Thoughts on Rurouni Kenshin

Japanese anime is one of those things I have always wanted to watch more of, but for some reason, never did. Perhaps it was because I had stumbled across the wrong shows in the past, and certainly a lot of it was that my parents did not want me watching anime as a kid. Now that I am an adult, I have been slowly getting some anime shows under my belt. I watched the first two seasons of Death Note, which was pretty great. I also, thanks to my sister, watched the series Prince of Tennis—yes, yes, a sports anime about some middle school kids who play tennis as if a matter of life and death. I really enjoyed the storytelling style of both these shows. A show I had always been curious about was Rurouni Kenshin, which used to be on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block during the afternoon. Kenshin’s character design piqued my interest, since he has this awesome cross-shaped scar on his face. However, I kept coming in during the middle of a story arc and was completely lost, so I gave up on it every time I tried. Well, that, and I didn’t want my parents to catch me watching it.

Now, however, I am a grown woman who gets to do what she wants, and a grown woman who has Netflix—and Netflix has Rurouni Kenshin on it. Finally finding the time and energy to get invested in another TV show, I watched the first episode and was instantly hooked.

Rurouni Kenshin is set during the first decade of the Meiji Restoration (circa 1878), something that the show likes to remind you of at least once or twice every episode. The main character, Himura Kenshin (or Kenshin Himura in Western name format) is a 28-year-old man who fought during the revolution ten years ago (circa 1868) as part of the Imperialist forces (those sided with the new government rather than the old Shogunate). He was an assassin and so gained the title hitokiri, which one translation offers as “manslayer.” He became rather notorious and struck fear into the hearts of all who faced him. After the revolution, however, he disappears and becomes a wanderer, exchanging his lethal sword for a sakabatō (a sword with the blade on the inner edge rather than the outer), which cannot kill anyone. He swears a vow never to kill again.

Despite the many conflicts of the series, this concept of Kenshin’s desire never to kill again is the real conflict. You never doubt if Kenshin is going to win; you doubt whether or not he will kill somebody to do so. This is always gut-wrenching and exciting, and is probably my favorite part of the entire show.

I think another thing I like so much about the show is that it glorifies life as something that has intrinsic value. Many of the characters in the show attempt an honor suicide, only to be stopped by Kenshin or another of the main characters. A great line from Kenshin is, “You can die at any time. But it takes true strength to go on living.” We learn that Kenshin himself, despite never presenting as suicidal, does at his core believe he does not deserve to live and that he does not care whether he lives or dies. During a crucial moment, however, he discovers a true will to live—not only for the sake of others, but out of a true desire for life. It is one of the most beautiful moments of the series, and I think it is a beneficial and inspirational moment for anyone who may be considering ending their own life. The message is clear throughout the series: life is precious, no matter what. No matter what you have done, no matter who you are, life is of value simply because it is life. Though the show and the manga it is based on were written in the 90s, I think its message is desperately needed today—a time period in which teenage suicides are at an all-time high.

The show strikes a nice balance between fun and silly moments and the serious, life-and-death stakes. The animation is not what I’d call gorgeous—if you want gorgeous animation, The Children of the Whales is a good show to watch—but it suits the series’ tone perfectly, finding that balance between silly and serious.

If you like anime but haven’t seen this show, you need to watch it. If you hate anime, you may want to pass, but if you’re willing to experiment with a different cultural approach to storytelling, then this is a good anime to start with. I do recommend a quick Wikipedia read-up on the Meiji Restoration before you watch it, though. It makes following the story a little easier. And while the English dub does a fairly decent job with voices, I think that the Japanese voice actors do a much better job of conveying the characters’ personalities. Fortunately, Netflix has both the English dub and the Japanese with English subtitles, so you get to pick whichever style suits your own tastes best.

All in all, I give the show 4 out of 5 stars. It has its typical anime tropes and some storytelling issues, but the action, themes, and character development are all top-notch. If you’re willing to give it a go, I highly recommend it. Please note that it is rated TV-14, for some language and a whole lot of violence. I would say, since the blood is all animated, you could probably let a 12- or 13-year-old watch it, depending on their maturity level. Use it as a way to teach a little bit about Japanese history and culture, and it becomes an educational experience. Note, however, that it is not the most accurate depiction of Japanese history, just like American movies about the Revolution aren’t always the most accurate thing, either.

It’s weird, but it’s amazing all the same. Give Rurouni Kenshin a try, and hopefully you won’t be disappointed. Just be prepared for some silliness and a serious need to suspend disbelief, and you’re good to go.

What are your thoughts on this classic anime? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Once you’re done binge watching Rurouni Kenshin, you might enjoy having a book to read! Check out my fantasy novel, Charybda. It is available for Nook, Kindle, and in Paperback. Follow the story of Nivin, a blind seventeen-year-old girl who lives in a land where all defects are punishable by death. When she is discovered and flees, she finds herself pulled into another world, where she is dragged into a centuries-long conflict between the Freemen and the wicked sorcerer Scyllorin and his dragon bride, Scylla.

Learn more here or read the first chapter for free here!

Image of Kenshin and title is a picture I snapped of the front of one of the DVDs, then edited on my computer. It is used for editorial/review purposes only.


An Airport Saga

I recently took a trip to beautiful Oregon. I stood at the edge of the Pacific Ocean while waves lapped higher and higher. I swam in the vast Columbia river. I hiked to the majestic Bridal Veil Falls. And most importantly, I enjoyed the company of a dear friend I have not seen in a long time. It was an amazing trip.

Until the time came for me to come home, that is.

My trip home involved flying out of Portland to San Francisco, then from San Francisco to Kansas City. The flight from Portland went smoothly, landing in San Francisco twenty minutes early. Since I had a narrow forty-minute layover, I was ecstatic. However, we waited on the ground for so long that we ended up being twenty-five minutes late. By the time we disembarked, I had exactly five minutes to make the final boarding call. I panicked. I walked off the jet bridge and scanned the signs. One direction was for the International Terminal, the other had numbers ascending. I saw 90, assumed gate 95 could not be far beyond it, and took off at a strenuous pace. I alternated between power walking and running. I hurried through crowds of people as adrenaline coursed through me. I reached gate 90, and horror filled me as I saw that the numbers did not go any higher. It was time for my flight to depart, and I was in the wrong place.

I begged an employee to tell me where gate 95 was, a desperation in my voice that I don’t believe I have ever heard come out of my mouth before.

“Oh,” she replied, supremely unconcerned. “That’s in the International Terminal.”

My heart sank. I sheepishly stood in line to re-route my trip home.

But then, oh joy! The flight was delayed! I had ten more minutes to make it! I darted from the line and galloped through the airport back the way I came, and hurried on to the International Terminal. I ran up an escalator, only to find that the International Terminal was enormous. Then, I had to run down another escalator to my gate. Unfortunately, I had pushed my legs past their limit. With the first step down on the the escalator, my knees buckled. I sprained my left ankle—which, by the way, means I now can say I have sprained both ankles in the city of San Francisco. I sprained the right about a year ago while walking toward Fisherman’s Wharf.

But I digress.

I regained my balance, dusted off my posterior, and patiently waited for the escalator to take me the rest of the way down. Alas, all my effort was to no avail. I saw that no jet waited for me at the end of the jet bridge, and the seats around the gate were empty save for a few scattered people.

Panicked, exhausted, and utterly distraught, I picked what I thought was a deserted area and began to sob wildly. I do not mean that a few tears ran down my face. I mean that I bawled. It was ugly crying. I have never lost my composure so completely in public before. Then I looked up. An Asian man sat across from me, clearly avoiding looking at me. I have never seen somebody look so uncomfortable. I have never seen somebody avoid eye contact so carefully in my life. To make a man feel so awkward may be one of my crowning achievements.

I received a notification from my phone. The airline’s app had re-routed me automatically through Chicago to take me back to Kansas City. With a sigh of relief, I rose from my tear-stained chair and hobbled back toward the other end of the airport—the place I had originally wound up, and waited patiently for my flight. Here’s the thing, though. It was 7 P.M. Pacific time when I was re-routed. The flight did not leave for Chicago until 11:50. And, you guessed it, it was delayed by an hour and ten minutes. I had only an hour and fifty-minute layover in Chicago. But I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least I would still have forty minutes. It would be close, to be sure, but I knew I could make it. This time, I was prepared.

I dozed off and on through the flight, finally fully waking at about 7:00 Central to the captain’s voice. Storms on the ground in Chicago prevented us from landing, so we would have to wait. Eventually, however, the plane’s fuel supply ran low and we were diverted to Green Bay, Wisconsin. I’m pretty sure it was the first Boeing 737 ever to land at the small regional airport.

Nevertheless, they dutifully refueled us while I missed my connecting flight out of O’Hare.

After waiting another hour and a half on the plane, the captain announced that everybody needed to go into the airport while we waited for clearance to go back to Chicago. He said it would only be a few hours, so I chose a 1:00 P.M. flight from Chicago to Kansas City and confirmed my seat.

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the plane would not be departing until 3:30, as this was the soonest a new flight crew could be flown in. The original flight crew had been working for eighteen hours straight and had to take their mandated rest period.

Not to worry, I told myself, though I was daunted by the prospect of waiting so long. I opened the app the pick a later flight, but it no longer allowed me to make changes. I suppose they were suspicious of me by this point in time. So I stood in line along with the other one hundred twenty people who had missed connecting flights too. It took nearly two hours for me to make it to the counter. I was put on a 6:00 flight to Kansas City, which I should have been able to make—ostensibly, anyway. Meanwhile, I waited, and waited, and waited in Green Bay.

When the flight crew arrived, the terminal burst into applause and cheers. Then we waited some more during the boarding process. Because the boarding passes would no longer scan, we had to wait while each individual passenger was crossed off of a physical printed manifest. It took nearly an hour to board.

Finally, we were on our way…except that we weren’t. We sat on the tarmac waiting for clearance to take off. Waiting. And waiting. I watched the minutes tick by like hours. At long last, the plane took off. We landed at O’Hare just as my flight to Kansas City was taking off.

Still unable to use the app, I waited in line along with the other one hundred twenty passengers who had missed their flights. I ended up calling the airline’s customer service line, which was faster, and was elated to discover that I would be able to catch the last flight out of O’Hare to Kansas City. The joy and relief I felt was like nothing I have ever experienced. I was going home. Finally. No more delays—

Except that the flight was delayed by half an hour. Then, once we boarded, we waited on the tarmac for forty more minutes waiting to take off. It was O’Hare, after all.

At 11:38 Central time, the airplane touched down in Kansas City. I disembarked wearily, still limping. But when I went out to the curb, there my husband was, waiting for me with a dozen red roses. I love that man, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see him in all my life.

And thus concludes the saga of the long trip home from Portland to Kansas City. A grueling experience, to be sure…but at least I got a story out of it.

Next time you’re stuck in an airport, you might enjoy having a book to read! Check out my novel, Charybda. It is available for Nook, Kindle, and in Paperback. Follow the story of Nivin, a blind seventeen-year-old girl who lives in a land where all defects are punishable by death. When she is discovered and flees, she finds herself pulled into another world, where she is dragged into a centuries-long conflict between the Freemen and the wicked sorcerer Scyllorin and his dragon bride, Scylla.

Learn more here or read the first chapter for free here!

Airplane image courtesy of Alex Grichenko