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Pairing: Kenshin Himura/Kamiya Kaoru
Alternative name(s): KenKao, KxK, KK
Gender category: Het
Fandom: Rurouni Kenshin
Canonical?: Canon
Prevalence: high
Archives: Himura Kenshin/Kamiya Kaoru Works on AO3
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Kenshin Himura/Kamiya Kaoru, also known as KenKao or K/K, is a canon het pairing from the anime and manga series Rurouni Kenshin, and the main romantic relationship featured in the series.


Kenshin and Kaoru meet in the very first episode of the series when she confronts him for being the legendary Hitokiri Battousai, who has been causing terror in the streets. Although Kenshin really is (or was) the Battousai, the atrocities are actually being committed by impostors. Kenshin sticks around to investigate the problem and saves Kaoru from a pair of thugs who try to take over her late father's dojo. After this, Kenshin moves in with her as a permanent lodger.[1]

Kenshin and Kaoru's romantic relationship builds slowly over the course of the series. Some of the key moments in their relationship include the beginning of the Kyoto Arc, in which Kenshin leaves Kaoru to go to Kyoto and confront Shishio Makoto, and Kaoru goes after him to bring him back to Tokyo;[2] and Kaoru's kidnapping by Enishi in the Jinchu Arc, during which time Kenshin believes that Kaoru has been killed, and loses all will to go on.[3]

At the end of the series, Kenshin and Kaoru are shown to be married and have a son named Kenji.

In Rurouni Kenshin Wiki, Kenshin and Kaoru's canon relationship is described as follows:

Moving gradually from dear friends to love interests to husband and wife, Kaoru and Kenshin share a relationship that serves as one of the largest focal points of the series. Having initially been rescued from death, dishonor and loneliness, Kaoru greatly values Kenshin's company after he appears in her life and is rather insistent that he stay. Though Kenshin at first sees Kaoru as being equally important to any other person, her remarkable assertion that Kenshin's past is unimportant in relation to his present self convinces him in short order that Kaoru is particularly special. On the other hand, his expressed hope that Kaoru's philosophy of katsujinken will someday become the reality for all Japanese swordsmen gives her the confidence she needs to face the hardships in her path. Later on they marry and have a son named Kenji, who, as an infant, loves his mother, but hates his father (often pulling his hair, to which Kenshin simply smiles). Kenji looks a lot like Kenshin.[4]

Common Tropes in Fanworks

  • Kenshin/Kaoru fanfics are often slow burn or slow build stories, reflecting the way that Kenshin and Kaoru take a long time to realise their feelings in canon. They often feature a lot of denial on the part of the main pair, prompting other characters to get involved and force them to admit their feelings.
  • Related to this, both Kenshin and Kaoru's denial of their feelings tends to centre around a feeling of not being good enough for the other: for Kenshin, he is too old and his past too bloody; for Kaoru, she is too tomboyish, too rambunctious and lacks womanly skills such as the ability to cook.
  • Kaoru's inability to cook makes a frequent appearance as the butt of a joke; she is often seen trying to cook in order to prove herself a suitable wife for Kenshin, and Kenshin is often the only one who will put up with her cooking out of love for Kaoru.

Hurt/Comfort Tropes

  • Kenshin is known to suffer from nightmares in canon,[5] which tend to be connected to his past as a hitokiri or to Tomoe; many hurt/comfort fanfics depict Kaoru coming across Kenshin in the throes of a nightmare and comforting him, often prompting a revealing conversation about his past.
Fanworks which prominently feature this trope include:
  • Many Ken/Kao fanworks centre around a specific arc in canon which involves Kenshin recovering from the wounds of a serious battle, such as the battle with Shishio, imagining what took place during a time period that the canon skips over.
Fanworks which prominently feature this trope include:
  • Other hurt/comfort fanworks revolve around Kenshin being injured or ill and doing his best to hide it, for fear of worrying or upsetting Kaoru.
Fanworks which prominently feature this trope include:

Romantic Rivals

  • Megumi Takani is commonly depicted as a rival for Kenshin's affections, as in canon, she has an established romantic interest in Kenshin. In fanworks which feature Sano/Megumi as a pairing, she often moves on from Kenshin by developing a closer bond with Sano, or realising that her affections lie in a different direction.
  • Kenshin's ex-wife Tomoe Yukishiro is another common rival, either whilst alive (in alternate universe fanfiction) or after her death, with Kaoru struggling to compete with the memory of Tomoe, whom she views as the perfect, ladylike woman (and the polar opposite to her own tomboyish ways).
  • Rivals for Kaoru's affections can range from any convenient male side character (Enishi Yukishiro, Tomoe's brother, who kidnapped Kaoru during the Jinchū Arc,[6] is a common choice) to an original male character. Sanosuke is typically depicted as an 'older brother' figure to Kaoru in KenKao fanfiction, and is less likely to be seen competing for Kaoru's affections. Occasionally Kenshin will even find himself competing with his own Battousai persona, who vows to make a move on Kaoru if he, the Rurouni side, does not - see Battousai, below.


The Hitokiri Battousai is Kenshin's assassin 'self', who fought alongside the rebels in the Bakamatsu war and whose assassinations were instrumental in bringing about victory. Kenshin renounced his Battousai past when he became a Rurouni after the war, but in canon, we see that he slips back into his Battousai persona in certain situations, during which his eyes turn gold.[7]

In fanon, Battousai is often depicted as Kenshin's more confident (and sexually experienced) alter ego, who is capable of acting separately from him and will often 'take control' if he regards the Rurouni as being too hesitant or unwilling to make a move on Kaoru. The golden eyes are often used as a visual signifier of this change.

Fanworks which prominently feature this trope include:

Other works will bend the timeline of canon in order to have Kaoru encounter the Battousai during or immediately after the Bakamatsu war, often to help him recover from the trauma.

Fanworks which prominently feature this trope include:

Other Fanworks


  • Kenshin's Brush with Art by Ridicully L: Kenshin is summoned by Hiko to Kyoto to do a painless little task that turned pretty ugly. Dedicated to Beriath. Features: Saitou! Tokio! Swordfights in the moonlight! Damsels in distress, and Art!
  • Ubiquitous by Khrysalis: [Twoshot, moderntype AU] What might it take for Kenshin to realize that there will be times when he doesn't always know what is best?
  • Gunshot Roses by Kaoru-chan21: [AU] Arizona. 1868. Kenshin, a razorsharp minded thief, meets a beautiful show girl, named Kaoru. He learns of her past and they inevitably fall for each other. But what will he do to save her from her tormenting master and soon to be husband?
  • Tanabata Jasmine by Nekotsuki: When Kenshin goes missing on the night of the Tanabata festival, will his friends be able to find him and bring him home?
  • Untangled by Heather Logan: Kaoru brushes Kenshin's hair. Short and sweet (like Kenshin).
  • Observer by hakubaikou: Kaoru secretly watches Kenshin as he practices in a forest clearing. One-shot.
  • Left Unsaid by Nekotsuki: ONE SHOT - Response to the MT April Challenge. Kaoru takes advantage of a reasonably quiet dojo to broach an awkward subject to a certain clueless samurai. Or at least, that's the intent, right?




Archives & Fannish Links


  1. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2003). "Act 1: Kenshin ● Himura Battōsai". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 1. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-220-3.
  2. ^ Kyoto Arc: Rurouni Kenshin Wiki (Accessed 30 November, 2016).
  3. ^ Yukishiro Enishi: Rurouni Kenshin Wiki (Accessed 30 November, 2016). "He came across her, and when she was next seen, she had Enishi's sword impaled through her heart, with a cross scar on her left cheek resembling that of Kenshin. Seeing Kaoru dead, Kenshin was broken and lost all will to live."
  4. ^ Kamiya Kaoru: Rurouni Kenshin Wiki (Accessed 30 November, 2016).
  5. ^ Act 164: Rurouni Kenshin Wiki (Accessed 30 November, 2016). "He wakes up screaming when he sees Tomoe's face in his nightmare, covered in sweat and panting heavily. Kenshin notes that the ghosts of his past are getting to him"
  6. ^ Yukishiro Enishi: Rurouni Kenshin Wiki (Accessed 30 November, 2016).
  7. ^ Himura Kenshin: Rurouni Kenshin Wiki (Accessed 30 November 2016). "In the anime series, when Kenshin's eyes change to reflect his psychological reversion to Hitokiri Battōsai, their color shifts from violet to gold."