Is Rurouni Kenshin Real?

    Well, at least this is one of the tamer facts when it comes to the famous manga, Rurouni Kenshin. I, for one, enjoy samurai stories despite how monotonous they can be. But that’s the thing, the best manga are the ones that subvert your idea on a trope that’s been overdone. Or they take inspiration from real life and make it something completely new. That’s what Rurouni Kenshin did as well!

    The main protagonist for Rurouni Kenshin, Himura Kenshin, is based on an actual Samurai, who is cemented in history by the name of Kawakami Gensai. He lived during the Edo period and through the Meiji Restoration era. Just like his manga counterpart, Kawakami was a feared samurai assassin. But obviously, his life wasn’t as romantic or majestic as the manga shows. There is a reason why fiction is, well, fictionalized.

    The story of Rurouni Kenshin is about an assassin turned protector that eventually finds himself on a journey filled with adventure and even love. He is noble, vowing never to take another life as long as he lives while making sure to help those he encounters. It’s all very virtuous and pretty traditional fare for Shonen manga. However, while the real-life Kawakami had a similar reputation, his life took some not-so-savory turns for the worst.

    Of course, there are many differences between the Kenshin anime fans know and the infamous man he’s based on. And those discrepancies (alongside similarities) are exactly what we are here to discuss today in another segment of Lore Analysis! Where we take a closer look at the mythos of popular anime and manga across the decades and see if we can find something interesting. Today, let’s discuss the man behind the legend of Rurouni Kenshin, Kawakami Gensai!

    The Similarities: A Man That Came From Humble Beginnings!

    Rurouni Kenshin Wallpaper

    Gensai, much like Kenshin, was a samurai during the Meiji period of Japan. Employed under the Japanese government, he didn’t do very well at training but grew to be one of the fastest swordsmen alive. He would train night and day to discipline himself in the art of sword fighting.

    This hard-working principle is also the origin of Keshin. Kenshin and Gensai are described as humble men with patient personalities who prefer to talk things out rather than resort to violence. However, if push came to shove, they could more than easily hold their own in a fight.

    Even their love lives hold parallels. Kenshin fell in love with a strong-spirited woman named Kaoru, a sword wielder like him. Gensai, too, found his love in a swordswoman. Gensai married a woman named Misawa Teiko, an expert fighter, and the two had a son named Gentaro.

    The Differences: Real Life Doesn’t Guarantee Happy Endings.

    Rurouni Kenshin Wallpaper

    See, the main difference between Kenshin and Gensai is remarkably common between fictional and real men. Whereas the fictional Kenshin is a noble hero that protects those in need, Gensai doesn’t have the same lofty ideals. He had done plenty of shady things throughout his life, right up to his execution in later life.

    Yeah, he does meet a brutal end. After being confirmed colluding with the Kiheitai, a rogue group of volunteer soldiers that were against the Shogunate, he was arrested. Upon release, he changed his name to Kouda Genbei and became a teacher, retiring to his homeland of Kumamoto in a bid to live a quiet life.

    However, clearly, he didn’t want that because he was later found to be hiding the fugitives of Kiheitai, and, well, second time’s the charm. He was tried and executed for treason in 1872.

    Not the warm, happy ending that Kenshin received, but that’s why anime is anime and not a lesson in real life! 

    Anza Qureshi
    Anza Qureshi
    Anza Qureshi is a writer, licensed dentist and certified Uchiha fangirl. When she isn't doing root canals or listing down anime waifus, you can find her screeching about her favorite JRPGs across social media.

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