in the animation category. The fourth DVD of the anime was also Anime Castle’s best selling DVD in October 2001. Rurouni Kenshin was also a finalist in the American Anime Awards in the category “Long Series” but lost against Fullmetal Alchemist.
The anime has also been commented on by Chris Shepard from ANN noting a well crafted plot and good action scenes. However, he also criticized that during the first episodes the fights never get quite interesting as it becomes a bit predictable that Kenshin is going to win as the music of moments of victory is repeated many times. However, Mark A. Grey from the same site mentioned that all those negatives points disappear during the Kyoto Arc due to amazing fights and a great soundtrack. Tasha Robinson from SciFi.com had a similar opinion on the anime, and added that the characters’ personalities’ allowed the plot to develop into a good variety of interesting stories. She also liked the historical setting as it makes all the situations seem authentic. Although Them Anime’s Carlos Ross also liked the action scenes and storyline, he added that the number of childish and violent scenes make the show a bit unbalanced, saying it is not recommended for younger children. Surat approved of the anime series, stating that while half of the first season episodes consisted of filler, the situation “clicks” upon the introduction of Saitō Hajime and that he disagreed with people who disliked the television series compared to the OVAs. Surat said that while the Media Blasters anime dub is “well-cast,” the English dub does not sound natural since the producers were too preoccupied with making the voice performances mimick the Japanese performances. Surat said that while he “didn’t mind” the first filler arc with the Christianity sect, he could not stomach the final two filler arcs, and Japanese audiences disapproved of the final two filler arcs.
Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal has received significant praise for its story, animation, art, music and Japanese voice acting from various critics. Mike Crandol from ANN noted Trust & Betrayal as one of the greatest OVA series of all time, celebrating the new characters designs as well as the fights scenes which were also noted to be “terribly bloody” and beautiful at the same time. Although DVD Talk reviewer Don Houston mentioned the OVAs were very violent for teenagers, he found the story and music to be “solid”. The director’s cut version received positive comments by how the four OVAs were arranged with Houston commenting it “seems more like a movie that stands alone, rather than just the precursor to a long lasting series.”
However, Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection received less positive responses. While Nobuhiro Watsuki had checked the script from the OVA, he gave it disapproval due to its sad ending. Crandol also later commented that fans from the manga may be disappointed when seeing Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection since most of the fighting scenes have been deleted in the OVA. Another negative point was the number of out-of-character performances, with Kenshin’s character being unable to laugh when in the manga he always used to. Nevertheless, the music and animation featured in the Reflection were highly praised again as one of the best ones from Japan.
- ^ Note: The Japanese title literally means “Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman”, a collection of Romantic Folk Tales. “Rurouni” is a neologism created from the verb “ru,” meaning “to wander,” and “ronin,” meaning “masterless samurai.” A rough translation of the title would be “Kenshin the Wandering Swordsman”.
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