Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan
Also Known As: RK, RuroKen, Kenshin
Genre: Action/Drama
Length: 28 Volumes
Allegiance: Shueisha Ltd./Viz Communications
Mangaka: Watsuki Nobuhiro
Vintage: 1994-1999
Intelligence Agency Report by: Djudge
The violence of the Bakumatsu produced a legend so endearing that his name strikes fear in the hearts of men even years into the Meiji emperor’s rule. The infamous Hitokiri Battousai was a swordsman of amazing caliber whom single-handedly cut open the path to victory for the revolutionary Ishin Shishi movement. However after final victory over the Tokugawa Shogunate was attained, the legendary assassin disappeared into the shadows of time. In order to atone for the unspeakable crimes that he committed under the name of Battousai, Himura Kenshin, now a wandering rurouni, takes up a new crusade: to save as many innocent individuals as he can without ever taking another life.

Research Agent Report by: Djudge
Plot
Characters
Impact
Visual
9.50
9.25
9.50
9.25
Overall 9.50
(not an average)
Watsuki Nobuhiro’s debut title, Rurouni Kenshin, stands as one of the greatest manga hits of the past decade. This samurai classic conjured a large following as the result of a great combination of inspired historical research, captivating writing, and sharp artwork. Spanning twenty-eight volumes in length, Kenshin serves as a true exercise in shounen manga perfection and continues to attract new members to its considerable fanbase. 

The artwork in Rurouni Kenshin, like in a number of other titles, undergoes a subtle evolution in the time between its first and last chapter. Yet, no matter how the scenes’ themes change, crisp, vivid lines are always part of the pages’ dominant impression. Watsuki’s careful attention to page cleanliness are an asset that goes unappreciated in a genre where the mangaka is regularly rushed to put out chapters that will include fast-paced fight scenes. Thanks to “Wakkie” and his staff’s considerable effort to preserve detail, we are treated with a manga whose pages never seem to get “tired” or inadequate. In every panel we see a great level of dedication that only serves to bolster the other admirable qualities of this piece. Another item in the artwork department that serves as to benefit the series is the character design. The main cast is overall varied to a great degree and a lot of unique body shapes are crafted throughout the volumes. By displacing this type of monotony in the artwork, Kenshin’s characters gain an additional dimension aside from the ones provided by the plot writing. 

Rurouni Kenshin’s greatest asset by far has to be its seamless integration of history and fiction. Reading the story, particularly the manga’s excellent middle installments, reveals just how much hard research went into the formation of the story. Interspersed in the chapters are references to real events, places, and people. Some of these historical elements even play an active role in facilitating plot development. From this perspective, RK is nearly as much a snapshot of Japanese history as it is a shounen manga. Yet sadly, this title is not without its flaws. Although a good number of the main characters are fleshed-out to be seen as individuals that we can care about, others are shelved a bit prematurely. The majority of these characters are villains, yet some of the more major ones had a backstory introduced for them that later actually set up additional room for development. This opening was never acted upon to the dismay of series fans. This small setback unfortunately occurs for certain characters that prevent the reader from attaining complete comfort on this aspect of the manga. 

All in all, Rurouni Kenshin serves as a great manga for beginning enthusiasts to start with. Its enthralling artwork keeps eyes glued on every single panel, page by page. Its story, both easy to read and comprehend, is one that will likely stay in readers’ hearts forever. The bottom line: fact and imagination establish a symbiotic relationship in one of the best historical fiction pieces in shounen manga today.