Kenshin’s real name was “Shinta.” His parents died due to “Cholera” (A bacteria gained through consuming contaminated food and water) when he was 8 years old. A parent-less Shinta was then sold to slavery at the age of 10. Shinta befriends three slave girls named Sakura, Akane, and Kasumi, whom girls treat like a little brother. Unfortunately, while the slave caravan was on the road, they were attacked by thieves. The thieves would kill everyone and worked their way to Shinta. However, the three girls tried their best to protect Shinta from the killing. Just as they were going to kill Shinta, a swordsman named Hiko Seijuro kills all the thieves swiftly. Shinta was the only one from the caravan left, and Hiko tells Shinta to go to a nearby village. A week later Hiko decided to visit Shinta at that village but discovers that he never showed up. Assuming that Shinta had committed suicide, he decides to check out the area of the killing again. When Hiko arrived, he discovers that Shinta had buried everyone, including the thieves, with his bare hands. Shinta’s heart and determination caught the eye of Hiko and he decides to take him in as his pupil, and renamed him Kenshin (translated as The Heart of the Sword). Hiko then begins to train Kenshin the art of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu in the mountains.
The Hitokiri Battousai
At the age of 14, while training in the mountains, Kenshin decided that he wanted to join the war and help those who cannot defend themselves. However, Kenshin’s ideals conflicted with his master’s neutral stance in the war. After a heated argument, Hiko allows Kenshin to leave his training to join the war. Kenshin’s sword skill quickly attracted attention to himself. He was later recruited by Takasugi Shinsaku to join his Kihetai group (a volunteer militia of farmers and other non-trained men). Kenshin would then be discovered by Katsura Kogoro, leader of the Ishin Shishi (the main rebellion group) and long time friend of Takasugi. However, Takasugi forces Katsura to swear an oath to never draw his sword again, in exchange for taking Kenshin’s purity.
Kenshin is then quickly assigned the role of assassin, and begins wrecking havoc against the Tokugawa Shogunate. Within the first six months of his career as an assassin, Kenshin has killed over 100 people already, quickly gaining the name “Hitokiri Battousai” (Hitokiri translates to “man slayer” and Battousai means “ master of the art of sword-drawing killing style). A year goes by and a 15 year old Kenshin has become one of the most feared human beings in Japan at this time. On another assassination mission, Kenshin was able to quickly dispose of an official from the Shogunate and one of his bodyguards. However, the other bodyguard was a bit of a surprise for Kenshin. The bodyguard’s determination to stay alive and see his fiancé one last time kept him alive long enough to put a scar on Kenshin’s cheek. This is the first time anyone was able to scratch Kenshin at all. At first, it seemed to be a harmless scar. However, as time goes by the scar neglects to heal. Six months after the scar was given to Kenshin, he was attacked by a Yaminobu assassin. The assassin appeared to have the upper hand, until he lunges at Kenshin and gets cut in half from head to groin. However, nearby was a young woman who witnesses Kenshin kill the assassin. The woman’s name is Yukishiro Tomoe (she was the fiancée of the bodyguard that scarred Kenshin). Still deciding if he should kill her or not since Kenshin was supposed to kill any witness that catches him in the act, Tomoe tells him that he is making the blood rain, then passes out from intoxication. Kenshin decides to take her back to a the Ishin Shishi’s headquarters (Disguised as a hotel).
When Tomoe wakes up, she was given a job as a servant there and begins to develop a friendship with Kenshin when Tomoe realizes that Kenshin is more of an innocent child then a ruthless murderer. Katsura later talks to Tomoe privately, and tells her that Kenshin needs a “human sheath” to keep his innocence, and Katsura wanted Tomoe to be that sheath. Later during an Ishin Shishi meeting, they begin having internal conflicts with each other when they don’t agree on each other’s plans. The meeting would be interrupted by the Shinsengumi (The protectors of the Tokugawas shogun in Kyoto) who were also looking for the Hitokiri. Luckily for Kenshin, he did not attend that meeting. After he hears the news, he and Tomoe rushes to the meeting spot. Kenshin kills some Shinsengumi guards that spotted the two, however Tomoe tries her best to keep Kenshin from killing too much. Eventually they find Katsura, and Katsura tells Kenshin and Tomoe that they must leave Kyoto immediately. He tells them to go to a remote village and pretend to be a pharmacists and a married couple. However, Kenshin does not like the idea of pretending, so the couple got married for real (In the anime OVA, Kenshin and Tomoe just pretend to be a married couple). The couple decides to live on a private house away from the village, and grow their own crops. Living in isolation helped the relationship between the couple, as Kenshin and Tomoe begin to fall in love with each other. Eventually, Tomoe’s younger brother, Yukishiro Enishi, discovers where they have been hiding and comes to visit his sister. Enishi begins arguing with his sister about her falling in love with the man that killed her fiancée. She tells him that although he took away her happiness, Kenshin has given her a new happiness of his own. Afterwards, Tomoe tells Enishi to go home because it is dangerous. Tomoe would later tell Kenshin about the murder of her fiancé. However, she does not tell him that he did it. Tomoe then cries in the arms of Kenshin (In the anime OVA, Kenshin and Tomoe make love in front of a fire). Kenshin then tells her that he will continue to fight in the Revolution until the war is over, however he does plan to repay anyone whose lives were destroyed by him. The next morning, Kenshin discovers that Tomoe has left, and also learns that he was the one responsible for killing her fiancé and that she was the spy within the Ishin Shishi.
Tomoe was meeting with the leader of the Yaminobu, a mercenary group that is pro-shogunate and have been planning to kill the Hitokiri Battousai. Tomoe says that she will not participate in the plan to kill him anymore. However, the leader tells her that their plan is complete, as it was believed that the Hitokiri had no weaknesses until Tomoe came into his life, Tomoe has then become Kenshin’s weakness. Meanwhile, Kenshin began looking for his wife and wanders aimlessly into the woods. On his way to his wife, Kenshin had to battle a few of the Yaminobu ninjas and was able to kill all of them, however he was seriously wounded during the process. Kenshin eventually confronts the leader, Kensihn, who was still shocked from the news about his wife, begins to swing his katana wildly and misses the leader several times. The leader began to beat on Kenshin with his bare hands, and in a desperation attempt to kill the leader, Kenshin swings blindly, leaving a huge opening on him. Tomoe steps in and stops the dagger from stabbing Kenshin. However, Kesnhin’s sword stabs through Tomoe and the leader, killing them both. Kenshin finally realizes that he had slashed through Tomoe when it was too late. The knife flies out of her hand and slashes Kenshin on the check, creating the famous “cross-shaped scar” (The unrealism of a knife flying and creating a perfect scar was changed in the anime OVA, in the OVA Tomoe takes the knife and creates the scar herself for more realism). Tomoe then dies in the arms of Kenshin, while Enishi was there to witness the death of her sister. Afterwards Enishi leaves the country, bitter and angry at Kenshin for taking away his sister.
Kenshin takes the lifeless body of Tomoe back to their “home” and he begins to break down and apologize to her for everything. Katsura would then arrive and tell him that they discovered the real spy. Katsura then tells Kenshin that he still needs his sword because the war was far from over, Kenshin agrees but refuses to be an assassin anymore. Instead, he decided to fight along side them and protect the Imperialists. Later, Kenshin burns the house with Tomoe’s body inside as a burial. Kenshin returns to Kyoto where he would clash swords with the Shensengumi many times, including Saitou Hajime (Saitou is perceived to rival Kenshin’s skills). Eventually the war would be over in 1868, and Kenshin swore never to kill again. He then receives a “sakabatou” (reverse bladed sword) from a sword smith named Shakku Araito. He then began to wander the country by himself, helping those that needed.
Ten years after he adopted the sakabatou, the “rurouni” title, and helping strangers as he wandered, Kenshin finally arrives in Tokyo. While in Tokyo he meets an 18 year old girl and instructor of the Kamiya-Kasshin-ryu dojo named Kamiya Kaoru. Kenshin also discovers that someone had been tarnishing the Kamiya-Kassin dojo by claiming to be a master of the Kamiya-Kassin style and claims to be the Hitokiri Battousai. Eventually Kenshin would find the impersonator and defeat him. Kenshin then reveals that he is the real Hitokiri Battousai. Afterwards, Kaoru offers Kenshin a place to stay instead of having him continue to wander. She tells him that she does not care about his past, and Kenshin became charmed by her and decides to stay and help out around the dojo. Unfortunately for Kaoru, her dojo’s reputation was destroyed by the imposter and no one wanted to learn the Kamiya-Kassin style anymore. Later, Kenshin would meet an orphan who made a living from pickpocketing for the Yakuza. The boy’s name is Miyojin Yahiko, and he claimed to be of Samurai descendant. However, his parents had passed away and Yahiko has been working for the Yakuza to pay off his mother’s debt. Kaoru decided to go and help Yahiko, however it was a little too much for her. Eventually Kenshin comes to the rescue and defeats the Yakuza easily. Afterwards, Kaoru decides to take Yahiko as her student.
That same Hitokiri imposter later hires Sagara Sanosuke to beat Kenshin. Eventually the two would confront each other, and Kenshin defeats Sanosuke easily, afterwards Sanosuke decides to stick around with Kenshin and they become friends. Kenshin would later meet more allies such as a sexy female doctor named Takani Megumi. He also battles strong opponents such as Shinomori Aoshi and his group of Oniwabanshu ninjas. Kenshin also battles a former Hitokiri named Jinei, during the battle between the two, it is revealed that Kenshin has a dual personality which is the same personality that made him the Hitokiri Battousai, allowing him to kill whenever he wanted. During these times, Kenshin seemed happy and does not appear to be suffering from his past mistakes anymore. Kaoru also has begun to grow deep feelings for Kenshin, and he also has the same feelings for Kaoru. However, for a long time they do not acknowledge it to each other.
Haunting Memories of the Past
Kenshin’s life would take a twist when a former Shinsengumi captain, Hajime Saitou, was able to track down Kenshin’s current location. Saitou disguises himself as a medicine seller and goes over to the Kamiya dojo, where he severely beats Sanosuke. Saitou is revealed to be a Tokyo policeman now. Saitou had been paid to fight Kenshin, however, his employer decides to send another assassin after Kenshin. Kenshin would defeat him and then confronted by Saitou. Kenshin slowly begin to revert to his Hitokiri personality, despite Kaoru begging him not to and trying to stop the fight. Kenshin and Saitou continue to fight and Kenshin is stabbed by Saitou’s sword with his Gatotsu Sanshiki (a sword stabbing technique that has no weakness). Kenshin then slices Saitou’s sword in half and threatens to do the same to his head next. Kaoru had lost hope that she would never see the gentle rurouni again. However, just as the fight reached the climax, Saitou’s superior steps in and stops the fight. Kenshin still had the eyes of the Hitokiri Battousai, until he punched himself in the face in order to turn back to normal. The superior’s name is Okubo (based on a real person and is one of the five Ishin Shishi Men of Spirit along with Katsura). Okubo tells Kenshin about Shishio Makoto (Kenshin’s successor during the war) and how he became so dangerous that they had him killed and burned. However, he was able to survive and began plotting to overthrow the Meiji Government. They ask Kenshin for his help and also threaten to arrest Megumi for opium manufacturing. Kenshin is given a deadline to decide what he wants to do. During this time, Okubo was assassinated by Seta Sojirou (Shishio’s right hand man, despite still being extremely young). After the assassination, Kenshin decides to go to Kyoto and has an emotional goodbye with Kaoru, hugging her as if they will never see each other again.
While on his way to Kyoto, Kenshin would befriend a young ninja girl named Makimachi Misao. Later, Kenshin would battle a couple of Shishio’s men and then challenge Shishio himself. However, Shishio declines his challenge, claiming that at this level, not even 100 Kenshins would defeat Shishio. Kenshin then has to battle Sojirou, however, in the fight Kenshin’s sakabatou is broken. Sojirou’s sword is also severely damaged, and as he leaves Kenshin, he tells him to go get a new sword. After arriving Kyoto, Kenshin meets up with Sekku Arai, the son of Shakku Arai. However, Sekku declines to create another sword for Kenshin because it is a time of peace and there are no more samurais. Then, a sword hunter named Sawagejo Cho kidnapped Sekku’s baby boy, and Kenshin is forced to choose between breaking his vow of not killing to save the child. Eventually Kenshin would decide to break the vow when he unsheathes the sword that was given to him by Sekku. Kenshin then slices Sawagejo, however, Kenshin then realizes that the sword was a new sakabatou. Afterwards, Kenshin goes to search for his master Hiko Seijuro to complete the training that he abandoned during the war.
Mastering the Hiten-Mitsurugi
Kenshin eventually finds his master Hiko Seijuro living near Kyoto. However, Hiko denies Kenshin the training that he seeks because of him walking away from the training initially during the war. Kenshin leaves and discovers that Kaoru had followed him all the way to Kyoto. At first, it seemed as if Kenshin was angry at Kaoru, but then he tells her that he is only “half” angry and was happy to see her. Eventually, Hiko would allow Kenshin to finish his training. He starts off by showing Kenshin the Kuzu-ryusen, a technique that hits 9 targets on a body at the same time. At first, Kenshin thought this was the final technique, however Hiko tells Kenshin to use that attack on Hiko. Hiko then blocks all 9 hits swiftly with the final technique. He then tells Kenshin to figure out how to do it before his final test. On the day of the final test, Hiko reveals that Kenshin will either succeed and kill Hiko in the process, or he will fail and die. Hiko then lunges at Kenshin with the Kuzu-ryusen and Kenshin shows that he has mastered the ultimate technique, the Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki. However, Hiko doesn’t die due to Kenshin’s sword being a reverse bladed sword. Kenshin returns to Kyoto and would team up with Sanosuke, Saitou, and Aoshi to go battle Shishio and his men.
Hitokiri vs Hitkoiri
Kenshin and company head towards Shishio’s hideout and begin to fight. Each member is left behind to deal with each enemy. Eventually Kenshin would be confronted by Sojirou and the two begin battling for the second time. Sojirou’s past is then revealed, he is shown as a child with parents who abused him. Eventually Kenshin would defeat Sojirou with the Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki. Sojirou then tells Shishio’s lover, Komagata Yumi, about the secret to the Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki. Yumi then escorts Kenshin and Sanosuke to the roof where he will face Shishio. It is revealed that after the attempt at burning Shishio, his sweet glands were damaged, therefore resulting in his durability only lasting 15 minutes. Shishio and Kenshin begin battling each other. Kenshin and Shishio begin to throw techniques at each other. Eventually, the two would be down to their ultimate moves only. Shishio begins to gear up for his ultimate attack, the Kaguzuchi. However, Kenshin then comes at him with the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, however Shishio blocks it perfectly thanks to the information he got from Sojirou. Unfortunately for Shishio, the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki is a two-part move. The first part creates a vacuum, causing Shishio to not be able to move as he spins around for a second slash. The 15 minutes has been used up and Yumi, fearing for her lover’s life, rushes over and begs Kenshin not to kill him. However, Shishio was still determined to fight so he stabs through Yumi to stab Kenshin. However, Shishio then catches on fire due to his limitation and dies before he could kill Kenshin. Kenshin then returns to Kaoru, and they all return to Tokyo.
The love of Kaoru
Throughout their adventure, Kaoru slowly develops romantic feelings for Kenshin. Eventually, Kenshin would realize her feelings and return the love to her. Yukishiro Enishi eventually returns into Kenshin’s life. Enishi discovers about Kenshin’s feelings for Kaoru and decide to use that to his advantage during the “Jinchu” (translated as “Punishment from man”) story arc. He planned to make Kenshin’s life “a living hell.” Enishi kidnaps Kaoru and places a professionally made decoy of Kaoru with a sword in her heart. The decoy was so believable that everyone believed that she was murdered. Kenshin then fell into a deep depression for letting yet, another woman that he loved die. He runs away and isolates himself at a place called “Fallen Village.” Eventually his friends would alert Kenshin that Kaoru was still alive, Kenshin then became determined to save her at all cost. He arrives on Enishi’s island and discover that Kaoru is still safe and unharmed waiting for him. Kenshin and Enishi clash swords, and eventually Kenshin emerges as the victor. Kenshin offered his life to Enishi to repay for murdering Tomoe, but Kaoru steps in and holds Kenshin similar to how his sister held Kenshin too. Enishi realizes that he is the one that is wrong and lets them go.
Kaoru and Kenshin would eventually get married and the couple would have a son, Himura Kenji. Five years later, Yahiko has mastered the Kamiya-Kassin style. Kenshin and Yahiko spar with each other, and afterwards Kenshin gives Yahiko his sakabatou as a coming of age gift.
Reflection is the ending story arc in the Kenshin series. Time has gone by and Kenshin continues to torture himself over his past mistakes. He believed that it is wrong for him to have such happiness after he has taken the happiness away from so many. Kenshin decides that he needed to wander again, despite having to leave Kaoru and their child home alone, she understood his pain and knew he had to go, so she supported him. Kenshin wandered again for 15 years, returning home once in awhile to visit Kaoru and Kenji.
Later, Kenshin would become infected with an unknown disease (The writers admitted they did not base the disease on anything). The disease spreads through the entire body and slowly deteriorates him, killing him. Kaoru wanted Kenshin to share his pain with her so he does not have to suffer alone, she would eventually succeed in convincing him. Kenshin passes the disease to Kaoru via sexual intercourse. However, shortly after Kenshin was asked to assit in the First Sino-Japanese War. Kenshin agreed as long as he did not have to fight, but rather was there to help people. After the war, Kenshin was thrown off the boat that was heading back to Tokyo. Sanosuke would eventually find Kenshin in China and that he has become extremely ill from his disease. Kenshin also lost his memories after he fell off the boat. Sanosuke hunts a tiger for them to eat so Kenshin does not starve. Sanosuke knew it was important that Kenshin return to Tokyo and Kaoru, he takes Kenshin to a port but could not accompany him back to Tokyo.
Meanwhile, Kaoru had been getting just as ill as Kenshin. She’s passed out many times and was depressed that her son was not around. Kenji had decided to seek training from Hiko and was training in the mountains. Kenji had also been angry at his father for never being around and always making his mother suffer. Eventually Yahiko goes to the mountain to get him, sparring with him and eventually beating Kenji. He would return home to help take care of his mother. When Kenshin arrived back in Tokyo, Kaoru instinctively gets up and walks outside the dojo. There, she finally reunites with her husband and Kenshin collapses in her arms. Kaoru holds him tightly and talks to him, telling him that they should invite their friends for a picnic near the cherry blossom trees. Then it becomes silent, and Kaoru knows that Kenshin died quietly in her arms. She brushes his cheek and realize that his scar had begun to fade away. It signified that Kenshin was finally at peace with his past life, and died happy. Kaoru cries shortly afterwards.