|Name:||Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story|
(るろうに剣心 明治剣客浪漫譚 Rurōni Kenshin Meiji Kenkaku Rōmantan)
|Abbreviation(s):||RK, Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin, RuroKen|
|Date(s):||September 1994 - November 1999|
|Country of Origin:||Japan|
|External Links:||Official Manga Site/JP, Official Anime Site/JP|
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Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story is a completed manga series by Watsuki Nobuhiro set in early Meiji period Japan. The name is typically abbreviated to RuroKen in Japanese and Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin, or RK in English. The manga was originally serialized in Weekly Shounen Jump and has been adapted into an anime TV series, OVAs, and one animated feature film. In June 2011, it was announced that a live-action movie adaptation was in production and was scheduled to be released in August 2012.
Both the anime and manga versions of Rurouni Kenshin have been translated in several countries all over the world. In North America, Viz Media and AnimeWorks currently hold the licenses for the manga and anime, respectively.
The story follows Himura Kenshin, a vagrant swordsman trying to make a place for himself now that the violent Bakumatsu era is over. Once a legendary assassin, Kenshin has vowed never to kill again to atone for his past and wields a sakabatou, a katana that has its cutting edge on the reverse side. At the beginning of the series, Kenshin meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru who teaches a non-lethal sword style meant to protect people. He soon finds a home at her dojo but eventually his past comes back to haunt him.
Although most of its main cast is fictional, the series features numerous historical figures. The plot also portrays many real political conflicts even though the action is often superhuman in nature.
The first two seasons of the anime are relatively faithful to the original manga, but the third season diverges from the source canon and consists of new material. This is because the TV series caught up to the weekly manga serialization and the animation studio wanted to give Watsuki time to develop the storyline. Unfortunately, the third season did so poorly in ratings that the TV series was cancelled. Many people believe that the fate of the Rurouni Kenshin anime is why most current day shounen anime series space out small batches of filler episodes throughout their runs. It's to prevent the anime adaptation from running out of source material and needing to create long stretches of filler material.
Many fans consider Rurouni Kenshin to be one of The Big 3 Manga titles of the late 1990s. During its original run, it topped the sales charts in Japan and was one of the first major shounen series to come to North America during the anime boom of early 2000s.
Like many popular manga series, Rurouni Kenshin was adapted into an anime series which was translated before the parent manga. Prior to its official release in English, fansubs and text translations were widely available, but scanlations were much less complete. Consequently, Kenshin fandom has generally revolved around the animated series (which diverges in plot two thirds of the way through).
The heyday of the fandom was in 2000-2002 with a proliferation of pairing and theme-specific yahoo! groups. Many of these still exist, but when yahoo removed adult groups from its search function in 2001, they became much harder to locate and have tended to dwindle in size and activity as old fans leave for newer fandoms and new fans are unable to find them. Other communities of fans, often ones who got into the show when it aired on US television, archive their fic at fanfiction.net. Yahoo! groups users also used fanfiction.net extensively in the past, but many left for pairing or yaoi/het/AU universe-specific archives after the site banned explicit content in 2002. Most of these archives are hand-coded personal pages, many of which will no doubt disappear with the closing of Geocities. Many RK fans also archive their fic at MediaMiner, but usually as a backup for other sites.
The canon will-they-or-won't-they pairings have always been overwhelmingly the most common in RK fic, followed by m/m pairings between main characters, and with other m/f pairings a distant third. Yuri and gen fic was much less common in most yahoo groups due to their narrow (popular) pairing-specific focus.
RK was a popular subject of doujinshi during its original run (1994-1999), but its Japanese fans had largely moved on to other series by the time it developed an English-speaking fandom. Nonetheless, some fan-translated doujinshi did circulate around 2000-2002.
In the manga canon, a few characters have crushes on each other, but only Kenshin's romances are featured prominently. (These include flashbacks to his marriage to Tomoe and his relationship with Kaoru at the end of the series.) The anime series added much stronger hints that various other characters were interested in each other. This led to quasi-canon shippers who supported a set of non-conflicting straight pairings. These usually included some combination of the following:
- Kenshin x Kaoru
- Sano x Megumi
- Aoshi x Misao
- Yahiko x Tsubame
- Saitou x Tokio
The most popular alternate m/f pairing was Sano x Kaoru.
Yaoi and some yuri pairings were also popular. By far the most common was Kenshin x Sano. Various pairings of Kenshin, Aoshi, Sano, Saitou, and Hiko were also popular, including Hiko x Saitou (notable in that they never met in canon).
Pairings among specific sets of side characters and enemies were also common, particularly works featuring the Oniwabanshu, Shishio's organization, or the Shinsengumi.
Though not the most popular pairing on big lists or archives, Saitou x Sano had a devoted following in the yahoo group SXSAS (The Saitou/Sano Appreciation Society). The group was most active in 2001-2003 and was all but abandoned by 2006. A later LiveJournal community of the same name continues to see a small amount of activity.
One example of an often recommended AMV is Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely by Kestrel who posted this vid to her website in September 2000. Compared to more recent AMVs the file size of just 4.5 MB seems very small, but back then it could take hours to download it and the size was close to the limit of what was still accessible.
- "Rurouni Kenshin" to get film adaptation starring Sato Takeru! (Accessed January 5, 2012)
- Weekly Shonen Jump history: Top 3 manga 2/2 (Accessed January 5, 2012)
- SxSAS LJ community, founded in January 2004. Accessed 15 May 2009.
- Kestrel. Kestrel Sempai Music Videos, September 2000.