Rurouni Kenshin

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It was to create a world of peace, not to win positions of power, that we raised our swords and killed. If we forget that, then we are no revolutionaries after all.
Himura Kenshin

A manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki, its name translates as "Kenshin the Wanderer", but it is also known as Samurai X after Columbia Pictures renamed it for their anime releases (which was later co-opted by ADV Films for their release of the movie and OVAs). Watsuki, being a major fan of the X-Men comics (the characters from which he based a lot of the cast's designs on), heartily endorsed this title translation.

It is 1878, a peaceful time after the troubles of the Meiji Restoration and the Satsuma Rebellion. Kamiya Kaoru, the spirited and young head of the Kamiya Kasshin kendo school, is having trouble fending off a couple of no-gooders that want to take over the dojo. Through sheer luck, she gets a vagrant swordsman she mistook for a killer to help her against the baddies.

To her great surprise, it turns out that her initial assessment of this vagrant wasn't, strictly speaking, mistaken after all - the swordsman turns out to be Himura Kenshin, who used to be known as the Hitokiri Battousai ("the quick-drawing assassin") during the turbulent years of the Meiji Restoration when he acted as an assassin for the revolutionary anti-shogunate forces. Now he atones for his past sins wandering around and righting wrongs without killing anyone.

Later on, the Kamiya Kasshin dojo adopts two more hangers-on: Sagara Sanosuke, a brash youth with spiky hair and phenomenal physical strength; and Myoujin Yahiko, ex Street Urchin who evolves into a Kid Samurai. We also have Takani Megumi, a beautiful woman who knows her medicine quite well and mothers them all. This is good, as Kenshin's foes from his murky past tend to turn up with distressing frequency.

One of the most popular series of the late 90's, Rurouni Kenshin is notable for defying several established Shounen conventions. It features an older hero (Kenshin is 28 at the start of the series, which is ancient by shonen protagonist standards -- not that he looks it) who is world-weary and tired of fighting, instead of a wide-eyed young lad eager for adventure. Other themes which are rarely seen in the genre, such as politics and serious romance, pop up as well. This is what contributed to the legendary Multiple Demographic Appeal of the series, which crossed age, gender and national boundaries with equal ease.

The series was followed by two OVA's, one a prequel (Tsuiokuhen, a.k.a. Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal) and the other (Seisoushen, a.k.a. Reflections) a sequel. The entire Sony dub of the anime is available to watch on Hulu under Samurai X.

Watsuki announced that he will be working on the series again, another manga series will start on May 2, 2012. Rurouni Kenshin Cinema-ban will be an adaption of the Live-Action movie; it will be a monthly run at Jump Square magazine, a short one since he plans to end in within the same year.

And as of recent years, rumors are swirling of a revival. Turns out this will take the form of a new PSP game, a Japanese-produced live-action movie, and a new OVA series remaking the Kyoto arc.

Tropes used in Rurouni Kenshin include:


  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: So many, it would be quicker to list the swords that avert this trope, but none more egregiously than Kenshin's Reverse Blade Sword.
  • Achey Scars: In the prequel, anyway.
  • Accent Adaptation: The dub for the most part gave people accents.
  • The Ace:
    • To a degree, Sanosuke's father Kamishimoemon. Subverted somewhat since Sanosuke is actually much, MUCH stronger than him.
    • Also Hiko Seijuro.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Some parts of the narrative, at least:
    • In the manga, Sagara Sozo and the Sekihotai chose to follow the summons of the Meiji government after the false accusation of them being a "false army" got around, which led to their immediate execution. In the anime, they were ambushed by a Meiji government military unit sent to exterminate them. The leader of this unit would also become the villain in the expansion of the story arc involving Sanosuke's Sekihotai comrade Katsu.
    • In the manga, Raijuta is a buffoon rampaging against select kendo dojos, throwing his weight around with Yutaro's wealth. In the anime, Raijuta has a Quirky Miniboss Squad and is actually seeking to launch a coup d'etat against the Meiji government, still using Yutaro's wealth.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Saito Hajime gets one of these in every anime, manga and film that features him.
  • Adult Fear: For a ten year old, Yahiko has a ridiculous amount of leeway that allows him to wield a sword, go on adventures, overshadow his teacher, and kick a buttload of giant mook ass in near-death battles. But when he goes off in the middle of the night with a bunch of rebels in the motion picture??? Yahiko not only gets slapped by a very distressed and teary-eyed Kaoru, but even pacifist Kenshin, who wouldn't raise a hand to anybody unless it was absolutely necessary, comes out and says that if Kaoru hadn't done it, he would have slapped Yahiko upside the head himself. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for worrying your surrogate parents like that, young samurai.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: For the most part averted (which is kind of surprising considering that it's a shounen anime.)
  • All Powerful Bystander: Seijuro Hiko taught the main character every sword skill he knows, except that, unlike Kenshin, Hiko's got the raw muscular power to use Hiten Mitsurigi style to its fullest, and doesn't bother with Kenshin's Thou Shalt Not Kill philosophy. The author stated outright that Hiko was far too powerful for anyone else in the series to handle. That's why he was made too apathetic and anti-social to ever go after the Big Bads himself.
  • Animal Motifs: Enishi (Tiger), Kaoru (Racoon dog), Kenshin (Dragon), Megumi (Fox), Misao (Weasel), Sanosuke (Rooster), and Saitou (Wolf).
  • Anime Accent Absence: Partly averted with Enishi: having spent much of his life in China at first he speaks Japanese with a "visible" accent. Later on he loses it (Watsuki probably grew tired of it) but he still roars, groans and laughs in "Chinese."
  • Anime Theme Song: Some particularly famous and career-launching examples, with the greatest irony being that the ending theme changed far more often than the opening. The third and most famous ending theme, "Heart of Sword" (which puns off of Kenshin's name, of course) is the song that made TM Revolution famous (and the show infamously went back to it after a while, between raging popular demand and the L-e-C problem). L'arc-en-Ciel's contribution was infamously removed after a drug scandal. "It's Gonna Rain", which was drafted as a rather quick replacement, became the big break for Bonnie Pink. "1/3 of Pure Emotional Feelings" was similarly Siam Shade's first day in the limelight. Finally, "Kimi ni Fureru Dake de", the last opening, was Curio's one big moment in the sun.
    • Most infamously, though, was that the show kept "1/2" by Makoto Kawamoto as the opening theme for ages; it lasted for three whole plot arcs and the opening animation was altered twice while keeping the song the same. In an industry where songs can change every cour, this was very, very unusual.
  • Anti-Hero: Saito Hajime is a Type V.
  • Arc Words: This new era (i.e., Meiji). During Aoshi's Face Heel Turn, he also had a habit of repeating the names of the Elite Mooks who pulled a Heroic Sacrifice to save him.
    • Also, "the age decides the man" throughout the Kyoto arc, especially during Kenshin and Shishio's duel.
    • Shishio's motto which is frequently repeated by Soujiro: "In this world the weak are food for the strong. If you are strong, you live. If you are weak, you die."
  • Art Evolution: Kenshin's art had three major shifts: the soft, shojo-esque initial design, the sharp, more shonen style used starting in the Kyoto arc, and a style that gradually became more streamlined during the Revenge arc. The new 2012 run is gearing to be just like Busou Renkin and Embalming in artstyle.
    • Relatedly: Music Evolution for the anime. The first "season" (roughly the first two cours or 26 episodes) featured a fairly light, jazzy soundtrack. Once the Shishio arc kicked off, however, the show shifted to a much heavier, orchestral soundtrack and feel to match the scope and scale of the story.
    • There are also the draft character redesigns that were released with the kanzenban editions yet. Drawn in Watsuki's more recent style, some of the characters are barely recognizable (also there appear to be changes to some back stories but it's not really certain since translations don't seem to exist yet ...?) Would have been amazing to see them all in an Alternate Continuity.
  • As Lethal as It Needs to Be: Kenshin almost kills Seijuro with the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, only sparing him because some bolts on his sword gave way, lessening the blow. Kenshin never comes close to doing that kind of damage with the move again, even against enemies far physically weaker than Seijuro.
  • The Atoner: Kenshin, for his time as Hitokiri Battousai.
    • Megumi is also a non-combatant example, and Aoshi definitely has shades of this.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Kenshin wins the battle against Gein by jamming up the gears of his puppet with a tiny rock, and then proceeds to Hannibal Lecture Gein about the importance of being able to feel pain.
  • Badass Adorable: Kenshin.
  • Badass Boast: Battousai during the Jin'eh duel

Battousai: "It doesn't matter. Use whatever technique you like. Once I've said I'll kill you, your death is assured!"

  • Badass Creed: Aku Soku Zan. I dare you to deny it. It translates to "Swift Death to Evil". (Or, if you want to be creative about translating, "Slay Evil Immediately".)
    • Or, if you're the translator for the Columbia Pictures dub, "Evil. Right Now. Murder."
  • Badass Grandpa: As mentioned, Sanosuke's father, who somehow manages to be even MORE awesome than Sano himself.
    • Okina also counts. He took on Aoshi and lived to tell, though it helped that Aoshi was holding back at the time almost without realizing it on a conscious level.
    • Hiko Seijuro may count as well, seeing as how he's 43 years old and still kicking ass.
  • Badass Normal: Sagara Sanosuke.
  • Barehanded Blade Block:
    • Kenshin to Aoshi - this gets a nice Ironic Echo when Aoshi does the same to an Elite Mook who was copying his fighting style.

It's my own weapon. I have no reason not to know what its shortcomings are. (He then proceeds to break the weapon. With one hand.)

    • Yahiko becomes famous for this, as his school excels at defensive abilities, and in a critical battle realizes that form doesn't matter nearly as much as function. (The original ability catches the blade with the back of the hands so that you can do it while holding onto your own weapon.)
      • And eventually learns to catch sword attacks BETWEEN INDEX FINGER AND MIDDLE FINGER KNUCKLES.
      • Yahiko as an adult got a nickname from his skill at this--Master of a Thousand Blade Catches.
    • Shishio makes it very clear to that any move he sees will never work against him and to prove his point, he catches Kenshin and Saitoh's blades between his thumb and his index and middle fingers when attempting Ryu Shou Sen and the Gatotsu respectively, both of which he had seen previously.
  • Bash Brothers: Kenshin and Sanosuke at several points.
  • Berserk Button: Call Yahiko a kid or use the chan honorific. I dare you. (Being Hot-Blooded means he flies off the handle quite a bit.)
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Earlier, Kurogasa/Jin-E stabbed his own heart when Battousai was stopped an inch from killing him by Kaoru; he knows the Meiji authorities will kill him anyway but he thought only Battousai was worthy of killing him. Later, one of the Juppongatana commits suicide rather than stand trial, when it turns out that the Meiji Government will deny him his chance at making a public statement.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Kenshin is most decidedly Not Nice when in Battousai Mode. This is illustrated most memorably when he plays up his scary face on Takeda Kanryu:

(Viz manga) IF YOU'RE GOING TO BEG FOR YOUR LIFE... PRAY TO YOUR BELOVED MONEY!!

  • Big Bad: Makoto Shishio in the Kyoto Arc, Enishi Yukishiro in the Revenge Arc. The Tokyo Arc is a collection of smaller stories without a single Big Bad, though Saito is the final opponent of the arc. In the Remembrance flashback, Tatsumi arguably serves this role.
  • BFS: Sano's zanbato.
    • Subverted because it's actually too big to be used effectively.
      • Double-subverted when it's repaired in the final arc, and Sanosuke uses it to play baseball with a grenade launcher.
    • Actually deconstructed for the first part and Kenshin explains why: it's so large that it has a limited number of ways of attacking and is predictable because of this. Additionally, it's unwieldy due to it's size and weight (see Inertia Is a Harsh Mistress). Plus, Sano spent a good while of the series' run as a Bare-Fisted Monk.
  • Blade Run: Kenshin does this to Sano's BFS; his mentor pulls off an even more awesome version on an even bigger opponent's (even bigger, natch) weapon.
  • The Blank: Shinomori Aoshi's Ninja Elite Mook more or less destroyed his own face so that he can be a Master of Disguise. His unmasked visage is pure horror (which is presumably why the anime didn't show it).
  • Bloodbath Villain Origin: Seta Soujirou
    • Arguably, this trope also applies to Enishi Yukishiro. Especially since he covered all three bonus circumstances.
  • Blood From the Mouth: One of the few times the implications of coughing up blood is actually addressed in Shonen anime: Kenshin gets punched in the gut by Gein's giant puppet, and when he coughs up blood, Megumi worriedly notes that this means he's sustained major organ damage.
    • Also, any character who has the Incurable Cough of Death (see below) eventually exhibits at least one instance of this.
  • Blue with Shock: Kenshin does this (complete with floating spirit balls of depression) when he remembers the kind of training Hiko put him through.
  • Boring Invincible Hero: Mostly averted, Kenshin is basically this for the first few episodes, but quickly gets enemies that can go toe to toe with him.
    • Still, until the Kyoto Arc, most of Kenshin's fights don't actually have any threat of Kenshin losing. More important is the threat of him being forced to break his oath.
  • Braids of Action: Misao
  • Breakfast Club: Just about any of the various Nakama, but especially the Kenshin-gumi.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: According to Kaoru, Kenshin's handwriting is as bad as Watsuki's.
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to Kenshin as a result of being an assassin.
  • Bridal Carry:
    • Kenshin meets Kaoru this way—he saves her via bridal-carry against the fake Battousai, and then fakes a hip injury. (Kaoru, thinking that he's insulting her weight, is most unamused).
    • When Yumi's being carried by Sano via being slung over his back as they're racing against time to fight their way up Shishio's evil fortress. When Yumi complains, Sano asks her sarcastically whether or not she'd prefer being carried bridal style (with a straw dummy taking her place).
  • Broken Bird: Yumi Komagata, Shura the Pirate, Tomoe Yukishiro, to a degree Sayo Magdaria; Megumi started the series as this, but she gets better.
  • Burn the Orphanage: Happens in Anji's back story, where a temple that was used to shelter kids who were orphaned by the war was burned down by the land owner more or less for the money.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Interrupted on one occasion when Enishi punches Kenshin in the face before he can finish.
  • Can't Catch Up: The supporting cast often lag behind Kenshin, even after they Took a Level in Badass (Kenshin, of course, having had a monumental head start to begin with); Kaoru starts the series unable to catch up, and though Word of God states that she's a very strong woman (both physically and emotionally), she's surrounded by absurdly strong fighters which makes her look very much like a Faux Action Girl.
    • Watsuki points out that that Kaoru is at least a national level kendoka (in modern terms), and she shows it when she handily drops two thugs that even the Yakuza won't mess with in the blink of an eye.
      • It's not hanging out with Kenshin and company that makes Kaoru look like a faux action girl. It was how she decides to stay home and prepare the bath when sending her newest student, a ten year old boy who had just started learning swordsmanship under her a few weeks ago at best (and who she is apparently still stronger than in the Epilogue where he has grown into a fine badass of his own) against gun wielding gangsters, or the time she stayed behind doing nothing when he was dueling an assassin who had trained for years to specifically hunt down friggin' Battousai. She stayed in the kitchen much less in the anime, however, and even joined in on the raid on Kanryu's place.
      • Mega subverted in Yahiko's introduction, in which she takes apart an entire Yakuza gang with a shinai - the nineteenth-century equivalent of a foam rubber bat. And before anyone quotes historical references on how Miyamoto Musashi and similar juggernauts of kendo could do the same, an equivalent saying would be "Simo Häyhä could kill a man at a hundred paces with a Red Ryder BB Gun, so it's obviously a precision sniper rifle." If she existed in Real Life, Kaoru Kamiya would be immortalized alongside the legendary swordsmen of her era. Not her fault her Love Interest is a demigod.
      • This trope is somewhat subverted, as all of Kenshin's allies all have differing abilities to use against the quirky miniboss squads, and still get their fair share of fights. Plus, Saito at least is on-par with Kenshin.
        • Well, except Misao, who only gets one big fight (and shares that with Kaoru).
  • Cat Smile: Well more like fox face, Megumi does this every once in awhile when teasing Kaoru.
  • Caught the Heart on His Sleeve: Kaoru does this to Kenshin several times most notably before his first fight with Saito
  • Character Exaggeration: Kenshin's Obfuscating Stupidity is played up in the anime version, to the point that in the Kyoto arc some people found it odd that he was acting like his manga self—which is much more of a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Sanosuke leaves for Kyoto, one of his friends from his revolutionary days gives him several tiny bombs of his own making, "just in case." Those bombs, after not being mentioned for several volumes, are used to sink Shishio's battleship and completely derail his plan.
  • Christmas Cake: Tae is implied to be one, if Kaoru's crack about her age and Tae's reaction are any indication.
    • Also, Megumi: Even though, strictly speaking, she has three years to go.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Kenshin has this as a huge part of his character, as The Atoner he feels he must protect everyone he can regardless of whether it impedes improving the bigger picture (it rarely does but it wouldn't change his decision if it did).
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Kaoru, when Megumi was nearby. She drops it after a while, though.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: In Shin Kyoto Hen, Usui attempts to attack Shishio while he's boning Yumi. Yet, as expected of Shishio, he can still defend himself while in bed and proceeds to give Usui orders as if this was all a normal day for him.
  • Conscription: Kaoru's father was conscripted to help suppress the Satsuma Rebellion before the start of the story. He died during the war, leaving Kaoru as the sole master of the Kamiya Kasshin-Ryu.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Many fights play out like this, though it is somewhat justified for Kenshin in that the Hiten Mitsurugi style is specifically described as an exceptionally rare and deadly discipline that specializes in combat against multiple opponents.
  • Media Research Failure: A frequent victim of this, even in media that focus on anime and manga. Kenshin is not and was never a samurai, as that was a distinct social class one had to be born into. One of the English dubs even gets it wrong with the title itself. A similar problem exists for attribution of the theme "Sobakasu", as "Judy and Mary" was the name of the band, not anybody in it. (The singer is Yuki Isoya, who goes by "YUKI" in all-caps.)
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Kenshin is angelically good-natured and easy going, to the point of being a bit of a doormat, emphasized by his extremely formal and humble, almost groveling, manner of speech (he uses "this one" instead of "I", for one). He is also the most feared assassin in recent history and, even though he doesn't kill anymore, has no problem demonstrating just how terrifying he can be if push comes to shove.
  • Crusading Widower: Himura Kenshin whose protect the innocent without killing was inspired by the death of his wife Tomoe.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Subverted; a filler arc of the anime begins with a band of Christian revolutionaries and their deranged leader Amakusa Shogo, a would-be messiah likely modeled after both real-world cult leader Asahara Shoko and Japanese historical figure Amakusa Shiro Tokisada.
  • Cut the Fuse: Kenshin cuts the fuses off of the bombs Katsu throws at him.
  • Cute Shotaro Boy: Yahiko fits this trope excellently, insisting that he is the descendant of a proud samurai lineage and berating anyone who comments on his age.
  • Damsel in Distress: Kaoru who is kidnapped or otherwise in danger frequently in the first half.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Succession Technique puts tremendous strain on Kenshin's body. Sano broke his hand during the Kyoto arc, subsequent uses of his ultimate technique tended to have bad results for said hand (until he figured out a workaround).
  • Darker and Edgier: The first OVA, which manages to be even darker than the accompanying portion of the manga, which is... impresive.
  • Dead Because of Me: Kenshin, being a Technical Pacifist, is haunted by every person he's ever killed, but especially Tomoe.
  • Deadly Delivery: Saito pulls this stunt when he visits the Kamiya dojo, by posing as a peddler selling medicines and home remedies. Sanosuke almost falls for it, until he notices the calluses on Saito's hands. At which point Saito drops the facade and attacks Sanosuke, nearly killing him. He notes the attack would have been fatal had it not been for the flimsyness of the sword he was carrying.
  • Dead Guys On Display: The unfortunate fate of Eiji's parents in Shingetsu Village.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Whenever Kenshin's not Obfuscating Stupidity, he's got a wicked sense of humor.
    • When it comes to his morals. Saitou Hajime is a straight example as well, not mincing any words and possessing a tongue that's sharper than his sword and says it with a straight face. For solid proof, watch his fights against Usui and Mumyoui Yatsume.
  • Death by Childbirth: Enishi and Tomoe's mother. Tomoe thus became more of a mother figure to him, which explains his obsession with big sis.
  • Death Faked for You: Kaoru. Enishi wanted to leave behind her actual corpse, but couldn't bring himself to do it.
  • Decapitation Presentation: After Souzou Sagara was executed, his head was put on display for betraying the government.
  • Deconstruction: of the Jidai Geki genre.
    • Also, Anji Yukyuzen is a deconstruction of Papa Wolf since his adoptive childrens' death drive him to madness and a Face Heel Turn, and Sanosuke has to beat the shit out of him both physically and mentally to make him reason.
    • Shougo Amakusa from the anime deconstructs Religious Bruiser and Love Freak, since everyone told him that he was a "Son of God" since he was a kid and his family died horribly... but that makes him grow into an arrogant Jerkass with a God Complex who almost gets himself and all of his followers killed, and doesn't stop until both his sister and Morality Pet dies and Kenshin defeats him.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Happens to Sano (after one battle, though it was the power of Kenshin's Warrior Therapist tendencies that really did the job), Aoshi (it takes a second, more thorough ass-kicking), and to some extent even Saitou (by the end of the series).
  • Defensive Feint Trap: Kenshin defeats a large opponent by baiting him into a running match, until the point that the opponent's knee gives out.
  • Denouement: After Kenshin defeats Enishi once and for all, the rest of volume 28 focuses on wrapping up everything in the story.
  • The Determinator: Kenshin himself sometimes seems to fight on nothing more than sheer willpower.
    • Sanosuke displays this trait just as much as Kenshin does. It helps that he's Made of Iron.
    • Yahiko, this is even more evident on the Jinchuu Arc.
  • Did Mom Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Saitou visits the Kamiya household in his civilian identity of a police officer while he sent an assassin after Kenshin, just to demonstrate to Kenshin how his non-killing vow could have bit him in the ass.
  • Disney Death: Kaoru
    • The author even apologized for the anticlimax (although in retrospect the setup for this was really obvious). He's also somewhat torn on how it turned out - on the one hand, it's an awful anticlimax, but on the other hand, he believes steadfastly that Kenshin deserves a happy ending and life, and there was no way that could be accomplished if Kaoru was really dead. So he doesn't regret it.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Soujiro is the embodiment of this until he snaps in a Villainous Breakdown; Enishi also starts like this, but soon he's given to very wild mood swings.
  • Distant Finale: Two, the one in the manga and the OVA.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Since swords are worn at the waist, the hilt sticks out like, well... This is especially evident in the promotional art.
    • Fans of the anime for a time used "Succession Technique" as an Unusual Euphemism for gay sex, making the dialogue between Aoshi and Kenshin rife with Foe Yay.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Kenshin and Kaoru in the OVA stated below.
  • Downer Ending: The controversial ending of the OVA series.
  • The Dragon: Soujiro to Shishio, Gein to Enishi.
  • The Drifter: Kenshin's way of life after the Restoration to repent for his killings and to protect people plagued by evil, until he settles down at the dojo. Kaoru also often worries about him reverting to his old habits and leaving her alone.
  • Dual-Wielding: Shinomori Aoshi.
  • Dub Name Change: Bizzarely, a few of the main cast get this in the Sony/Columbia dub which saw lots of play in markets other than the U.S., and it's a Japanese ... to Japanese name change. Kenshin is often pronounced without the "n", Kaoru became Kaori, and most bizzarely Yahiko was changed to Yoshi. Making this even weirder is that nobody else got this treatment; it's like the dub was originally being handled much more "loosely" before someone else took the reins and decided to dub it far more straight with no changes. To this day nobody is really certain why these changes were made.
    • What makes it even weirder is that it's almost like someone was doing their homework on the changes, since Kaoru (薫) and Kaori (香) have essentially the same meaning in Japanese (but the latter sounds a bit more "feminine" to Western ears due to ending on a high vowel), and "Yoshi" could be either 義 (righteous), 吉 ("good luck", for irony points) or 良 (good, as in "decently good", referencing his okay-but-not-great swordwork), all of which fit Mr. Myoujin well. These would almost fall under the Woolseyism banner ... if anyone could figure out why in the world the changes were even deemed necessary in the first place.
      • "Kenshee", however, is agreed to be rather terrible, especially since it completely screws up the meaning of his name.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Kenshin and Kamatari.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: When Kenshin believes Enishi murdered Kaoru, he displays this trope. His recovery from the depression is marked by a return of his normal eyes.
  • Dying Like Animals:
    • Ostriches: The people of Shingetsu, the village that was taken over by Shishio and overseen by Senkaku when the Meiji Government all but abandoned due to the predicament, knew that they were being oppressed, but refused to let Kenshin help them and taking down the corpses of Eiji's parents, who were executed and displayed as a warning to the other villagers out of fear that Shishio and Senkaku would retaliate. They'd rather leave them on display and pretend that they weren't there, and were even prepared to expel Eiji from the village.
      • The villagers also had Mice and Reindeer mentalities toward Kenshin, Saito, and Misao, so they could be considered Chimeras.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Watsuki repeatedly states in the tankobon that this is a major theme of the manga. The OVA? Didn't agree so much...
  • Eccentric Mentor: Oibore. He's even got a Wizard Beard, Robe and Wizard Hat! (Well, okay, the robes are natty rags and the hat is made of bamboo, but his look still evokes the archetype.)
  • Emotionless Girl: Yukishiro Tomoe; the author admitted that he based her on Ayanami Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • Enfante Terrible: Sojiro, Enishi.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Subverted. After his experience with Tomoe, Kenshin decides to become a Technical Pacifist but he still carries his hitokiri-related baggage until the end of the series.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Between Kenshin, Yahiko, Sano, Aoshi, Hiko, and Enishi, there's something there for every female.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Seijiro Hiko, full stop. Also, Kenshin (to an extent).
  • Evil Counterpart: Shishio is this for Kenshin, as Shishio was Kenshin's replacement as hitokiri and both symbolize the cultural conflict in Japan at the time between the ruthless inhumanity of modern politics and technology and the idealistic hope for future social equality and peace. Also Soujiro and Shishio are specifically drawn as evil counterparts to Kenshin and Hiko Seijurou to show how the differing philosophies of their respective mentors had vastly different effects on their lives.
    • There's also Enishi Yukishiro as an Evil Counterpart to Kenshin, given that both of them received lasting marks from Tomoe's death (Kenshin got the second half of his cross-scar while Enishi's hair turned white from the trauma), but while that event motivated Kenshin to become The Atoner, Enishi went Ax Crazy.
  • Evil Weapon
  • Explosion Propulsion
  • Expressive Hair: Misao's braid; the other characters just get a few strands of misplaced hair while flustered. Chou claims that his hair stands straight up while angry, but Kenshin brutally shoots him down by saying that his hair is like that all the time anyway.
  • Expy: All over the place, as evidenced by Watsuki's notes:
    • The Shinsengumi: (Watsuki is a huge Shinsengumi fan) get them in Aoshi (Hijikata Toshizou), Sanosuke (Harada Sanosuke), Soujirou (Okita Souji), Kanryuu (Kanryuusai Takeda), and to some extent Shishio (Serizawa Kamo). Saito Hajime is just right out there.
    • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Tomoe (Ayanami Rei), Kamatari (Ikari Yui)
    • Fuji is the God-Soldier from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
    • Marvel Comics (Watsuki is a self-admitted Otaku of Stan Lee): Jin-E (Gambit), Kujiranami Hyōgo (Apocalypse), and Yatsume Mumyōi (Venom)
      • Unlike the above examples, which are mainly just visual expies, Arundo Akamatsu IS Omega Red. He has the same facial markings and method of attack.
      • Not to mention the name Houji is a Japanization of Forge from the X-Men, as Watsuki wanted a similar support character for the Juppongatana.
      • If memory serves correctly, Hyottoko is The Blob.
      • Han'nya has Wolverine's claws. They get broken, though, after only one fight.
      • Until the Jinchuu Arc, Aoshi has Gambit's trenchcoat.
      • Jumping over to Image Comics, Hiko got Spawn's cape.
    • Misao is a partial Expy of Kaoru as Watsuki felt he needed a Genki Girl to lighten the Darker and Edgier Kyoto Arc.
    • In the past before he got burned, Shishio was an Expy of Genjuro Kibagami from Samurai Shodown. You could tell was quite handsome and even had a dressing style similar to him.
      • Watsuki is a big Samurai Shodown fan, frequently writing about it in his manga notes. Kenshin himself even resembles Shizumaru from the same series as well. SNK returned the favor by creating many Expies of *his* characters in Last Blade. Moriya is a mix of Kenshin and Hiko, Washizuka is basically Shinsengumi-era Saito complete with all three variations of his Gatotsu attack, Mukuro resembles Shishio, Kagami USES several of Shishio's attacks, and Amano resembles a one-shot Yakuza villain from early in the series. (The guy with the pompadour Kenshin smashed through the roof with the hilt of his sword.) On top of this, Watsuki actually helped SNK design character Tokugawa Yoshitora for Samurai Shodown V, who wields both an outlandish number of swords and an equally outlandish hairstyle, just like Chou only far more heroic.
    • Enishi is an expy of Natsu from Kamijou Atsushi's SEX, plus glasses (though Natsu is actually blond).
  • Fastball Special: Sanosuke's tossed Yahiko on a few occasions so that the latter could lend a hand before Kenshin finished off all of the Mooks. (Yahiko, for his part, is not happy about being used as a projectile.)
    • Kenshin and Sano also pull off a pretty damn awesome variant in the Revenge Arc, with Kenshin executing a flying leap from Sano's fist to land the first blow.
    • Watsuki is an X-Men fan, so these are probably intentional evocations.
  • Fatal Family Photo: No photo involved, but Kiyosato Akira (Tomoe's fiance) talks about his engagement right before Battousai shows up to assassinate his party.
  • Faux Action Girl: Kaoru is supposedly an excellent swordswoman but is usually just a Damsel in Distress or a sideline observer. Sometimes she defeats a few mooks and once beat Elite Mook Kamatari. Justified in that she's Overshadowed by Awesome, but when even Kid Samurai Yahiko has a better combat record....
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: At the end most of the characters leave Tokyo to go on with their lives. Misao and Aoshi return to Kyoto. Sanosuke is forced to flee from Japan and become The Drifter. Megumi leaves to search for her family and only characters remaining are Kenshin, Kaoru and Yahiko.
  • Filler: Sadly, the overuse of filler episodes in the later seasons led to its eventual cancellation.
  • Final Battle: The Kenshin Gumi along with Aoshi, Misao and Saitou go to Enishi's island to rescue Kaoru. Once there, it's Aoshi, Yahiko, Sanosuke and Saitou vs. Enishi's four henchmen and, of course, Kenshin vs. Enishi.
  • Finger-Poke of Doom: Sano introduces himself with one of these. Anji has a fingerpoke version of the Futae no Kawami, an ability that can shatter rocks to fine dust, and teaches it to Sano.
  • Fingore: Houji has one fingernail torn out and tears out six more himself. Also, Sanosuke's hand is seen with the fingers... not quite... sticking out correctly after using the Futae no Kiwami too much.
  • Forced to Watch: Averted in the Jinchuu Arc since Enishi was unable to kill any young woman who resembled his sister in age and appearance, so he couldn't kill Kaoru in front of Kenshin as he originally planned. So instead he left the dummy doll for Kenshin to stare at, but Aoshi figured it out.
  • Foreign Exchange Student: According to Cho, the "sword hunter", this what Kamatari becomes after the Jupon Gattana disbands. Though truthfully it was because Cho lied to Kamatari, by saying Shishio had wanted the remaining Jupon Gattana to spread word of his deeds in case his plans failed. In reality, it was Cho's way of keeping Kamatari from killing him/herself. It's also implied that he/she was aware of it.
  • Foreshadowing: In one early story, Yahiko explains that he's started work at the Akabeko because he wants to buy a reverse blade sword like Kenshin has. After the Time Skip at the end of the series, Kenshin gives Yahiko his own sword.
  • Funbag Airbag: Variant: Yahiko once walked face-first into Sano's... waist.
  • Gainaxing: After being entirely absent for the first couple seasons of the anime, there's an incredibly blatant example from Misanagi during the "Black Knights" filler arc.
  • Gatling Good: Kanryuusai shows off his shiny new toy, a prototype gatling gun. ( He still loses, but it takes the Heroic Sacrifice of all of Aoshi's Elite Mooks.)
  • Gecko Ending: The anime series.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Gohei brothers once they were merged in the anime.
  • Genki Girl: Misao is very perky for a ninja. Kaoru starts like one and mellows out (somewhat) as the series progresses. The two still have moments together where they create Typhoons of Genki, however, to the general dismay of Kenshin, Sano and any other male in fifty yards.
  • Genre Shift: From Shonen to Seinen... particularly in the OVAs, which were free of both the slapstick comic relief and the more unrealistic Rule of Cool elements of the original.
    • The final arc of the series shifts from a historical fiction with Rule of Cool physics to straight up fantasy.
  • Gentle Giant: Fuji of the Juppongatana; Anji is not nearly as humongous, but he fits the trope as well until his horrible Freak-Out. He gets better after being defeated by Sano, though.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!:
    • Sano talks Megumi out of killing herself by grabbing her knife just as she was about to use it (ouch!) and reminding her that 1) the rest of the cast had almost died trying to rescue her and 2) her dead family would want her to keep on living.
    • Megumi delivers both a physical and verbal Bright Slap to Kaoru to talk her out of her deep blue funk.
    • It's more of a "how dare you leave me behind" punch, but Kenshin gets one from Sano in the Kyoto arc after they meet up again.
    • Basically, Sano's motivation to fight Anji is this.
    • Sano tries again after Kenshin's Heroic BSOD, but this time, it doesn't work. Tsubame is more successful, by reminding Kenshin that people still needed saving, like Yahiko. Oibore is the one who makes one last push.
    • Doesn't the time Kenshin punched himself in the face to get out of Battousai mode after a duel with Saitou count?
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Justified when the Meiji government offers the surviving members of the Juppongatana jobs in exchange for their freedom. All but two accept: one chooses being in jail, the other commits suicide.
  • Giant Waist Ribbon: worn by Aoshi and Misao in the Revenge arc, affectionately dubbed "Butt-Bows"
  • Girls' Night Out Episode: A filler episode was constructed in this manner when the women of the Kyoto branch of the Onibanwashu - but including Aoshi - came to Tokyo to fetch Misao. They all decided to go out on a day trip before they departed, with Kenshin and Aoshi staying behind at the doji and Yahiko and Sano trailing the girls to confirm that they were getting food without them.
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: Those Two Bad Guys, a pair of brothers Kenshin defeats in his debut chapter, brought back as recurring minor minions in the anime; the manga also lets them show up again during Sano's side-story where he meets up with his family and dealt with offscreen just as quickly.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Kenshin has an X-shaped scar on his cheek with a tragic backstory, some villains like Makoto Shishio are just disfigured one big scar.
  • Groin Attack: Yahiko, having been raised in a rough neighborhood, isn't averse to some very cheap shots. He even gives it a proper name -- "Curse on the Descendants"—later.
  • Guilt Complex: Kenshin, Kenshin, Kenshin. Tomoe's death, Enishi's insanity and everything he does as a result of that, his psycho enemies putting his Nakama in danger, Survivors Guilt after the attack when he was a little kid... these are just a few of the things he blames himself for.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Shishio explains his plans to Kenshin in great detail and can't help but make derogatory remarks about Kenshin's pacifism. Kenshin refuses to cave.
  • Have We Met?: At the end of the Jinchuu arc, Enishi and Oibore ( his father) run into each other in a hobo camp near Kyoto and both have a bout of Deja Vu, but neither thinks anything of it.
    • It's implied that they both realize who the other is, but neither seem to want to discuss it, so it's purposefully left ambiguous.
  • Heir to the Dojo: Kaoru.
  • Heroic BSOD: Kaoru falls apart after Kenshin leaves Tokyo to fight Shishio; later, Kenshin has an absolutely epic one when he thinks Kaoru died at the hands of Enishi
  • Heroic RROD: Sano breaks all of the bones in his hand executing his ultimate technique.
    • Villainous example: Shishio burns himself out, literally, at the end of the Kyoto Arc.
    • Don't forget the main hero. Since Hiten Mitsurugi wasn't meant to be practiced by wielders of Kenshin's body type, it was already strenuous enough on his body. Then when he mastered the final technique, the clock just began ticking right then and there until it was revealed in the last volume that Kenshin would no longer be able to use Hiten Mitsurugi.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Aoshi's men sacrifice themselves against Kanryuu's machine gun to keep Kanryuu from firing on Aoshi, after which Kanryuu runs out of ammunition. (In the anime, the gun jams due to a projectile from the hidden weapons specialist.)
  • He's Back: Kenshin revival from his Heroic BSOD after he found a reason to live again after Enishi's Jinchuu. And it's GLORIOUS.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Kenshin in the live action movie will be played by Takeru Satoh of Princess Princess D and Kamen Rider Den-O fame.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Noriko Hidaka, Playing Against Type (her most famous role is Akane Tendo of Ranma ½) as Soujirou.
  • Hidden Depths: Many characters, but most notably Yumi, who is introduced at the beginning of the Kyoto arc as literally nothing more than an accessory for Shishio, and by the end is a well-rounded Anti-Villain complete with backstory.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Shingetsu Village. Not so much hidden as it was erased from official maps due to it being taken over by Shishio.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: A conscious decision made by Misao's grandfather Okina, thus building for himself quite the support system out of his friends and neighbors in Kyoto.
  • Historical Domain Character: Saitō Hajime (1844-1915) was the captain of the Shinsengumi's third unit and later a police officer in Tokyo where he adopted the alias Fujita Gorō (a name he uses frequently in the series) and married one Takagi Tokio.
    • Also Okita Souji and other Shinsengumi members, Oukubo Toshimichi, etc.
  • Historical In-Joke: Lots, though one of the most famous is the appearance of Okubo Toshimichi, a man considered one of the founders of modern Japan. In real life, he was murdered by a group of extremists called the Ichiro clan. In Kenshin, he travels to Tokyo to warn the heroes about the rise of Shishio, and is killed by one of Shishio's men on the way home. The killer dumps the body on the side of the road, where the Ichiro Clan finds it. Sensing an easy way to become feared and respected, they tell everyone they killed him.
  • Honor Before Reason: The warriors of the Kenshin-Gumi and even Shishio of all people follow this trope to a tee.
  • Hot-Blooded: Yahiko, Sanosuke, his father Kamishimoemon Higashidane and Shishio who dies of literal Hot Blood
  • Horse Jump: Happens in a Filler episode when Kenshin catches up to a train being taken over by robbers by riding a horse over several docked boats and then making a spectacular leap onto the train. The horse earned the Fan Nickname "Super Horse".
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Most obviously Misao and Aoshi, as she barely comes up to his chest.
  • Iaijutsu Practitioner: Kenshin. Although an all-around Master Swordsman, he earned the nickname "Battousai" by being just that damn good at battoujutsu. Not only does he go out of his way to resheath his weapon against (nearly) all of his substantial adversaries, the ultimate technique of his swordsfighting style is a battoujutsu which is so powerful that, if blocked, it creates a small vacuum in the air.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Subverted - Saitou uses it this to bring out Kenshin's Super-Powered Evil Side, Kaoru tries to play it straight to bring Kenshin back and fails - and played straight - Kaoru brings back Kenshin's gentler side when he's about to kill Jin-e, Kenshin indirectly stops Aoshi from fighting to the death by mentioning how Misao cried when he (Kenshin) promised to bring Aoshi back and how he (Aoshi) was turning his four fallen comrades into demons by obsessively fighting like this.
  • Ill Girl: In the anime, both Sayo aka Magdaria and her mother have consumption, which translates into Incurable Cough of Death and, in Magdaria's case, Blood From the Mouth. Neither of them dies of illness: Mrs. Mutou sacrifices herself so her kids and her brother can escape and is shot by soldiers, Sayo takes a bullet for a friend of Kenshin who can save Shougo and their group and dies in Sano's arms.
  • Imagine Spot:
    • When Kenshin is late to return home after being dragged off to a gambling session with Sano, Yahiko suggests that he's either won big or lost big, then suggests that Kaoru shouldn't be surprised about him coming home in nothing but his underwear. In the manga, this is accompanied by a small visual of just that.
    • Kaoru gets very blushy when Megumi (jokingly) suggests that she should put Kenshin (who has a habit of disappearing) on a leash because she imagines this.
    • Saitou, master of mental associations, makes the "if Kaoru -> Tanuki and Megumi -> Fox, then Misao -> Weasel" connection in one; later, when Chou and Sanosuke are arguing, he imagines a broom shooing away an angry rooster.
    • Misao and Kenshin also get one when the hear that Saitou is married. "She must be some kind of Goddess!" Cue (in the anime) a visual sting of Saitou reclining on the statue of a Bodhisattva.
    • When Hiko finishes teaching Kenshin the Succession Technique, he declares Kenshin worthy of the Hiko name and cape. Both of them then imagine how Kenshin might look in it, and Kenshin decides that he'd rather not accept the passing of the torch after all.
    • A surprisingly naughty one happens in the anime when Kaoru imagines Kenshin proposing to her and then, um, well... the two of them are suddenly hidden by the bushes and then a flower falls off a nearby branch, complete with Kaoru crying out Kenshin's name passionately. (Cut to Kaoru who has passed out on the street from the sheer hotness of the mental image.)
    • One episode had Kaoru training a sumo wrestler. Sano wondered if she'd wear one of the sumo-wrestler loincloths. Kenshin, Yahiko, and Sano, all in a row, became very thoughtful as they shared a mental image of Kaoru in a loincloth and nothing else. Kaoru disabused them of the notion.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Anyone with a gun graduated. A particularly Egregious incident involves at least a dozen soldiers firing rifles at one villain and the shots being in a pattern that perfectly outlined him.
    • Subverted in one important case: Kanryu Takeda uses a Gatling gun to mow down all of the Oniwaban but Aoshi. This scene is probably the most important instance in the series.
  • Implacable Man: Shishio.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Okita, Takasugi, Magdaria, and Kenshin and Kaoru in the OVAs
  • Informed Attractiveness: Megumi isn't ugly by any means, but she's certainly not as pretty as the show makes her out to be.
  • Inspector Javert: Saitou. He doesn't doubt that Kenshin has changed... he is simply appalled by how "weak" the famous Battousai has become and wants him to revert to his old self.
    • But by the end of the series, he acknowledges that Kenshin's gone down a different path, and calls off the blood feud between them.
  • Ironic Echo: "A sword is a weapon. Kenjutsu the art of murder." Kenshin says this at the beginning of the series, but then immediately rejects it in favor of Kaoru's more idealistic vision; it's revealed that this is his mentor's philosophy, and he quotes it back to Kenshin to remind him that real life is a Crapsack World.
    • Later, Saitou remarks to himself: "A Shinsegumi is a Shinsengumi. A wolf is a wolf. A hitokiri is a hitokiri. Isn't that right... Battousai?" but revises this statement at the end of the series when he realizes that Kenshin is serious about that whole Thou Shalt Not Kill thing (to the point of stopping Saitou, and then Enishi, from killing a downed opponent).
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: This is the reason Kenshin sets off alone at the beginning of the Kyoto Arc.
  • It's Probably Nothing: Kenshin has a dream about fighting someone from the revolution, which causes him to be distracted all day. In order to try and quit being detracted he tries to dismiss it as nothing, right before finding Sanosuke who was attacked by the same fighter from his dream.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Tomoe and Megumi for Kenshin.
  • Jidai Geki: A Deconstruction that asks: "So what happens to all those Badass swordsmen after they've been outmoded by technology and a shift in societal mores?"[1]
  • Kid Samurai: Yahiko
  • Knife-Throwing Act: A filler episode had Kaoru attempt this, only to hit Sanosuke in the arm on her first try.
  • The Lady's Favour: Kaoru gives Kenshin her favorite ribbon before he leaves to fight Jin-e. When he comes back and returns it to her, she goes ballistic on him because he stained it with his blood.
  • Lethal Chef: Kaoru, by her own admission. Though she still doesn't like when someone else points it out.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Kenshin always wears a faded red (almost pink) kimono and a white hakama, Kaoru only dresses in kendo uniform or one of two or three kimonos (the yellow one, the blue one, and a red one), Megumi is always dressed up in her doctor attire, Misao has only two outfits, and so on.
    • Lampshaded when Misao tried to rob Kenshin. She's stopped short as she gets a good look at Kenshin's kimono, which is absolutely covered in seam lines where all the cuts it's taken throughout the series have sewn up. Misao then asks if Kenshin's wife left him.
  • The Load: Kaoru and Yahiko at times, especially in the early episodes, however, both are good fighters and hold their own far more often than they get kidnapped. It doesn't help that Kenshin's godlike swordsmanship makes them look weaker. Interestingly, Yahiko's character development in the later arcs of the manga center around his own perception of this applying to himself, and he pushes himself to almost dangerous extremes to prove he really can hold his own... against people twice his age or greater.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Houji triggers a Self-Destruct Mechanism after Shishio self-immolates.
  • Locked Into Strangeness: 12-years-old Enishi's black hair turned white after Tomoe's death.
  • Loved Ones Montage: Kenshin has a flash of his experiences (friends and enemies alike) just before learning his ultimate technique; Yahiko has a similar one later to reflect how much he'd unconsciously picked up just by witnessing the same set of events.
  • Love Epiphany: The others are aware that Kaoru has more than platonic feelings for Kenshin by the Jin-E arc, but it doesn't hit Kaoru herself big time until the beginning of the Kyoto Arc. This, combined with Kenshin leaving for Kyoto without a backwards glance is enough to give her a Heroic BSOD.
  • Love Redeems: Tomoe's influence changes Kenshin drastically, and leads him to renounce killing after the war.
  • Lying Creator: Watsuki has admitted (in the sidebars titled "Watsuki is a liar"), among other things, that "rurouni" is a word he made up.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The first opening, "Sobakasu" (lit. Freckles), a bouncy, upbeat tune with lyrics about a bitter breakup.
  • Mad Artist: Gein. He considers Kaoru's "corpse" to be a work of art, and is killed in the process of attempting to retrieve it.
  • Made of Iron: While the series appears to have high standards for what counts as a "crippling blow", this is one of Sanosuke's distinguishing traits. As early as his introduction mini-arc, a man hits him in the face with an iron ring: not only Sanosuke doesn't even flinch, the man breaks his finger in the attempt.
    • Shishio manages to survive an assassination attempt, getting his "corpse" lit on fire (though not without massive scarring), a ridiculous amount of punishment from Kenshin (being smacked around with a supposedly nonlethal weapon still hurts), AND a punch to the face by the aforementioned Sanosuke, shattering all the bones in his hand (Sano had already injured it in a previous battle, but still).
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Hannya (though he's not so much malevolent as fiercly loyal to Aoshi) and Gein.
  • Marionette Master: Gein, who uses his puppets like a Steampunk Humongous Mecha.
  • Market-Based Title: Known as "Samurai X" in parts of the English-speaking world. The "X" is presumably Kenshin's scar, but he is not a samurai.
  • Martial Pacifist: Kenshin.
  • Martyr Without a Cause: Kenshin will always run off to save the day even if it means he will most likely get killed no matter what sacrifice he is forced to make or forces others to make (i.e. their relationship with him). Getting over this (partially) is a major plot point midway through the series.
  • Master Poisoner: Megumi Takani could arguably be considered this in her Dark and Troubled Past. She was supposed to be training in medicine, and though she gained medical knowledge, she ended up being used to produce opium. She knows all about different poisons, but now cures them (among other roles befitting The Medic).
  • Mauve Shirt: Cho initially appears to be a throwaway villain, but ends up becoming a supporting character for the remainder of the series.
  • May–December Romance: Kenshin and Kaoru (he's 28 and she's 17) and Aoshi and Misao (he's 26 and she's 16).
    • In the latter case, in the manga, to Aoshi's credit, he finds the implications a little unsettling and makes it clear to Misao that he won't consider it until some time passes. In the anime though, Kenshin convinces him to start looking at Misao as a woman by the end of the Kyto arc.
      • In the former case, some time does pass before things get really serious between the two, although the mondo age gap does remain.
  • Meet the New Boss: The reason Kenshin joind the Meiji rebellion in the first place was that he thought the world would be genuinely changed for the better by the loss of the Tokugawa Shogunate. But once the war was won, the ultimate result was the trading of one sort of oppression for another and nothing was ultimately changed, as Hiko warned would be the case. It's one of the major reasons Kenshin embraces his idealism so fiercely.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: The training in Kenshin and Hiko's sword-style ends with the apprentice killing the master in order to learn the final technique. This trope is actually an intentional part of the job. Oddly, Hiko manages to survive anyway, though his own master wasn't so lucky.
  • Mirror Match: Aoshi runs into a guy who can observe and instantly copy moves. He proves that the original is superior via a standing kick to the Mook's face.
  • The Mole: Iwanbou in the manga, who turns out to be Gein, spying on Kenshin for Enishi.
  • Mood Whiplash: The manga very often swings between deadly serious battles to slapstick humor; the anime also manages this pretty well. At times it's used as a brilliant source of dramatic tension.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: While it is, strictly speaking, a shonen adventure series, the hugely varied cast, fascinating villains, interesting politics and backstories (many of which were at least historically based and many of which were startlingly accurate), and beautiful guys AND girls gave it appeal across nearly every single age and gender group in Japan, making it far and away one of the banner manga/anime series of the 90's. It was even exported to dozens of other countries with great success, particularly in Asia, Oceania, and America (for example, Australia & New Zealand ran the full Sony dub several times over, nearly every Asian country ran the show in various forms at least once, and the series gained considerable success on Toonami in America).
  • Mundane Utility - in an anime filler episode, the protagonist at one point finds himself attending a fancy dinner party, so he picks up a knife and performs the Hiten Mitsurugui Rui (Steak style) to cut up a steak.
    • This trope is also subverted when he goes looking for the heir of a famous swordmaker: he uses one of the man's kitchen knives to slice up a daikon in the most What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome? way possible, and then reveals that he was testing the blade.
  • Murderers Are Rapists: Though the notion of rape is largely averted in the series altogether (since Mooks just get to the killing part that their bosses order), only one threat of rape is made in the anime, when Gohei makes implications that he and his men would rape Kaoru before killing her. But Kenshin's there to save her.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: While Kenshin's enemies tend to be bigger and bulkier than him (to their detriment), his mentor Hiko dramatically removes his (hideously heavy) cape to reveal a set of well-built chest and abdominal muscles; Kenshin himself feels intimidated, as he begins to realize for the first time this is the kind of physique it takes to master the school of swordsmanship Hiko teaches. Fully subverted in the final chapters of the manga, where it's revealed that the repeated use of the Hiten techniques put so much strain on Kenshin's small and lithe body that in a few years he would be too weak to his sword style.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Quite a few times.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Yahiko hates being called "Yahiko-chan".
  • Mythology Gag: At the very end of the Reflection OVA, Kenji ends up with a girl named Chizuru. Originally, she appeared in one of Watsuki's Rurouni pilots as a Damsel in Distress that Kenshin saves.
  • Nakama: As early as Megumi's introduction, she was already noticing the family dynamic among Kenshin and his friends; Yahiko gives the group their In-Universe nickname: "the Kenshin-gumi". Later in the series Aoshi and Misao join the group.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Shishio's ideology is very similar to that of World War 2 era Japan. He believes in driving Westerners out of East Asia by brutally uniting East Asia under Japanese rule.
  • Neutral Female: Several of the women in the series just stand around and talk about the fight.
  • Ninja: The Oniwabanshuu, especially Hanya, Shinomori Aoshi, and Makimachi Misao.
  • No Sense of Direction: Sanosuke is INFAMOUS for this. He even manages to get himself lost while running around with a compass.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: When Saitou very casually drops the fact that he's married (and Kenshin and Misao react with appropriate shock), a sidebar notes: "This is historical truth."
  • Now Which One Was That Voice?: The English actors are credited, but the roles they play aren't given with them.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Kenshin and Oibore.
    • Also Saitou in his introduction arc.
  • Odd Couple: Sanosuke teaming up with either Megumi and/or Saitou; Kenshin also remarks how unlikely it was that he, a former Imperialist, and Sano, an warrior for the Shogunate, can be trusted teammates.
    • Sanosuke and Megumi do this often enough to have a Takahashi Couple-esque relationship - their image song, "2 Of A Kind!", could just as easily been sung by Ranma and Akane.
  • Older Than They Look: Kenshin is 28 years old, while his master Hiko is a whopping (by manga standards) 43 - but you'd never guess it. Lampshaded by Yahiko and Misao, who wonder if the Hiten Mitsurugi style is the fountain of youth.
    • Also pointed out in the End-of-Volume specials in volumes 1 and 4 of the manga, where characters thinking on Kenshin after he left come to the conclusion that if he really was a hero of the Meiji Restoration, he'd have to be at least 30...
    • Misao is a minor example; most characters assume she's around 12, but she's 16.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Kaoru
  • Overtook the Manga: A really grating example, as it meant that ratings declined post-Shishio and the show didn't remain on the air long enough to ever get to the Jinchuu/Enishi arc, which drives a lot of fans mad since that's the real culmination of Kenshin's entire plot arc. The only material ever animated from this part has been the flashback to Kenshin's time with Tomoe, and that was in an OVA produced years after the show was canceled.
  • Papa Wolf: Kenshin, Anji.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Kenshin and Karou all but adopt Yahiko. This is best emphasized by their reaction, when Yahiko runs away to join the rebels. In the Distant Final he inherits Kaoru's fighting style and Kenshin's reserve blade.
    • Hiko saves young Shinta, takes him in and teaches him everythig he knows (or at least tries, Kenshin is too naive and headstrong to listen sometimes).
    • Tae pretty much adopts Tsubame after she's free from her abusive caretaker.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: After Tomoe's death Kenshin goes through her diary and figures out that the man he killed months earlier was Tomoe's fiance. Bummer.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Kenshin is identified by his cross-scar, and the backstory behind it is what forms the kind of person he is today.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Kenshin; Yahiko to an extent.
  • Pirate Girl: The Filler character Shura.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: The battle against Enishi's second-in-command's bodyguards; subverted in that it's the bodyguards who pick their opponents based on each of their specialties.
  • Promotion to Parent: Tomoe.
    • Also, as refered to above, Anji to the orphans he looked after.
  • Psycho for Hire: Gein, who only wants to perfect his techniques.
  • Punny Name: Kamatari, the Great Scythe (O-Kama) of the Ten Swords, who also happens to be a homosexual transvestite (okama). (Although technically, his weapon is more of a dai-kusarigama.)
  • Puppy Love: In-Universe, Yahiko and Tsubame - until the series epilogue, when they are all grown up and officially dating.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Juppongatana, Aoshi's Oniwabanshuu.
  • Razor Wind: Raijuuta's specialty attack; Hiko also is capable of doing this with his incredibly heavy cape removed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Every time Kenshin fights an opponent, the opponent gives him this, mainly for being on the Imperialists' side. But Kenshin always manages to prove them wrong, or at least prove that he may not agree with them but doesn't suck like they say he does.
    • Saito delivers a particularly incisive and crushing one of these to Usui during their fight.
  • Rebus Bubble: Courtesy of Saito and his nicknaming deductions.
    • If Megumi = fox and Kaoru = racoon dog, then Misao = weasel
  • Reckless Pacifist: Kenshin, when he's not in a flashback of his Battosai-years or going into Battosai mode.
  • Recognition Failure: As a Running Gag, whenever a politician (often a Historical Domain Character) appears, Yahiko has no idea who they are.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Most of Shishio's surviving minions are offered jobs with the Japanese government in exchange for clemency.
  • Redemption Quest
  • Redemption Earns Life: One of the most prominent themes of the series. Thus....
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The first time we truly see Kenshin in full-tilt Hitokiri Battousai mode in the anime, his usual deep-blue eyes turn a bright burning red.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Except to Sano (who takes the Red Oni role all the time, causing Kenshin to be Blue in contrast), Kenshin plays Red Oni to most of his rivals.
  • Reliable Traitor: Gein.
  • Revenge: Enishi Yukishiro; almost all his Mooks all have grudges against Kenshin in one form or another.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Or at least a variant of it, involving associated musicians. L'arc en Ciel's "Fourth Avenue Cafe" was used as the fourth ending song for four episodes, but when the band's former drummer got busted for drugs, the resulting controversy caused the producers to pull the song and switch back to the third ending for another seven episodes.
  • Samurai: Myojin Yahiko, apparently a Tokyo samurai, and Saitou Hajime.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Shura the leader of the pirates in episode 25
  • The Scapegoat: Sano's mentor Shouzo Sagara was executed by the Meiji government when it became clear that part of their original platform (equality for all classes) was, for the time being, unattainable.
  • Scars Are Forever: Kenshin's scar, which only starts fading in the post-series epilogue.
  • Second Love: Kenshin ending up with Kaoru, and then Kenshin himself being Tomoe's second love.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Soujirou killed his abusive stepsiblings in self-defense. Enishi killed his adoptive family For the Evulz.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Yumi's death doesn't actually help Shishio at all, since he starts burning up almost immediately after that.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Kenshin and Sano
  • Serrated Blade of Pain: Shishio Makoto wields a finely serrated sword that never dulls. Also doubles as Flaming Sword.
  • Sexy Mentor: Hiko Seijuro. Forty-three, my ass...
  • The Shinsengumi: All of them make cameo appearances, and Saitou Hajime is further raised to Memetic Badass levels.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Watsuki is an unabashed fan of Marvel Comics and he includes references in the form of characters resembling famous Marvelites (see above).
    • When Misao is trying to make Aoshi smile, she hot-bloodedly declares she will use the work of Japanese comedy troupe Yoshimoto Kogyo as a guide. This naturally confuses Okina, as Yoshimoto Kogyo didn't come into existence until the 20th century.
    • Yahiko and Tsubame are named after rail lines on the Tokyo subway.
    • When Sano, Saitou, and Kenshin race to the docks to prevent Shishio's plot to destroy the government, Sano shouts the title of an old Jidai Geki television series.
    • Kaoru has rained (harmless, of course) blows on Kenshin to the sound effects of ATATATATATA and ORAORAORAORA.
    • Gein once left a bomb decorated with the Straw Hat Logo. (One Piece creator Eiichirō Oda served as Watsuki's assistant before breaking out on his own.)
    • In one of the filler episodes, Kaoru gives Sano and Yahiko a Megaton Punch. As they're flailing through the air, the input for a fighting game move appears in the corner. Specifically, it looks like the input of a King of Fighters Desperation Move.
      • Her arm also becomes rather more muscular and gains an anchor-shaped tattoo like a certain spinach-eating sailor.
  • Shown Their Work: Watsuki was very meticulous about historical accuracy in this series at any point where outright insanity wasn't just cooler. Many characters are based on historical figures, including Kenshin himself, and there are even plenty of references to actual events. Perhaps this is why some of his later work more or less runs on the aforementioned outright insanity.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Sano finds out about what happened to his mother at one of these. He prays to it under the guise of wanting to eat dinner faster.
    • Hiko meets Kenshin after rescuing him from bandits to find that Kenshin has buried not only the bandits, but the slavers who were traveling with him, and especially raised three memorial stones for a trio of women who died trying to protect him.
  • Shrinking Violet: Tsubame (even with a purple kimono!). She grows out of it a little by the end of the series.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Battousai's identity is so secret, it became easy for hoodlums to pretend they were he.
  • Sign of the Apocalypse: Karou... cooking.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids: Saitou's stance on Kenshin's views: namely, that not killing the bad guys immediately allows them to escape and perform greater evil, and that trying to teach them a better way is a risk not worth taking.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: Kenshin's old master Hiko Seijuuro, whose training techniques seem to center around "beat Kenshin silly with the Technique of the Day, then have Kenshin attempt the same".
  • Sitting on the Roof
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Level 4. Most of the girls in the series are supposedly competent action girls, but its been shown that the guys take the limelight while the girls fall in action.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The series itself is on the Idealistic side, but most of Kenshin's opponents (and Kenshin himself to some extent) are on the Cynical side.
    • In his debut, Kenshin acknowledges that Kaoru's wide-eyed idealism doesn't mesh with reality, but he prefers her version (as he had been much more idealistic in his youth).
    • Watsuki himself has said that the series ended the way it did specifically because it was a shonen series.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Kenshin in the pilot chapter and during the fight with Saitou; Yumi, durong her death scene.
  • Smug Snake: Raijuuta starts off as a hulking, manipulative serial dojo smasher who permanently cripples his own student For the Evulz to a broken shell of a man crying and begging for mercy as soon as Kenshin defeats his supposedly invincible technique.
  • Snow Means Death: In the fourth OVA, Tomoe dies in the snow.
    • Variant in Seishouhen: Kenshin dies among a shower of snowflake-like cherry blossoms.
  • The So-Called Coward: Plenty of people throughout the manga attribute Kenshin's pacifism to this. And usually they learn that this is not at all the case.
  • Social Darwinist: Shishio and Soujiro.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil
  • Split-Second Blade Spam: The Kuzuryusen technique, which utilizes Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu's signature God-Speed to launch 8 slashes and one stab with such speed that they all appear to be simultaneous for the human eye, making the attack unblockable and undodgeable unless you counter it with the same technique, and you possess equal or greater muscular strength and body weight than your opponent (the strength of each strike depends on both factors). The sole exception is being a Shukuchi-user, like Seta Soujirou (see below under the Juppongatana).
  • Story-Breaker Power: Hiko Seijuro. Word of God states that he is essentially invincible in battle, which is why he doesn't show up often. When he does fight, it's pretty much a Curb Stomp Battle.
  • Street Urchin: Yahiko starts out as this.
  • Stuffed Into the Fridge: Almost Played straight and everything. The "note" that is left behind by Enishi is the scent of plum blossoms that his sister loved so much, that would lead Kenshin to the brutally murdered corpse of Kaoru that is pinned to the wall in a pool of her own blood, with an x-shaped scar carved into her cheek. The thing is, of course, she's not actually dead and that's just an incredibly elaborate doll. Kaoru is still effectively treated like this in a meta way, though, since she barely impacts the plot at all after this.
  • Super-Powered Evil Side: At certain points in the series, Kenshin's murderous "Battousai" side, which he tries very hard to suppress, comes to the surface - usually when a villain does something truly unforgivable, resulting in Kenshin getting Eyes of Gold and going completely berserk. Less frequent as the series progresses, and completely gone after Kenshin learns his ultimate technique.
  • The Sweat Drop
  • Sword Lines
  • Take That Me: Just like Watsuki, Kenshin has terrible handwriting. Yahiko even points this out.
  • Take Our Word for It: Since nobody knew what Kenshin's succession technique actually looked like until the battle against Kyoto Arc Big Bad Shishio, previous uses of it in the anime were dealt with via a Discretion Shot of an iris-out combined with a lens flare.
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky: Saitou, Aoshi, and Hiko Seijirou are literal versions; Kenshin is a short, red-headed version, but just as snarky (at least in Battousai mode).
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Squeezing out speeches mid-fight means that you don't necessarily need the Hiten Mitsurugi style to achieve god-like speed.
    • During Saitou's fight with Usui, they jump and meet each other in midair. Saitou tries to use a stab, but Usui deflects it with his shield. In between deflection and counterattack, while still in midair, Usui gets off a couple lines about how round his shield is.
  • Talk to the Fist: During his second battle with Enishi, Kenshin attempts a second Kuzu Ryu Sen. He's only able to get the "Kuzu" before taking a palm to the face.
  • Team Mom: Megumi cooks, works as a doctor, keeps the peace and calm among Kenshin's group, and even deals more than one Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!.
  • Technical Pacifist: Kenshin, because he has made a vow as part of his self-induced atonement.
  • Ten-Minute Retirement: When Kenshin comes out of the worst of his Heroic BSOD he falls into this. He drifts into a village of wanderers and simply stares at the ground with Dull Eyes of Unhappiness. He even chains his sword so that he can no longer draw it.
  • That's What I Would Do: Shishio wonders out loud if this is the reason Kenshin figured out his nefarious plot so quickly.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: Kaoru is The Mother/The Wife, both Misao and Tsubame are The Child, Megumi is both The Mother and the Seductress.
  • They're Called Personal Issues For A Reason: Kaoru is okay with Kenshin not talking about himself, and it takes the Revenge Arc for him to open up.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: All the time, for different characters/opponents
  • Tiger Versus Dragon: Kenshin and his master are repeatedly given dragon motifs. Most of their fighting style's moves have the word Dragon in the name. Later on, the final Big Bad Enishi shows up... and is given tiger motifs.
  • Time to Unlock More True Potential: It's a Shonen series, of course it's going to happen once per arc.
  • Tone Shift: The shift in tone between the first and second seasons of the anime is noticeable; the shift in tone between the anime and the OVAs is massive, quite possibly crossing over into Demographic Shift.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Yahiko in the Distant Finale and Sano in Reflections, if his longer hair and nice proto-beard are any indication.
    • Sano took an in-series level during the Kyoto arc; Anji, who trained him, notes this to himself when watching Sano leave.
  • Toonami: The anime was long a staple of the programming block, and helped introduce an entire generation of American children to anime.
  • Tragic Hero: Kenshin's backstory involving his first wife Tomoe
  • Training from Hell: Kenshin underwent one of these to learn his ultimate technique.
    • Yahiko's training is less hellish, but still fairly brutal (thousands of repetitions of the moves necessary for the succession technique so that he could operate purely on muscle memory).
    • Sano, on the other hand, used up all the rocks in the area he was training to learn the Futae no Kawami, and Anji threatened to kill him if he hasn't figured it out by the end of the week. Sano suggested that to Anji, because he wanted to show him that he was serious about the learning the technique.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Enishi is leader of a massive Chinese crime syndicate.
  • Tsundere: Kaoru, who is largely tsun around Kenshin and Yahiko especially, but fairly sweet otherwise. Lampshaded in her Image Song called "It's not that I like you!".
  • Twinkle Toes Samurai: Kenshin and Soujiro. Often, they move too fast to see, but their tiny little footsteps advancing at a slow pace are the only indication something is approaching.
  • Verbal Tic: Kenshin speaks using very archaic humble verbiage, referring to himself as "sessha" (This Lowly One), more or less, using the exclamation "oro" to express surprise, and ending his sentences with "de gozaru".
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Fictional characters and events get inserted into the early Meiji years.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Soujirou during the Kyoto arc, when Kenshin's words start to get to him and clash with what Shishio Makoto taught him as well as reliving the horrible events from his past. Shishio after being hit with the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki and go over his time limt of 15 minutes in battle. Also Enshi in the Revenge arc, in his second fight against Kenshin. When the image of his dead sis doesn't smile for him anymore, he all but loses the will to fight and can only resort to pounding the ground and screaming at Kenshin.
  • Villainous Crossdresser: Honjo Kamatari, Otowa Hyako.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Sano, who wears an open jacket and sports bandages around his torso
  • Walking the Earth: Kenshin before the beginning of the series. Also Soujirou at the end of the Kyoto arc, and later Sano leaves Japan after attacking an Ishin Shishi who was hurting his family).
    • Decontructed in the season 3 premiere, where the focus is on the people Kenshin left behind.
  • Warrior Therapist: Kenshin and many others.
  • Weak but Skilled: Kenshin.
  • Wham! Episode: Enishi gets to defeat Kenshin and (apparently) brutally murders Kaoru.
  • What Could Have Been: Rurouni Kenshin had two spiritual predecessors in which Watsuki tested the waters: a short story called "Sengoku no Mikazuki" (the New Moon over the Warring States) about a swordmaster named Hiko Seijurou (presumably the first) who meets a young deserter named Isshinta and regains the will to fight; and a true pilot chapter in which Megumi (a rather weak-willed Yamato Nadeshiko barely holding the family together), Kaoru (a tomboy Tsundere serving as the acting dojo-master), and Yahiko (a brat of a kid who feels like he has to be the man of the family since his father died) are siblings. There's also a third proto-story of Kenshin meeting Damsel in Distress Chizuru, who gifts him a ribbon to tie his hair back up when he loses his original ponytail tie in a fight.
    • Chizuru lives on in cameo form at the end of the controversial second OVA, as the girlfriend of Kenshin and Kaoru's son Kenji.
    • Watsuki mentioned in his notes his concept for a fourth arc of the story - which would revolve around Kenji competing against Yahiko and Tsubame's son to inherit the reverse blade. Interestingly, Kenji Himura would most likely been the antagonist of the arc, from what Watsuki had stated about his concept. That, plus the fact that the story would have been set in the beginning of Japan's move towards nationalism and militarization makes one wonder what the story would have looked like...
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Kenshin's scar is a very blatant, and very literal, reference to the English idiom of "his cross to bear", complete with religious symbolism. Also, Shishio insists he is "chosen by the age" to lead, and is only defeated by time itself, when he insists on fighting Kenshin too long, and his damaged body, unable to sweat, literally catches on fire.
  • What If: The series serves as sort of a historical one: what if, instead of going to prison and getting executed, Himura Kenshin[2] began to wander Japan after the Bakumatsu to try and atone for all the death he caused? And what if he eventually had to face down his past, personified in Udo Jin-e,[3] Saito Hajime, Shishio Makoto[4] and the brother of his wife?
    • Alternately, what if Okubo Toshimichi's assassination was actually the responsibility of an anarchist conspiracy group, and the band of disgruntled ex-samurai merely took credit for it?
  • The Worf Effect: Sanosuke
  • World of Badass
  • World of Cardboard Speech: Lots of these, especially from Kenshin.
  • Worthy Opponent: Saitou Hajime, Shinomori Aoshi, and even Shishio fits this trope to some extent.
  • Written by the Winners: A major theme deals with what it's like to be on the wrong side of history. Saitou fought on the losing side of the revolution and has been forced to watch his country be taken over by the people who killed his comrades. Kenshin fought on the winning side but now questions if he did the right thing.
  • X Marks the Hero: Kenshin's basically the poster child of this. The cross-shaped scar is associated with him so utterly that other characters with this scar are regularly accused to ripping the idea from him, even if they predate him by years. Unlike many examples, though, Kenshin's scar is from two separate incidents.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Tsubame will likely be one when she grows up; she's still a flowder bud in the main narrative. Tomoe is described as 'elegant and educated' and at the time was arranging flowers. adult Kaoru in both the Where Are They Now? Epilogue and the second OAV could also count.
    • Tomoe is arguably a deconstruction, since her reserved and soft-spoken behavior caused her a huge problem: not being able to show her love for her boyfriend Kiyosato, who then went off to Tokyo to make a name for himself and make her happier once he was famous. And as we know, he ended up dead under Kenshin's blade.
  • You Fail Physics Forever: Given the amount of realism that went into the historical setting, the series's highly Egregious case of Anime Physics can be quite jarring. Then again, being a Shonen Jump series, it does operate on Rule of Cool.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Lampshaded. While a couple main characters' main hair is mildly spiky it never becomes noticeably unrealistic, and Kenshin's unusual hair color is implied to be because he is possibly of Ainu (or perhaps Dutch) descent. This is actually averted in the live action movie, in which Kenshin has more realistic looking dark reddish-brown hair of the sort that an ethnic Japanese would actually have.
  • You Make Me Sic: No matter how serious the time is, Kenshin's friends always take note of his poor handwriting skills before actually reading whatever important message they receive from him.
  • You Taste Delicious: Shishio bites a chunk of flesh out of Kenshin to demonstrate that he's dead serious about his philosophy: The weak are food for the strong. He claims that Kenshin tastes terrible, though.
  • Zen Survivor: Oibore. Kenshin transitions from Shell-Shocked Veteran to this, eventually. He developed his own philosophy about fighting and struggle and such.

Notes

  1. The surprisingly accurate answer, of course, is that "a lot of them were bored as hell and this was not a particularly safe period to live in." It never got quite this epic in real life, but it was still pretty brutal at times.
  2. AKA Kawakami Gensai
  3. Okada Izo
  4. AKA Kirino Toshiaki