Overview: Rurouni Kenshin is the story of a wandering swordsman fighting to atone for the sins he committed during the Japanese revolution as a manslayer. He has taken up a reverse blade sword and sworn never to kill again. Unfortunately, that’s not always the easy thing to do, and even if he doesn’t kill anyone, he can’t always save everyone either. While this season does have some multi-parters in it, it doesn’t really follow a solid plot line. Mostly we just follow Kenshin and friends as they do their hero thing and get to know each one.
Himura Kenshin: Our hero Kenshin can seem a little goofy at times. He can appear clumsy and kind of silly when he’s not on the battle field. He’s awkward with women and doesn’t always think about his actions. However he is very good with children, a great cook, pretty good with a fishing rod and above all, the strongest swordsmen in Japan. During the revolution he was known as Hitokiri Battosai or Battosai the Manslayer, a name that follows him, despite his efforts to cast it aside. Kenshin is rarely ever angry. If he isn’t content or happy he’s alert, pensive, or protective. He also seems to be incredibly wise and extremely good at reading people, though somehow he has yet to figure out the whole attraction thing. In a lot of ways, Kenshin is completely invincible. While he may struggle against some enemies, he always prevails in the end. This might be a turn off for some viewers but I don’t really mind it. You know he’s going to win, but you don’t know how, and therein lays the excitement.
Kamiya Kaoru: Kaoru is not your typical damsel in distress, nor is she your typical tomboy swordswomen. She is the assistant master of the Kamiya Kasshin, a style developed by her late father as a ‘sword to protect people.’ She meets Kenshin in the first episode while trying to defend her style’s honor against a mad former student of her fathers who wanted to use his sword only to kill and gain power. After Kenshin defeats this threat and saves her life, Kaoru allows him to stay in the dojo rather than wandering. While Kaoru can sometimes play the damsel and isn’t nearly as skilled as Kenshin, she isn’t completely useless. She is a master of the Kamiya Kasshin style and knows how to use it. She’s also an excellent teacher. However she is also hot headed and prone to vanity. Somehow Kenshin usually knows what to say to keep her happy even when some other characters might pick at her for her looks or childishness, as she is still pretty young. It’s pretty clear to us that she has feelings for Kenshin, but she won’t admit it and Kenshin isn’t going to pick up on it anytime soon it’s reduced to a simple character quirk.
Sagara Sanosuke: Sanosuke is one of my favorite characters. He was only a kid during the revolution but he fought in a group called the Sekihotai which was betrayed by the Meiji government after the war had ended. Because of this all his friends were killed, including his Captain Sagara who he looked up to and greatly respected. For the ten years since the war ended Sano was a fighter for higher, wearing the kanji for “wicked” on his back. He was out to prove that the Sekihotai were not weak traitors and clear their name, but after facing off with Kenshin, he decides maybe that’s not the way to go and joins their group. Sano uses his fists, though when we first meet him he has a zanbatou (a ridiculously oversized sword). Kenshin beaks that, though so he’s left to hand-to-hand combat, which he excels at anyway. Sano is a pretty easy going guy when you don’t piss him off. He’s got a good heart, though little money, so he’s always either mooching off of Kaoru or skipping out on his bill. His favorite restaurant the Akabeko started a tab for him so he couldn’t skip out anymore. Despite his flaws, Sano is an extremely loyal friend. He at least tries to pay them back, though without any form of income, it’s kind of hard.
Myojin Yahiko: Yahiko is an orphan who was caught up with a group of thugs who made him pick pockets to pay them back for taking care of his mother while she was ill. He makes the lucky mistake of picking Kenshin’s pocket and thus is sucked into the group, whether he likes it or not. Kaoru takes him on as her student and lets him stay at the dojo as well. He and Kaoru act just like brother and sister, always picking at each other and whatnot. Yahiko comes from a long line of samurai and is actually pretty good with his wooden sword. He has a really valiant heart but a sometimes simple mind. He can be a bit insensitive sometimes and just like Kaoru, he’s got a hot head. Again, he’s not uses in a fight, but he and Kaoru often hang back to deal with the underlings while Kenshin and Sano go for the main boss. We watch him get a little bit more mature after each adventure he has, but he always retains his pride and it doesn’t seem his ego will be going down any time soon.
Takani Megumi: Megumi is more of a side character, really but she does get an intro arc and her own personal episode so I feel I should tell you about her. Megumi comes from a family of rather talented doctors. Naturally she’s always wanted to be a doctor but she was separated from her family, or something, and came to Tokyo to learn medicine. However, the man she was learning from was also making opium for some rich douche bag that then killed her teacher and made her make the opium instead. In the hopes of finding her family Megumi ran away from him, finding Kenshin and Sano for protection. Because Kenshin has a sword, and is so damn hawt, she attached herself to him and he took her back to the dojo where she would be safe… and get on Kaoru’s last nerve. Megumi’s intro actually spans over three episodes, giving us our first look at the Oniwaban group who will come into later seasons. Megumi herself is likened to a fox. She’s beautiful, crafty and has some pretty sassy pants. They’re hiding though, so you can’t see them. She likes tormenting Kaoru, mostly because she’s also rather smitten with Kenshin, though it’s hard to tell if she’s using that to poke at Kaoru or if she really is in love with our dashing hero. Either way, she should totally be canon with Sano. They’ve got some great chemistry.
Story: As I said, there isn’t much story to follow in this season. Basically we just follow our hero around and watch as he kicks everyone’s ass. We do get a lot of character development throughout the season and not all of the episodes… okay they all involve fighting in some form or another. Some of them however are more comedic than others. For example in “Fly to Your Dreams; Marimo, The Human Cannon” the group helps a circus girl put on a show because her father was injured by a rival circus to whom they owe some money. There’s no bloodshed, except maybe on the part of Sano who’s forced to be Kaoru’s target for dagger throwing. Kenshin doesn’t even use his sword, just an umbrella, and he still kicks ass.
Ending: Since there wasn’t a build up to anything over the course of the season the ending is just like any other mutli-parter. Our hero and friends want to get some work so they can help pay Kaoru back for putting up with them. Kaoru has been working hard but money is still tight, so Kenshin, Sanosuke and Yahiko decide to get a job protecting a merchant ship since that’s about all they’re good for. Turns out Kaoru had a similar idea, getting a job as a cook on the ship so that she could buy them something good to eat. The ship is attacked by pirates of legendary skill and during the fight; Kenshin does his best to protect Kaoru as he’s constantly swearing to do. Kaoru gets captured even though Kenshin defeated their leader. He’s been hit with a poison dart and since he can’t fight well he offers up his life in exchange for Kaoru’s.
We learn in the next episode that these pirates are not all that they appear to be. Their leader is a girl, Shura, who was the daughter of the former leader. Her father formed the pirate band to help provide for all of the fishermen’s orphans in a poor island village. We also learn that not everyone is happy with this anymore. Most of the crew has turns against Shura as she’s trying to figure Kenshin out. Meanwhile, Kaoru, Sano and Yahiko are trying to find Kenshin and rescue him from certain death. Overhearing the pirates making a deal with the merchant they were employed to, they decide to stow away on the ship which they are sure will lead them to Kenshin, only to be blown up when they get there. Yeah, fun stuff that.
The final episode goes something like this. Kenshin convinces Shura that not everyone has turned against her and that she still has people to live for. The other’s somehow survived being on an exploding ship and go after Kenshin. Shura sends her little orphan friend and her guardian person off with Kenshin to be safe while she goes to confront the pirates who are now led by some douche bag who’s not really worth naming. She defeats him only to get stabbed in a bullet wound she got earlier when he pulls the old “I’ll be good! Not!” trick on her and then laughs. Kenshin shows up and saves her after some idiot bows up the village with a huge bomb. In the end they all escape and get back relatively unharmed. Epic? Not so much. But it’s only the first season.