Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, also known as Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The fictional setting takes place during the early Meiji period in Japan. The story is about a fictional assassin named Himura Kenshin, from the Bakumatsu who becomes a wanderer to protect the people of Japan. Watsuki wrote this series upon his desire of making a shonen manga different from the other ones that were published in that time, with Kenshin being a former assassin and the story taking a more serious tone as it continued. Although the tragic tone was highly expanded as the manga advanced, Watsuki became determined to give it a happy ending as it was aimed at teenagers.
The manga initially appeared in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump from September 2, 1994, to November 4, 1999. The complete work consists of 28 tankobon volumes, while years later it was reprinted into twenty-two kanzenban volumes. Studio Gallop, Studio Deen and SPE Visual Works adapted the manga into an anime series which aired in Japan from January 10, 1996 to September 8, 1998. Besides an animated film, two series of original video animations (OVAs) were also produced. The first adapted stories from the manga that were not featured in the anime, while the second was also a sequel of the manga. Writer Kaoru Shizuka has authored three official Rurouni Kenshin light novels which were published by Shueisha. Several video games have also been released for the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable consoles.
The United States release of the manga has been completed by Viz Media. Rurouni Kenshin is subtitled "Wandering Samurai" in some English releases, as a rough translation of "Ruro ni" (??? lit. "Wandering"?). The TV series later licensed in North America and released on DVD by Media Blasters. The first two seasons aired on the United States Cartoon Network as a part of the Toonami Block, while the third season was only featured in DVD . The English-language versions of the OVAs as well the film is released as Samurai X, although the original title was included in the DVD releases. The first light novel has been translated by Viz and distributed in the United States and Canada. None of the video games of the series have been released in North America.
The series has been highly popular in Japan, the United States, Brazil and Europe, being recognized as one of the best of all time. The manga has sold over 47 million copies in Japan as of 2007 while the anime has ranked among the 100 most watched series in Japan multiple times. The anime and manga have received praise and criticism from various publications for anime, manga and other media, with both having received good response on the characters' designs and the historical setting. The OVAs have also received praise due to their animation and music.
The story of Rurouni Kenshin takes place during the early Meiji era in Japan. It tells the story of a peaceful wanderer named Himura Kenshin, formerly known as the assassin "Hitokiri Battosai". After participating during the Bakumatsu war, Kenshin wanders the countryside of Japan offering protection and aid to those in need as atonement for the murders he once committed as an assassin. When arriving in Tokyo in the 11th year of Meiji (1878), he meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru, who was in the middle of a fight with a murderer who claims to be the Hitokiri Battosai from her swordsmanship school. Kenshin decides to help her and defeats the fake Battosai. After discovering that Kenshin is the real Battosai, she offers him a place to stay at her dojo as she notes Kenshin is a gentle person instead. Kenshin accepts and begins to establish lifelong relationships with many people such as Sagara Sanosuke, a former Sekiho Army member; Myojin Yahiko, an orphan from a samurai family; and a doctor named Takani Megumi. However, he also deals with his fair share of enemies, new and old, including the former leader from the Oniwabanshu, Shinomori Aoshi and his rival from the Bakumatsu Saito Hajime.
After several months of living in the dojo, Kenshin discovers that his successor as assassin of the shadows, Shishio Makoto, plans to conquer Japan by destroying the Meiji Government, starting with Kyoto. Feeling that his friends may be attacked by Shishio's faction, Kenshin goes to meet Shishio alone in order to defeat him. However, many of his friends, including a young Oniwabanshu named Makimachi Misao, decide to help him in his fight. He decides to accept their help and defeats Shishio in a fight, who dies in the process due to the rise in body temperature caused by his burns. The anime adapts the manga until this part, later featuring new story arcs which were not featured in the manga.
When Kenshin and his friends return to Tokyo, Kenshin finds Yukishiro Enishi, who plans to take revenge by killing his friends. At this point it is revealed that, during the Bakumatsu, Kenshin used to be married to a woman called Yukishiro Tomoe, who initially wanted to avenge the death of her fiancé, whom Kenshin had killed, but instead both fell in love and got married. It is then discovered that Tomoe was part of a group of assassins that wanted to kill Kenshin, and Tomoe is betrayed by them and captured to use as bait. Kenshin rushes in to rescue her, killing both his assailant and accidentally Tomoe, who jumps in at the last minute to save Kenshin from a fatal attack. Wanting to take revenge for the death of his sister, Enishi kidnaps Kaoru and leaves behind a tortured figure bearing a stunning resemblance of Kaoru for Kenshin to find and momentarily grieve over. Once discovering that Kaoru is alive, Kenshin and his friends set to rescue her. A battle between Kenshin and Enishi follows and when Kenshin wins, he and Kaoru return home. Five years later, Kenshin has married to Kaoru and has a son named Himura Kenji.
The OVA Samurai X: Reflection acts as a non canon sequel to the manga's plot various years after its end. It follows a Kenshin who has left Kaoru in order to protect people from Japan, by medicating them rather than fighting. As the First Sino-Japanese War ends, Kenshin is suffering from an unknown disease which is weakening his body and forgets about his identity. Sanosuke finds Kenshin and takes him to Kaoru, where Kenshin gently dies in her arms. Although Nobuhiro Watsuki had checked the script from the OVA, he gave it disapproval due to its sad ending.