I often rewatch certain episodes of the anime Rurouni Kenshin. The Shishio arc is one of my favorite seasons in anime. I was watching it the other day and I started to notice things. Maybe it’s because I’ve been immersing myself in the game lately, but I began to wonder of the writer of KOTOR 2, Chris Avellone, is an anime fan.
The story is about a wandering samurai, Kenshin Himura. Leading up to the Boshin war, he killed so many people that he became known as Batosai the manslayer. Afterwards he left Kyoto and wandered the land, vowing never kill again, basically going into exile.
In Knights of the Old Republic 2, you play as Meetra Surik. A Jedi who served as a general under Revan in the Mandalorian wars. At the battle of Malachor V, she was in charge of activating a superweapon, the Mass Shadow Generator. She gave the order and killed thousands of Mandalorians, Republic soldiers, and Jedi alike. Afterwards she left Republic space, in exile, and wandered about the unknown regions.
Kenshin also indicates that he’s a pacifist, by vowing never to kill. But he has killed in the past, he knows a deadly martial art, and he’s still no stranger to violence. Much like the pacifist Jedi, who also practice martial arts, and are also no stranger to violence.
The style of swordsmanship that he studied also teaches very similar things. It’s called the Hitten Mitsurugi style and it contains teachings that the Jedi employ, along with some that the Jedi should adopt. Based on something Kenshin’s master says, it seems to share similarities with the force.
In an argument with his master, Seijūrō Hiko, a young Kenshin is trying to convince him that they should help the people who are suffering. The Jedi teach the same, and so during the Mandalorian wars, many Jedi like Meetra felt that they had to do something. Leading up the revolution, the Tokugawa Shogunate was hunting down imperialist supporters and sympathizers. Kenshin felt that because he had power, he had to do something.
They were all trying to do the right thing. But even doing the right thing has negative consequences. Killing so many people resulted in changes to Kenshin’s psychology. He would descent into an almost dissociative state where he seemingly feels no emotion and has no sense of self preservation. In a way, his state of Batosai the manslayer is his version of the dark side.
He was killing people, something I’m sure we can all agree is an evil act. The reason he was doing it was to fight for something he believed in and to protect those who shared that belief. He wasn’t a mad killer, unlike some Sith who can fly off into a blind frenzy, killing people for no reason. Batosai mostly targeted key individuals within the Tokugawa regime, in order to ensure an imperialist victory.
During the Mandalorian wars, Revan learned things from the experience. What he learned was teachings that Sith share. The Sith probably learned these teachings the same way Revan did. Kreia tells Meetra this in a way of telling her that you can’t only live by second hand teachings. You have to learn from your experiences.
Kenshin’s actions also had other consequences. He shares blame for the creation of the person he is now fighting. A person who’s agenda will bring death to the people of Japan. The show even says that Shishio is Kenshin’s successor. After Kenshin left to wander, it was Shishio who took his place as the manslayer in the shadows.
Seijūrō Hiko tells Kenshin that the Hitten Mitsurugi style teaches to protect people, but only when it doesn’t belong any one power. Neither Kenshin nor the Jedi were able to understand this. The Jedi kept getting involved in the everyday problems of the Republic and its people, but when the time came for them to truly be needed, they said no. They became servants of the Republic, and then told them that an unknown dark sider was pulling the strings, so they had to let billions die.
The Sith emperor’s plan was pretty genius. It preyed upon this weakness of the Jedi. The sith didn’t need to participate in the war at all. The plan just had to weaken the republic and divide the Jedi.
The show and the game share many similarities. The fight between Anji the destroyer and Sanosuke Sagara mirrors the fight between Meetra Surik and Darth Sion. The Hitten Mitsurugi style limits itself to one master and one apprentice. Something Darth Bane developed after being inspired by Revan’s teachings. At the end of the training, the student either kills the master or is killed if they fail to surpass the master’s strength.
When Kenshin leaves Tokyo to go fight Shishio in Kyoto, he leaves his friends behind. Revan also understood that having allies among the Sith is something that is easily exploited.
You can even compare Shishio’s ironclad, The Purgatory to Nihilus’ ship, the Ravager. However, Shishio is no Nihilus. Shishio’s goal was not exactly senseless death. Even at the end, Kenshin explains that their ideology isn’t necessarily right, just because they won. Ultimately it came down to a battle of flesh, and not ideals. Most history books are written by some of the biggest mass murderers the human race has ever produced.
Throughout the show they show stories of the Meiji restoration doing things that can easily be classified as evil. Makoto Shishio even came to be because they decided that his usefulness had come to an end. To keep their use of assassin’s quiet they tried to kill him.
It seems that they were arguing that all Kenshin helped do was trade in one evil for another. But if you separate these things from good and evil and examine different administrations throughout history then you may just land on the sad conclusion that, it’s just the way it is most of the time. Especially in times where information wasn’t widely available and propaganda was easier to administer, I imagine you often ended up trading in one thing for something slightly better, if you were lucky.
Shishio’s interest in petroleum tells me that he wanted Japan to be self sufficient and to modernize and not be left behind technologically by the rest of the world. He also wanted to be the one in charge of it all. Technically Japan was already in the process of modernization even before the war. The show also states that they were in the 10th year of the Meiji government. So that means it was 1879, well past the industrial revolution. Maybe he thought it wasn’t progressing fast enough, I don’t know. Maybe to a certain extent, Shishio had a point. We all know what an imperial Japan led to.
Regardless, Shishio’s ideals of survival of the fittest was defined as the strong surviving and the weak dying after the strong kills the weak. Charles Darwin did not define it as such. He believed that the species that is best able to adapt are the ones who will survive. Adaptation is strength. Nowadays, killing people is so easy, a toddler can do it. In my opinion, if survival of the fittest is as simple as the strong killing the weak, then the inevitable conclusion is one person sitting on top a pile of bones and saying: “I Win.”
But adapting to constantly changing parameters? That’s hard. I’ve failed at it at times. Society, culture, and even the Earth itself is in constant state of flux. Especially these days, it seems like there’s a big cultural shift happening, and even the people responsible for it are barely able to keep up themselves. Every generation seems to have had one though. But sometimes I do wonder if it’s just particularly loud voices. Even so it doesn’t matter, every generation becomes the majority at one point in time. I try to adapt and get what I can from this new landscape. But sometimes I feel like a dinosaur, even though I’m a young man.
The creation of the Jedi were heavily influenced from the samurai. But they seem to have more in common with traditional samurai and not ronin samurai.
I’ve actually never seen Rurouni Kenshin in Japanese. I wonder if anything got lost or added in translation. As a kid I used to watch the other dub called Samurai X and I remember some things being different. It wasn’t until I got access to American Cartoon Network and saw Toonami that I discovered Rurouni Kenshin and what I consider the superior dub. Call me a weeb in the comments section, if you must, and let me know what you think.
Papito Qinn is into the whole YouTube thing, is the winner of the 2016 SpookTAYcular Scary Story Contest, and atwitter incompetent. “No matter how strong you become, you are only a human being. Don’t ever try to be more than that.”