▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ I knew the rating on MAL for this was pretty high, but the fact that it was another one of those fighting shounen manga made me expect a little less. There are a lot of those and what new thing could “Rurouni Kenshin” bring to the picture? The plot with the strongest hero from the beginning to the end is not particularly new, so the mangaka would really have to make him stand out from the others.
He came to town as a wandering swordsman with a mysterious past he told no one about. He turned out to be the most skilled one there, strong enough to beat anyone pitted against him despite how formidable his opponents looked. He joined Kamiya dojo when Kaoru asked him to, knowing his strengths. Little did he know, many would come to challenge him or ask for his help, and his adventure was beginning once again.
▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ Alright, okay. I admit that while reading through about 15 or so chapters I was reasonably hooked. There was something intriguing about a man who had killed so many times before but now used his sword sparingly, injuring his enemies but never killing. People always thought that a swordsman who didn’t kill was not strong, but Kenshin always surpassed their expectations: he was fast, he was brave, and he was a master. A lot of times he would get so beat up and bloodied that it seemed like it would be his last leg, but he almost always pulled through.
Of course, halfway through the manga, it was very repetitive. A new enemy would show up and he would say the same things as the last: he was the strongest of them all and he’d beat Kenshin for the title of the strongest in the world. But Kenshin would find some way to kick him to the curb without killing him and the enemy would be a new person. If it weren’t for the side stories, tragic back stories, and very small bits of romance, I would not have been as interested in reading this.
▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ The characters are really the greatest part of the story, though. I noticed in the character popularity polls featured in some of the manga chapters, Kenshin was almost never the favorite. A lot of times, the other characters took the spotlight in those polls for their spunky personalities or individual strengths. Kenshin might have even seemed boring to them because he was a calm person for the most part and hardly ever gave way to rage.
A few of the characters got on my nerves, but some of them I liked from the beginning or grew on me. The few that returned became stronger and wiser, and in 200+ chapters Watsuki has so many ideas for different people, it’s mesmerizing. I have to hand it to him for such a great cast of characters with such a wide array of strengths, weaknesses, and appearances.
▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ I don’t read 90s manga very often, so the artwork threw me off for a bit in the first few chapters. It can be a little rough around the edges and oftentimes the main character looks plain compared to the other characters. But I have to hand it to the mangaka for all the detail put into those other characters, though. Each and every enemy has a unique face, harrowing shadow, unique costumes, and their own backstories (not that all of them are revealed).
Will all the fights going on, of course, I still have a hard time understanding exactly what’s happening, but that’s always been my problem. However, I think since the mangaka gets so used to drawing injured people all bloodied up, they get better looking as they go on. I mean their injuries look like they hurt and the blood spatters are pretty realistic against the 2D art. The tired eyes and expressions are pretty believable as well.
▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ ▩ While Kenshin’s pact not to kill another person was admirable, I was also frustrated with how difficult his opponents were such that I wished he would kill someone. But alas, he’s a strong person and uses his words well enough so that he doesn’t need to. He seems to have seen the world from where he is and his experience has made him extremely wise.
I’m not sure if I would say “Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan” is a staple shounen to indulge in, but it’s been around for a while and it’s gotten a lot of positive reviews. In it’s time it was very popular and I can see why. The new characters that are constantly introduced keeps the manga fresh with action and everyone loves a good fight. Maybe if you’d like something a little slow in the beginning but builds up quickly and is action-packed for the rest of the way, you should give this manga a try.