Before I write this thing, I need to have a disclaimer: this is the anime that got me into anime. Yeah, I watched DBZ and Pokémon, but Rurouni Kenshin was what got me into anime as opposed to just watching random shows that happened to be anime. Disclaimed completed.
Rurouni Kenshin is the best. Written by Nobuhiro Watsuki a while ago, the series is about a wandering samurai named Kenshin who wanders his way into a dojo owned by pretty Karou just ten years after the Meiji Revolution. There, he meets friends like feisty Yahiko, bitter Sanosuke, and foxy Megumi. Now the Kenshin philosophy is “swords kill people but I don’t like that so I won’t”, which (shockingly) conflicts with every other swordsman’s philosophy. Since Kenshin likes saving the day in order to atone for the fact that he used to be an assassin in the Bakumatsu for the Ishinshishi. That past comes back to haunt him through his various enemies.
First reason why this series is cool: Aoshi, the calm, cool, and collected one who goes from mercenary to cray-cray to noble badass. The guy is awesome: who else do you know has the goal in life to vanquish all of the shadowy evil ninja things? I don’t know anybody besides Aoshi. He’s also an extremely good fighter, using dual kodachis, or medium length katanas. He pretty much kicks arse.
Second reason: Saito, the former Shinsengumi captain turned cop. Also a badass. My favorite fight in the entire series was the Usui versus Saito fight in the Shishio ark, and Saito kicks ass likes nobody’s business. He fights alongside Kenshin although they don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on methods. When he and Kenshin work together, nobody can stop them.
This entire series has a very nice balance of silly with serious. There are a lot of philosophical discussions in this anime, most in regard to whether or not killing is right/allowed/justified, but it still has some good laughs and is rather lighthearted for a fair portion of time. Misao (see face above) is a very fun character and makes the series brighter when it starts getting pretty dark. Kenshin also does a pretty good job at not being serious with his faces and use of the word “oro”.
So I started watching this from the beginning as an anime; I didn’t even know manga existed as a form at the time. So when I saw all of the awful episodes about sumo wrestlers and pirates and heard Kenshin say “yes-indeed-I-do”, I thought that was canon and the way it was supposed to be. And then I read the manga and I learned the true awesomeness of this series. Over the course of twenty-eight volumes, Watsuki creates so many different, interesting, and exciting characters and he has a real ability to balance light and dark, fun and deeply philosophical. This series is a classic, and they are even turning it into a live action movie. So you should read it so you can understand what’s going on!