+ Great artwork
+ Plot is amazing
+ Entertaining sword fights
4 out of 5 · Highly Recommended
Rurouni Kenshin Manga Review
Written by: Karthon
Himura Kenshin is a rurouni, a wandering samurai with no place to call home. Yet in reality he is Hitokiri Battousai, the greatest assassin of the Bakumatsu period. His work from the shadows led to the downfall of the old government and the rise of the Meiji Era.
He now lives his life fighting for justice, in an attempt to absolve himself of the sins he committed as the Hitokiri (Man-Slayer). To this end, he has forsaken killing and now wears a sakabato, a sword where the blade is reversed (Asian swords only have one side sharpened as opposed to most European swords).
The story starts 10 years after the downfall of the old government, when Kenshin runs into Kamiya Kaoru, the adjutant master of a dojo. Someone calling himself Hitokiri Battousai (Kenshin's nickname when he was an assassin) is killing people in the name of the Kamiya dojo. As a result, all the students have left Kaoru's dojo. It turns out that this is fueled by an attempt to drive everyone away, so a pair of shady brothers can purchase the dojo's land cheaply. Kenshin thwarts this attempt and (on the insistence of Kaoru), decides to take a break from wandering and settle down at the dojo.
Soon afterwards, he meets various other people such as Myoujin Yahiko (a former pickpocket who wants to become a samurai), Sagara Sanosuke (a street fighter who hates how the current government has turned out), and Takani Megumi (a doctor who's trying to escape the underworld where she used to create opium for a powerful drug-lord). Slowly, they all gather at the dojo and it appears like Kenshin's finally able to settle down after 10 years. But soon it appears that Kenshin's past has returned to haunt him. What exactly happened during the war 10 years ago and can Kenshin protect his new-found friends from his shadows?
The art for this series evolves a lot as the manga progresses. Earlier on the character and background art aren't as well. As the story progresses the characters begin to stabilize and the background art (when it appears) is far prettier. Many of the panels have no background art (only speed-lines or a black or white background with the characters superimposed on that). I don't mind this technique if the story relies on conversation but often there isn't enough talking to warrant the large empty spaces.
The plot on the other hand is amazing, with each subsequent story arc revealing a bit more about Kenshin's past via the introduction of various opponents and allies. In many ways, reading Kenshin is like watching a movie backwards. We know that Kenshin has done despicable things in the name of patriotism 10 years ago, but many questions remain, such as how he gained his cross-shaped scar. As other characters are introduced, the reader learns more about his past, without ever fully revealing anything until the end of the series. In doing so, there's a constant sense of curiosity prevalent through the series, and each revelation brings previous statements into stark focus.
For those of you who enjoy action, this series features entertaining (if unrealistic) sword-fights. There are many battles against subsequently stronger opponents (a la Dragon Ball), but Rurouni Kenshin's mix of humor and historical background do give it a refreshingly unique flavor. Overall, I enjoyed Rurouni Kenshin a lot, as it manages to find the proper balance between humor, action, and suspense.
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