Himura Kenshin, also known as one of the legendary hitokiri of the Meiji Revolution, Himura Battōsai (緋村抜刀斎) during the Meiji Revolution, is the main protagonist and titular character of the manga and anime series, Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin has spent ten years traveling Japan as a rurouni in search of redemption, carrying a sakabatō with the vow to never kill again. In early 1878, he arrives in Tokyo and takes up residence at the Kamiya Dojo, where his vow is tested as he fights to keep the country's peace.
He is voiced by Richard Cansino in the English Version. Whereas he is voiced by Megumi Ogata in the Drama CDs, and by Mayo Suzukaze in the Japanese version of the anime. He is portrayed by Takeru Satoh in the five part live action film series.
Of small, slender build and with a youthful, feminine visage, Himura Kenshin cuts quite a different figure than would be expected of the legendary Hitokiri Battōsai and his appearance belies his twenty-eight years of age, making him look roughly ten years younger, but he is easily recognized by his infamous distinguishing features: mid-back length red hair tied in a thick ponytail and a cross-shaped sword scar on his left cheek.
Kenshin's hair is thick and abundant, with all of the shorter frontal hairs falling across his face as bangs rather than being in the ponytail at the nape of his neck. During the revolution, Kenshin wore his ponytail higher and at the end of the series, he has cut the ponytail entirely and wears his hair evenly at about chin length. Kenshin's eyes, too, are unusual, being a deep violet. In the anime series, when Kenshin's eyes change to reflect his psychological reversion to Hitokiri Battōsai, their color shifts from violet to gold.
The Legendary Scar
Kenshin's cross-shaped scar actually consists of two separate scars - a long one running diagonally down his face from just below the outer corner of his left eye to just above his chin and a slightly shorter scar running diagonally across it in the other direction from just to the left of the bridge of his nose to his left jawbone. In a redesign for the kanzenban, Kenshin's scar has been altered so that the lateral scar is longer, stretching across his nose to just below the inner corner of his right eye.
Kenshin dresses simply, wearing a plain men's kimono of cheap, worn cloth with a white umanori hakama, zori and white tabi. In the anime series, Kenshin's kimono is almost always a soft red like burgundy, but in the manga, he alternates between this, a bolder red, purple and deep blue. His sakabatō is worn under his obi at his left hip in a black, steel saya.
Soft-spoken, serene and humble, Himura Kenshin's usual demeanor suits his effeminate appearance perfectly. Always willing to put others before himself, both in terms of well-being and social standing, Kenshin usually refers to others with the noble honorific of "-dono" while nearly always speaking of himself with the particularly humble pronoun "sessha" (translated by Viz as "this one") and ending his phrases with the formal verb "de gozaru" (translated by Media Blasters as phrases like "that it is" or "that I am"). He carries himself with an air of amicable temperance, politely conversing with the people he encounters and freely giving his meager services to those who need a hand. Kenshin doesn't hesitate to put himself in the path of harm to shield those around him and often attempts to diffuse contentious situations with soft, calming words and a somewhat clownish personality involving feigned clumsiness and his trademark interjection "oro" (a unique pronunciation of "ara"). These traits lead those unfamiliar with Kenshin to view him as ineffectual or easily exploitable, but more perceptive people become aware in short order that his gift for placatory eloquence and veiled redirection of disagreeable situations suggest a deep wisdom belied by his youthful, unassuming visage.
Tormented by his past as a hitokiri, Kenshin has developed an acute appreciation for life and has taken a vow in his heart to never again kill another person and to do everything within his power to protect people from being killed. This vow is the defining characteristic of Kenshin's personality and the primary motivation for his transition into a rurouni. Despite this, however, he holds his own existence cheap and carries in his heart a grievous guilt that prevents him from becoming emotionally close to the people around him and compels him to a life of humble service and selfless personal sacrifice. Even with his prodigious skill as a prolific swordsman, Kenshin refrains from wielding his great combat strength for his own sake, drawing his sword only for the well-being of others when words fail to appease. Though unwilling to simply be killed by unrelated attackers, Kenshin freely accepts that any grudges against his past self are well-deserved; he remembers the face of every person he has wronged as the Hitokiri Battōsai and will face their hatred or judgment without complaint, believing that he does not deserve the same happiness as others.
Spending much of his alone time in quiet contemplation of his past misdeeds and future retribution, Kenshin often ponders what the right path toward redemption is and laments each life lost due to his weakness. As such, he has a tendency toward trying to solve problems all by himself and alienating his would-be allies with secrecy so as to keep them from becoming involved in his risky endeavors. Having lived his own life carrying heavy regrets, Kenshin is reluctant to judge others for their personal actions, beliefs or mistakes and always offers hopeful encouragement so that those who have stumbled onto the wrong path might redeem themselves in the future. However, when forced to draw his sword against those who abuse their power and undervalue the lives of others, Kenshin's calm temperament gives way to a marked intensity capable of intimidating even other skilled swordsmen and can go so far as to become a powerful fury, despite his compulsion toward diplomacy.
But when his strength as a rurouni is insufficient to defend against a particularly threatening foe, Kenshin's restraint falters and his personality reverts to that of his days as the Hitokiri Battōsai. He immediately abandons his serene humility, reverting from sessha to the more abrasive pronoun "ore" while dropping de gozaru and oro from his speech. Kenshin's normally warm nature becomes cold and distant, allowing him to contemplate taking the life of his opponent and even make vicious, bloodthirsty threats. This side of his personality is one that Kenshin struggles to suppress despite the fact that it keeps emerging when he is under great stress and in need of extra strength. His greatest fear is that, one day, he will return to his former self and become a hitokiri once more.
As time passes, however, Kenshin learns to trust the people around him with the truth about himself as well as with some of the burden he bears, understanding that his life, too, is a human one and that his friends and allies would suffer greatly if he were to die.
- Kamiya Kaoru : Moving gradually from dear friends to love interests to husband and wife, Kenshin and Kaoru share a relationship that serves as one of the largest focal points of the series. Though initially seeing Kaoru as merely another Japanese citizen in need of his protection, Kenshin is immediately struck by her remarkable philosophies regarding katsujinken and the unimportance of one's past self, quickly coming to see her as a particularly special person. Additionally, having been rescued from death, dishonor and loneliness by the mysterious rurouni, Kaoru greatly values Kenshin's company after he appears in her life and is rather insistent that he stay. The two grow steadily closer as time goes on, with Kaoru keeping Kenshin's darker nature in check with her kindness and Kenshin's eager support giving Kaoru the courage necessary to deal with the hardships of her life, until it becomes clear that neither can go on living happily without the other. Later on, they have a son together, Kenji, who loves his mother and hates his father. Kenji looks a lot like Kenshin.
- Sagara Sanosuke : Though initially an opponent hired by the Hiruma brothers (Gohei and Kihei), Sano becomes a member of the Kenshin-gumi in short order, serving as a sort of "strong right arm" at Kenshin's side during battle. Though Kenshin attempts to hide the dangerous aspects of his life in Tokyo from Kaoru and Yahiko, Sano is usually the first to see through the Rurouni's innocent deceptions and stubbornly tags along whenever he catches the scent of an impending fight. As such, Sano quickly becomes Kenshin's most trusted compatriot, proving himself capable of fighting his own battles without Kenshin's concern or intervention. Sano, for his part, silently reveres Kenshin's strength and character, devoting himself to making sure such a great man survives long enough to save as many people as possible.
- Myōjin Yahiko : Seeing young Yahiko's great spirit and sense of honor from their first accidental meeting, Kenshin comes to view Yahiko as an embodiment of the future, both in terms of the new Meiji society and the potential of kenjutsu. Though he is aware that Yahiko looks upon him as a hero, Kenshin insists that the boy learn Kamiya Kasshin-ryū from Kaoru rather than Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū and trusts the young shizōku to carry the ideals of "the sword that protects" into the new era. Kenshin is initially protective of Yahiko, mentoring him through example and wise speeches while he insists that the boy keep a safe distance from the dangerous goings-on in Kenshin's life, but eventually begins to see Yahiko as another of his comrades and trusts him to finish his own battles without being coddled. At the end of the series, Kenshin chooses Yahiko as his successor and gives him the Sakabatō as a Genpuku gift with the belief that the young man will carry on the will of katsujinken.
- Hiko Seijūrō XIII: Kenshin's master and the current heir to Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū, Hiko Seijūrō is a man whom he holds in great regard. From a young age, Hiko had mentored Kenshin in all the ways of the sword, life and the world, but on the other hand, Kenshin was given a rather unique vantage point from which to observe his master's vanity, selfishness and narcissism. Due to a difference in opinion, the two parted ways under rather unpleasant circumstances before Kenshin had the chance to complete his training. However, Kenshin knows that Hiko is a stalwart, trustworthy man, even if the master insists on belittling and humiliating his former student at every possible turn.
- Yukishiro Tomoe: The first love of Kenshin's life, Tomoe had an unparalleled effect on young Battōsai's demeanor, gradually easing him from a cold-blooded hitokiri into a soft-spoken, caring human being. However, their encounter was not fate but rather an orchestration by Himura's enemies. Despite her orders and her own private grudge against the Hitokiri Battōsai for revenge of her fiance's death , Tomoe gradually fell in love with the young swordsman and betrayed her comrades in an attempt to protect him from harm. As a result of the enemy's trap, however, Tomoe's life was cut short by Kenshin's own hand and his resultant guilt became a major factor in creating his new, gentler rurouni persona and his vow never to kill.
- Takani Megumi: Megumi often flirted with him, and he always looked a little embarrassed in those moments. Kenshin was one of the men who saved her life, taking her from the life of opium manufacturer. After that, she shows a great respect for the swordsman. She is considered "Kenshin's Fox" in Saitō Hajime's imagination.
- Saitō Hajime: Saitō and Kenshin were enemies at the time of End of Shogunate, since Kenshin fought for the Ishin Shishi and Saitō was one of the Shinsengumi, who were a special police force for the Shogunate. In their meeting at Kamiya Dojo they fought again, reviving the time when they were enemies fighting on opposite sides. Kenshin and Saitō became allies to defeat Shishio and Enishi but they never became friends the way Kenshin and Sano did. Saitō likes to fight for himself, so he will join Kenshin just when it's necessary, but both respect and admire each others' power and abilities. Kenshin once even refers to Saito (and the others with him on Enishi's island), as his 'trustworthy companion'.
- Oibore: Greving over Kaoru's supposed death Kenshin met this old man in Rakuninmura, after he was in a state of deep despair and grief. Little did Kenshin know that Oibore was his father-in-law, who deeply cared for him, because of his devotion and love for his daughter Tomoe. Oibore helped bring Kenshin back to his senses, via a bottle of perfume that had a white plum scent.
- Shinomori Aoshi: Although initially enemies, Kenshin and Aoshi eventually become comrades, when Kenshin re-awakens his senses, after the latter is in a constant state of deep trauma, following the honorable sacrifices of his loyal students, who perished saving his life. Aoshi aids Kenshin in his battle against both Shishio and Enishi.
- Udo Jin-e : Kidnapped Kaoru in order to re-awaken the Hitokiri within Kenshin.
- Takeda Kanryū: Opium dealer, whom Kenshin defeats to save Megumi.
- Shishio Makoto: Successor to Hitokiri Battōsai, he plans to take over Japan, but his plans are thwarted by Kenshin and his allies, after a long, hard-fought series of battles.
- Yukishiro Enishi: He was Kenshin's brother in law when Kenshin married his sister Tomoe. Like Tomoe, Enishi sought revenge against Kenshin for Akira's death and after Kenshin mistakingly killed Tomoe, Enishi's rage fueled multifold. In the end, 15 years later, he was barely defeated by Kenshin and after learning Tomoe's true feelings for Kenshin through her diary, he gave up his quest for revenge.
Kenshin, in keeping with his soft appearance, appears to be quite skilled at domestic work as many of the Kamiya dojo residents comment favorably on his cooking and he is frequently seen performing such tasks as grocery shopping, floor and shoji door cleaning and laundry. While he does all of these things diligently and eagerly, it appears that his taste for them is an acquired one which he displays only to strangers and new acquaintances, as he was loath to perform even the simplest chore on Hiko Seijūrō's orders. However, it has also been shown that Kenshin's handwriting is not very good (with several characters comparing it unfavorably to that of Watsuki's).
Kenshin is also an unparalleled orator, capable of spinning eloquence or humor into an offhand comment and prone to making grand, moving speeches off the top of his head. While maintaining his cool, he is rather adept at philosophical arguments, swiftly seeing the cracks in any opponent's logic without missing a beat in conversation.
Kenshin is perhaps most well known for his almost inhuman swordsmanship. Having inherited the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū sword style from his master, Hiko Seijūrō XIII, Kenshin's light frame allows him to use the style's "godspeed" to its fullest, moving so rapidly that he routinely outpaces the human eye, and his own prowess with Battōjutsu earned him his infamous moniker.
Outside of Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū, Kenshin has displayed independent sword techniques which are indicative of his own acquired skills:
- Modoshigiri: The most skilled swordsmen using the best of blades were supposedly able to slice an object in two and rejoin the halves together, as if it were never cut at all. Kenshin demonstrates this when he cuts a daikon and then reforms it back together. He doesn't cut it with his sword, but rather a kitchen knife, since his sakabatō was broken at that time.
- Zantetsu: The most skilled swordsmen were purportedly able to use their swords to cut through steel. Kenshin states he can use it anywhere except underwater.
- Kenshin is one of the most popular and recognizable manga and anime characters, in addition to being one of the primary members of 90s Shueisha's Shōnen Jump.
- His English voice actor, Richard Cansino is best known voicing as Piximon from Digimon Adventure and Guardromon, Andromon from Digimon Tamers.