Characters: Rurouni Kenshin Main Characters
Himura Kenshin (Birth Name: Himura Shinta)
Portrayed by: Takeru Sato (Live Action)
"A sword is a weapon, and swordsmanship is learning how to kill. That is the truth. What Mistress Kaoru says is play-talk that only those that have never stained their hands can say. However, I prefer Mistress Kaoru's play-talk more than the truth. And I wish that in the world to come, her play talk shall become the truth."
The titular protagonist of the series. He is a wanderer formerly known as Hitokiri Battousai
, a deadly man-slayer who slaughtered many men in the war before the Meiji Era. note
Kenshin's fighting style is Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu, now an ancient study. With this dangerous sword style, he uses his sakabatou
(a sword with a reversed edge) to restrain himself from killing anyone ever again, and renounces the title Hitokiri.
- Accidental Murder: In his backstory, he accidentally killed Tomoe when she threw herself between him and his opponent, intending to protect him.
- Action Dad: Becomes one in the Manga's Distant Finale.
- Afraid of Their Own Strength: To avoid killing others in combat, Kenshin uses his reverse-bladed sword. This is also why he is determined to be the last practitioner of the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu kenjutusu.
- All-Loving Hero: Known for helping others and avoiding massacres.
- Animal Battle Aura: Occasionally gets a dragon aura.
- Animal Motifs: The dragon.
- Anti-Hero: Necessarily Evil -> Good Is Not Nice. In the series proper, he's a straight-up hero.
- The Atoner: It was either Walking the Earth or killing himself through seppuku after the Bakumatsu, according to his own words.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: One of the trademark abilities of his sword style, Kenshin is known for quickly deducing the moves of his opponents, though this trait has proved to be his undoing as well.
- Babies Ever After: He and Kaoru have a son named Kenji in the Manga's Distant Finale.
- Bash Brothers: With Sano.
- Berserk Button: Admitting that you killed an innocent person For the Evulz, or threatening to harm an innocent person (or worse, one of his True Companions), will result in a swift beat-down.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: Although more "Nice", the live-action movie uses this as one of the taglines.
- Beware the Silly Ones
- Big Good
- Blind Weaponmaster: Only in the Anime. Eventually, he recovers. Averted in his backstory, when he couldn't see Tomoe jump in front of him due to being blinded earlier in the fight, and wound up accidentally killing her.
- Broken Ace: Despite being known as the "Strongest of the Isshin-Shishi" and helping to push for the revolution, he now questions his actions, and whether the cause was worth spilling blood.
- Butt Monkey: During comedic scenes, you can almost always expect him to be hurt or insulted by another character.
- Call to Agriculture: In the OVA. "For many years I ended the lives of evil men, but I've only realized inner peace by bringing life to this land and sharing its harvest with you." It's more of a cover story than a choice but he learns to love it. Considering how his original parents were peasants themselves, this was unsurprising.
- Character Exaggeration: The original anime plays up his bumbling moments and downplays his Deadpan Snarker attitude compared to the manga.
- Character Title
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: No matter how torn, beaten, or battered he is, a voice crying for hep will always reach him. It's what pulls him out of his depression, in the finale.
- Crippling Overspecialization: In terms of fighting skills, he really has little other than swordsmanship (unlike Aoshi or Saitou who are fairly skilled in hand-to-hand combat as well), which opponents often take advantage of. Other characters also note that his sword style is very reliant on quick judgment and reading the opponent's sword, which isn't as effective on Combat Pragmatists. This is averted in the Live Action adaptation, where he is able to hold his own against several Mooks unarmed for a few minutes before grabbing a nearby bokken.
- Dark and Troubled Past
- Darker and Edgier: His Shin Kyoto Hen incarnation shapes up to be one. For starters, he ruthlessly assaults without announcing his attacks, he has no qualms blinding Chō in their battle for the meitou sakabatou, he bluntly tells the true fate of Aoshi's Oniwabanshu henchmen to Misao's face, and his emotions practically only shift between Tranquil Fury and Dull Surprise. He actually has a lot more in common with the Tsuiokuhen-era Battousai.
- Dark Messiah: In the revolution.
- Death Seeker: So powerful was his guilt for his past as a hitokiri that, until late into the plot, he believed his own life to be worthless, providing a weakness through which his Battousai persona can emerge through; this was the core obstacle in his path to learn Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu's final secret technique.
- Declaration of Protection: To Kaoru. Also to Tomoe in the past.
- Defusing The Tykebomb: He does this to Soujiro.
- Disappeared Dad: Becomes one in the second OVA.
- Dork Knight
- The Drifter: At the beginning.
- Dueling Scar: He got half of his iconic scar in a "duel" to the death (it was really more of a Curb-Stomp Battle, but the man who gave him the scar had such a will to live that he managed to leave his mark).
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Kenshin goes through trauma, death, tragedy and the potential for his own death many times over before he finally finds peace. This is also why Word of God rejects the Seisoushen OVA's ending as not fitting with the theme of the series as a whole.
- Experienced Protagonist: He's a war veteran, has been an accomplished swordsman for over a decade, and is a strong contender for the best swordsman in Japan by the time the series starts.
- Eye Color Change: The title character changes eye colour to correspond to which Split Personality is in command in the anime.
- The Fettered
- Good Is Not Dumb
- Good Is Not Soft: He may not kill you when he fights you, but rest assures, you don't know what pain is until you piss him off.
- Good Old Ways: His formal and old-fashioned manner of speech is commented on more than once.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: His X-shaped scar on his face.
- Happily Married: To Kaoru in the Manga's Distant Finale.
- The Hero
- Heroic BSOD: Goes into a severe one after Enishi makes him believe he killed Kaoru.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sanosuke is the closest he has to this, as one of his most reliable allies and a close friend who he'd trust with his life. Sano for his part, admires Kenshin similarly and will follow him nearly everywhere.
- Homeless Hero: Until Kaoru gave him one.
- Humble Hero
- Iaijutsu Practitioner: How he gains the name "Battousai", because he's that good at battoujutsu.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Tomoe's death was the prime motivator for Kenshin to swear his no-killing oath and become a wandering swordsman to atone for his past.
- The Illegible: It becomes something of a Running Gag that his handwriting is so awful. Makes sense when you consider his personal history and how he probably never focused much on penmanship.
- Insecure Love Interest: He usually isn't sure if he deserves someone like Kaoru.
- Intergenerational Friendship: With several characters, especially Sanosuke and Yahiko.
- Jade-Colored Glasses: Earned his in the Revolution, when he realized that he had essentially been a hitokiri in a war against oppressors so that the victors might become oppressors instead. He also has no illusions that violence, whether it kills or not, begets anything other than violence.
- Japanese Pronouns: He usually uses "sessha" to refer to himself. When he switches to "ore", RUN.
- Jerkass Façade: He tries to assume one of these during the Kyoto Arc. Key word "tries;" he isn't very good at it.
- Keigo: Speaks like this almost constantly, and is also a Third-Person Person.note If he doesn't... run.
- Last Name Basis: Misao and a few others calls him by his family name.
- Leitmotif: Kimi wa Dare o Mamotte Iru.
- Lightning Bruiser: Fast and powerful but ultimately his lack of muscles means his body will deteriorated to the point where he eventually can't even fight any more. Most of his fights show him taking a lot of punishment before being able to make a counterattack.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy
- Love Is a Weakness: A particularly Dangerously Genre Savvy enemy invoked this in the backstory. He sent Tomoe to act as a Honey Trap for Kenshin, ostensibly to learn his weaknesses. At the time, Tomoe wanted revenge against Kenshin for killing her fiance, so she agreed. Gradually, she fell in love with Kenshin for real. Then the guy who recruited her kidnapped her to lure Kenshin into an ambush. Tomoe realized at that moment that she hadn't been sent to Kenshin to learn his weakness, she had been sent to Kenshin to become his weakness.
- Made of Iron: He certainly isn't the only character who exhibits this trait, but he can take quite a beating through multiple fights and still come out on top. Notably in the Kyoto Arc, he goes through three fights with extremely skilled swordsman and manages to survive. However...
- Deconstruction: In the final arc, Megumi makes it painfully clear that all the grievous injuries, on top of the physically-taxing Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, catch up to him. At the last battle, he barely has enough in him for one last fight, and at the very end of it all, his body has been pushed to the point that in five years, he can't even use the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu style at all.
- Magnetic Hero: Is this in spades.
- Beat them up: Played straight with Sano. Took a while for it to happen with Aoshi.
- Give the kid a candy bar: How he got Yahiko, whom he let keep the wallet that he pick-pocketed.
- Save their life: Kaoru, Megumi, Yahiko, Misao...
- Tell them your quest: Once Kenshin tells you that he's trying to atone for his actions during the Bakumatsu, there's an 8 out of 10 chance that people will be inspired enough to follow him. Subverted with Saito, who reluctantly joins Kenshin on not one, but THREE quests, though only to apprehend the criminals behind it.
- To get a good idea of how much Kenshin is this, just think about where all the other characters would have been if they hadn't met him:
- Kaoru would have been forced to give up the dojo or be killed if she didn't.
- Yahiko would still be a pickpocket forced to work for the Yakuza.
- Sanosuke would still be a fighter-for-hire.
- Megumi would've been forced to make opium for Kanryu for the rest of her life.
- Master Swordsman: He wouldn't be one if he wasn't called "Battousai" and Aoshi wanting a duel to gain the title of "the strongest".
- Meaningful Name: His birth name Shinta means "Kindness".
- Meaningful Rename: When Hiko Seijuro, his teacher and adoptive father, considered Shinta – which means "Kindness" – too meek a name for a swordsman, he renamed the boy "Kenshin" (Sword-Heart) so he may better travel down the road of the warrior.
- Nice Guy
- Official Couple: With Kaoru.
- Older Than He Looks
- One-Man Army: Case in point.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse
- Purple Eyes
- Real Men Wear Pink: His shirt is actually pink. He's also a better cook than Kaoru (which isn't saying much) and helps keep the dojo neat and tidy.
- Anime only (and it's really more of a magenta). In the manga, his shirt is usually either red or navy blue.
- Red Baron: Hitokiri Battousai, The "Manslayer"
- Red-Headed Hero: Despite being Japanese and in a series that has realistic Hair Colors. According to fanon and/or some Epileptic Trees, he might have Dutch blood in his veins as the Dutch were pretty much the only foreigners allowed to stay in Japanese territory during the isolation years imposed by the Shogunate.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Except when in Battosai mode, he's the Red Oni to Saito's Blue Oni.
- Samurai Ponytail: He has the long, well kept variant.
- Sanity Slippage: It's strongly implied that he was gradually losing his sanity the more he killed people during his time as a Hitokiri. He credits meeting Tomoe as what saved him from going over the edge.
- Scarf of Asskicking: Gained one in the Cinema-ban manga, and actually putting it on when confronting Sano in chapter two.
- Second Love: For Tomoe.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: He's the sensitive guy to Sanosuke's manly man.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran
- Skilled, but Naive: Kenshin's master emphasizes that because of his naivete, he ended up getting manipulated by the Isshin-Shishi as a political tool, becoming merely a ruthless assassin rather than a freedom fighter.
- Supernatural Gold Eyes: Part and parcel of his Super-Powered Evil Side.
- Super-Powered Evil Side: If he cracks under pressure, the Knight Templar Battousai comes out...
- Technical Pacifist: He will never ever kill you, but you will be in pain for sure if you fight him.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Most of the time.
- Through His Stomach: Kenshin likes Kaoru's cooking because she keeps getting better and better at it.
- Tiger Versus Dragon: He is the dragon, Enishi is the tiger.
- Tragic Hero
- Twice Shy: With Kaoru.
- Verbal Tic: "Oro?", as well as the aforementioned keigo speech.
- Warrior Therapist: Much like his namesake would indicate, he's able to tell quite a bit about someone by fighting them.
- Weak, but Skilled: He is short and scrawny but his skills are top notch.
- The Worf Barrage: When your sword style is considered the strongest and designed to incapacitate opponents in a single blow, it can fall into this. In terms of specific attacks, Ku Zu Ryu Sen falls into this. Despite being one of Kenshin's two ultimate techniques, as well as being unblockable and undodgeable, opponents are either strong enough to ignore it, or fast enough to dodge it.
- In fact, Kuzu Ryusen has only worked once in the entire manga against Shishio. It just wasn't enough to put him down.
- The Worf Effect: He technically doesn't lose many fights, but in the beginning of the series antagonists like Jin-E and Saitou established their threat level by easily defeating Kenshin the wanderer, leading to him succumbing to his Battousai personality.
- Worf Had The Flu: His initial defeat at the hands of Enishi in the Jinchuu arc is attributed to the inner turmoil he was suffering from at the time preventing him from fighting at his best: Caused by his guilt over killing Tomoe and lacking an answer for how he could atone for it. By the time they fight again, Kenshin has resolved these issues and is able to defeat Enishi.
- World's Best Warrior: Even at the start of the series he's considered Japan's best swordsman, with Aoshi desiring to defeat him to gain his title.
- X Marks the Hero: The most iconic example, to the point that it's often called a "Kenshin scar".
Portrayed by: Emi Takei (Live Action)
A seventeen-year-old dojo instructor. Kaoru is a teacher of the Kamiya Kasshin-ryu style, a swords style used to protect people, and not harm others. Since her father was killed in the war, responsibility for running the family dojo fell to young Kaoru. After defending Kaoru from the fake Battōsai and his allies, Kenshin is invited to live at the dojo. Kaoru quickly develops a crush on Kenshin, soon falling in love with him, although she tends to violently deny it.
- Action Girl/Faux Action Girl: Depending on your viewpoint and on the story arc. She's more action-geared in the anime.
- Alliterative Name
- Animal Motifs: The tanuki.
- Babies Ever After: She and Kenshin have a son named Kenji in the Manga's Distant Finale.
- Badass Adorable
- Badass Teacher: To Yahiko.
- Bathing Beauty: More so in the anime than in the manga, though it's not done for Fanservice in particular. Nothing pleases Kaoru more than taking a nice bath in the furo after a long day of training at dojos, so Kenshin always makes sure to prepare it for her beforehand.
- Betty and Veronica: The Betty to Megumi's Veronica.
- Can't Catch Up: Kaoru would be an impressive fighter if she weren't outclassed by the overpowered freaks of nature that run rampant in this show. Do bear in mind however, she is still one of the five warriors to hold the honor of having defeated a Juppongata (namely Kamatari the Great-Scythe), one of the Ten Greatest Warriors in Meiji Japan, in personal combat. With a wooden sword. And a broken wooden sword, at that.
- Also doesn't help that her Ultimate Technique is completely useless against Kamatari due to the nature of his weapon. Still doesn't stop her from winning. During the Raijuta arc, she's also shown to be highly respected by other Dojo's. Word of God states that she'd be a national level Kendo champion in Real Life.
- Character Development: Kaoru transforms more over the series than any other character. At the beginning she is a clingy, snappy, naive and immature girl with a childish crush on Kenshin; by the end she is far more emotionally mature, being more even-tempered, holding ideals that are grounded in reality (without being cynical) and harboring a sincere love for Kenshin and desire to support him.
- The Chick
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Played for Laughs, but dropped thanks to Character Development.
- Defiant Captive: Refuses to be cowed in the Jinchuu arc even after her faked death and kidnapping by Enishi.
- Death Faked for You: Enishi kidnaps Kaoru, replaces her with a doll and impales the mannequin to a wall with his sword before he leaves it for Kenshin to find, sending Kenshin into a severe Heroic BSOD.
- First Girl Wins: First girl introduced in the main narrative but second in the timeline.
- Happily Married: To Kenshin in the Manga's Distant Finale.
- Heir to the Dojo
- The Lady's Favour: Kaoru gives Kenshin her favorite hair ribbon before he sets off to find Jin'e.
- Lethal Chef: To the extent that Kenshin is the one wearing the apron in the family...
- The Obi-Wan: To Yahiko. Subverted in that her death is faked.
- Official Couple: With Kenshin.
- Plucky Girl: On a good day. In fact, she manages to break through Jin-e's brainwashing (which he says paralyzes her lungs and will eventually make her suffocate) by sheer willpower alone.
- Replacement Goldfish: She winds up taking this role to Enishi as a stand-in for Tomoe.
- Second Love: For Kenshin.
- The Smurfette Principle: The only girl in the Kenshin-gumi.
- Stuffed In The Fridge: Stabbed through the heart by Enishi, has an X-shaped scar carved onto her left cheek, and left nailed to the dojo wall in a pool of her own blood. The gruesome display was meant to send Kenshin over the edge with grief, knowing that he failed to save his Second Love. It works really well. She ain't dead after all.
- Tomboyish Ponytail
- Tomboy with a Girly Streak
- Tsundere: Her Image Song is even titled, It's Not Like I Like You or Anything.
- Twice Shy: With Kenshin.
- Volleying Insults: With Sanosuke and Yahiko.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Believes quite firmly in the Katsujinken, that is, "the sword that gives life". She never loses this ideal, but she does adapt it to be more realistic.
- Wooden Katanas Are Even Better: She beats Kamatari and his Sinister Scythe with her broken bokken.
- The Worf Effect: Her status as Kenshin's Morality Pet undergoes this. We see her snap Kenshin out of his "Battosai" personality, in the fight with Jin-e. During Kenshin's confrontation with Saitou, however, nothing she does gets to him; proof that Kenshin cannot merely suppress his inner demons forever.
- As a literal example, she's easily subdued at the start of the series by Hiruma Gohei, requiring Kenshin to step in.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: A straight-up example in Seishouhen. She has also grown into one after the manga's Grand Finale, but it's more subtle.
Sagara Sanosuke / Higashidani Sanosuke
Portrayed by: Aoki Munetaka (Live Action)
A street fighter who befriends Kenshin early in the series. As a youth, Sanosuke ran away from home to join the Sekiho Army, a group of farmers and merchants who fought for the Ishin Shishi during the Meiji Revolution. When the Sekiho were betrayed and executed by the other revolutionaries, Sanosuke escaped and becomes a fighter-for-hire to vent his anger. He is hired to attack Kenshin, a former Ishin Shishi, but when Sanosuke is defeated he becomes Kenshin's best friend and fighting partner.
Portrayed by: Taketo Tanaka (Live Action)
A young boy at ten years old and the son of a samurai. When he was younger, both of his parents died, and he was taken in by the Yakuza, who forced him to live as a pickpocket. Once he meets up with Kenshin and Kaoru, he decides to stand up to the Yakuza, and escapes with Kenshin's help. He joins Kaoru's dojo to become a stronger swordsman, becoming the first graduate of Kamiya Kasshin-ryū. Over the course of the series, he becomes a strong warrior.
- Adorably Precocious Child: He fits this trope excellently, insisting that he is the descendant of a proud samurai lineage and berating anyone who comments on his age.
- Always Someone Better: Yahiko notes that even five years after retiring from swordsmanship and his own skills increasing exponentially, he barely manages to tie with Kenshin. Nevertheless, this earns him Kenshin's respect and his sakabatou.
- Author Avatar: Apparently based on Watsuki's own bratty boyhood self in the Junior High Kendo Team. Watsuki considers himself most like Yahiko in his admiration of Kenshin.
- Badass in Distress: His combat against Kujiranami during the Jinchuu arc. Yahiko ends up biting waaaaaaay more than he can chew, not that that stops him from trying even in the face of certain death, and ends up being saved by Kenshin.
- Bare-Handed Blade Block: His specialty. At the end of the manga, he becomes known as "The Man Who Caught A Thousand Blades" - bare-handed nothing, he demonstrates by catching a blade with his knuckles!
- Big Brother Mentor: Becomes this for Kenji.
- The Big Guy: He may be tiny, but he can take one hell of a beating.
- Bratty Half-Pint: At first.
- Can't Catch Up: Experiences this in the last arc of the manga, as he becomes more frustrated at his inability to keep up with Kenshin or Sanosuke.
- Determinator: Remains standing against vastly superior opponents and even after suffering severe injuries, all through willpower alone.
- Hero-Worshipper: He admires Kenshin's strength, and later on, learns to admire his strength in character.
- Hot-Blooded: The other more exuberant member of Kenshin's team, aside from Sanosuke.
- Kid Samurai: Declares himself to be "son of a Tokyo samurai" in his earliest introduction.
- The Mario: He can't match up to Kenshin, Sanosuke, Saitou, or Kaoru as a child, but he learns from all four and has a pretty well-rounded fighting style. Evolves to The Ace as an adult, utilizing Kenshin's attitude, taking Kaoru's sword style to a new level, and keeping just a hint of Sanosuke in his personality.
- Parental Abandonment: His father died and his mother became a prostitute to support him before she, too, passed away.
- Percussive Pickpocket: Tries to do this to Kenshin.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Kaoru smugly notes in the series epilogue that he only has eyes for Tsubame.
- Son of a Whore: His Missing Mom was an Ill Girl and a prostitute, widowed in the war. It should be noted that, unlike many examples of the trope, Yahiko actually cherishes his mom's memory and even takes pride on her doing what she could to raise him, using that to his favor when a bad guy tries giving him a Breaking Speech.
- Street Urchin: Following the death of his parents.
- Took a Level in Badass: Throughout the Kyoto and Jinchuu arcs, and especially at the end of the manga.
- Weak, but Skilled: Learning from Kenshin, Yahiko was able to develop into this.
- Wooden Katanas Are Even Better: He beats several rivals armed with real katanas and even explosives just with his shinai.
Voiced by: Mika Doi
(JP - Anime), Mari Devon (EN - Anime), Rebeca Robinson (EN - OVA)
Portrayed by: Yu Aoi (Live Action)
A woman from Aizu, daughter of a famous doctor who died in the war. She was left all alone and started working in Tokyo, but her boss was killed by an industrialist; Megumi was then kidnapped and forced to make opium for him. With Kenshin and Sanosuke's support and encouragement, she becomes a doctor to atone for her past misdeeds.
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Imposing, dark-haired with pale skin. In her initial appearances, she is very distant.
- Animal Motifs: The fox.
- The Atoner: Is haunted by her past as Kanryuu Takeda's assistant.
- Betty and Veronica: The Veronica to Kaoru's Betty, though Kenshin never really expresses any genuine interest in Megumi and she eventually concedes that Kaoru and Kenshin are a more suitable couple.
- Broken Bird: Her first appearance.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: At first.
- Driven to Suicide: Twice, one time implied and the other interrupted. The first one happened in past: She has the typical wrist-cutting vertical scars and mentions having tried to kill herself (likely a Bath Suicide). The second attempt comes in when Megumi's re-captured by Kanryuu and believes that Kenshin and his friends have died fighting Aoshi and his group; she tries to cut her own throat, but Sanosuke arrives in time to stop her.
- Dr. Jerk: Has a tendency to be blunt or sarcastic, not helped by her traumatic backstory.
- Hospital Hottie: Medically-trained and acknowledged to be good-looking by the other characters.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: To Kenshin eventually.
- Jerkass->Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In her first appearances.
- Last of Her Kind: The last survivor of her clan.
- Master Poisoner: In her Dark and Troubled Past.
- The Medic: The only member of Kenshin's team without any fighting ability, her main role is to keep the rest of them patched up between fights. Especially Sanosuke, the resident punching bag.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Her reaction, upon discovering that the opium she produced wasn't being used for medicinal purposes
- Noblewoman's Laugh: Often seen delivering one, befitting her previous status as a member of a prestigious family.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Has both, and is considered attractive in accordance with the standards of Japanese beauty at the time.
- Team Mom: Plays one to the rest of Kenshin's party most of the time, especially when Yahiko, Kaoru and / or Sanosuke are being particularly rambunctious or quarrelsome.