Hey, Ken, are those real human feelings I’m seeing behind your concrete exterior?
So Rurouni Kenshin has potentially been the most influential piece of fiction in my life outside of Star Wars. It awakened in me a continued love of Japanese culture and history that became the impetus for starting No Need for Bushido. A day after I posted the previous comic page, this hit the internet. Nobuhiro Watsuki, the creator of Rurouni Kenshin, was arrested for owning child pornography (apparently live videos of middle school aged girls). I find this reprehensible, and since then I’ve found it hard to even THINK about the series that, up to this point, I’ve treasured.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the seeming contradiction between a man who seeks out material that sexualizes girls too young to fully understand what’s happening and the narratives he’s woven that encompass redemption, understanding, and overcoming a lack of self worth. But the truth is maybe those themes don’t align with the personal beliefs of a man I can no longer admire. It’s not unheard of for terrible, or otherwise broken people to produce powerful, transformative fiction. Still, I think we all want to believe that when we cherish a piece of media that radiates positivity and hope, we want t believe it comes from a person that embodies those messages.
But when a creator does not match up with the work, for some people it can become impossible to view the work in the same light, and I find that I’m one of those people. I used to love Ender’s Game, but now its messaging reads as far less inclusive after learning of Orson Scott Card’s social political views. Likewise, the seemingly innocent and wholesome relationship between Kenshin and Kaoru was one I never used to question, especially as it’s never sexualized in the narrative outside of some very light innuendo, and nothing as bad as what you see in 98% of other anime. But now I just keep thinking, Kaoru was 17, Kenshin was 28. Did we really need an 11 year age difference between these two, especially with her in the teens? Was this the trappings of a teen-focused genre shoehorning in an older main character to work with the historical timeline? Or was it a preference of Watsuki’s? Regardless of whether such an age discrepancy was considered acceptable in 1870’s Japan, the story itself was written in 1994, and it was a manga series meant to be sold to teens.
Having said that, I don’t want to view the relationships in Kenshin as anything less than pure and positive, and a great deal of the story’s messaging revolves around that. Nor do I not consent of fully grown adults with decade age gaps falling in love. After all, we only get one shot on this blue sphere. And I keep telling myself that manga artists have teams with editors and assistants who collaborate on the writing and story. So maybe it’s a similar situation to George Lucas, a man who clearly couldn’t have made Star Wars the success it was on his own. Maybe Kenshin’s narrative triumphs aren’t entirely of Watsuki’s own makings and I can still feel good loving the series.
But the truth is I doubt I can ever go back to my unconditional love for Rurouni Kenshin. Yet its themes of hope, redemption, and finding one’s inner purpose are timeless beyond any particular piece of fiction. Even though I may never be able to reflect on the series with the same level of reverence, I’m very glad for the many philosophies and passions it instilled that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
But, seriously, GODS DAMMIT!Published on by Alex Kolesar