Once, he was the legendary assassin Battosai. Now, he's a goofy wandering swordsman with an upside-down blade.
Yep, the title character of Nobuhiro Watsuki's "Rurouni Kenshin" is a pretty unusual lead for an action series, but then this series is really rather unusual -- it's all about fighting to preserve peace and life rather than to bring death. "Rurouni Kenshin Complete Series" brings together the entire TV anime, a brilliantly balanced series full of sword-swinging action, delightfully wacky humor and a hint of romance.
Searching for the man who's been disgracing her dojo, a young woman named Kaoru assaults a sword-carrying stranger -- only to learn that he's a peace-loving wanderer who doesn't kill anyone. But when her dojo is in danger, she finds out what the mysterious Kenshin Himura is really capable of, and who he really is -- the legendary manslayer, Battosai.
Despite his bloody past, Kaoru asks Kenshin to stay on, and they're soon joined by Yahiko and Sanosuke, a teenage ex-pickpocket and a young "fight merchant." That's fortunate, because Meiji-era Tokyo is crawling with problems -- fanatical swordsmen, pirates, train robberies, sumo wrestlers, corrupt police, and an amoral business tycoon who is forcing a young doctor to make a super-potent opium, and pits the lethal Oniwaban group (ninjas!) against Kenshin's gang.
But when the Meiji government is threatened with revolution, Kenshin must leave behind his friends and travel to Kyoto (along with a former member of the Shinsengumi, and an annoying kunoichi). Of course, his friends come after him -- but all together, are they strong enough to stop the malevolent, scarred Shishio?
And then there's the final season, which is all filler with a supernatural bent -- Kenshin and company return home, only to encounter a fresh onslaught of problems. Enter a Christian rebellion and another Hiten Mitsurugi swordsman, a vengeful group of samurai, the Black Knights, and an arc about feng shui (uh, whaha?).
Based on Nobuhiro Watsuki's manga, "Rurouni Kenshin" has become a classic for its story about overcoming the past, fighting for the sake of peace, and for the setting of the early Meiji era -- when Japan awkwardly leapt forward technologically and socially. But on a less epic scale, it's about one young man with a terrible and bloody past, who is now atoning for his past deeds by using his sword to protect instead of to destroy.
And it's a pretty solid series overall. The third season is shaky (German knights, feng shui and magic spells?), but the two seasons that precede it are absolutely brilliant -- a mixture of sword-slashing action, tragedy (Captain Sagara's fate), and some very dark storylines splattered with blood and sorrow. But there's also plenty of comic relief in here, usually supplied by Kaoru's short fuse (and her perpetual spats with Yahiko and Sano), and Kenshin's sheepish space-cadet attitude.
Kenshin is a lovable, oddball hero -- he's goofy, spacey, eager to please and polite to a fault, with rumpled red hair and threadbare clothes. But when he fights seriously, he almost becomes another person. And he's got an interesting little gang of friends -- kind, strong-willed Kaoru is his love interest, along with the sharp-tongued, feisty Yahiko and the tough, soft-hearted ex-street-fighter Sano. And there's also Saito, a former member of the Shinsengumi who is now an ordinary Tokyo cop... except he's still a Wolf of Mibu.
"Rurouni Kenshin Complete Series" collects the entire classic anime -- the third season is rather wobbly, but the series overall is simply brilliant. A must-see for anime fans.