"It was to create a world of peace, not to win positions of power, that we raised our swords and killed. If we forget that, then we are no revolutionaries after all."
— Kenshin Himura
A manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki, its name translates as "Kenshin the Wanderer", but it is also known as Samurai X after Columbia Pictures renamed it for their anime releases (which was later co-opted by ADV Films for their release of the movie and OVAs). Watsuki, being a major fan of the X-Men comics (the characters from which he based a lot of the cast's designs on), heartily endorsed this title translation.The year is 1878, a time of peace after the turbulent Meiji Restoration and Satsuma Rebellion. Kaoru Kamiya, the spirited young head of the Kasshin Kamiya Kendo School, is fending off some hooligans who want to seize her dojo when she acquires the last-minute help of a mysterious vagabond named Kenshin.It turns out that "Kenshin" is actually Kenshin Himura, a former teenage assassin who fought on the side of the revolutionary anti-shogunate forces during the Meiji Restoration. Regretting his former life as the infamous "Hitokiri Battousai" (roughly translates into "quick-draw manslayer" after his signature technique, the quick-draw slash a.k.a. 'Battoujutsu'), Kenshin now wanders the country as a vagrant soul, atoning for his past sins by using his godlike swordsmanship to right wrongs without killing anyone.The dojo later acquires two more regulars: Sanosuke Sagara, a brash youth with spiky hair and phenomenal physical strength; and Yahiko Myoujin , a Street Urchin who wants to become a samurai. Rounding off the cast is Megumi Takani, a beautiful woman and healer who acts as the Team Mom.One of the most popular series of the late 90's, Rurouni Kenshin is notable for defying several established Shounen conventions. It features an older hero (Kenshin is 28 at the start of the series, which is ancient by shonen protagonist standards — not that he looks it) who is world-weary and tired of fighting, instead of a wide-eyed young lad eager for adventure. Other themes which are rarely seen in the genre, such as politics and multi-layered romance, pop up as well. This is what contributed to the legendaryMultiple Demographic Appeal of the series, which crossed age, gender and national boundaries with equal ease.The series was followed by two OVA's, one a prequel (Tsuiokuhen, a.k.a. Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal) and the other (Seisoushen, a.k.a. Reflections) a sequel. The entire Sony dub of the anime is available to watch on Hulu under Samurai X.Watsuki announced that he will be working on the series again, another manga series will start on May 2nd, 2012. Rurouni Kenshin Cinema-ban will be an adaption of the Live-Action movie; it will be a monthly run at Jump Square magazine, a short one since he plans to end in within the same year.And as of recent years, rumors are swirling of a revival. Turns out this takes the form of a new PSPgame, and a series of Japanese-produced live-action movies. The first one, entitled simply Rurouni Kenshin, was received with critical acclaim last 2012 and still currently being distributed worldwide. The 2014 sequel, Kyoto Inferno is currently enjoying large critical and commercial acclaim all over Asia, to be followed by a third film entitled The Legend Ends.There is also a newOVA series remaking the Kyoto arc and a new spinoff manga focusing on the villains.
In the manga, Sagara Sozo and the Sekihotai chose to follow the summons of the Meiji Government after the false accusation of them being a "false army" got around, which led to their immediate execution. In the anime, they were ambushed by a Meiji Government military unit sent to exterminate them. The leader of this unit would also become the villain in the expansion of the story arc involving Sanosuke's Sekihotai comrade Katsu.
In the manga, Raijuta is a buffoon rampaging against select kendo dojos, throwing his weight around with Yutaro's wealth. In the anime, Raijuta has a Quirky Miniboss Squad and is actually seeking to launch a coup d'etat against the Meiji Government, still using Yutaro's wealth.
Adaptational Villainy: Inverted with Ujiki, the corrupt Satsuma police officer in the Tokyo Arc, in the Reflection OVA. In the OVA, he is simply doing his job of trying to apprehend Kenshin for breaking the "no swords rule" and respectively lets Yamagata handle when he arrives, showing none of his manga/anime counterpart's douchebaggery.
Adaptational Wimp: Aoshi gets hit with this HARD in Shin Kyoto Hen, going from one of the biggest badasses in the series, to a mook who gets pimpslapped by a tired and wounded Kenshin in less than a minute, going down with one simple hit from the butt of Kenshin's sword without landing a single blow. For Shame!
For a ten year old, Yahiko has a ridiculous amount of leeway that allows him to wield a sword, go on adventures, overshadow his teacher, and kick a buttload of giant mook ass in near-death battles. But when he goes off in the middle of the night with a bunch of rebels in the motion picture? Yahiko not only gets slapped by a very distressed and teary-eyed Kaoru, but even pacifist Kenshin, who wouldn't raise a hand to anybody unless it was absolutely necessary, comes out and says that if Kaoru hadn't done it, he would have slapped Yahiko upside the head himself. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for worrying your surrogate parents like that, young samurai.
The Jinchuu arc is a horrifyingly well-done attempt by Enishi to use this on Kenshin. So Kenshin wasn't able to protect his first wife Tomoe and the mere possibility of losing his girlfriend Kaoru terrifies him? Now Tomoe's vengeful brother deliberately exploits this fear to make Kenshin believe Kaoru has been bloodily murdered by him, thus making him revive these horrible memories. And Kenshin almost crosses the Despair Event Horizon after that.
The Psychological Horror implications of Saito going to the Kamiya dojo behind Kenshin's back brings out the Adult Fear card with incredible strength. Think about it: he could've killed everyone there easily if he wanted to, and Kenshin wouldn't have been able to do anything. When Kenshin put two and two together, he almost had a Heroic BSOD.
Played horrifyingly straight in Anji Yukyuzan's backstory. The moment he left his old temple to meditate under a waterfall... it was the moment when he was beaten bloody by the local townspeople and said temple was burned to the ground. With Anji's adopted children inside. All because the town couldn't receive money from the government because the children were born to the losing side of the revolution. The terrible psychological consequences led to his Face-Heel Turn.
Anime Accent Absence: Partly averted with Enishi: having spent much of his life in China at first he speaks Japanese with a "visible" accent. Later on he loses it (Watsuki probably grew tired of it) but he still roars, groans and laughs in "Chinese."
Anime Theme Song: Some particularly famous and career-launching examples, with the greatest irony being that the ending theme changed far more often than the opening.
The third and most famous ending theme, "Heart of Sword" (which puns off of Kenshin's name, of course) is the song that made T.M.Revolution famous. The show even went back to it after L'Arc~en~Ciel's song was infamously removed after a drug scandal.
"It's gonna rain", which was drafted as a rather quick replacement, became the big break for Bonnie Pink.
"1/3 of Pure Emotional Feelings" was similarly Siam Shade's first day in the limelight.
Most infamously, though, was that the show kept "1/2" by Makoto Kawamoto as the opening theme for ages; it lasted for three whole plot arcs and the opening animation was altered twice while keeping the song the same. In an industry where songs can change every hour, this was very, very unusual.
"This new era" (i.e., Meiji) serves as a Story Words version during the majority of the manga.
"The age decides the man" and "In this world the weak are food for the strong. If you are strong, you live. If you are weak, you die" throughout the Kyoto arc, especially during Kenshin and Shishio's duel.
Kenshin's art had three major shifts: the soft, shojo-esque initial design, the sharp, more shonen style used starting in the Kyoto arc, and a style that gradually became more streamlined during the Revenge arc. The new 2012 run is gearing to be just like Busou Renkin and Embalming in art style.
There's also Music Evolution for the anime. The first "season" (roughly the first two cours or 26 episodes) featured a fairly light, jazzy soundtrack. Once the Kyoto arc kicked off, however, the show shifted to a much heavier, orchestral soundtrack and feel to match the scope and scale of the story.
There are also the draft character redesigns that were released with the kanzenban editions yet. Drawn in Watsuki's more recent style, some of the characters are barely recognizable (also there appear to be changes to some back stories but it's not really certain since translations don't seem to exist yet).
As Lethal as It Needs to Be: Kenshin almost kills Seijuro with the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, only sparing him because some bolts on his sword gave way, lessening the blow. Kenshin never comes close to doing that kind of damage with the move again, even against enemies far physically weaker than Seijuro. Justified somewhat as it's explicitly said that Kenshin must be very careful with that attack.
Megumi is a non-combatant example, as she's trying to gain redemption for the deaths her opium caused.
Aoshi definitely has shades of this, especially after Kenshin brings him back from the brink of pure evil.
Attack Its Weak Point: Kenshin wins the battle against Gein by jamming up the gears of his puppet with a tiny rock, and then proceeds to Hannibal Lecture Gein about the importance of being able to feel pain.
Avoiding The Great War: This trope is played straight after Kenshin defeats Shishio, who has a Social Darwinist ideology. Kenshin thinks to himself that hopefully he's prevented such an ideology from ever again arising or leading to problems in Japan.
Awesome, but Impractical: Many of the awesome but incredibly hard sword techniques, like Hiten Mitsurugi style, are rendered moot when they go against modern firearms. This is why Boring, but Practical techniques like Kamiya Kasshin style are preferred.
Battousai: "It doesn't matter. Use whatever technique you like. Once I've said I'll kill you, your death is assured!"
Happens twice more during his duel with Saito:
Battousai: "Stop dreaming. I will be the one killing you."
Battousai: "The next time something flies, it will be your head."
Badass Creed: Aku Soku Zan. It translates to "Swift Death to Evil", or a bit more creatively, "Slay Evil Immediately/Instantly". Columbia Pictures, on the other hand, dubbed it as "Evil. Right Now. Murder."
Kenshin to Aoshi. This gets a nice Ironic Echo when Aoshi does the same to an Elite Mook who was copying his fighting style.
"It is my sword, and I know its every swing." (He then proceeds to break the weapon. With one hand.)
Yahiko becomes famous for this, as his school excels at defensive abilities, starting with a technique that allows him to catch blades between the backs of his hands. He eventually learns to catch swords between the knuckles of his index and middle fingers, gaining him the nickname "Master of a Thousand Blade Catches."
Shishio makes it very clear to that any move he sees will never work against him and to prove his point, he catches Kenshin and Saito's blades between his thumb and his index and middle fingers when attempting Ryushosen and the Gatotsu respectively, both of which he had seen previously.
Sanosuke's policy against conspiracies and against being treated like a weakling are absolute—he will stand for neither, and he'll just as soon sucker-punch Kenshin as he'll threaten to break Saito's arm for either offense, even if it would be to help him.
Later, Houji commits suicide rather than stand trial, when it turns out that the Meiji Government will deny him his chance at making a public statement.
Beware the Nice Ones: Kenshin is most decidedly Not Nice when in Battousai Mode. This is illustrated most memorably when he plays up his scary face on Takeda Kanryu:
"IF YOU'RE GOING TO BEG FOR YOUR LIFE... PRAY TO YOUR BELOVED MONEY!!"
Big Bad: Makoto Shishio in the Kyoto Arc, Enishi Yukishiro in the Revenge Arc. The Tokyo Arc is a collection of smaller stories without a single Big Bad, though Saito is the final opponent of the arc. In the Remembrance flashback, Tatsumi arguably serves this role.
BFS: Sano's zanbato. Deconstructed when Kenshin explains that because it's so large, it only has a limited number of ways of attacking and is thus very predictable. Kenshin eventually cuts it in half, leading Sanosuke to ditch it in favor of his fistsuntil the Revenge arc, where it's repaired and used to play baseball with a grenade launcher.
Blade Run: Kenshin does this to Sano's zanbato; his mentor pulls off an even more awesome version on a different opponent's even bigger weapon.
This is most often invoked by the villains since Kenshi is a peaceful person and is against killing. The villains tend to kill people in very bloody ways to make a point they're horrible murderers. Although quite a few characters Cough UpBlood after sustaining heavy hits causing life threatening organ damage, making the other characters fear if they'll come out alive.
One of the few times the implications of coughing up blood is actually addressed in Shonen anime: Kenshin gets punched in the gut by Gein's giant puppet, and when he coughs up blood, Megumi worriedly notes that this means he's sustained major organ damage.
Bloodless Carnage: Interestingly not due to censorship; because Kenshin's sword has a reversed blade, it's not uncommon (especially in the early episodes) for him to use it to strike down hordes of enemies without shedding a pint of blood.
Boring Invincible Hero: Mostly averted. Kenshin is basically this for the first few episodes, but quickly gets enemies that can go toe to toe with him. Still, until the Kyoto Arc, most of Kenshin's fights don't actually have any threat of Kenshin losing. More important is the threat of him being forced to break his oath.
Bouncing Battler: Kenshin leaps off walls and ceilings quite often in order to get the drop on his enemies.
Breaking the Bonds: Kenshin has to do this a few times, given the number of times he winds up tied to various objects over the course of the series; interestingly enough, though, he almost never actually breaks the rope in question. He slips out of it, cuts it, or—in the pirate filler arc—dislocates his wrist to get free.
(crunch) "Gngh! I can never get used to this, can I!" (he escapes)
Kenshin meets Kaoru this way. He saves her via bridal-carry against the fake Battousai, and then fakes a hip injury. (Kaoru, thinking that he's insulting her weight, is most unamused).
When Yumi's being carried by Sano via being slung over his back as they're racing against time to fight their way up Shishio's evil fortress. When Yumi complains, Sano asks her sarcastically whether or not she'd prefer being carried bridal style (with a straw dummy taking her place).
Broken Bird: Yumi Komagata, Shura the Pirate, Tomoe Yukishiro, to a degree Sayo Magdaria; Megumi started the series as this, but she gets better.
Burn The Orphanage: Happens in Anji's back story, where a temple that was used to shelter kids who were orphaned by the war was burned down by the land owner more or less for the money.
Calling Your Attacks: Interrupted on one occasion when Enishi punches Kenshin in the face before he can finish.
Kaoru starts the series unable to catch up to Kenshin, and though Watsuki points out that that Kaoru is at least a national level kendoka and thus a very strong woman both emotionally and physically, she's surrounded by absurdly strong fighters. Her choosing to stay home and out of many of the big fights in the manga doesn't help the perception of her being a Faux Action Girl either. In the anime, however, she is much more involved, helping with rescuing Yahiko and taking part in the raid on Kanryuu's mansion.
Most of the rest of the Kenshingumi can't catch up to him either, but they have particular abilities and skills that allow them to take on Quirky Miniboss Squads.
Averted by Saito, who is definitely on Kenshin's level.
Cat Smile: Well more like fox face, Megumi does this every once in awhile when teasing Kaoru.
Chekhov's Gun: When Sanosuke leaves for Kyoto, one of his friends from his revolutionary days gives him several tiny bombs of his own making, "just in case." Those bombs, after not being mentioned for several volumes, are used to sink Shishio's battleship and completely derail his plan.
Christmas Cake: Tae is implied to be one, if Kaoru's crack about her age and Tae's reaction are any indication.
Chronic Hero Syndrome: Kenshin has this as a huge part of his character. As The Atoner he feels he must protect everyone he can regardless of whether it impedes improving the bigger picture (it rarely does but it wouldn't change his decision if it did).
Coitus Uninterruptus: In Shin Kyoto Hen, Usui attempts to attack Shishio while he's boning Yumi. Yet, as expected of Shishio, he can still defend himself while in bed and proceeds to give Usui orders as if this was all a normal day for him.
Conscription: Kaoru's father was conscripted to help suppress the Satsuma Rebellion before the start of the story. He died during the war, leaving Kaoru as the sole master of the Kamiya Kasshin-Ryu.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: Many fights play out like this, though it is somewhat justified for Kenshin in that the Hiten Mitsurugi style is specifically described as an exceptionally rare and deadly discipline that specializes in combat against multiple opponents.
Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: A frequent victim of this, even in media that focus on anime and manga. Kenshin is not and was never a samurai, as that was a distinct social class one had to be born into. One of the English dubs even gets it wrong with the title itself. A similar problem exists for attribution of the theme "Sobakasu", as "Judy and Mary" was the name of the band, not anybody in it. (The singer is Yuki Isoya, who goes by "YUKI" in all-caps).
Cradle of Loneliness: At the very end of the Trust and Betrayal OVA, Kenshin can be seen cradling Tomoe's shawl as he takes shelter from the rain. In an inversion, while he does that the ghost of Tomoe begins cradling him.
Crippling the Competition: Kenshin encounters a thug posing as Kenshin's old assassin persona and creating a lot of trouble. When he defeats the guy in the anime, Kenshin smashes his fingers with his sword so that the thug will never be able to hold a sword again. Also, early in his days of being a Technical Pacifist, Kenshin chopped off an opponent's arm instead of killing him. The opponent thought this was a deliberate Cruel Mercy (as opposed to killing him honorably), and comes back for revenge with an Arm Cannon.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Kenshin is angelically good-natured and easy going, to the point of being a bit of a doormat, emphasized by his extremely formal and humble, almost groveling, manner of speech (he uses "this one" instead of "I", for one). He is also the most feared assassin in recent history and, even though he doesn't kill anymore, has no problem demonstrating just how terrifying he can be if push comes to shove.
Crusading Widower: Kenshin's principle of "protect the innocent without killing" was inspired by the death of his wife Tomoe.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: Subverted; a filler arc of the anime begins with a band of Christian revolutionaries and their deranged leader Amakusa Shogo, a would-be messiah likely modeled after both real-world cult leader Asahara Shoko and Japanese historical figure Amakusa Shiro Tokisada.
Cute Cry: Kaoru, Megumi, Misao, and (most notably) Tsubame. In essence all the main girls/women at some point.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: At the end of the Kyoto arc, most of the surviving Juppongatana members are pardoned and given government jobs which make use of their unique skills.
Damsel in Distress: Kaoru who is kidnapped or otherwise in danger frequently in the first half.
Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Succession Technique puts tremendous strain on Kenshin's body. Sano broke his hand during the Kyoto arc, subsequent uses of his ultimate technique tended to have bad results for said hand (until he figured out a workaround).
Deadly Delivery: Saito pulls this stunt when he visits the Kamiya dojo, by posing as a peddler selling medicines and home remedies. Sanosuke almost falls for it, until he notices the calluses on Saito's hands. At which point Saito drops the facade and attacks Sanosuke, nearly killing him. He notes the attack would have been fatal had it not been for the flimsiness of the sword he was carrying.
When it comes to his morals. Saitou Hajime is a straight example as well, not mincing any words and possessing a tongue that's sharper than his sword and says it with a straight face. For solid proof, watch his fights against Usui and Mumyoui Yatsume.
Death by Childbirth: Enishi and Tomoe's mother. Tomoe thus became more of a mother figure to him, which explains his obsession with big sis.
Death Faked for You: Kaoru. Enishi wanted to leave behind her actual corpse, but couldn't bring himself to do it.
The series as a whole is a deconstruction of the Jidai Geki genre.
Also, Anji Yukyuzen is a deconstruction of Papa Wolf since his adoptive childrens' death drive him to madness and a Face-Heel Turn, and Sanosuke has to beat the shit out of him both physically and mentally to make him see reason.
Shougo Amakusa from the anime deconstructs Religious Bruiser and Love Freak, since everyone told him that he was a "Son of God" since he was a kid and his family died horribly... but that makes him grow into an arrogant Jerk Ass with a God Complex who almost gets himself and all of his followers killed, and doesn't stop until both his sister and Morality Pet dies and Kenshin defeats him.
Defeat Means Friendship: Happens to Sano (after one battle, though it was the power of Kenshin's Warrior Therapist tendencies that really did the job), Aoshi (it takes a second, more thorough ass-kicking), and to some extent even Saitou (by the end of the series).
Defensive Feint Trap: Kenshin defeats a large opponent by baiting him into a running match, until the point that the opponent's knee gives out.
Dénouement: After Kenshin defeats Enishi once and for all, the rest of Volume 28 focuses on wrapping up everything in the story.
Kenshin himself sometimes seems to fight on nothing more than sheer willpower.
Sanosuke displays this trait just as much as Kenshin does. It helps that he's Made of Iron.
Yahiko, particularly during the Jinchuu Arc.
Disney Death: Kaoru. The author even apologized for the anticlimax (although in retrospect the setup for this was really obvious). He's also somewhat torn on how it turned out—on the one hand, it's an awful anticlimax, but on the other hand, he believes steadfastly that Kenshin deserves a happy ending and life, and there was no way that could be accomplished if that had happened. So he doesn't regret it.
Downer Ending: The controversial ending of the second OVA series.
The Dragon: Soujirou to Shishio and Gein to Enishi.
The Drifter: Kenshin's way of life after the Restoration to repent for his killings and to protect people plagued by evil, until he settles down at the dojo. Kaoru also often worries about him reverting to his old habits and leaving her alone.
Dub Name Change: Bizzarely, a few of the main cast get this in the Sony/Columbia dub which saw lots of play in markets other than the U.S., and it's a Japanese ... to Japanese name change. Kenshin is often pronounced without the "n", Kaoru became Kaori, and most bizzarely Yahiko was changed to Yoshi. No other characters got this treatment. What makes it even weirder is that it's almost like someone was doing their homework on the changes, since Kaoru (薫) and Kaori (香) have essentially the same meaning in Japanese (but the latter sounds a bit more "feminine" to Western ears due to ending on a high vowel), and "Yoshi" could be either 義 (righteous), 吉 ("good luck", for irony points) or 良 (good, as in "decently good", referencing his okay-but-not-great swordwork), all of which fit Mr. Myoujin well. These would almost fall under the Woolseyism banner ... if anyone could figure out why in the world the changes were even deemed necessary in the first place.
Edutainment Show: Just might qualify, since the show provides plenty of information on the Meiji Era and the Bakumatsu that took place during the final years of the Edo period. Indeed, it is on record that popular and scholarly interest in formerly-obscure aspects of the Meiji Revolution such as the Sekihotai and the anti-Buddhist purges were sparked by the series.
Shishio is this for Kenshin, as Shishio was Kenshin's replacement as hitokiri and both symbolize the cultural conflict in Japan at the time between the ruthless inhumanity of modern politics and technology and the idealistic hope for future social equality and peace.
Soujirou and Shishio are specifically drawn as evil counterparts to Kenshin and Hiko Seijurou to show how the differing philosophies of their respective mentors had vastly different effects on their lives.
Expressive Hair: Misao's braid; the other characters just get a few strands of misplaced hair while flustered. Chou claims that his hair stands straight up while angry, but Kenshin brutally shoots him down by saying that his hair is like that all the time anyway.
The Shinsengumi: (Watsuki is a huge Shinsengumi fan) get them in Aoshi (Hijikata Toshizou), Sanosuke (Harada Sanosuke), Soujirou (Okita Souji), Kanryuu (Kanryuusai Takeda), and to some extent Shishio (Serizawa Kamo). Saito Hajime is just right out there.
The Fellowship Has Ended: At the end of the series, most of the characters leave Tokyo to go on with their lives. Misao and Aoshi return to Kyoto. Sanosuke is forced to flee from Japan and becomes The Drifter. Megumi leaves to search for her family and only characters remaining are Kenshin, Kaoru and Yahiko.
Filler: Sadly, the overuse of filler episodes in the later seasons led to its eventual cancellation.
Final Battle: The Kenshin Gumi along with Aoshi, Misao and Saitou go to Enishi's island to rescue Kaoru. Once there, it's Aoshi, Yahiko, Sanosuke and Saitou vs. Enishi's four henchmen and, of course, Kenshin vs. Enishi.
Finger Poke of Doom: Sano introduces himself with one of these. Anji has a fingerpoke version of the Futae no Kawami, an ability that can shatter rocks to fine dust, and teaches it to Sano.
Fingore: Houji has one fingernail torn out and tears out six more himself. Also, Sanosuke's hand is seen with the fingers... not quite... sticking out correctly after using the Futae no Kiwami too much.
Forced to Watch: Averted in the Jinchuu Arc since Enishi was unable to kill any young woman who resembled his sister in age and appearance, so he couldn't kill Kaoru in front of Kenshin as he originally planned. So instead he left the dummy doll for Kenshin to stare at, but Aoshi figured it out.
Foreign Exchange Student: According to Cho, the "sword hunter", this what Kamatari becomes after the Juppongatana disbands. Though truthfully it was because Cho lied to Kamatari, by saying Shishio had wanted the remaining Juppongatana to spread word of his deeds in case his plans failed. In reality, it was Cho's way of keeping Kamatari from killing him/herself. It's also implied that he/she was aware of it.
Foreshadowing: In one early story, Yahiko explains that he's started work at the Akabeko because he wants to buy a reverse blade sword like Kenshin has. After the Time Skip at the end of the series, Kenshin gives Yahiko his own sword.
Fragile Speedster: Played with. On the one hand, Kenshin's Determinater qualities allow him to tank massive amounts of damage despite his slim build and his sword style's emphasis on speed and two-strike moves. Unfortunately played devastatingly straight at the end of the series where learning the Succession Technique effectively destroys his body through the accumulation of muscle damage in conjunction with the natural strain of someone with Kenshin's build using Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu style. This forces him to abandon the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu style (though his son is supposed to be even better than he is once he grows up, being a natural prodigy and all).
Interestingly played with Senkaku, one of Shishiou's lower minions. He's a Lightning Bruiser who is approximately as fast as Kenshin, despite his massive build. However Kenshin fights him in a match of speed, turning Senkaku's own body against him as he (Senkaku) keeps pushing himself until his joints collapse underneath him from the repeated strain.
Genius Bruiser: The Gohei brothers once they were merged in the anime.
Genki Girl: Misao is very perky for a ninja. Kaoru starts like one and mellows out (somewhat) as the series progresses. The two still have moments together where they create Typhoons of Genki, however, to the general dismay of Kenshin, Sano and any other male within fifty yards.
Genre Deconstruction: Of Jidai Geki. Being a samurai isn't just a thing of honor and swordfighting for either your master, your beliefs, or other causes, and it leaves huge mental and social scars on those who survive it.
Sano talks Megumi out of killing herself by grabbing her knife just as she was about to use it (ouch!) and reminding her that 1.) the rest of the cast had almost died trying to rescue her and 2.) her dead family would want her to keep on living.
Megumi delivers both a physical and verbal Bright Slap to Kaoru to talk her out of her deep blue funk.
It's more of a "how dare you leave me behind" punch, but Kenshin gets one from Sano in the Kyoto arc after they meet up again. Sano tries again after Kenshin's Heroic BSOD, but this time, it doesn't work. Tsubame is more successful, by reminding Kenshin that people still needed saving, like Yahiko. Oibore is the one who makes one last push.
Sano's motivation to fight Anji is this.
The time Kenshin punched himself in the face to get out of Battousai mode after a duel with Saitou also counts.
"Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Justified when the Meiji Government offers the surviving members of the Juppongatana jobs in exchange for their freedom. All but two accept: one chooses to stay in jail, the other commits suicide.
Giant Waist Ribbon: Worn by Aoshi and Misao in the Revenge arc, affectionately dubbed "Butt-Bows"
Girls' Night Out Episode: A filler episode was constructed in this manner when the women of the Kyoto branch of the Onibanwashu, but including Aoshi, came to Tokyo to fetch Misao. They all decided to go out on a day trip before they departed, with Kenshin and Aoshi staying behind at the doji and Yahiko and Sano trailing the girls to confirm that they were getting food without them.
Go and Sin No More: This is basically the offer that Kenshin makes to a great deal of his foes (aside from having them sent to the slammer) after he resolved not to kill anymore. However, this has been deconstructed when the strawman argument has been introduced to some of the nastier villains...
Goldfish Poop Gang: Those Two Bad Guys, a pair of brothers Kenshin defeats in his debut chapter, brought back as recurring minor minions in the anime; the manga also lets them show up again during Sano's side-story where he meets up with his family and dealt with offscreen just as quickly.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Kenshin has an X-shaped scar on his cheek with a tragic backstory, some villains like Makoto Shishio are just disfigured one big scar.
Yahiko, having been raised in a rough neighborhood, isn't averse to some very cheap shots. One filler episode had Yahiko attack half of the Goldfish Poop Gang in this manner, using a Discretion Shot of something else and the appropriate sound effects to imply what happened and then repeating it again, three times and in slow motion, each time with a different visual metaphor.
Yahiko invented a technique in the Jinchu arc called "Kamiya Kasshin Ryuu: Curse on the Descendants" which is essentially a flying sidekick to the groin.
Yahiko bit a guy in the groin in the manga. In the same chapter in which he was introduced.
Episode 17 of the anime series had the Girl of the Week Marimo kicking the episode villain's henchman in the groin from behind as she and Yahiko were confronted by them while making their way back to the circus show. It's no surprise that the henchman was hopping up and down in excruciating pain while holding his crotch after Marimo's surprising kick and that both Yahiko and the villain were quite surprised to see such an event transpire.
At one point in the manga, Yahiko isn't watching where he is going... and walks headfirst into Sanosuke's groin. It Makes Sense in Context: Yahiko is really short, and by contrast Sanosuke is the tallest of the group.
Ground Punch: Sanosuke performs a variant in the Kyoto arc; instead of punching the ground, he punches the water (since he's in the ocean), making a massive column which allows him to defend against gunfire from a Gatling gun.
His mentor Anji uses Futae no Kawami to punch the ground as a means of area denial.
Guilt Complex: Kenshin, Kenshin, Kenshin. Tomoe's death, Enishi's insanity and everything he does as a result of that, his psycho enemies putting his True Companions in danger, Survivors Guilt after the attack when he was a little kid... these are just a few of the things he blames himself for.
Hannibal Lecture: Shishio explains his plans to Kenshin in great detail and can't help but make derogatory remarks about Kenshin's pacifism. Kenshin refuses to cave.
Have We Met?: At the end of the Jinchuu arc, Enishi and Oibore ( his father) run into each other in a hobo camp near Tokyo. It's implied that they both realize who the other is, but neither seem to want to discuss it, so it's purposefully left ambiguous.
Sano breaks all of the bones in his hand executing his ultimate technique.
Villainous example: Shishio burns himself out, literally, at the end of the Kyoto arc.
Hiten Mitsurugi wasn't meant to be practiced by wielders of Kenshin's body type, so it was plenty stressful on Kenshin's body. Then when he mastered the final technique, the clock just began ticking right then and there until it was revealed in the last volume that Kenshin would no longer be able to use Hiten Mitsurugi style.
Heroic Sacrifice: Aoshi's men sacrifice themselves against Kanryuu's machine gun to keep Kanryuu from firing on Aoshi, after which Kanryuu runs out of ammunition. In the anime, the gun jams due to a projectile from the hidden weapons specialist.
He's Back: Kenshin revival from his Heroic BSOD after he found a reason to live again after Enishi's Jinchuu.
Hidden Depths: Many characters, but most notably Yumi, who is introduced at the beginning of the Kyoto arc as literally nothing more than an accessory for Shishio, and by the end is a well-rounded Anti-Villain complete with backstory.
Hidden Elf Village: Shingetsu Village. Not so much hidden as it was erased from official maps due to it being taken over by Shishio.
Highly-Visible Ninja: A conscious decision made by Misao's grandfather Okina, thus building for himself quite the support system out of his friends and neighbors in Kyoto.
Saito Hajime (1844-1915) was the captain of the Shinsengumi's third unit and later a police officer in Tokyo where he adopted the alias Fujita Goro (a name he uses frequently in the series) and married one Takagi Tokio.
Also Okita Souji and other Shinsengumi members, Oukubo Toshimichi, etc.
Historical In-Joke: Lots, though one of the most famous is the appearance of Okubo Toshimichi, a man considered one of the founders of modern Japan. In real life, he was murdered by a group of extremists called the Ichiro clan. In Kenshin, he travels to Tokyo to ask for Kenshin's help against Shishio, and is killed by one of Shishio's men on the way to get Kenshin's answer. The Ichiro clan then ambush the carriage to find Okubo already dead. Sensing an easy way to become feared and respected, they tell everyone they killed him.
Honor Before Reason: The warriors of the Kenshin Gumi and even Shishio of all people follow this trope to a tee.
Hot-Blooded: Yahiko, Sanosuke, his father Kamishimoemon Higashidane and Shishio who dies of literal Hot Blood
Horse Jump: Happens in a Filler episode when Kenshin catches up to a train being taken over by robbers by riding a horse over several docked boats and then making a spectacular leap onto the train. The horse earned the Fan Nickname "Super Horse".
Iaijutsu Practitioner: Kenshin is probably The Most Triumphant Example. Although an all-around Master Swordsman, he earned the nickname "Battousai" by being just that damn good at battoujutsu. Not only does he go out of his way to resheath his weapon against (nearly) all of his substantial adversaries, the ultimate technique of his swordsfighting style is a battoujutsu which is so powerful that, if blocked, it creates a small vacuum in the air.
I Know You Are In There Somewhere Fight: Subverted. Saitou uses it this to bring out Kenshin's Superpowered Evil Side, Kaoru tries to play it straight to bring Kenshin back and fails. However its played straight when Kaoru brings back Kenshin's gentler side when he's about to kill Jin-e, Kenshin indirectly stops Aoshi from fighting to the death by mentioning how Misao cried when he (Kenshin) promised to bring Aoshi back and how he (Aoshi) was turning his four fallen comrades into demons by obsessively fighting like this.
Ill Girl: In the anime, both Sayo aka Magdaria and her mother have consumption, which translates into Incurable Cough of Death and, in Magdaria's case, Blood from the Mouth. Neither of them dies of illness: Mrs. Mutou sacrifices herself so her kids and her brother can escape and is shot by soldiers, Sayo takes a bullet for a friend of Kenshin who can save Shougo and their group and dies in Sano's arms.
When Kenshin is late to return home after being dragged off to a gambling session with Sano, Yahiko suggests that he's either won big or lost big, then suggests that Kaoru shouldn't be surprised about him coming home in nothing but his underwear. In the manga, this is accompanied by a small visual of just that.
Kaoru gets very blushy when Yahiko (jokingly) suggests that she should put Kenshin (who has a habit of disappearing) on a leash because she imagines this. This comes back as a Brick Joke: as an attempt to keep Kenshin in Kyoto, Megumi puts a collar and leash on him.
Saitou, master of mental associations, makes the "if Kaoru -> Tanuki and Megumi -> Fox, then Misao -> Weasel" connection in one; later, when Chou and Sanosuke are arguing, he imagines a broom shooing away an angry rooster.
Misao and Kenshin also get one when the hear that Saitou is married. "She must be some kind of Goddess!" Cue (in the anime) a visual sting of Saitou◊ reclining on the statue of a Bodhisattva.
When Hiko finishes teaching Kenshin the Succession Technique, he declares Kenshin worthy of the Hiko name and cape. Both of them then imagine how Kenshin might look in it, and Kenshin decides that he'd rather not accept the passing of the torch after all.
A surprisingly naughty one happens in the anime when Kaoru imagines Kenshin proposing to her and then, um, well... the two of them are suddenly hidden by the bushes and then a flower falls off a nearby branch, complete with Kaoru crying out Kenshin's name passionately. Cut to Kaoru who has passed out on the street from the sheer hotness of the mental image.
One episode had Kaoru training a sumo wrestler. Sano wondered if she'd wear one of the sumo-wrestler loincloths. Kenshin, Yahiko, and Sano, all in a row, became very thoughtful as they shared a mental image of Kaoru in a loincloth and nothing else. Kaoru disabused them of the notion.
Informed Attractiveness: Megumi isn't ugly by any means, but she's certainly not as pretty as the show makes her out to be.
Informed Attribute: Misao is 16. She looks like she's maybe a year or so older than Yahiko!! Made particularly egregious after the time-skip where not only does she STILL not look her age (at this point in her twenties for Christ's sake!) Yahiko is 16 and looks older than she is!
Inspector Javert: Inverted with Saitou. He doesn't doubt that Kenshin has changed... he is simply appalled by how "weak" the famous Battousai has become and wants him to revert to his old self. By the end of the series, he acknowledges that Kenshin's gone down a different path, and calls off the blood feud between them.
It's unclear if Kenshin's this trope or just a very light sleeper, but when he's on watch he rests sitting up, with his sword in his lap and his forehead resting on the hilt. Once, he heard someone sneaking up on him and started a draw with his thumb. When it turned out to be Kaoru, he dropped the sword back down in relief and cuts said thumb.
In the flashback arc, Kenshin almost decapitates Tomoe when she approaches him while asleep to put a blanket on him. This actually subverts Instant Waking Skills by having Kenshin being so out of it that he almost could not identify his "attacker" in time to push her away—a moment more and he would've killed her. This causes him to truly realize the psychological toll of being an assassin.
"A sword is a weapon. Kenjutsu the art of murder." Kenshin says this at the beginning of the series, but then immediately rejects it in favor of Kaoru's more idealistic vision; it's revealed that this is his mentor's philosophy, and he quotes it back to Kenshin to remind him that real life is a Crapsack World.
Later, Saitou remarks to himself: "A Shinsegumi is a Shinsengumi. A wolf is a wolf. A hitokiri is a hitokiri. Isn't that right... Battousai?" but revises this statement at the end of the series when he realizes that Kenshin is serious about that whole Thou Shalt Not Kill thing, to the point of stopping Saitou, and then Enishi, from killing a downed opponent.
It's Probably Nothing: Kenshin has a dream about fighting someone from the revolution, which causes him to be distracted all day. In order to try and quit being detracted he tries to dismiss it as nothing, right before finding Sanosuke who was attacked by the same fighter from his dream.
A Deconstruction that asks: "So what happens to all those Bad Ass swordsmen after they've been outmoded by technology and a shift in societal mores?"note The surprisingly accurate answer, of course, is that "a lot of them were bored as hell and this was not a particularly safe period to live in." It never got quite this epic in real life, but it was still pretty brutal at times.
Knife-Throwing Act: A filler episode had Kaoru attempt this, only to hit Sanosuke in the arm on her first try.
The Lady's Favour: Kaoru gives Kenshin her favorite ribbon before he leaves to fight Jin-E. When he comes back and returns it to her, she goes ballistic on him because he stained it with his blood.
Last Chance to Quit: Done in the Kyoto arc by Yumi, who gave Kenshin and Sanosuke a chance to back off of Shishio's plans and she could just say that they ran off. Kenshin declines, noting that Yumi offered this because she was worried about Shishio's health during the fight.
Limited Wardrobe: Kenshin always wears a faded red (almost pink) kimono and a white hakama, Kaoru only dresses in kendo uniform or one of two or three kimonos (the yellow one, the blue one, and a red one), Megumi is always dressed up in her doctor attire, Misao has only two outfits, and so on. Lampshaded when Misao tried to rob Kenshin. She's stopped short as she gets a good look at Kenshin's kimono, which is absolutely covered in seam lines where all the cuts it's taken throughout the series have sewn up. Misao then asks if Kenshin's wife left him.
The Load: Kaoru and Yahiko at times, especially in the early episodes; however, both are good fighters and hold their own far more often than they get kidnapped. It doesn't help that Kenshin's godlike swordsmanship makes them look weaker. Interestingly, Yahiko's character development in the later arcs of the manga center around his own perception of this applying to himself, and he pushes himself to almost dangerous extremes to prove he really can hold his own... against people twice his age or greater.
Loved Ones Montage: Kenshin has a flash of his experiences (friends and enemies alike) just before learning his ultimate technique; Yahiko has a similar one later to reflect how much he'd unconsciously picked up just by witnessing the same set of events.
Love Epiphany: The others are aware that Kaoru has more than platonic feelings for Kenshin by the Jin-E arc, but it doesn't hit Kaoru herself big time until the beginning of the Kyoto Arc. This, combined with Kenshin leaving for Kyoto without a backwards glance is enough to give her a Heroic BSOD.
Love Redeems: Tomoe's influence changes Kenshin drastically, and leads him to renounce killing after the war.
Lyrical Dissonance: The first opening, "Sobakasu" (lit. Freckles), a bouncy, upbeat tune with lyrics about a bitter breakup.
Mad Artist: Gein. He considers Kaoru's "corpse" to be a work of art, and is killed in the process of attempting to retrieve it.
While the series appears to have high standards for what counts as a "crippling blow", this is one of Sanosuke's distinguishing traits. As early as his introduction mini-arc, a man hits him in the face with a hidden knife-ring: not only Sanosuke doesn't even flinch, the man breaks his finger in the attempt.
Shishio manages to survive an assassination attempt, getting his "corpse" lit on fire (though not without massive scarring), a ridiculous amount of punishment from Kenshin (being smacked around with a supposedly nonlethal weapon still hurts), AND a punch to the face by the aforementioned Sanosuke, which shatters all the bones in Sanosuke's hand.
Martyr Without a Cause: Kenshin will always run off to save the day even if it means he will most likely get killed no matter what sacrifice he is forced to make or forces others to make (i.e. their relationship with him). Getting over this (partially) is a major plot point midway through the series.
Master Poisoner: Megumi Takani could arguably be considered this in her Dark and Troubled Past. She was supposed to be training in medicine, and though she gained medical knowledge, she ended up being used to produce opium. She knows all about different poisons, but now cures them (among other roles befitting The Medic).
Mauve Shirt: Cho initially appears to be a throwaway villain, but ends up becoming a supporting character for the remainder of the series.
Kenshin and Kaoru (he's 28 and she's 17). Some time passes before things get serious between them.
Aoshi and Misao (he's 26 and she's 16). To Aoshi's credit, in the manga he finds the implications a little unsettling and makes it clear to Misao that he won't consider it until some time passes. In the anime though, Kenshin convinces him to start looking at Misao as a woman by the end of the Kyoto arc.
Meet the New Boss: The reason Kenshin joined the Meiji rebellion in the first place was that he thought the world would be genuinely changed for the better by the loss of the Tokugawa Shogunate. But once the war was won, the ultimate result was the trading of one sort of oppression for another and nothing was ultimately changed, as Hiko warned would be the case. It's one of the major reasons Kenshin embraces his idealism so fiercely.
Mighty Glacier: Anji, Fuji, Gein (when using his puppets), all of whom rely primarily on their skill/abilities to make up for their obvious lack of speed.
An interesting subversion is Senkaku who is a Lightning Bruiser. Despite this, Kenshin claims victory over him by forcing Senkaku to overexert himself and destroy his joints simply by moving to fast with his body weight.
Mirror Match: Aoshi runs into a guy who can observe and instantly copy moves. He proves that the original is superior via a standing kick to the Mook's face.
The Mole: Iwanbou in the manga, who turns out to be Gein, spying on Kenshin for Enishi.
In the Remembrance arc, Iizuka turns out to the be the traitor for the Choshu clan.
Mood Whiplash: The manga very often swings between deadly serious battles to slapstick humor; the anime also manages this pretty well. At times it's used as a brilliant source of dramatic tension.
Raijuuta is a bad enough case of this that Watsuki himself complains about it in an after word.
The Band of Six are initially introduced as a group of men with a legitimate bone to pick with Kenshin, though we gradually discover that they either had no real grudge against Kenshin, or had a pitiful one that was undermined by their actions. Only Enishi and Kujirinami have any motive that doesn't qualify as Evil Is Petty, and both of them ultimately realize that they were in the wrong anyway. Watsuki himself admits that it was probably a bad idea to include the group at all and it would've been better to send Enishi alone on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Multiple Demographic Appeal: While it is, strictly speaking, a shonen adventure series, the hugely varied cast, fascinating villains, interesting politics and backstories (many of which were at least historically based and some of which were startlingly accurate), and beautiful guys AND girls gave it appeal across nearly every single age and gender group in Japan, making it far and away one of the banner manga/anime series of the 90's. It was even exported to dozens of other countries with great success, particularly in Asia, Western Europe, Oceania, and America (for example, Australia & New Zealand ran the full Sony dub several times over, nearly every Asian country ran the show in various forms at least once, and the series gained considerable success on Toonami in America).
Also, the subtitle, "Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story", applies in both the classical (as in a a fictitious narrative which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents) and common (involving romance) senses.
Muscles Are Meaningless: While Kenshin's enemies tend to be bigger and bulkier than him (to their detriment), his mentor Hiko dramatically removes his (hideously heavy) cape to reveal a set of well-built chest and abdominal muscles; Kenshin himself feels intimidated, as he begins to realize for the first time this is the kind of physique it takes to master the school of swordsmanship Hiko teaches. Fully subverted in the final chapters of the manga, where it's revealed that the repeated use of the Hiten Mitsurugi techniques put so much strain on Kenshin's small and lithe body that in a few years he would be too weak to even use his sword style.
Sanosuke teaming up with either Megumi and/or Saitou; Kenshin also remarks how unlikely it was that he, a former Imperialist, and Sano, an warrior for the Shogunate, can be trusted teammates.
Old-School Chivalry: A female ninja is escorting a Dutch visitor about and is disconcerted when he wants her to walk through a door ahead of him. When he explains chivalry dictates it as a way of showing respect for women, she just laughs it off.
Kenshin is 28 years old, while his master Hiko is a whopping (by manga standards) 43—but you'd never guess it. Lampshaded by Yahiko and Misao, who wonder if the Hiten Mitsurugi style is the fountain of youth. Also pointed out in the End-of-Volume specials in Volumes 1 and 4 of the manga, where characters thinking on Kenshin after he left come to the conclusion that if he really was a hero of the Meiji Restoration, he'd have to be at least 30...
Misao is a minor example; most characters assume she's around 12, but she's 16.
Overtook the Manga: A really grating example, as it meant that ratings declined post-Shishio and the show didn't remain on the air long enough to ever get to the Jinchuu/Enishi arc, which drives a lot of fans mad since that's the real culmination of Kenshin's entire plot arc. The only material ever animated from this part has been the flashback to Kenshin's time with Tomoe, and that was in an OVA produced years after the show was canceled.
Kenshin and Kaoru all but adopt Yahiko. This is best emphasized by their reaction, when Yahiko runs away to join the rebels. In the Distant Finale he inherits Kaoru's fighting style and Kenshin's reverse blade.
Hiko saves young Shinta, takes him in and teaches him everything he knows (or at least tries to; Kenshin is too naive and headstrong to listen sometimes).
Tae pretty much adopts Tsubame after she's free from her abusive caretaker.
Pay Evil unto Evil: A possible translation of Saito's philosophy—Aku Soku Zan. Evildoers tend not to live long in his presence.
Personal Effects Reveal: After Tomoe's death Kenshin goes through her diary and figures out that the man he killed months earlier was Tomoe's fiance. Bummer.
Even worse in the anime OVA, when Kenshin is first told that Tomoe is the traitor and then is prompted to look in her diary, where he finds out that he killed her fiance. On his way to find her, that's the only thing he can think about.
Promoted to Love Interest: Though it's clear the two would end up with each other, the anime was far more clear about Yahiko and Tsubame's blossoming relationship than the manga. In the manga, Tsubame's debut chapter was about the mystery surrounding Yahiko suddenly working at the Akabeko (though the rest of the Kenshingumi do muse at the idea of him trying to be with Tsubame). In the anime, Tsubame's debut episode was about Yahiko experiencing Love at First Sight.
Also, as refered to above, Anji to the orphans he looked after.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Shishio Makoto is this trope taken to its darkest logical conclusion; a warrior whose respect for strength is so absolute that he wishes to create a Japan where everyone has to be a warrior just to survive.
Rapunzel Hair: Most of the adult women, given that the fashion of the time considered long hair to be attractive (and more socially acceptable); Misao's is probably the longest, given that her braid alone goes all the way down her back. Kenshin and his mentor Hiko also have very long hair.
Razor Wind: Raijuuta's specialty attack; Hiko also is capable of doing this with his incredibly heavy cape removed.
Every time Kenshin fights an opponent, the opponent gives him this, mainly for being on the Imperialists' side or being a pacifist. Kenshin always manages to prove them wrong, or at least prove that he may not agree with them but doesn't suck like they say he does.
Saito delivers a particularly incisive and crushing one of these to Usui during their fight.
Redemption Equals Affliction: While on an assassination mission, Kenshin received a cut to his face from his target's bodyguard (whom he immediately dispatched as well). Because the cut refused to heal it was theorized by Kenshin's peers that he had been struck by an innocent man and his wound was penance. The wound only finally stopped bleeding some months later when the famous cross-shaped-scar was completed by his dying wife, who he had accidentally struck during a battle (and who turned had been the fiancee of the man he murdered before). Kenshin holds the belief that the cross-shaped-scar will vanish when he has fully atoned for his sins. He also doesn't believe that is possible though by the end of the manga it has indeed begun to heal.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: Makoto Shishio has narrow red eyes. His intro episode is appropriately titled "Devil of Vengeance". Earlier on, though, protagonist Kenshin Himura himself was exhibiting the trope as Hitokiri Battousai until his battle with Saitou Hajime gave him gold eyes, probably to match the prescribed manga coloring. His eyes also looked red then turned gold very early in the series when Jin-E kidnapped Kaoru. Possibly justified in that the more enraged he is, the more his eyes change from their normal blue-ish purple.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Except to Sano (who takes the Red Oni role all the time, causing Kenshin to be Blue in contrast), Kenshin plays Red Oni to most of his rivals.
The Scapegoat: Sano's mentor Shouzo Sagara was executed by the Meiji Government when it became clear that part of their original platform (equality for all classes) was, for the time being, unattainable.
Scars Are Forever: Kenshin's scar, which only starts fading in the post-series epilogue.
Shed Armor, Gain Speed: During the battle with the Juppongatana, Hiko Seijuurou tells the giant Fuji to lose the armor because, though it protects him, it restricts his movements. Hiko curbstomps him anyway.
When Misao is trying to make Aoshi smile, she hot-bloodedly declares she will use the work of Japanese comedy troupe Yoshimoto Kogyo as a guide. This naturally confuses Okina, as Yoshimoto Kogyo didn't come into existence until the 20th century.
Yahiko and Tsubame are named after rail lines on the Tokyo subway.
When Sano, Saitou, and Kenshin race to the docks to prevent Shishio's plot to destroy the government, Sano shouts the title of an old Jidai Geki television series.
In one of the filler episodes, Kaoru gives Sano and Yahiko a Megaton Punch. As they're flailing through the air, the input for a fighting game move appears in the corner. Specifically, it looks like the input of a King of FightersDesperation Move. Her arm also becomes rather more muscular and gains an anchor-shaped tattoo like a certain spinach-eating sailor.
Shown Their Work: Watsuki was very meticulous about historical accuracy in this series at any point where outright insanity wasn't just cooler. Many characters are based on historical figures, including Kenshin himself, and there are even plenty of references to actual events. Perhaps this is why some of his later work more or less runs on the aforementioned outright insanity.
Sano finds out about what happened to his mother at one of these. He prays to it under the guise of wanting to eat dinner faster.
Hiko meets Kenshin after rescuing him from bandits to find that Kenshin has buried not only the bandits, but the slavers who were travelling with him, and especially raised three memorial stones for a trio of women who died trying to protect him.
Shrinking Violet: Tsubame. She grows out of it a little by the end of the series.
Shrouded in Myth: Battousai's identity is so secret, it became easy for hoodlums to pretend they were he.
Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Saitou's stance on Kenshin's views: namely, that not killing the bad guys immediately allows them to escape and perform greater evil, and that trying to teach them a better way is a risk not worth taking.
Sink or Swim Mentor: Kenshin's old master Hiko Seijuuro, whose training techniques seem to center around "beat Kenshin silly with the Technique of the Day, then have Kenshin attempt the same".
Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Played straight in the first arcs, but subverted in the final one. While Enishi is no pushover, he's explicitly stated to be weaker than Shishio. Similarly, Sano's foe, Inui Banjin, would be no match for Anji. Enishi makes up for this by attacking when the team is still recovering from the battle against Shishio, faking Kaoru's death so that Kenshin will be as emotionally distraught as possible, and designing his style of swordsmanship specifically to counter Kenshin's. In short, Shishio would beat Enishi, but Enishi is in a better position to defeat Kenshin. Banjin, in the meantime, is facing an injured Sano, who can no longer use the special technique that let him take on Anji.
Split Second Blade Spam: The Kuzuryusen technique, which utilizes Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu's signature God-Speed to launch 8 slashes and one stab with such speed that they all appear to be simultaneous for the human eye, making the attack unblockable and undodgeable unless you counter it with the same technique, and you possess equal or greater muscular strength and body weight than your opponent (the strength of each strike depends on both factors). The only defense is striking the user before they attack. Realizing this is how you are forced to learn the true Ultimate Attack of the Hiten Mitsurugi Style. The only other sole exception is being a Shukuchi-user, like Seta Soujirou (see below under the Juppongatana).
Stuffed into the Fridge: Almost Played straight and everything. The "note" that is left behind by Enishi is the scent of plum blossoms that his sister loved so much, that would lead Kenshin to the brutally murdered corpse of Kaoru that is pinned to the wall in a pool of her own blood, with an x-shaped scar carved into her cheek. The thing is, of course, she's not actually dead and that's just an incredibly elaborate doll. Kaoru is still effectively treated like this in a meta way, though, since she barely impacts the plot at all after this.
Take Our Word for It: Since nobody knew what Kenshin's succession technique actually looked like until the battle against Kyoto Arc Big Bad Shishio, previous uses of it in the anime were dealt with via a Discretion Shot of an iris-out combined with a lens flare.
Tall, Dark and Snarky: Saitou, Aoshi, and Hiko Seijirou are literal versions; Kenshin is a short, red-headed version, but just as snarky (at least in Battousai mode).
During Saitou's fight with Usui, they jump and meet each other in midair. Saitou tries to use a stab, but Usui deflects it with his shield. In between deflection and counterattack, while still in midair, Usui gets off a couple lines about how round his shield is.
Talk to the Fist: During his second battle with Enishi, Kenshin attempts a second Kuzu Ryu Sen. He's only able to get the "Kuzu" before taking a palm to the face.
Tiger Versus Dragon: Kenshin and his master are repeatedly given dragon motifs. Most of their fighting style's moves have the word Dragon in the name. Later on, the final Big Bad Enishi shows up... and is given tiger motifs.
Tone Shift: The shift in tone between the first and second seasons of the anime is noticeable; the shift in tone between the anime and the OVAs is massive, quite possibly crossing over into Audience Shift.
Kenshin underwent one of these to learn his ultimate technique, and it's implied that his training before he left to fight in the Meiji Revolution was also hellish.
Yahiko's training is less hellish, but still fairly brutal (thousands of repetitions of the moves necessary for the succession technique so that he could operate purely on muscle memory).
Sano, on the other hand, used up all the rocks in the area he was training to learn the Futae no Kawami, and Anji threatened to kill him (as per Sanosuke's own suggestion, albeit) if he hasn't figured it out by the end of the week.
True Companions: As early as Megumi's introduction, she was already noticing the family dynamic among Kenshin and his friends; Yahiko gives the group their In-Universe nickname: "The Kenshin-gumi". Later in the series Aoshi and Misao join the group.
Tsundere: Kaoru, who is largely tsun around Kenshin and Yahiko especially, but fairly sweet otherwise. Lampshaded in her Image Song called "It's not that I like you!".
Twinkle Toes Samurai: Kenshin and Soujirou. Often, they move too fast to see, but their tiny little footsteps advancing at a slow pace are the only indication something is approaching.
Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Kamatari proves himself to be a crossdressing man and not a scythe-wielding woman by flipping up his kimono and flashing her, complete with pixellated naughty bits, causing Misao to scream in horror.
Verbal Tic: Kenshin speaks using very archaic humble verbiage, referring to himself as "sessha" (This Lowly One), more or less, using the exclamation "oro" to express surprise, and ending his sentences with "de gozaru".
Villainous Breakdown: Soujirou during the Kyoto arc, when Kenshin's words start to get to him and clash with what Shishio Makoto taught him as well as reliving the horrible events from his past. Shishio after being hit with the Amakakeru Ryuu no Hirameki and going over his time limt of 15 minutes in battle. Also Enishi in the Jinchuu arc, in his second fight against Kenshin. When the image of his dead sister doesn't smile for him anymore, he all but loses the will to fight and can only resort to pounding the ground and screaming at Kenshin.
Villain over for Dinner: Saitou visits the Kamiya household in his civilian identity of a police officer while he sent an assassin after Kenshin, just to demonstrate to Kenshin how his non-killing vow could have bit him in the ass.
The series serves as sort of a historical one: what if, instead of going to prison and getting executed, Himura Kenshinnote AKA Kawakami Gensai began to wander Japan after the Bakumatsu to try and atone for all the death he caused? And what if he eventually had to face down his past, personified in Udo Jin-Enote Okada Izo, Saito Hajime, Shishio Makotonote AKA Kirino Toshiaki and the brother of his wife?
Alternately, what if Okubo Toshimichi's assassination was actually the responsibility of an anarchist conspiracy group, and the band of disgruntled ex-samurai merely took credit for it?
With This Ring: One episode of the anime featured a man who bought a ring to propose to his loved one but then he saw her with another man, misunderstood and threw it away. When he learned the other man was just na old friend, he tried to kill himself and that's when Sanosuke saw him. Fortunately, Sasuke recognized the ring as the one Kenshin found inside a fish he caught. Unfortunately, Megumi saw Kenshin with the ring and thought he intended to propose to Kaoru and then pushed him into giving it to her (it was the proper Japanese Holiday for this kind of thing). Until being told the story, Kenshin thought Kaoru took it as a birthday gift. When he learned the truth, he was too scared to resemble the legendary man-slayer.
The Worf Effect: Sanosuke often suffers from this to show how tough the bad guys are.
Worthy Opponent: Saitou Hajime, Shinomori Aoshi, and even Shishio fits this trope to some extent.
Wrestler in All of Us: In the live action movie, Sano busts out a dropkick and a couple of German Suplexes.
Written by the Winners: A major theme deals with what it's like to be on the wrong side of history. Saitou fought on the losing side of the revolution and has been forced to watch his country be taken over by the people who killed his comrades. Kenshin fought on the winning side but now questions if he did the right thing.
X Marks the Hero: Kenshin's basically the poster child of this. The cross-shaped scar is associated with him so utterly that other characters with this scar are regularly accused to ripping the idea from him, even if they predate him by years. Unlike many examples, though, Kenshin's scar is from two separate incidents.
Tsubame will likely be one when she grows up; she's still a flower bud in the main narrative. Tomoe is described as 'elegant and educated' and at the time was arranging flowers. Adult Kaoru in both the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue and the second OVA could also count.
Tomoe is a deconstruction, since her reserved and soft-spoken behavior caused her a huge problem: not being able to show her love for her boyfriend Kiyosato, who then went off to Tokyo to make a name for himself and make her happier once he was famous. As we know, he ended up dead under Kenshin's blade.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Lampshaded. While a couple main characters' main hair is mildly spiky it never becomes noticeably unrealistic, and Kenshin's unusual hair color is implied to be because he is possibly of Ainu (or perhaps Dutch) descent. This is averted in the live action movie, in which Kenshin has more realistic looking dark reddish-brown hair of the sort that an ethnic Japanese would actually have.
You Make Me Sic: No matter how serious the time is, Kenshin's friends always take note of his poor handwriting skills before actually reading whatever important message they receive from him.
You Taste Delicious: Shishio bites a chunk of flesh out of Kenshin to demonstrate that he's dead serious about his philosophy: The weak are food for the strong. He claims that Kenshin tastes terrible, though.