Rurouni Kenshin started from a serialized manga in Sept. 1994 and lasted for another five more years. It is written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The manga was later animated and aired from Jan. 1996-Sept. 1998 with a total of 95 episodes. Several video games were released, later, for the PS consoles in Japan. The popularity of this series also created three motion pictures/OVASs: Samurai X (1997: sequel), Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal (1999: prequel) and Samurai X: Reflection (2001: sequel).
Himura Kenshin, known as Hitokiri Battousai, is a vagabond assassin with deft skills living in the 11th year of Meiji era. He began killing when he was 15, in hopes to bring about a new and better world. But left the job when he realized his disillusion was creating a scarier and more dangerous world. Leaving behind his dark past and to atone for his murders, he wanders the countryside of Japan for 11 years, offering protection and aid to those who need it. Kenshin finally lands in Edo where he meets and befriends a female Kendo master, Kamiya Kaoru. It is here, in Kamiya Dojou, that he also meets and befriends many comrades – a street brawler/ex-army: Sagara Sanosuke, a thief/orphan: Myoujin Yahiko, and a doctor: Takani Megumi. Together with his new found group of friends, they battle enemies from his past.
First haunting from the past is ex-Shinsengumi member Saitou Hajime. However, upon realizing Kenshin is no longer the enemy from before, Saitou soon becomes an ally to Kenshin.
Kenshin wields a sakabatou, a reverse blade sword, that is incapable of killing. He practices the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryuu style of fighting (飛天御剣流: Flying Heaven Honorable Sword) which enables him to exercise superhuman speed and reflexes. He is also able to predict his opponent’s movements, thus quickly overpowering and dispatching his opponents before they have the time to react. Even though his technique has deadly consequences, his sakabatou only maims his opponents.
After leading a peaceful life in the dojo with his friends, Kenshin discovers that Shishio Makoto, an assassin, plans to conquer Japan by destroying the Meiji Government beginning with Kyoto. Fearing attacks from Shishio against his friend, Kenshin decides to meet his adversary alone. However, friends, and even foes who became friends decide to join him in this fight.
When the match with Shishio became inevitable, Kenshin continued his training with his sensei, Hiko Seijuurou, and learned the Kuzu-Ryuusen (九頭龍閃: Nined-headed Dragon Strike). This style deals nine simultaneous strikes to the opponent, making guarding and dogding virtually impossible. This style, however, is a byproduct for learning Amakakeru Ryuu no Hirameki (天翔龍閃: Dragon Flight of Heaven). Since the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryuu is only suitable for larger built people (like Seijuuro), by the end of the manga, Kenshin was no longer able to use it again as his body had deteriorated.
Upon returning to Edo and after defeating Shishio, a new antagonist appears – the brother of his deceased wife, Yukishiro Tomoe. Tomoe was an assassin avenging her fiance’s death, but fell in love with and married a young Kenshin instead. However, upon realizing that Tomoe was assigned to kill Kenshin (not for her fiance’s death) along with another assassin, enraged, Kenshin swings his sword blindly. In one fell swoop, he kills his assailant and Tomoe, who steps in at the last minute to save Kenshin.
Although Kenshin comes to love Kaoru, as much as she does him, he is tormented by his past sins and doesn’t believe that he deserves happiness.
Yukishiro Enishi kidnaps Kaoru, knowing this, but leaves behind a marred person resembling Kaoru. Thinking she is dead, Kenshin goes into severe depression and wanders into an inhabitable village. However, when the friends realize that she is still alive, they find Kenshi and they set out to retrieve their cherished comrade. Kenshin comes out victorious and returns home with his dearest. Five years later, they tie the knot and bear a son, Himura Kenji. As a coming of age present, Kenshin passes his sakabatou to Yahiko.
In Samurai X, Kenshin meets a samurai who was close to a man he murdered during war. This man, Takimi Shigure, wants to avenge the death of his family by starting a revolution through usurping the Meiji government. Kenshin takes this man head on to avoid the start of war.
In Trust & Betrayal (prequel), A very young Kenshin, after being rescued by Hiko Seijuurou who later becomes his sensei, takes on the job as an assassin during the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate. It tells of how Kenshin received his “x” on his left cheek from his ex-wife Tomoe.
In Relection, Kenshin and Kaoru is in their later years. Over the course, Kenshin becomes guilt-ridden for leading a happy life. He wanders into the country again for 15 years, with Kaoru strongly supporting his decision. Kenji, however not understanding this torment, grows up hating his father for abandoning the family. As a teenager, Kenji leaves for Kyoto hoping to learn the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryuu from Seijuurou, in hopes of being his own man and not be overshadowed by his father’s legacy. Worried about her young son, Kaoru sends Yahiko out to track him. Yahiko duels Kenji and after defeating him, gives Kenji his father’s sakabatou. Yahiko wanted Kenji to understand his father’s philosophy – that his strength lay not in his ability to kill, but in his appreciation of life.
During this time, Kenshin becomes ill from an unknown disease, but leaves to aid the people during the First Sino-Japanese War. At the end of the war, Sanosuke finds a worsening Kenshin and sends him back to an equally ill-stricken Kaoru. Both Kaoru and Kenshin struggle to meet each other, and Kaoru greets him with his old name, Shinta. As they finally embrace each other after all the years apart, Kenshin dies quietly in Kaoru’s arms. She brushes a strand of hair from his left cheek and notices that Kenshin’s scar has faded away, signifying an end to his life of pain and bloodshed. She cradles his head in her arms and weeps silently for the peace that Kenshin finally finds.