Maybe I should have started with this adaptation. It was while reading the manga Rurôni Kenshin that I first heard of Shinsengumi, after all.
Rurôni Kenshin, aka Samourai X is a manga adapted in animation and in movie with live-action actors. Let’s focus on the animated and the printed series (I still have not seen the live-action movie yet –I tend to be afraid of adaptations from Manga to series and films).
Rurôni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story- るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚 is a written and illustrated manga by Watsuki Nobuhiro which started in April 11, 1994 and is composed of 28 volumes. Let’s notice that the author has practiced Kendô (a Japanese martial art descended from the traditional Kenjutsu) and is also a huge fan of Shinsengumi himself.
It is the story of the end of the beginning of the Meiji era –the one following the Edo period- through the eyes of an Imperialist patriot, Himura Kenshin. As he was a samourai and an assassin, his worst opponents were, of course, members of the Shinsengumi…. Saitô Hajime is one of the main characters in the story, acting as a police officer as his real-life counterpart. A lot of historical characters (Okita Sôji, for example) appear briefly in the story. Sagara Sanosuke, another main protagonist, is based on the Shinsengumi 10th Captain Harada Sanosuke. Shishio Makoto, the first antagonist, is based on Serizawa Kamo (the first leader of the Shinsengumi), Shinomori Aoshi on Hijikata Toshizô… and so the list goes on.
About the story, now… Well, you can see that the author loves video games and American comics in his drawings and some of the character design. It is exaggerated (did you see? Kenshin stopped once again a bullet with his katana!) and quite repetitive (a new arch enemy. Defeated. Oh! A new arch enemy) Still, there is rhythm, the fights are interestingly shown and you’ll grow fond of the characters without paying notice. Kenshin’s journey is a part of my childhood and always reminds me of the two-month wait to get the latest volume…
Anyways, the animated series is less interesting. It has less than one hundred episodes done by three different studios. The graphic designs are sometimes quite ugly especially in the first season (have a look at the girl’s huge eyes, for example, or on Kenshin’s –the main character! – lack of hair on top of his head) and the script is less efficient. The episode fillers are not awfully boring contrary to some other animated series, but they still present very little interest. (Since the animated series starts usually before the end of the manga series, sometimes the animation staff has to create a whole arc waiting for the original work to progress. It has done some damage to series such as Saint Seiya…). The Rurôni Kenshin animated series is not that bad, as a matter of fact, but it is getting old while the printed version is aging way better.