Welcome one and all to the greatest show on earth! Well, at least for someone that is!! This is the newest installment in the series now. I dub it: Anime we Love! This is simple in idea and execution. I find a wonderful person on the interwebs and just simply interview them about their favorite anime. I feel like the culture and fandoms we see so often are just a distorted and ugly place most of the time. I’m tired of all the perverse and mean behavior. People insulting things just because, and then in turn insulting the person for having unique tastes. It’s awful and needs to stop. So, I am here to spread the love.
Today, I am here to interview a fellow nostalgic driven fan of the anime Rurouni Kenshin. He is a fellow user on the website Kitsu, his name is Hitsu! Like me he watched Kenshin for the first time many years ago, and recently decided to revisit it. That decision got me to thinking about my adoration for the entire franchise again, everything from the 1994 beginnings of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s manga to the 1996 adaptation of the anime we are talking about today helmed by Studio Gallop(later Studio Deen would continue the series from episode 67 on). So, without further ado, as always, let us commence on this journey about why we love Rurouni Kenshin.
DISCLAIMER: This post contains spoilers for the anime series Rurouni Kenshin. If you have not seen the series, and want to avoid spoilers, I recommend coming back to this post afterwards. Thank you so much for your time, and now on to the interview!
Do you recall when you first started watching the series? Was it something you already had planned to watch or was it on a whim of sorts?
Hitsu: The first time I watched the anime must have been back in 2007, when I just got used to watching anime subbed on the internet. I kind of had some favorite anime already back then, most notably Hunter x Hunter and Trigun, and I was reading the manga for both too. However, by that point it became increasingly obvious that the Trigun Maximum manga was about to end soon (which turned out to be right – it ended one year later), so I was looking for a similar experience to it. Browsed the internet, checked for good anime, asked around what people could recommend that was similar to it, and that was one of the two notable titles that was tossed to me (the other one being Gun x Sword, something that I didn’t watch until much later, last year in fact). I actually was a little bit skeptical, considering how vastly different the setting was, but figured I might as well give Kenshin the benefit of doubt. So I watched the first few episodes and actually did end up being entertained by them. Kenshin quickly reminded me of Vash the Stampede as well, for that matter. So I kept watching, and eventually reached the Kyoto arc after a few days, at which point I really ended up burning through the episodes really quickly, simply because I was hooked. Kenshin kind of was a slow starter picked up on a whim, yeah, but it’s not like it didn’t end up being worth it.
Doaki: Wow! You’ve been part of anime discussion longer than I have weirdly enough. I didn’t start talking anime with folks til I joined Kitsu(formerly Hummingbird) back in 2014. It’s interesting to see how we can come across a show so differently. I was one of those 90’s kids here in the USA that watched a lot of Toonami and both the aforementioned Trigun and Rurouni Kenshin were part of the late night block. So I would sneak quietly so I could watch them without getting in trouble haha! I agree the series does have a typically slow start like many Shonen, but once it gets on to introducing people like Aoshi things really pick up from there.
Hitsu: Haha, you’re giving me a bit too much credit there. While I have indeed been part of discussions back then already, it’s not like that was terribly frequent. Just did it when it was convenient for me. I actually do have similar experiences with sneaking out late to watch anime, just that it was Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: SAC in my case (Trigun got dubbed but didn’t air at the time, and Kenshin didn’t have a dub at all over here as far as I’m aware). But yeah, not much later I discovered the internet for myself, and that’s when I inevitably ended up running into the Kenshin anime. Makes me feel pretty nostalgic to think back to that time.
So now for the fun part. Tell me a little bit about what makes this anime stick out so much for you. Why do you love it so much?
Hitsu: First, I’d like to get back to a point I mentioned during previous question – the simple fact that it is similar to Trigun due to its main character (though it would be better to say that Trigun is similar to Kenshin, considering how the Kenshin manga is about a year older than the Trigun manga). Both Vash and Kenshin initially portray themselves as a loveable pacifist goofball, while both of them hide… well, a lot more complicated baggage under their facade. There’s similarities between their major allies and opponents (Wolfwood compared to Saitou and Sanosuke for example, or Shishio compared to Legato and Knives), and that might have been one of the most superficial reasons why it stuck that well initially. That being said, Kenshin’s cast definitely IS a compelling one, every major character having believable motivations on how they act and many just being plain likeable, even a few that are actually antagonists. The main group consisting of Kenshin, Sanosuke, Kaoru and Yahiko is just plain fun to watch, and the side characters all add something to that group dynamic, too.
Then there’s probably the fact that the anime has one of my favorite villains in anime ever, Makoto Shishio, to the point where his only major competition from other anime probably consists of Meruem from Hunter x Hunter and Johann Liebert from Monster. Shishio’s an interesting villain in that he genuinely does believe in his twisted logic, and in his own way genuinely does want what he perceives to be the best path for Japan – even if that path involves terrorism and a ‘Might makes right’ policy. Unlike most Shounen villains, he’s cautious, and takes every advantage he can get against his enemies, even if some more honorable villains might call his tactics cheap. He has the power and charisma to back it up, and right until his end, he becomes more and more frightening the more deranged he gets. Villains who genuinely do believe in their own ideology are always a treat to observe, and Shishio is one of those who coined that archetype in my opinion.
There’s also plenty of other little things worth mentioning – the great soundtrack is one such a point, for example. It knows how to set the mood well, and even if you’re listening to it on its own, it tends to stay as an earworm. There’s the development certain characters go through as they grow through the anime (Yahiko and Sanosuke are nice examples for that one), and yeah… overall it’s simply a treat to watch. Rurouni Kenshin is one of the few really good Shounen anime (even if it’s NOT in the top group for me), and it doesn’t get dragged down by much of the Shounen conventions either. Yeah, there are some cliches that are present, but depending on how they’re used, they aren’t always such a bad thing.
Doaki: I think you are pretty spot on with while they are pretty different in lots of way,s the similarities between Vash and Kenshin are present enough to be attached to both for the same reasons. I know both are very high up in my own personal favorite group of characters. I never really noticed how many parallels the two share, but it is pretty interesting to see that. Something you mentioned that I really liked was how the villain was one of the strongest points of the entire series. I can’t remember who said it, but there was a famous quote about a hero needs an equally engaging nemesis to be able to grow to their fullest potential. They end up being two sides of the same coin in a shonen series. However good your baddy is will determine how much the believably of the growth in the main character will incur. We will definitely chat up music here in a few questions, but I do agree the series isn’t the best of the best in shonen, and I really think that goes back to it having a filler filled final arc instead of the original story that was presented in the manga. Having a whole third of your story missing makes it feel incomplete, I now know how Hideo Kojima feels with Metal Gear Solid 5.
The series has a fair amount of cast members and I assume you have a favorite of the handful. Who is it and why are they the personal favy?
Hitsu: That’s an easy question – from the moment he was introduced, I’ve always been a fan of Sanosuke Sagara, one of Kenshin’s closest allies. I’ll freely admit that Sano has a lot of flaws as a person – he’s dumb in the sense that he charges in without thinking (sorry, but Saitou is right when he says that), reckless, often feels like he’s only used as comedic relief in the initial episodes after his introduction, and in general gets himself into more than enough trouble, trouble that he could have avoided with some common sense. And yet, he’s still really likeable to me, especially after he matures during his training with Anji in the Kyoto arc. Yeah, he may be reckless, but don’t say that he doesn’t do his utmost to actually support his comrades, whether they are former comrades from his Sekiho days, or his current comrades like Kenshin. He DOES have his heart in the right place, as evidenced during his big fight in the Kyoto arc vs Anji. He may be used as a comedic relief a bit too often, but his antics ARE fun to watch (Sano and trains, anyone?). And in general, the role of an underdog that he takes on during the Kyoto arc does suit him – yeah, the notable fighters are all stronger than him, but he makes up for that with his guts and willpower.
Of course, there’s plenty of other characters I like from the anime (Kenshin, Shishio and Anji are notable examples), but none of them quite measure up to Sano for me.
Doaki: My pick is cliche as hell since Kenshin is my all time favorite character so I wasn’t sure who to expect from you haha. And lo and behold, you did surprise me a little bit. I didn’t think it would be Sano to be honest. The way you revere the brilliance of Makoto Shishio made me think he was possibly your number one, or maybe the calculating and calm Hajime Saito. Yet, in the end you went with the lovable best bro Sanosuke. I like to think of him like a dog, and not in an insulting way. He isn’t very smart like you said, but his loyalty and inability to just give in for what he loves the most makes him so admirable. I think Sano is man’s best friend if you have him on your side. Oh, I am curious though since you didn’t mention any of the female cast, what are your thoughts on characters like Kaoru, Misao, and Megumi?
Hitsu: I admit, Shishio isn’t too far behind Sano, and I think he would make #2 in the list. That being said, I still kind of consider it to be an important distinction. In my opinion, Shishio IS the better character. Even Kenshin is better. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I like the best character the most – that makes it a lot easier for me to get attached to side characters in other anime, too. In that instance, it’s more about how likable they are, and it’s hard to top Sano in that regard (unless your opinion overlaps with Saitou’s, haha).
As for the female cast, I do like them, though I do have to admit that I tend to forget Megumi from time to time, due to the fact that her presence diminishes a lot after the arc she is introduced in (contrary to Aoshi’s presence who gets introduced in the same arc), most likely because she doesn’t play an active role in the Kyoto arc. Kaoru and Misao have more luck in that regard, and I’m kind of torn about who of the two I like more. I usually see Kaoru getting a lot of flak for being… well, who she is, and last time I checked she was still pretty polarizing within the fandom, but for all it matters, I do like her. Not just for her interactions with Kenshin and Yahiko, but also in general. Misao is more likable out of the box, though as things progress Kaoru naturally does even things out a little, by virtue of playing a bigger role in the manga in the final arc. Misao’s fun to have around in any episode or chapter however, and she does show some good growth after she takes over the Oniwaban, too.
Doaki: Oh good, the ladies are still seen positively haha. I wasn’t sure since they do take a backseat most times, so I can see why they weren’t outright mentioned. I rather love the arc for both Kaoru and Misao as a whole. They really are a lot stronger by the end of it, and have some truly nice highlight moments. And of course I’d be a fool to not mention Kaoru as the main love interest. I love how she is a normal gal in many respects. It makes her a much more relatable heroine for those women who are watching the show to identify with. But yeah, Megumi who am I right? Sorry Megumi I know things are hard for you at first, but you pretty much are just there to instigate Kaoru after that.
Are there any particular scenes in the series that really exemplifies your love for it?
Hitsu: Perhaps the first scene where everything really clicked into place for me was during episode 29/30, when Kenshin fights against Saitou and for the first time really snaps back into his manslayer mode. Yes, there have been instances where that happened before, in particular episode 7 when Kaoru was kidnapped by the villain of the week, but back then, Kenshin had an easier time snapping out of it. Against Saitou, though? No such thing until the very last second, which made the whole experience just chilling to watch, having me hooked the entire time. Other than that, many of the scenes between Kenshin and his teacher Seijuro, as well as the scenes between Sano and Anji just stand out to me, due to them giving even more depth to each of them (Sano + Anji in particular, considering that this is what causes Sano to mature as a person). Finally, there’s also Shishio’s last stand during the Kyoto arc, with him being close to the brink of unconsciousness as he continues to fight through sheer willpower, overpowering Kenshin in the process… until his body ignites and he starts burning. That’s one scene that really stuck with me back when I watched it for the first time, and during my recent rewatch, it still sent shivers down my spine. I really have to hand it to Nobuhiro Watsuki for creating a villain like him.
Doaki: Oh those are excellent choices to me. I do think one of the best fights is definitely Saito v. Kenshin for the first time. The two that stand out to me are pretty far in between. In the pilot when Kenshin’s identity is revealed, and has one of his most memorable quotes when talking to our first throw away villain, and when the Oniwaban were all shot down to protect Aoshi from certain death. I love the first because of how simple and memorable it is, and the second for how the implications effect the series. When those men die, this is the first real time we see the pain of losing comrades in the current Meiji Era and not in a flashback, and it builds up one of my favorite “fights” between Kenshin and Aoshi. I will hands down agree with you though, the scene that leads to Shishio’s demise was possibly one of the greatest finale’s to a villain I’ve seen in anything. The imagery, and the sheer amount of time put into making Shishio be a true threat to his very last moments is just magnificent.
Are there any particular episodes in the series that stand out to you as being particularly important to your love for it?
Hitsu: There definitely are! In particular, I’d point towards episodes 24, 28, 36, 47/48 and 60.
24 is an episode centered around Sanosuke – when he teams up with his old Sekiho buddy for one last attempt at the revolution they believed in, only to be stopped by Kenshin who wants to prevent them from becoming ‘another fake revolutionary army’, as Sano puts it. In general I’m a fan of Sano’s episodes, so of course that would be one of those to stand out.
Episode 28 is more on a… symbolic level, in that the episode on its own might not measure up to the other episodes, but still has a rather important meaning in that it is the episode that kicks off the prologue to the Kyoto arc, including being the first episode where the OST for the Kyoto arc starts being used. Once Saitou Hajime is introduced, the story kicks up into the next gear, and as such I definitely do consider it an important episode that made me like the anime.
Episode 36 is the first time Kenshin and Saitou meet Shishio Makoto, the antagonist of the Kyoto arc. Sure, one already gets glimpses at Shishio during a couple of earlier episodes, but this is the first time he really interacts with the protagonists, and what a tense meeting it is. From the moment Saitou and Kenshin steps in, he has them under close observation, just adding even further to the appeal he already had as a villain.
Episodes 47 and 48 are mentioned together due to them being about Sano’s fight against Anji, as well as Anji’s backstory. I mentioned before how I like both of them a lot, and this episode is one of the big reasons as to why I like them as much as I do. It’s Sano’s first real big fight (ignoring the curbstomping he received from Saitou earlier in the series), and it was well worth the wait for me.
As for episode 60, it’s the conclusion of the fight against Makoto Shishio, including the ‘igniting himself’ moment I mentioned earlier. It’s an episode that needs to be experienced, and as such I’m not going to say much on it – but it definitely is a worthy conclusion, even if the episode doesn’t conclude the arc itself (that falls to the two episodes after that).
Doaki: Based on what you said in earlier questions, I’m not too surprised by any of these picks! I do think they are all very great choices though. It’s easy to tell that when the show started shifting towards the more serious tone, is when you became more invested as a whole. It often is credited as the most exciting part of the series for a reason. I really don’t have much to add without a ton of research and deep thought on my part so I will applaud your choices!
Music always plays a large part of any anime. It’s rarely an exception. What musical tracks were your favorite and why?
Hitsu: Oh god, picking just a few here is already hard, considering that the Kenshin OST is in my top 10 as far as anime OSTs go. That being said, there definitely are a few tracks that do stand out, and it wouldn’t be a lie to say that the third soundtrack release is the one that has the strongest tracks on it. Ranging from ‘The Ishin Overthrow Plan’ that for me is THE theme of the Kyoto arc, ‘Warriors Blue’ (the theme of Aoshi), ‘Warriors Suite’ for some of the best battles of the arc, to ‘Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu – Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki’ (the second and more important theme of Hiko Seijuro), everything just adds to the overall mood very well.
Other favorites that weren’t on the third OST included ‘Who are you protecting?’ from the first OST (in particular the Original Mix), ‘The Last Wolf Suite’ and ‘Departure’ from the second OST, and if we are including the OVAs as well, ‘The War of the Last Wolves’ and ‘In Memories ~Kotowari~’ from the Trust and Betrayal OVA, even if those were done by a different composer than the one for the TV anime.
‘The Ishin Overthrow Plan’ is one I really like because as mentioned before, it symbolizes the Kyoto arc for me. It plays at many of the crucial moments, and as such it simply stuck. You could play this theme to me after not having listened to it for a decade, and I’d still immediately think of the Kyoto arc upon listening to it. It’s that good.
‘Warriors Blue’ is another one of those that simply sticks, mainly because it plays during Aoshi’s most important scenes, during the aftermath of his rematch again Kenshin. I’m willing to admit that I don’t like Aoshi as much as the other important cast members of that arc, but his theme just works perfectly for the scenes it is used for.
‘Warriors Suite’ – well, that already explained itself earlier. As mentioned just a bit above, it plays during some of the most memorable battles, and as such you inevitably end up remembering it. One thing in its favor is that it is a longer track, clocking in at over eight minutes, while not just repeating the same melody over and over again, making it a treat to listen to (the same applies to a few other tracks from the Kenshin OST, too).
‘Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu’… well, just give it a listen. There isn’t really much that needs to be said with a theme that good, because words probably won’t do it justice in the first place.
The other tracks are simply the really iconic ones, those that pretty much everyone associates with Kenshin after they watched the anime. ‘In Memories ~Kotowari~’ in particular always sends shivers down my spine, since it just perfectly fits to the context it is used in.
Doaki: Umm well damn you covered so many songs that span the series and it’s themes. I guess I will toss out one of my favies you didn’t mention at all! Although I am curious as to what your thoughts were on the Opening and Ending themes to the series?
Hitsu: I actually have to make a confession here: It took me really, REALLY long until I actually warmed up to the openings of the anime. Like, back when I finished the Kyoto arc for the first time, I still didn’t like either of the first two openings that much (the third was kind of forgettable for me, and even nowadays I still can’t bother to remember it). I really warmed up to them when I revisited just the openings and endings a few years later though, and from that point and really grew to like them. Still do, in fact. Yeah, the choice of song is a bit… unique, especially for the second opening, but it’s definitely a valuable piece of nostalgia for me.
The endings were much better received by me, however. There’s three standout cases for me in particular – the first ending, ‘Tactics’, the third ending, ‘Heart of Sword’, as well as the fifth ending, ‘Its gonna rain’. My personal favorite of the three is the first ending, but the other two aren’t far behind either. I also have the second and fourth ending in good memory, though the sixth and seventh elude me a bit right now (mostly because I haven’t actually rewatched the portion of the anime where the two endings are used yet), so I’ll have to refrain on commenting on those. Overall though, they made some good choices regarding the endings, which isn’t actually all -that- common for long-running Shounen anime. I’m pretty happy with what we got there.
Doaki: Wow, that’s kinda neat to see. I’m in the same boat as you, and really couldn’t get into most of the Openings or Endings at first. I think maybe the stylistic changes to each made it hard to know how I felt. I still like the first OP for massive nostalgia reasons, even if I don’t know what the heck it is trying to say. But then again, isn’t that life in a nutshell, just enjoying stuff even if you don’t fully grasp why?
Now you also have seen the OVA Trust and Betrayal that outlines Kenshin’s backstory. How do you feel about it in comparison to the series? Does it work as an excellent companion piece or is it something that should be seen as separate?
Hitsu: First of all, I’d like to point out that I actually did rate the OVA higher than I rated the TV anime, and on an overall quality level, the OVA is stronger – in particular because of the better budget, but also because it manages to tell a great story within a short amount of time, even if they changed a few details compared to the manga in the process. That being said, Trust and Betrayal at the same time isn’t the absolute high point of Kenshin for me – that honor goes to the Kyoto arc. As such, the TV anime is mostly below the OVA in terms of rating because of the final third full of filler – if it would have ended after episode 62, they would be at the very least even.
Initially, the OVA actually did take a little bit of time to get used to it, due to DEEN making the tone just a bit darker than it was in the manga (and in the TV anime), not to mention that due to a different composer being responsible this time, even the music felt a little bit off at first, excluding the great ‘In memories ~Kotowari~’ (the other standout track only started playing in the later episodes of the OVA, if memory doesn’t fail me). That being said, once I got used to it, it very quickly won me over. My personal recommendation is still to read the manga first, due to the OVA being taken out of context compared to the manga. Yes, it is Kenshin’s backstory and as such works as a nice standalone work, but let’s be honest here – why not make it even better by learning what actually lead up to the point of Kenshin revealing that story? Sadly, the anime doesn’t cover what happens between the Kyoto arc and the OVA, and as such the manga is the only option here. It still makes for a very good companion piece since DEEN tried to do their best so that it can stand on its own, but I would still say not to watch it immediately after being done with the Kyoto arc. I do know of a few people who actually watched Trust and Betrayal before the TV anime (due to it technically being a prequel), and while I personally wouldn’t recommend it, I have to admit that it might make for an intriguing watching experience for first-timers all the same, in particular because it would be interesting to see how they react to the first 27 episodes, which portray Kenshin as a wanderer.
Doaki: I was incredibly curious to your answer to this one. I would say this is one of the most contested pieces of Kenshin media. Some say it is superior in every way and all of Kenshin should of been that way, and others find it too different to consider it a true companion. I mostly fall in line with you myself. I’m an avid fan of the manga, and the departure in tone from the original work was a bit dispiriting to me. While the original work was serious, the OVA is so grave in tone, I have a hard time enjoying it despite how important it is. I’m also the same as you can think it is best consumed after knowing all the details leading up to it. Although, I do like the idea you posed of seeing how it would be viewed in the eyes of someone, if it was their first experience with Kenshin.
Despite its long length, If you had to say one reason that is the definite reason you would recommend this series to someone, what would it be?
Hitsu: That’s a very easy one – the Kyoto arc, with everything it includes (in particular its villain, Makoto Shishio). At the risk of repeating myself, I consider the Kyoto arc as the best arc in shounen anime/manga before the Chimera Ant arc of Hunter x Hunter happened – which is a very high bar, all things considered. I’ve already heaped on plenty of praise for the Kyoto arc in my previous answers, and I could probably repeat them once more – but where’s the fun in that? I’d just say to give it a try already and see for yourself. Yes, 27 episodes before the Kyoto arc starts might be asking a bit too much for some, but it’s not like the episodes before that aren’t fun, either. I’d be very surprised if people don’t like the anime once Saitou enters the fray. However, do yourself a favor – it’s really best to stop after episode 62. Some of the episodes after that are watchable, but that’s not the standard one wants to go for compared to previous episodes.
Doaki: Hahaha Kyoto arc it is! I would have to 100% agree with you. If it was the manga I would point to Kenshin’s backstory and Kyoto, but in the anime it is all about that entire arc and how strong it is. It is the most exciting part of Kenshin, and the slow beginning of the series I think actually makes it better. It really sets the tone of how much more is going on and the stakes that are at play in comparison to before. Plus the start is needed to see how much the cast needs to go through to grow by the end of it all.
Hitsu: Yeah, I’d have to agree there in regards to the earlier parts making the Kyoto arc even better. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the fillers in the first third would have been necessary (for example that small arc with Shura and her crew of pirates just before the Kyoto arc started), but it fleshed the cast out a bit more, so I’ve still been pretty satisfied with it. Not to mention that it actually gave us the hilarious scenes of Sano turning into a nervous wreck over being in a train (“It’s a tanuki, I tell you, a tanuki! We’re all gonna wake up in the sewers tomorrow!“) or letting others take a photo of him (though to be fair, some folks back then actually DID believe that photographs would suck out your soul, so it actually fits for Sano).
Describe your perfect day together with Kenshin and Crew!
Hitsu: Honestly, I’m all for a quiet and relaxing day with the crew, all things considered. Kick back for a little, perhaps do some stupid stuff with Sano and Yahiko, take the opportunity to chat with Kenshin a little. Doesn’t need to be anything big or flashy, really. Of course, it would also depend on where it’d be. Maybe take the time to visit some of the places seen in the anime? Perhaps the Akabeko, the restaurant where Kenshin and his group usually visit when they go out to eat. Just… don’t take Sano along for that one, since he always seems to cause some sort of trouble when he’s there (or just doesn’t pay his tab). Meiji-era Tokyo would be interesting to walk through, so that definitely does have some appeal to it.
Doaki: Ahh that does sound so heavenly and pleasant. And if any trouble brews you have quite a nice bunch of friends who would save your hide no matter what! I’d love to try Kenshin’s cooking myself and just hear all the banter everyone around the dojo would spew at one another. Those to me, are always the most classic times with friends.
Describe Rurouni Kenshin to someone who hasn’t seen it in 10 words or less!
Hitsu: The journey of a wanderer who grew tired of killing.
That is it folks! Thank you so much, Hitsu for your contribution. This could not have been done without you! So, there isn’t much I want to say in regards to closing this article. I just want everyone who has seen Rurouni Kenshin, and those who haven’t, to see why someone could love it so much. Why do you love your favorite anime? It’s a great question that people don’t take the time to ask. Why would that be so important? I think it is good to step back and appreciate what you love and why you love it. Enough of this world of criticism and judgement! I want a place where we all sit down and learn to love why someone else loves their favorite anime. Spread the love ❤ ! That is all my friends, and until next time take care my wanderers of the internet.