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¤*] Story Intro [¤*

The story goes like this:
1879, eleven years after the start of the Meiji Period in Japan. Since the beginning of the Meiji, Himura Kenshin has been wandering throughout all of Japan, attempting to atone for his sins during the war (bakumatsu) that ended with the Meiji Restoration. Then, one fateful night, he is walking in Tokyo, and suddenly a girl calls for him to stop using the name he was known by during the bakumatsu, "Hitokiri Battousai." Kenshin turned around and saw Kamiya Kaoru...

And now, the main character:





Himura Kenshin
Age 28 (but doesn't look it at all). He has red hair gathered in a ponytail and a scar like a cross on his left cheek which is how people can tell he is the infamous "Hitokiri Battousai" (roughly translates to something like Drawn Sword Assassin). He got this name during the upheaval before the Meiji Restoration, when his fighting skills were unsurpassed. What his reputation as Battousai doesn't include is his very short height and slightly feminine voice, which often makes his opponents underestimate him. After the start of Meiji in the 1800s, he gave up his assassin ways and became a "rurouni" or wanderer, helping people to atone for all the people he had killed. He carries a "sakabatou" (a sword with the blade reversed so he cannot kill his opponents, only knock them unconscious) because he has vowed to himself never to kill again and uses the sword technique called "Hitenmitsuryugiryuu" ("Strike of the Flying Dragon" Bill claims, "Flying Heaven's Honourable Sword Flow" as said by Owain). He is often chased by police for carrying a sword, were outlawed during the Meiji. Kenshin has a very gentle and polite nature (refering to himself as "sessha" which roughly means "this clumsy person", and using the polite verb "gozaru" at the end of his sentences) with a strong sense of right and wrong. One of his common sayings is "Oro" a version of "Ara". However, this nature could be a mask for his violent hitokiri nature which seems to resurface whenever he is faced with a tough opponent or other extreme circumstances. In these instances he seems almost superhuman in his fighting ability, almost as if he were a different person, and also reverts to regular casual speech, using "ore" instead of "sessha" is one of the ways Kaoru realized Kenshin was not his normal easygoing self during the fight with Jine. I think his struggling to deal with his hitokiri nature makes him the most interesting character of the series which I guess is why I am writing so much about him in this description.


Japan during Kenshin's lifetime:
Obviously, this isn't going to be a huge lecture on the history of Japan or anything, but I'll give it my best shot.

Before the Meiji Restoration, Japan was ruled by a military government called a bakufu, or tent government, that claimed to rule in the name of the Emperor, but was for all intents and purposes calling the shots. The bakufu was headed by a shogun. Japan was then split up into many provinces, each ruled by a daimyo, or warlord, who had many samurai under him who defended his land for him. Also, when necessary, the shogun could call on the daimyo to gather their samurai to fight for the shogun. Since the Kamakura Period, this form of government using military authority to exercise its power, was in effect. However, in the Tokugawa Period, some I-forget-how-many-hundreds-of-years-after, the bakufu had become weak. The rigid class structure of the Tokugawa, with the shogun, daimyo, and samurai in the top class, then peasants and farmers, then artisan, and then merchants, was no longer stable. Daimyo and samurai were becoming poorer, while peasants and merchants became richer. Not only was the top level of society losing power and becoming more indebted to the lower richer classes, but the West (by "West", I mean the US, Britain, Germany, France, and just about every other major European country) was trying to break open Japan, which had remained in seclusion from the outside for most of the Tokugawa Period. With the coming of the West, the weakness of the government became evident. Some samurai became indignant that the bakufu was forced to make unequal treaties with parties from the West. They became known as "Shishi", those samurai who wanted to make Japan stronger and more independent to keep the West from dominating them. Two provinces in the lower part of mainland Japan, Satsuma and Choushuu which had nearly one-third population of samurai in each, decided to form an alliance and march on Edo (later known as Tokyo) after the government asked the daimyo for their opinion on how to deal with the West. Daimyo and samurai alike had taken this appeal as a major sign of weakness on the part of the government. But the first march was unsuccessful. The bakufu was able to call enough daimyo and samurai to its side to repel the attack. But when this battle was over, the government failed to adequately reward those who came to its aid--it had no money, lands, or goods enough to fully do so. Therefore, when Satsuma and Choushuu attacked again, more were on their side than on the side of the bakufu. And so the Meiji Restoration took place, with the samurai from Satsuma and Choushuu now in control of Japan. They were mostly concerned with improving the sad state of Japan, she was badly in need of modernization in order to compete with the West on their own ground and giving the Japanese a sense of national unity and identity.

Kenshin had been on the side of Satsuma and Choushuu, an "Ishinshishi", fighting to bring on a new era in Japan. He also knew the Meiji oligarchs, such as Oukubo Toshimichi, very well. One of the first things the new heads of the government did was abolish the four-tier class system; everyone was made equal in society. Daimyo became governors of their provinces, now turned into prefectures. The samurai no longer received stipends from the daimyos and were able to become farmers, merchants, or artisans, and so had better means with which to get themselves out of poverty. Swords were outlawed. Many models were borrowed from the West to speed up the modernization of Japan. Japan's first steam train from Tokyo to Yokohama was built. Carriages and western style clothing became very popular. Men and women were starting to work outside of the home in factories rather than on the farm. Hence with all this, industrialization took place at a rapid rate. Of course, I could go on and on about this and start plagarizing history books, but I hope this gives a rough picture. I always like to read about the Meiji Period and think, all of this was taking place as Kenshin wandered up and down Japan, attempting to come to turns with all the killing he did during the bakumatsu, and just trying living his life as quietly and unassumingly as possible. However, as the manga shows, too many skeletons in Kenshin's closet won't allow him to do that...

And finally,


Kenshin's Support Group:



Kamiya Kaoru
Age 17, she is the head of the Kamiyakasshinryuu, a sword school which has a philosophy of using the sword for protection, not killing. She can be very nice and has a generous nature, but is quick-tempered. Her two students are Yahico and Yutarou. She has no brothers or sisters, or parents and was apparently living by herself before Kenshin arrived. She forms an attachment to Kenshin because with him at the doujou she is not alone and often worries that Kenshin will abruptly leave without telling her, since during one of their first encounters he had told her that he was a wanderer and bound to just go wherever he happened to. She is a terrible cook, which she has been told by Sanosuke and Yahico though Kenshin doesn't seem to mind her cooking.


Myoujin Yahiko
Age 10, he is about as quick-tempered as Kaoru. Used to be a small-time pickpocket before he ran into Kenshin and tried to steal his wallet. Kenshin realized he had a lot of pride when he tried to give his wallet to Yahico and he refused to take it. I think he is an orphan, or something like his mother was very sick and he was forced to pick pockets to get money for her medicine was how it was in the TV series. Not completely sure though. Kenshin set him up with Kaoru to learn how to become strong and refuses to teach his own sword technique to Yahiko, claiming there is no need to learn how to kill. Yahiko also works at the local restaurant/hangout Akabeko to earn enough money to get a sakabatou like Kenshin. Yahiko desparately wants to become stronger so that, like Sanosuke and Kaoru, he can help Kenshin against those out to get him.



Sagara Sanosuke
Age 19, he is one of the two remaining members of the Sekihoutai, which I think is an army that was decimated and considered a fake army, correct me if that's wrong. After the decimation of the Sekihoutai, Sano became notorious for getting into fights and also for the huge "zanbatou" he carried around before Kenshin sliced it. After his fight with Kenshin he looked up to and admired him because Kenshin reminded him of his leader, Sagara Souzou. Sano now uses only his fists to fight but is still super strong. He also still wears his shirt with the "Bad" kanji on it to remind him of the past. Although he does have his own place, he is often over at Kaoru's hanging out with everyone or else he is at Akabeko, where he often finds a way to leave without paying.



Takani Megumi
She was forced by Kanryuu to make opium for him and his operation under the threat that she would never see her family again otherwise. Before this, her dream had been to become a great doctor like her father was. With Kenshin, Sano, and Yahiko's help she is able to get out from Kanryuu's hand. She always pretends to have an interest in Kenshin, more to make Kaoru jealous than anything though, I think. She is often equated to a fox because of this. But like Sano, she has a deep attachment to Kenshin because of what he did for her. Unlike Kaoru, she is also a very good cook.





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