Retro Rewind Anime Edition: Rurouni Kenshin

Instead of watching new anime, I tend to go back and binge some old favorites.

As your friendly neighborhood anime lover, I will be re-watching some old anime as a blast from the past. Part of Retro Rewind will include me giving my commentary on these anime, exploring my experience growing up with them, and how I think they work in today’s age of anime. Now, let’s get started!

On today’s episode of Retro Rewind….

I’m looking at Rurouni Kenshin! This happened to be my official gateway anime, as I watched it when it premiered on the Toonami block. The story is set 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 after the war, he meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru, who is in the middle of a fight with a murderer, who claims to be the Battōsaitarnishing 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, as his past continues to haunt him.
When I first started watching, I was so enraptured by the sword fighting and feudal Japan setting. Everywhere Kenshin went, I became excited to see what foe he would face this time. Nine times out of ten he’d be recognized as the infamous Battōsai, the man-slayer. I practically fell for how dramatic each enemy made it once they knew who he was and would challenge him. This was further entertaining because despite only fighting when absolutely needed, Kenshin never failed to put in that work. He made SURE people knew why he was called the Battōsai, and defending the defenseless every chance he could. As the episodes went on, I was thoroughly entertained by his antics as a peace-loving soul traveling alongside such a dysfunctional but loyal group of friends.
At the time I didn’t even know what anime was, but I knew this show was vastly different from cartoons I watched. The animation style isn’t bright and shiny and baby-faced like let’s say Rocket Power. This was edgy, as if every line and stroke meant something and a lot of attention to detail; it was truly a manga come to life. And then of course the plot brought me in. Outside of Xena, I’d never seen a show set in a different time period let alone an animated one. Even without knowing much about Japan, I was drawn in by the samurai and ninjas and simplistic lifestyle. The fight scenes were perfect to me, too. It paid a lot of attention to not only to the weapons being used, but also the importance of the techniques each person brought to the table and the discipline it took for that mastery.

And then through my blast from the past

I discovered I still find it enjoyable, but cheesy and predictable. At one point, I wished Kenshin wasn’t so identifiable so people would stop calling him out and fighting him. It’s like we had to keep being reminded how much of a savage he was in the past and how feared he used to be compared to how he is now. Of course, this whole segment is Kenshin’s redemption and making up for his sins of the past. But geez, it didn’t need to constantly come up. I did like seeing the series transitioned away from the adventures and run-ins and into fighting his successor. This enabled us to see even more inner conflict Kenshin faced of not only who he was in the past, but continuing to evolve from that person. And of course through the power of friendship (but in a less obvious way), the friends he’s made along the way and even the people he defeated help him realize he’s not alone; he can be strong as an individual and through the help of others. It was touching indeed.

How it stands with anime today

Overall, I would give it a 7/10. I could be totally biased with my nostalgia-rose colored glasses on, but I’ve also seen trash anime and this is definitely better than a lot I’ve seen. It may not stand with other anime today like My Hero Academia or Attack on Titan, but that’s the beauty in watching the evolution and development of anime over time. This is an anime that was nice to watch again, but wouldn’t be in my favorites list. At the end of the day, it was nice revisiting what became the reason I’m such an anime fan today.

What anime will Anjé watch next? Magical girls?! Schoolboy harems?? Tentacle-sama?? Find out on the next episode of Retro Rewind: Anime Edition!

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