Nihongo no Hon #3: Rurouni Kenshin Volume 23

The twenty-third volume of Rurouni Kenshin forms part of the Jinchuu Arc and distinguishes itself for its two duels: Saito vs. Yatsume (Literally, “eight eyes,” but typing it out in English makes it look like “the damn guy.” xD) and Kenshin vs. Enishi.  Yatsume is one of the assassins who originally tried to kill Kenshin in the trap set for him by the Tokugawa gov’t during the last days of the Shogunate, but Yatsume fled after Kenshin thrust a wakizashi through his hand.  He felt disappointed not to fight Kenshin first, but you can be certain that Saito was more than a match for him–a very exciting duel indeed.  We learn about the origins of both Yatsume and Enishi’s prowess; though, I could not help but feel underwhelmed with the “pirate martial arts” of which Enishi boasts.  After all, English pirates beat Wakou in one famous encounter.  Perhaps, George Silver’s English martial arts is superior to both Watou-jutsu and Hitenmitsurugi-ryu?  Anyway, you can tell that I’m annoyed with this made up martial art.  Let me continue with the article.

Saito, the most awesome character in manga, levels insults almost as well as Alucard.

Saito, the most awesome character in manga, levels insults almost as well as Alucard.

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This volume continues to develop the theme of jinchuu or human justice.   The death of Enishi’s sister Tomoe starts off this particular episode of revenge, but Rurouni Kenshin is rife with similar revenge stories: Sanosuke Sagara wants revenge on the government for the death of his captain, Yahiko also has grievances against the Meiji government, Shishio as well, the boy Kenshin finds in Shingetsu village wants revenge for his parents, and Kenshin himself has reasons for wanting revenge against certain bandits–except that Kenshin essentially overcomes his desire for revenge through forgiveness; though, the perpetrators in Kenshin’s case are already dead.  In these cases, either Kenshin dissuades the avenger or fights him to the death (as we see with Shishio).  Enishi’s case bears a significant difference: Tomoe chose to die for Kenshin.  (She forgave him, which provides an interesting parallel to Kenshin’s forgiveness of the bandits who killed those closest to him.  There’s something there, I tell you!)

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In the other cases of revenge, we see malice behind the crimes.  But, with Tomoe, love effects the deed for which Enishi wants revenge.  Hence, Enishi pursues jinchuu for a deed which perhaps heaven smiled upon as the greatest sacrifice which can be made for another person: to die for them.  So, it is impossible for Enishi to pursue Kenshin under seigi, the usual word used for justice in Japanese.  Under seigi, one cannot avenge oneself on someone for receiving another’s good will.

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On a final note, Watsuki has a wonderful ability to craft intense scenes, and this volume has some excellent moments.  Unfortunately, my desire to spoil nothing bids me be silent on them.  Essentially, you need to read Rurouni Kenshin–possibly the greatest manga in history.

11 comments on “Nihongo no Hon #3: Rurouni Kenshin Volume 23

  1. jubilare says:

    Hah! I’m glad you hold Saito in high regard. I do love the Kings of Snark, and he’s one of the best. It has been a long time since I read this, and, unfortunately, I am nowhere near being able to read it in Japanese.

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    • Saito is great for his disregard for danger and how well he represents the samurai ethos. I compared him to Alucard above for the way he mocks and disdains his enemies; but, Saito’s swashbuckling is far better because he’s actually vulnerable. All in all, he feels something like a combination of a samurai and a musketeer. Would that there were more characters like that!

      Some people learn French to read Victor Hugo, others Russian to read Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, and I, on the otherhand, learn Japanese to read Rurouni Kenshin and Inuyasha. 🙂 The Japanese of Rurouni Kenshin is admittedly somewhat more difficult than most other manga, especially when one arrives at a historical digression or analysis of a special technique. But, it’s worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brannigan says:

        hey bro, i am also a big fan of kenshin. i have the hokkaido arc in physical copy but i am at below average level of reading ability. is there any advice you can possibly give me that would aid my time reading and translating? thank you in advance. be well

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hello, there! It’s always good to find someone else who enjoys reading manga in the original Japanese. Of the manga I’ve purchased in the original language, Rurouni Kenshin strike me as above average in difficulty. (Or maybe it’s just average: I see that The Japan Shop says that it’s accessible to “upper beginners.”) Manga like Full Metal Alchemist, Geobreeders, and Silencer are more difficult to read than Rurouni Kenshin. Rumiko Takahashi’s manga, e.g. Inuyasha, are rather easy for beginners.

        Having said that, the best way to save time in reading Rurouni Kenshin is to memorize as much kanji as possible before beginning. (How’s that for generic advice? 🙂 ) In particular, think of some weapons and machines from the 19th century which you might expect to be referenced here and memorize those kanji. Besides the Meiji Era (1868-1912), it’s useful to knew the characters for the Ansei (1854-59) through Keio (1865-67) eras when those dates come up. Unlike with the Kyoto Arc and Sword Hunter Cho, I don’t recall any particularly hard dialects to understand in the Hokkaido Arc. Remember that Kenshin refers to himself using the humble form for “I” (sessha) and “de gozaru” for the much more common “gozaimasu.”

        Also, read the manga out loud if you can. Sometimes speaking the text gives one a quicker grasp of the text. For example, you might drive yourself nuts figuring out what “Amekakeru Ryuu no Hirameki” means if you puzzle out the kanji one at a time. But, if you say the phrase out loud, you’ll instantly recognize the name for the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryuu’s ultimate technique.

        I can’t particularly recall any difficult grammar problems, so expanding kanji vocabulary is the main thing to do. The more preparation and memorization the less time it will take you to read RK. Good luck!

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      • Brannigan says:

        Thank you brother
        I appreciate it
        Where can I learn the old time kanji from ?
        Kenshin is my favourite manga honestly.
        I have a few different titles but I was unsure how to learn before hand. Thank you again

        Liked by 1 person

  2. TWWK says:

    Kenshin is indeed an amazing manga – one of the very few I’ve read through completion. And Saito is an awesome, awesome character.

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    • Watsuki received a great stroke of genius when he wrote Rurouni Kenshin. Other manga of his that I’ve read fall short in comparison. Busou Renkin is strong manga of his, but it lacks that special something which made Rurouni Kenshin great. Then again, Embalming- Another Tale of Frankenstein- is so bad that it makes me want to cry. We can only hope that Watsuki revisits the Meiji Era in his next work and writes something decent.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jo-Shu says:

    Great characters, great manga. The only manga I’ve read that I like more is Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster”, and even their main characters are alike: pacifists who go the extra mile to preserve human life, even when it’s hard, even when it’s impractical. They hate killing and do all they can to avoid it.

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    • I might have to read Monster. I tried watching the anime version and found it too slow. Often when that is the case, the manga proves to be a much better way of enjoying the story.

      Rurouni Kenshin spawned several shows which also took the “katsujinken” or “life-giving sword” idea to the pacifist extreme of not killing even when justified. Black Cat, Trigun, Moribito, and Grenadier all come imstantly to mind. The first three are very good, while the last is at least fun though excessively fanservicey.

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  4. Brannigan says:

    Medievalotaku,
    Hey dude.
    Is there any advice you can give me for what I should learn to be able to read rurouni kenshin easier in the original language?
    I’m below average at reading.
    Thanks in advance

    Liked by 1 person

    • That reminds me. There is an excellent series for learning “manga Japanese” called Japanese in Mangaland by Mark Bernabe. You could probably save a lot of time by learning the materials in books 1 – 3. One of the best Japanese courses out there. It’s perfect for a learner with some knowledge of Japanese who has memorized the kana.

      Like

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