, also known sometimes as ''Samurai X'' in the TV show, is a Japanese manga
series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki
. The story begins during the 11th year of the Meiji period
in Japan (1878) and follows a former assassin from the Bakumatsu
, known as Hitokiri Battosai. After his work against the bakufu
, Hitokiri Battosai disappears to become Himura Kenshin
: a wandering swordsman who protects the people of Japan with a vow never to take another life. Watsuki wrote the series upon his desire to make a ''shōnen manga
'' different from the other ones that were published at the time, with Kenshin being a former assassin and the story taking a more serious tone as it continued. The manga revolves around themes of atonement
, and romance
The manga was serialized in Shueisha
's ''Weekly Shōnen Jump
'' magazine from April 1994 to September 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 1996 to September 1998. Besides an animated feature film, two series of original video animation
s (OVAs) were also produced. The first adapted stories from the manga that were not featured in the anime, while the second was a sequel to the manga. Several art and guidebooks for ''Rurouni Kenshin'' have been published, and writer Kaoru Shizuka has authored three official light novel
s which were published by Shueisha. Many video game
s have also been released for the PlayStation
, PlayStation 2
, and PlayStation Portable
consoles. A successful live-action theatrical film
adaptation was released in 2012, with limited international screenings.
The manga, as well as the first light novel and first guidebook, has received a complete North American release by Viz Media
. ''Rurouni Kenshin'' is subtitled "''Wandering Samurai''" in some English versions. 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 part of the Toonami
block, while the third season was only featured on DVD
. The English-language
versions of the OVAs, as well as the film, were originally released as ''Samurai X'' in North America, although the original name was included on the later DVD and Blu-ray Disc
The ''Rurouni Kenshin'' manga has over 72 million copies in circulation as of 2019, making it one of the best-selling manga series
, while its anime has ranked among the 100 most-watched series in Japan multiple times. The series has received praise from various publications for manga, anime and other media, with both having received a good response on the characters' designs and historical setting. In 2017, Watsuki began a direct sequel titled ''Rurouni Kenshin: The Hokkaido Arc
'' in ''Jump Square
In the early Meiji era, after participating in the Bakumatsu
war as the assassin "''Hitokiri
Battōsai''", Himura Kenshin
wanders the countryside of Japan with a reverse blade katana, offering protection and aid to those in need as atonement for the murders he once committed. 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 infamous assassin, 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 who is also living with Kaoru as her student; and a doctor named Takani Megumi
, caught in the opium
trade. However, he also deals with his fair share of enemies, new and old, including the former leader of the Oniwabanshū
, Shinomori Aoshi
After several months of living in the dojo, Kenshin faces a rival from the Bakumatsu turned police officer, Saitō Hajime
. This turns out to be a test to face his successor. Shishio Makoto
, plans to conquer Japan by destroying the Meiji Government, starting with Kyoto. Feeling that Shishio's faction may attack his friends, Kenshin goes to meet Shishio alone to defeat him. However, many of his friends, including a young Oniwabanshū named Makimachi Misao
, whom he meets in his travels, decide to help him in his fight. After his first meeting with him, Kenshin realizes he needs to get stronger to defeat Shishio without becoming the cold assassin he was in the past and returns to the man who taught him kenjutsu
, Hiko Seijūrō
, to learn the school's final technique. He finally accepts his friends' help and defeats Shishio in a close fight; Shishio dies being engulfed in flames due to the rise in his body temperature caused by his severe burns.
When Kenshin and his friends return to Tokyo, he finds Yukishiro Enishi
, who plans to take revenge by killing his friends. At this point, it is revealed that, during the Bakumatsu, Kenshin was to be married to a woman named Yukishiro Tomoe
. She had initially wanted to avenge the death of her 1st fiancé whom Kenshin had killed, but instead, they both fell in love, and she got proposed to. It is then discovered that Tomoe was related to a group of Edo guards that wanted to kill Kenshin, and Tomoe is betrayed by them and captured to use as bait. Kenshin rushes to rescue her, killing both his assailant and believed to accidentally slay 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 corpse doll 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
. Now at peace with himself, Kenshin gives his reverse-blade sword to Yahiko.
A prototype series titled ''Rurouni: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story'' appeared as a pair of separate short stories published in 1992 and 1993.
The first story, published in December 1992 in the ''Weekly Shōnen Jump Winter Special'' issue of 1993, 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 of 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 historical concept, Watsuki intended to use the Bakumatsu
period from ''Moeyo Ken
'' (''Burn, O Sword'') with a story akin to ''Sanshiro Sugata
''. 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, published in April 1993 in the ''Weekly Shōnen Jump'' 21–22 double issue of that year, featured Kenshin helping a wealthy girl named Raikōji Chizuru. Watsuki recalled experiencing difficulty when condensing "everything" into 31 pages for that story. He said that he "put all is
soul into it" but sighs when looking at it from his perspective after the publication of the ''Rurouni Kenshin'' Volume 1 graphic novel
in Japan. Watsuki describes that second ''Rurouni: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story'' as receiving mediocre reviews and about two hundred letters.
He referred to it as a "side story."
During his childhood, Watsuki used to practice kendo, which influenced his making of the series. Although Watsuki developed various one-shots before 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 his writing of ''Rurouni Kenshin''. He added that he wanted to make a story different from other comics as he considers the main character 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 before 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, 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 similarly 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 to 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 it simplistically. Watsuki originally made this arc prior to the series' start, having already thought about how would Kenshin's scar had been made.
Watsuki also had ideas to create a "Hokkaido episode, a sequel" but wanted to start a new manga and so ended ''Rurouni Kenshin'' with the last arc he made. In 2012, Watsuki revealed that when he clashed with the editorial staff at the end of the series, his editor Hisashi Sasaki understood his intentions and saw that he was at his physical limit and backed him up. He said it was out of respect and appreciation for the readers that he ended the popular series while it was still popular. The Hokkaido sequel, ''Rurouni Kenshin: The Hokkaido Arc
'', began serialization in 2017.
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 television 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."
The series' main theme is responsibility as seen through Kenshin's action as he wants to atone for all the people he killed during the Bakumatsu by aiding innocent people by wielding a non-lethal sword.
Marco Olivier from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
said that the sakabatō symbolizes Kenshin's oath not to kill again which has been found challenging by other warriors appearing in the series.
This theme also encourages former drug dealer Takani Megumi into becoming a doctor upon learning of Kenshin's past and actions. Another theme is power, which is mostly seen by Sagara Sanosuke and Myojin Yahiko. However, like Megumi, these two characters are also influenced by the main character as they wish to become stronger to assist Kenshin across the plot. Additionally, the series discourages revenge as seen in the final arc when Yukishiro Enishi believes he succeeded in getting his revenge on Kenshin but starts having hallucinations of his late sister with a sad expression on her face.
Written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki
, the first chapter of ''Rurouni Kenshin'' premiered in the 19th issue of ''Weekly Shōnen Jump
'' on April 25, 1994, and was serialized in the magazine until its 43rd issue on September 21, 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
, , 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: Restoration
'', as a tie-in to the live-action movie. The series began in the June 2012 issue of ''Jump Square
'', which was released on May 2, 2012, and ended in the July 2013 issue on June 4, 2013. The reboot depicts the battles that are featured in the first live-action film. Another special titled ''Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story: Chapter 0'', was published in ''Weekly Shōnen Jump'' in August 2012 as a prologue to ''Restoration'' and included in its first volume. In 2014, Watsuki wrote a two-chapter spin-off titled ''Rurouni Kenshin: Master of Flame
'' for ''Jump SQ.'', which tells how Shishio met Yumi and formed the Juppongatana.
Watsuki and his wife, Kaworu Kurosaki, collaborated on a two chapter spinoff titled ''Rurouni Kenshin Side Story: The Ex-Con Ashitaro'' for the ninth anniversary of ''Jump SQ.'' in 2016. It acts as a prologue to the ''Rurouni Kenshin: The Hokkaido Arc
'', which began in September 2017 as a sequel to the original manga series.
''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 released.
''Yahiko's Sakabatō'' was also published in English ''Shonen Jump
'' during 2006. In January 2008, Viz began re-releasing the manga in ''wideban
'' formats called both "Three-In-One" & "Viz Big Edition", which is a collection of three volumes in one.
The final four-in-one "Viz Big Edition" ninth volume included ''Yahiko's Sakabatō'' and ''Cherry Blossoms in Spring'', which take place after the original manga. Viz uses the actual ordering of Japanese name
s, with the family name
before the given name
, within the series to reduce confusion and because ''Rurouni Kenshin'' is a historical series.
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 anime only adapts the manga up until the fight with Shishio, from then on it features original material not in the manga.
The final episode 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. 26 collected DVD volumes were released in Japan.
Sony Pictures Television International
(then under the name Columbia Pictures Television
later moved to Columbia TriStar Television
) created their own English dub of the series, under the name ', which aired outside North America. In 1999, Sony had tried and failed to market the series in the United States via an existing company. The TV series was again licensed for North America by Media Blasters
, who split it up into "seasons", and released on DVD. It began airing in the US on Cartoon Network
as a part of the Toonami
Block on March 17, 2003, but ended at the completion of the "second season" (episode 62). Some of the show's depictions of obscene language, intense violence, and tobacco and drug usage were subject to heavy editing on Toonami. Episodes 63–95 did not air, but were included in the DVD release. The "seasons" were released in three premium "Bento box" DVD boxes on November 18, 2003, March 30, 2004 and July 27, 2004. They were re-released as "economy box" sets on November 15, 2005, January 17, 2006 and February 14, 2006. As of November 2018, all three seasons with both the original Japanese audio and the Media Blasters dub (Bang Zoom! Entertainment) are available to stream on Netflix
. As of March 2020, the series has been removed from Netflix, however the Media Blasters dub is still on Crunchyroll
and the BangZoom dub is on Funimation
''Requiem for the Ishin Patriots''
The series also has a movie called ''Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture'', known in Japan as 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 film was released on Blu-ray Disc
in North America on October 26, 2011 by Aniplex of America
''New Kyoto Arc''
A new ''Rurouni Kenshin'' project was announced in April 2011's ''Jump Square
''. Director Kazuhiro Furuhashi
, Studio Deen
, and the original cast returned after nine years (except Hirotaka Suzuoki
who died in 2006; Saitō Hajime
was voiced by Ken Narita
The project was split into two parts and is a remake of the second arc, the Kyoto arc, with some changes.
Part I was released on December 17, 2011 and titled , 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, , was released on June 23, 2012 and ran for three weeks in ten theaters. Aniplex of America
announced at Otakon
2011 that they were in "negotiations" for the English language rights to the films. Aniplex released part I on DVD and Blu-ray on March 21, 2012 in Japan,
[ while Part II was released on August 22, 2012. In 2013, North American licensor Sentai Filmworks released both films together on DVD and Blu-ray, editing them into a single movie.
Original video animations
There are also two ''Rurouni Kenshin'' original video animation (OVA) series which was trailered at the end of season 3, Tales of the Meiji, to begin the Enishi saga & Ashitaro saga for the next seasonal portions of the TV series (Season 4 & 5). The first of them, ''Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal'', collectively known in Japan as , was released in 1999 as four episodes in Japan, and later edited into a two-hour theatrical film with some new animated sequences (Director's Cut). It is set during the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate and during Kenshin's job as an assassin.
ADV Films released the series on two VHS or DVD sets in 2000 under their ''Samurai X'' name in North America, and the film version in 2003. Aniplex of America released it on Blu-ray in 2011 in North America.
The second OVA is ''Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection'', known in Japan as . It is composed of two episodes and was later edited into a theatrical film (Director's Cut). 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, and he stated that it is not canon and should not be treated as canonical. It was released in the United States by ADV Films on DVD on March 25, 2003 under their ''Samurai X'' name, while the movie edition was released the following year. Aniplex of America released it on Blu-ray in 2011 in North America.
On June 28, 2011, a live-action film adaptation of ''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 in Japan. In August 2013, it was announced that two sequels were being filmed simultaneously for release in 2014. ''Kyoto Inferno'' and ''The Legend Ends'' adapt the Kyoto arc of the manga.
On April 12, 2019, it was announced that two new live-action films will premiere in summer 2020 depicting the Remembrance/Tenchu & Jinchu arcs.
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. On July 27, 2011, ''Rurouni Kenshin Complete Collection'', which includes all the opening and ending themes and the theme song of the animated film, was released.
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.
In 2016, the Takarazuka Revue performed a musical adaptation of the manga called ''Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story''. The show ran from February to March, and starred Seina Sagiri as Kenshin and Miyu Sakihi as Kaoru. The musical was written and directed by Shūichirō Koike.
In 2018, a stage play adaptation was performed in Shinbashi Enbujō theater in Tokyo and Shōchikuza theater in Osaka. Seina Sagiri returned to play as Kenshin while Moka Kamishiraishi play as Kaoru. Kanō Sōzaburō, an original character introduced in the previous musical, made a return appearance played by Mitsuru Matsuoka. Shūichirō Koike returned as the director and the script writer of the play.
In 2020, a stage musical adaptation of the manga's Kyoto arc was scheduled to be held from November to December 2020 in IHI Stage Around Tokyo. Starring Teppei Koike as Himura Kenshin and Mario Kuroba as the antagonist Makoto Shishio, Shūichirō Koike returned as director and script writer of the play. This stage musical was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Art and guidebooks
Two encyclopedias of the ''Rurouni Kenshin'' manga were released in Japan. The first one, , was released first in Japan on July 4, 1996 by Shueisha and in the United States by Viz Media on November 1, 2005. , released on December 15, 1999 includes the story , 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 Soushi'' 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 published by Shueisha's Jump J-Books line and 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 very first novel, ''Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World'', which was published in Japan on October 10, 1996 and in North America on October 17, 2006 details another adventure involving the return of Tales of the Meiji Season 3's Beni-Aoi Arc characters like Kaishu Katsu & the Kamiya Dojo's third pupil Daigoro. The second, ''Yahiko's Battle'', was released on October 3, 1997. It retells various stories featured in the manga and anime series. The third novel, ''TV Anime Shimabara Arc'', was published on February 4, 1999. A novel adaptation of ''Rurouni Kenshin Cinema-ban'', titled and written by Watsuki's wife Kaoru Kurosaki, which was released on September 4, 2012 is a Japanese light novel version of America's Restoration's New Kurogasa (Jin-E) Arc mangas featuring Banshin & a different younger Gein. Both are Ishin members of Enishi's team of the Jinchu/Tenchu (Judgment of Earth/Heaven) portions of the Enishi saga in the main plot manga series.
There are five ''Rurouni Kenshin'' games released for the PlayStation console. The first, 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, 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.
is the only video game for the PlayStation 2 console. Its Japanese release was slated for September 13, 2006. The game has sold over 130,000 copies in Japan.
A 2D fighting game titled was released for the PlayStation Portable on March 10, 2011 in Japan. On August 30, 2012, a sequel, , was released.
Himura Kenshin also appears 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. Kenshin and Shishio appear as playable characters in the 2014 PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita game ''J-Stars Victory VS'', and in the 2019 game ''Jump Force'' for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
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 prototype for a stuffed Kenshin doll for the UFO catcher devices.
''Rurouni Kenshin'' has been highly popular, having sold over 55 million tankōbon copies in Japan alone up until February 2012, making it one of Shueisha's top ten best-selling manga series.
In 2014, it was reported that the series had 70 million tankōbon copies in circulation. As of December 2019, the manga had over 72 million copies in circulation, including digital releases. 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. On TV Asahi's Manga Sōsenkyo 2021 poll, in which 150.000 people voted for their top 100 manga series, ''Rurouni Kenshin'' ranked 31st.
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. Steve Raiteri from Library Journal praised the series for its characters and battles. However, he noted some fights were too violent, so he recommended the series to older teenagers as well as adults. 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, Daryl. "Heart of Steel." ''Otaku USA''. Volume 4, Number 1. August 2010. 34.] 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. [Surat, Daryl. "Heart of Steel." ''Otaku USA''. Volume 4, Number 1. August 2010. 34–36.] Watsuki's writing involving romance and Kenshin's psychological hidden weakpoints also earned positive response by other sites with Anime Nation also comparing it to Clamp's ''X'' based on the multipe elements the series.
As a result of the series taking a darker tone in later story arcs with Kenshin facing new threats and at the same time his ''Battosai'' self, Kat Kan from ''Voice of Youth Advocates'' recommended it to older teens. Kan also found that the anime viewers will also enjoy Watsuki's drawings due to the way he illustrates battles. This is mostly noted in the "Kyoto arc" where Mania Entertainment writer Megan Lavey applauded the fight between Himura Kenshin and anti-hero Saito Hajime which acts as prologue of such narrative. Mania.com remarks the build up Aoshi, Saito and other characters bring to the story due to how they similar goals in the same arc. Although the site Manga News enjoyed Seta Sojiro's fight and how it connected with Shishio's past, they said sixteenth manga's best part was Kenshin's fight against Shishio due to the build up and symbolism the two characters have. The eventual climax led further praise based on how menacing Shishio is shown in the battle against his predecessor although he questioned if Kenshin had been a superior enemy if had kept back his original killer persona.
Critics expressed mixed opinions in regards to the final arc. 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 similar to ''Trigun''. Although he praised Watsuki's characters, he commented that some of them needed some consistency due to various "bizarre" antagonists. Due to Kaoru, Kenshin and Sanosuke missing from the final arc during the Jinchu arc, Manga News described Aoshi as the star of the series' 24th volume due to how he explores the mysteries behind Enishi's revenge and his subsequent actions that made him stand out most notably because he had been absent for multiple chapters. 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, Daryl. "Heart of Steel." ''Otaku USA''. Volume 4, Number 1. August 2010. 37.] Carlo Santos from the same site, praised Enishi and Kenshin's final fight despite finding the ending predictably. While also liking their final showdown, Megan Lavey from ''Mania Entertainment'' felt that twist that happens shortly after battle is over serves to show Enishi's longlife trauma but at the same time Kenshin's compassion towards others.
Before becoming an official manga author, Masashi Kishimoto decided he should try creating a Chanbara manga since ''Weekly Shōnen Jump'' had not published a title from that genre. However, during his years of college, Kishimoto started reading Hiroaki Samura's ''Blade of the Immortal'' and ''Rurouni Kenshin'' which used the said genre. Kishimoto recalls having never been surprised by manga ever since reading ''Akira'' and found that he still was not able to compete against them.
When TV Asahi, a television network in Japan, conducted a nationwide 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''. In 2010, Mania.com's Briana Lawrence listed ''Rurouni Kenshin'' at number three of the website's "10 Anime Series That Need a Reboot".
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.
Lynzee Loveridge from Anime News Network highlighted as the most known series to use the Meiji period and saw the Kyoto Arc as one of the best ones. 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 mimic the Japanese performances. [Surat, Daryl. "Heart of Steel." ''Otaku USA''. Volume 4, Number 1. August 2010. 36.] 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. Robin Brenner from ''Library Journal'' noted that despite its pacifist messages, ''Rurouni Kenshin'' was too violent, recommending it to older audiences.
''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."
''Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection'' received mixed reviews. 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. Nevertheless, the music and animation featured in the ''Reflection'' were highly praised again as one of the best ones from Japan.
At the box office, the 2012 live-action film ''Rurouni Kenshin'' grossed worldwide, including up until December 2012 prior to its release in the Philippines,
$728,085 from Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines up until May 2013, and then $8,389 in the United Kingdom and $32,445 in the United States.
At the 2014 worldwide box office, the sequel ''Kyoto Inferno'' grossed . Released later that year, ''The Legend Ends'' grossed worldwide, including () in Japan, () in South Korea, and $2,484,963 in other territories.
In total, the live-action film trilogy grossed at the worldwide box office.
Official Shueisha ''Rurouni Kenshin'' manga website
SPTI's Anime & Animation Brochure: ''Samurai X''
Official Sony ''Rurouni Kenshin'' anime website
''Rurouni Kenshin'' at Viz Media
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