Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story (Japanese: るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚- Hepburn: Rurōni Kenshin Meiji Kenkaku Romantan?), also known as Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The story begins during the 11th year of the Meiji period in Japan and follows a former assassin from the Bakumatsu, known as Hitokiri Battosai. After his work against the bakufu, Hitokiri Battosai disappears to become Himura Kenshin: a wandering samurai who protects the people of Japan with a vow of never to take another life. Watsuki wrote this series upon his desire of making a shōnen manga different from the other ones that were published at the time, with Kenshin being a former assassin and the story taking a more serious tone as it continued. The manga revolves around themes of atonement, peace, and romance.
The manga initially appeared in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump from April 25, 1994, to November 4, 1999. The complete work consists of 28 tankōbon volumes, while years later it was reprinted into twenty-two kanzenban volumes. Studio Gallop, Studio Deen and SPE Visual Works adapted the manga into an anime series which aired in Japan from January 10, 1996 to September 8, 1998. Besides an animated feature film, two series of original video animations (OVAs) were also produced. The first adapted stories from the manga that were not featured in the anime, while the second was a sequel to the manga. Several art and guidebooks for Rurouni Kenshin have been published and writer Kaoru Shizuka has authored three official light novels which were published by Shueisha. Many video games have also been released for the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable consoles. A successful live-action theatrical film adaptation was released in 2012, with limited international screenings.
The manga, as well as the first light novel and first guidebook, has received a complete North American release by Viz Media. Rurouni Kenshin is subtitled "Wandering Samurai" in some English releases. The TV series was later licensed in North America and released on DVD by Media Blasters. The first two seasons aired on the United States Cartoon Network as part of the Toonami block, while the third season was only featured on DVD. The English-language versions of the OVAs, as well as the film, were originally released as Samurai X in North America, although the original name was included on the later DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases.
The Rurouni Kenshin manga has over 70 million copies in circulation as of 2014, while its anime has ranked among the 100 most watched series in Japan multiple times. The series has received praise and criticism from various publications for manga, anime and other media, with both having received good response on the characters' designs and historical setting.
In a manga volume prior to the release of the anime, Watsuki said that while some fans might object to the adaptation of the series into anime, Watsuki looked forward to the adaptation and felt it would work since the manga was already "anime-esque." He had some worries about the series since he felt since the creation of the series was sudden and the series had a "tight" production schedule. In another note in the same volume Watsuki added that he had little input in the series, as he was too busy with the publishing. In addition his schedule did not match the schedule of the anime production staff. Watsuki said that it would be impossible to make the anime and manga exactly the same, so he would feel fine with the anime adaptation as long as it took advantage of the strengths of an anime format.
After the anime began production, Watsuki said that the final product was "better than imagined" and that it was created with the "pride and soul of professionals." Watsuki criticized the timing, the "off-the-wall, embarrassing subtitles," and the condensing of the stories; for instance he felt the Jin-e storyline would not sufficiently fit two episodes. Watsuki said that he consulted a director and that he felt the anime would improve after that point. The fact that the CD book voice actors, especially Megumi Ogata and Tomokazu Seki, who portrayed Kenshin and Sanosuke in the CD books, respectively, did not get their corresponding roles in the anime disappointed Watsuki. Watsuki reported receiving some letters of protest against the voice actor change and letters requesting that Ogata portray Seta Sōjirō; Watsuki said that he wanted Ogata to play Misao and that Ogata would likely find "stubborn girl" roles more challenging than the "pretty boy" roles she usually gets, though Watsuki felt Ogata would have "no problem" portraying a "stubborn girl." Watsuki said that the new voice actor arrangement "works out" and that he hoped that the CD book voice actors would find roles in the anime. Watsuki said that the reason why the CD book voice actors did not get the corresponding roles in the anime was due to the fact that many more companies were involved in the production of the anime than the production of the CD books, and therefore the "industry power-structure" affected the series.
The second season of the anime TV series had some original stories not in the manga. Watsuki said that some people disliked "TV originals," but to him the concept was "exciting". Watsuki said that because the first half of the original storyline that existed by the time of the production of Volume 10 in Japan was "jammed" into the first season, he looked forward to a "more entertaining" second season. Watsuki added that it was obvious that the staff of the first season "put their hearts and souls" into the work, but that the second series will be "a much better stage for their talents."
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