Wayne Rock – Guest Writer
It seems like (RMR Editor) Julien saw my post about Samurai X a few months ago and decided to milk the premise by asking me to write about my top ten fights. Of course I happily obliged, given that I love the show and it holds a very special place in my heart and maybe, just maybe, I just like writing stuff for Julien.
If you are from Trinidad and Tobago and don’t know about Samurai X, then you either didn’t own a TV back when it aired every Saturday on TTT or you’re about eight-years-old right now. In any case, it’s an anime about a remorseful swordsman with a crossed shaped scar seeking atonement for the many lives he took while fighting to establish the Meiji government in Japan. Like a more red-headed, more feminine, way poorer Batman, he has vowed never to take another life, and thus uses a reversed-edged sword in his quest to help those suffering from injustice. Along the way he meets a few friends and enemies both old and new. And he fights…like a LOT…like…maybe every episode.
Quick disclaimer: I know most of you are probably used to the names Kenshi, Kori, Yoshi, Sanosuki and Sato but…and I say this with love and respect…yuh WRONG! You see, the original names of these iconic characters before Sony butchered them in the dub are actually Kenshin, Kaoru, Yahiko, Sanosuke, and Saito, and those are the names I’ll be using. Anyway, enough preamble, let’s get into my top ten fights in Samurai X, which should rightfully be called Rurouni Kenshin. Fair warning, it’s gonna be a lottttt of Kenshin vs (insert character here).
10. Kenshin vs Senkaku
This fight was a showcase of both Kenshin’s skill and compassion. While Senkaku was a murderer /terrible trash talker (seriously, work on your material Senkaku) and Kenshin sought to bring him to justice, we soon realise that he was acting under Shishio’s orders. Shishio tasks him with fighting Kenshin specifically to make Kenshin reveal one of his special attacks, or else he would kill him.
Kenshin actually won this one by simply dodging all of Senkaku’s attacks and turning sharp corners until Senkaku’s own weight broke his ankle. Yikes. This fight is great because all the while Senkaku is taunting Kenshin with his terrible trash talk, and we just see Kenshin playing the evade game. Nobody is really sure what Kenshin is even doing until Senkaku’s ankle breaks. It’s a very entertaining, albeit not very flashy, fight. It also loses a few points, because the animation was a bit wonky.
9. Kenshin vs Cho the Swordhunter (Should be called Cho the Baby Stealer)
This particular clash is low on the list because of how easily Kenshin dominates this fight. Both Kenshin and Cho are both after the same sword, Kenshin because he broke his in a previous battle and Cho because he has the biggest hard-on for swords, or something. As if not having a sword wasn’t enough of a handicap Cho also steals the grandson of the man who forged the sword, and endangering the life of an innocent baby is what really pushes Kenshin to the point of even wanting to fight this guy.
This fight is completely one-sided as Kenshin makes short work of all of Cho’s varied swords, and makes the swordhunter look like a rank amateur. As Kenshin slowly works through his limited arsenal (his broken sword, his elbow and even the sheath), Cho continues to produce new swords from everywhere on his body, including one wrapped around his waist like some sort of masochistic girdle. At one point it even seems that Kenshin has won the fight but Cho, the big cheater that he is, lets his girdle absorb the brunt of Kenshin’s attack. Eventually, Kenshin gets his hands on the new sword and has resolved to break his vow and kill Cho. The fight reaches an emotional boiling point as Kenshin unsheathes the sword and slashes Cho, fully consumed by his old persona of the Battousai. Just when all hope is lost, we realise the new sword is also a reversed-edged sword and Kenshin has not broken his vow. He just leaves a giant crater across a man’s chest, breaking several bones and possibly collapsing a lung.
8. Kenshin vs Seijuro Hiko
Technically this isn’t really a conflict but Seijuro Hiko, Kenshin’s master, straight up promises to kill Kenshin, so I’m including it. It’s all in the name of motivation though. See, Kenshin left his master’s tutelage before he ever learned the final attack for that style of swordsmanship, the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. He comes crawling back, desperate to finish his training as he would soon face his greatest challenge, the new Battousai, Shishio Makoto. Initially, Hiko is reluctant, seeing as Kenshin abandoned him and even trolls him a bit by teaching him another attack which Kenshin thinks is the final attack, but it was just Hiko being a punk.
Eventually they face off and Kenshin has to call on his instincts to counter Hiko’s attack. There was no straight-up lesson here. Kenshin had to look within himself and find the thing he was missing – the will to live. As all of Kenshin’s friends and people he’s fought for flash before his eyes, he unleashes the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki for the first time, successfully countering Hiko’s attack and presumably killing him. Except, nope, he just left a giant crater across his chest, breaking several bones and possibly collapsing a lung.
7. Kenshin vs Sojiro Round 1
This fight is here simply because it is the first time we see Kenshin utterly defeated by an opponent, and it is amazing. The entire fight only lasts a few seconds, but as soon as Kenshin and Sojiro cross swords Kenshin’s reverse-edged blade breaks, and so does Kenshin’s confidence that he could defeat Sojiro’s boss, Shishio. For such a quick fight, the scene is fraught with tension and it’s a truly shocking moment for the audience to witness someone in the series who could match and maybe even exceed Kenshin’s godlike speed. It’s truly shocking for the audience as up to this point we were all used to Kenshin eventually winning the day.
But with the outcome of this fight we were left with the crushing reality that Kenshin could have been killed, if Sojiro didn’t decide to spare him. A quickie, but nonetheless a great fight which sets up a good chunk of the next arc.
6. Saito vs Usui
While Sanosuke sleeps off his battle with Anji (more on that in the next entry), Kenshin and Saito press forward towards Shishio in his gigantic fortress and soon encounter Usui, the Blind Swordsman. Up to this point Usui had been talking a big game, fancying himself even more powerful than Shishio and simply waiting on his chance to murder the bandaged big boss. Saito tells Kenshin to continue to Shishio while he fights Usui, so as to not waste time.
This fight is largely a psychological battle between two men who both have seen through each other’s defenses. Usui uses his superhuman hearing (which he pretends is some mystical power dubbed the “Mind’s Eye” so he can avoid having to pay Daredevil any royalties) to counter Saito’s Gatotsu style of fighting, taunting him along the way. For a while it seems like Saito could actually lose as Usui delivers some serious damage, stabbing him in both legs and injuring him to the point where Saito would only worsen his condition the more he attacks. Saito eventually reveals his own “Mind’s Eye” (he’s a detective) and breaks through Usui’s façade, revealing that Usui is actually terrified of Shishio and is only pretending to want to kill him, otherwise he’d have done it by now. This game of mental back and forth finally culminates in an injured Saito unleashing his final attack, breaking through Usui’s defense and pinning him to the wall, killing him.
5. Sano vs Anji
This fight holds a special place in my heart because it was actually the first fight I ever saw, back when Samurai X was popular, but it’s a bit too bogged down with backstory to be anything higher than number 5. Don’t get me wrong, Anji’s backstory is compelling and essential for the audience to sympathise with him, but it does affect the pacing of what is a very important fight. Anji is essentially Sano’s master, having taught him the Futae no Kiwami move, but here is where Sano discovers that Anji is one of Shishio’s main generals, causing a rift that could only be sorted with fists. Essentially, Sano wants to beat some sense into Anji and it is a glorious set up for a nice MMA-style fight. This is really the first time we see Sano go head to head with another brawler, which was a nice change of pace from all of the swordfighting. And, because of the high-stakes and ridiculous power dynamic (Sano being only able to do the move with one hand and Anji being able to do it with every, single body part), the fight is fraught with tension. The highlight of this fight has to be when Anji connects with Sano and begins praying thinking he’s definitely turned his insides to mush, only for Sano to reveal he punched his own body from the opposite side, negating the impact. I think this was when everyone, including Saito, began respecting Sano a bit more.
Eventually, after we hear Anji’s ENTIRE BACKSTORY (except for conveniently excluding his obvious steroid use because how else did he go from a regular-sized man to Dwayne The Rock Johnson) Sano is able to evolve the Futae no Kiwami from a two-hit move to a three hit, defeating…HIMSELF? Yes. Sano technically beats Anji, but considering Sano passes out and Anji has to nurse him back to health, it’s clear that Anji threw this fight. Sano did however manage to change Anji’s heart, and that is what really matters in the end.
4. Shishio vs Kenshin, Saito, Sano and Aoshi
Some of you are going to hate me for having this fight at number 4, but scroll back up to the page and look at the author of the article. Right. This fight was undeniably epic, but once again it was insanely one-sided, so I have to penalise it a bit. After Shishio fights Kenshin for a while he gets him to drop his guard, blowing yet another scar onto Kenshin’s body with gunpowder hidden in his glove, like the true, non-cheating gentleman that he is. As he turns his back on his defeated opponent, gloating, we hear one of the best lines delivered by none other than the wolf of Mibu himself, “Shishio Makoto, your head is mine!” Saito makes a triumphant appearance, bursting through the door and stabbing Shishio in the skull, except, Shishio’s plot armour…I mean…literal armour saves him from certain death. You see, Pre-Kentucky Fried Shishio was bashed on the skull, so he started wearing this pre-Naruto era, steel headband to prevent it from ever happening to him again.
What follows is a systematic dismantling of every opponent. Shishio targets Saito’s already injured legs and is able to avoid the same move that defeated Usui, and then presumably kills Saito by jamming his hand into an open shoulder wound and igniting his gunpowder glove. Sanosuke tries his very best, but has his hand shattered by Shishio’s face and his face shattered by Shishio’s hand. We think all is lost for our heroes, but like an angry teen putting one more token into the arcade because he just lost three times in a row but if he had one more chance he’d definitely win, Aoshi joins the battle! Aoshi loses to Shishio as well, because of course he does, the show is called Rurouni Kenshin not Assassin Aoshi. This fight is great because it demonstrates just how much of a demonic powerhouse Shishio really was, as he easily counters all of the attacks that were previously successful on his underlings. It’s engaging, tense and provides the sense of hopelessness that’s necessary for the final battle to come. Speaking of…
3. Kenshin vs Shishio
This is specifically the second half of this fight, following Kenshin’s initital defeat, because of course, Kenshin wasn’t dead and Aoshi gives him, and the other two, enough time to recover from their injuries. From the moment those leaves started swirling and exploding from the raw energy that Kenshin was putting out, I knew this was going to be an epic showdown. Both men were greatly handicapped, with Kenshin sustaining injuries from previous fights with Aoshi, Sojiro and Shishio, and coming back from the goddamn dead, and Shishio nearing the end of his 30-minute fight time before he went from Original recipe to Extra Crispy. Kenshin’s will to live proves stronger and he overwhelms Shishio, as Battousai’s successor begins to slowly lose his mind, and with it the fight. As the music swells both men unleash their final attacks which would not only decide their fates, but also the trajectory of Japan’s history from that point forward.
There is a caveat though, as Kenshin does not know that Shishio knows the secret of the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, and the audience is shocked when Kenshin’s ultimate move is blocked for the very first time. However, just before Shishio can kill him, it is revealed that blocking actually creates a centrifugal force, which pulls Shishio towards the actual secret of the move, the second strike, which is even more powerful than the first. The music crescendos as the reverse-edge connects, launching Shishio into the air, and back down to the ground, ending him once and for all. Except, nope, he just left a giant crater across his chest, breaking several bones and possibly collapsing a lung. THEN Shishio spontaneously combusts and dies, but not after itching like a dog, espousing more of his ideologies, stabbing Kenshin through his lover Yumi’s heart and laughing maniacally. The animation is top notch in this entire fight, to the point where it makes most of the rest of the series seem worse in comparison. Seriously, it’s like they saved the budget for just this fight (and another one we’ll discuss in #1) and it shows. That being said, while this fight is epic, looks amazing, has an incredible score and tops a lot of top ten lists, it gets third place because in my opinion there are two fights that ever so slightly edge it out.
2. Kenshin vs Sojiro Round 2
Okay, so this fight was the perfect combination of both a psychological and physical clash. Sojiro was fighting for his master and saviour’s ideologies, while Kenshin was fighting to save Sojiro. It had already been established at this point that Sojiro was as fast, if not faster than Kenshin, having broken his sword and overwhelming him prior, so nobody really knew how this fight was going to turn out.
The battle was a bit longer than the ten seconds of the last bout though, and very quickly the cracks in Sojiro’s mental state began showing. After a while, Sojiro’s greatest strength against Kenshin, his inability to express emotion, came crumbling down as he recalled his harsh childhood and how he was eventually “saved” by Shishio. I know, I know, I took points away from the Anji vs Sano fight for excessive flashbacks, but this fight had a better balance between the fighting and the flashbacks, and it tied in so well to Sojiro’s mental break. He actually starts asking Kenshin why HE didn’t save him as a child, showing how far gone he was. In the end, Sojiro was too far gone mentally and Kenshin was able to overcome his speed, unleashing the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, breaking Soujiro’s sword and killing him. Except, nope, he just left a giant crater across his chest, breaking several bones, possibly collapsing a lung and beat him so bad he abandoned his entire belief system. Is Kenshin a Caribbean parent?
1. Kenshin vs Saito
This fight was where Rurouni Kenshin peaked. It never got better than this (in the anime at least). The voice acting, animation quality, music, pacing, brutality, character dialogue and buildup all worked fantastically to create one of the greatest anime showdowns in history. If you’ve never seen this fight, you need to watch it right now.
Saito is sent to test Kenshin to see if he would be able to defeat Shishio, but we don’t know this. He absolutely destroys Sanosuke and then waits for Kenshin to return. At first Kenshin is overwhelmed, but fighting Saito along with the incessant taunting sends Kenshin all the way back to his time as the Battousai and his second personality slowly emerges. This is significant. All of the other times we saw the Battousai personality it was instantaneous. But here, it was as if Kenshin was slowly being consumed by his past self, which was a pretty big deal. This is confirmed as it not only happens to Kenshin but to Saito as well, and soon they are no longer Kenshin Himura and Saito Hajime having a match, but Hitokiri Battousai and the captain of the Shinsengumi trying to murder each other.
Highlights include Kenshin blocking Saito’s broken blade with his bare hand, the 360 camera as they rush each other, the detail on Saito’s teeth as he’s consumed by rage, Kenshin telling Saito that he is going to kill him and then proving that by countering Saito with an attack that would have CUT HIS HEAD OFF if the blade wasn’t reversed, and my favourite, punching himself in the face to return to regular Kenshin. I return to this fight several times every year just to relive the epicness. And while it isn’t as flashy as some of the other fights, nor does it have any of Kenshin’s special moves, it represented the raw brutality of what it would be like if two bitter rival swordsmen met after years of not seeing each other. You owe it to yourself to watch this fight if you’ve never seen it before. It is without a doubt, the number one fight in the entire anime.
Editor’s note: A big thank you to guest writer, film reviewer, sketch comedy creator and good friend of RMR Wayne Rock for this great list. You can find him on YouTube at RockLee Productions and on Facebook at RockLee Reviews.
So what’s your favourite Rurouni Kenshin fight?Did we leave any top fight out? Sound off in the comments. For a retrospective on the Rurouni Kenshin series you can click here.