Rurouni Kenshin episode 1: Kenshin and Kaoru meet in an effort to uncover the killer Battosai

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1: Kenshin and Kaoru meet in an effort to uncover the killer Battosai (Image via Liden Films)
Rurouni Kenshin episode 1: Kenshin and Kaoru meet in an effort to uncover the killer Battosai (Image via Liden Films)

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 was released on Friday, July 7, 2023, bringing with it the exciting debut of the series’ new adaptation. For both old fans and those viewers new to the series, the pilot episode does a fantastic job of introducing protagonist Kenshin as well as giving fans everything they need to know about his first ally, Kaoru Kamiya.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 also does a superb job of establishing the two sides of Kenshin, separated by his past actions and his new identity. It serves to establish that the Battosai of old and the Kenshin of today are two distinct people, even if Kenshin is able to tap into the skills and savagery he once possessed when the time calls for it.

One unfortunate pitfall that comes from Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 focusing primarily on Kaoru is that Kenshin feels somewhat pushed to the side for the pilot episode. That being said, this decision is undoubtedly made with the intent of future exciting and climactic moments focusing solely on Kenshin.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 is a modern take on an old classic

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1: The ghost known as Battosai

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 begins with a battle in Kyoto during the Bakumatsu Era, with several samurai taking on one opponent. The samurai rush him, but he masterfully defeats them with a single stroke each. Additional reinforcements arrive, with the Captain of the First Unit of the Shinsengumi leading them.

Someone stopping the Captain from fighting the attacker comments on how his lungs are ailing, saying he’ll slay their enemy instead. This fighter approaches his enemy, introducing himself as Hajime Saito, Captain of the Third Unit of the Shinsengumi. He identifies his opponent as Hitokiri Battosai, who turns to look at Saito as he says this.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 then plays its opening theme sequence but doesn’t return to Battosai and Saito’s battle afterward. Instead, fans are transported to downtown Tokyo in the 11th year of the Meiji Era. Battosai is called out by a young woman, who tells him that his killing spree ends tonight.

She rushes him while lecturing about how the fact that he is carrying a sword clearly shows that he is the killer. After taking a couple of swings, Battosai falls to the ground and hits his head against a nearby building. As the woman asks if he really is the rumored killer Battosai, he explains that he’s a rurouni, which is a swordsman on a journey with no destination.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees him claim he just arrived in town and has no knowledge of a killing spree. This prompts the woman to point to the sword on his hip, saying that he’s still not allowed to carry a blade in Tokyo, even if he is a swordsman. She then draws his sword, identifying it as a Sakabato.

As Battosai points out, the sword can’t be used to kill anyone. The woman observes that the reverse blade has no nicks, no blood odor, and no clouding from oil. She realizes he truly is just a rurouni and questions why he carries such a pointless blade when the police arrive nearby.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees her run off while saying "this time for sure," as Battosai comments on how something must be going on. The scene then cuts to a ninja chopping down several police officers, who identify him as Battosai. The girl charges at him, but she is quickly attacked, injuring her arm.

Thankfully, the real Battosai saves her while the ninja declares himself to be Himura Battosai of the Kamiya Kasshin-ryu and is called Hitokiri Battosai. The girl tries to chase after him, but the real Battosai stops her, explaining that pursuing him while injured could be fatal, adding that Battosai has already proclaimed his sword style so they can find him.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees the girl explain that the sword style he’s using is hers, proclaiming it as part of his crossroads killings. She demands to be let down, but the real Battosai points out that they should leave before the police investigate them. At the Kamiya Kasshin-ryu dojo, the girl explains that they were a small sword style to begin with, but used to have ten students.

However, when the ninja claiming to be Battosai started his murder spree, the students left for fear of his name. Nobody in town now even comes close to their dojo. She questions if he really is Battosai and why he chose their dojo’s name, saying that she has to end it as soon as possible.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 then sees the real Battosai address girl, whose name is Kaoru Kamiya. He tells her not to walk around at night anymore. Following this, he says that the man claiming to be Battosai is much stronger than her, adding that it’s obvious how their next clash will end. He asserts that the pride of a sword style isn’t worth risking her life for.

Kaoru then explains that her father created the Kamiya Kasshin-ryu style after surviving the Bakumatsu era. Detesting murderous swords, he had an ambition for swords that give life, devoting himself to the style for 10 years. However, he was sent out to the Seinan War and died in a place so distant from his own ideals.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1: Kaoru’s woes

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees her add that the man claiming to be Battosai has already taken so much life and injured so many under the name of a sword style meant to give life. She asserts that, as a rurouni, the real Battosai has no idea the frustration she feels. He says that in any case, she can’t make rounds at night with how her arm is, adding that someone seeking a life-giving sword being unable to live her own life is no laughing matter.

The real Battosai adds that her late father wouldn’t want to trade his sword style’s reputation for his daughter's life, leaving shortly thereafter. Kihei, an attendant at the dojo, then tells Kaoru that her wounds are treated and that she shouldn’t open up to someone like a rurouni. She says she understands as the episode jumps forward to a few days later.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees Kaoru and Kihei walking through town when they run into the real Battosai being arrested by police for disobeying the Sword Abolishment Act. The police officers then recognize her from the fake Battosai’s dojo, prompting her to reiterate again that it’s a false accusation.

Kihei intervenes while they argue, offering the police officer money in exchange for him leaving the situation calmly. The police officers warn Kaoru and the real Battosai that they won’t get away this time. Kaoru then asks Battosai why he’s still in town, but he instead asks what happened to the crossroads killer’s case.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees Kaoru share a lead on the perpetrators, explaining that there’s a former swordsman dojo in the neighboring town that's now a den for gamblers and thugs. Likewise, a has-been samurai took control two months ago and is said to be nearly six and a half feet tall.

It appears the crossroads killings started two months ago and were also perpetrated by an adept swordsman who is that tall. Kihei then departs to prepare dinner, prompting the real Battosai to ask how he’s related to her. Kaoru explains that he’s a live-in servant; she found him on the streets outside of the dojo soon after her father passed away.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees her explain that he always worries about her and urges her to sell the dojo. The real Battosai asks what his background is, but Kaoru says she never asked, prompting him to call her too carefree. Kaoru counters that everyone has one or two past experiences they don’t want to discuss, asserting that it’s the same for the real Battosai since he’s a rurouni.

She then asserts that he stays at the dojo since he doesn’t have money for an inn, but he says he has errands to run, so he’ll be back another day. Kaoru calls out to him, apologizing for not thanking him for his help the other day. The real Battosai responds by saying that a rurouni doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and neither should she.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 then sees Battosai muse on her words about a dojo in the neighboring town as he departs, saying that it makes sense he couldn’t find them in this town. The scene then shifts to the real Battosai at the dojo in the next town, where he speaks with one of the members and learns the leader's name is Hiruma.

The real Battosai then says he thought the leader’s name was Crossroad Killer Battosai, which earns the ire of the man he’s speaking to. Several other members of the dojo then see what’s going on, preparing to fight the real Battosai. Meanwhile, Kaoru notices her teacup break on its own when she’s approached by Kihei, who tries to talk to her about the dojo’s land and estate.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees Kaoru assert that she won’t close the dojo, prompting him to pull out a transfer of ownership document that is already filled out save for her stamp. He then says that with her stamp, the land will become theirs, with the crossroads killer then appearing and revealing himself as Gohei Hiruma, Kihei’s little brother.

The room is then flooded with other fighting followers of the Hirumas, as Kihei comments on how he was forced to take this route when Kaoru caught onto Gohei’s true identity. He then reveals that his plan to post as a good-natured old man went off without a hitch, calling her a sucker for most things but stubborn when it comes to swordsmanship.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1: The real Battosai returns

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees him reveal that he planned for Gohei to use the dojo’s name in the crossroad killings, as well as using Hitokiri Battosai’s name as well. Likewise, this plan got them this far in just two months, and the value of the land will rise so significantly in the coming months that their plan was executed perfectly.

Gohei then approaches and teases Kaoru about looking for a life-giving sword before attacking her, easily breaking her wooden blade with one swing. He then lectures her on the true nature of swordsmanship while Kihei stamps the documents with her blood. Likewise, the land and estate are now theirs.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 then sees Nishiwaki, the man the real Battosai was talking to, open the door and collapse. The real Battosai is then revealed to be behind him, saying he heard the whole thing. Gohei asks him if he believes in life-giving swords like Kaoru as well, but he responds that swords are weapons meant for murder, and that is the truth.

He adds that Kaoru’s sweet, naive lie stems from never having had blood on her hands, but he prefers her lies in the face of such an awful truth, even wishing it could be the way of the world. Gohei then asks Kihei for permission to kill Battosai, which Kihei gives without hesitation. Battosai warns them that this is their only chance to retreat while drawing his sword, then takes out the various goons present with incredible skill.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees Kaoru and Gohei recognize the skill and speed Battosai has in his attacks as he takes down the last of the henchmen. Battosai then says that his sword style is an ancient one with roots in the Sengoku Era, calling it Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu. He adds that it excels in one-versus-many combat and that the type of sword he has is all that prevents it from being lethal.

Kaoru and Gohei then realize he is the real Battosai, with the latter preparing to fight him since they didn’t get the chance the other day. Gohei then attacks Battosai, saying the world doesn’t need "two Battosais." However, Battosai dodges this attack and defeats Gohei in one blow, adding that while he has no remorse or attachment to the name Battosai, he can’t hand it down to someone like Gohei.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 then sees Battosai turn his attention to Kihei, telling him he won’t get off easy as the mastermind. However, Kihei passes out from fear, wetting his pants as he does so and prompting Battosai to lecture about how the more someone schemes, the more cowardly they truly are.

Kaoru then approaches Battosai, prompting him to apologize and say he had no intention of fooling her or hiding anything. Instead, he just wanted to avoid talking about his past if possible. He then departs shortly thereafter, but Kaoru calls after him, asking him for help in bringing her father’s sword style and dojo back up and running.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees her add that she’s not particularly against people’s pasts, but Battosai says he’d advise against it since she now has a chance to clear her name. Likewise, the real Battosai hanging around would complicate that. Kaoru says that she doesn’t want Battosai here but instead wants him, a rurouni, before getting embarrassed and saying he can go if he wants.

She asks him to at least tell her his name before he goes, since Battosai is his past warrior name. Battosai responds that his name is Kenshin Himura, that he’s a bit tired of traveling, and that he doesn’t know when he’ll wander to the next place. He adds that he’d like to stay with Kaoru for the time being if possible, which Kaoru beams over.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 sees the narrator explaining that the beginning of the heroic tale starts here and now, with the arrival of the rurouni Kenshin Himura. Kaoru then asks Kenshin how old he is if he was a warrior in the Bakumatsu Era, asserting that he can’t possibly be over 30 with his face. However, the episode ends before fans see Kenshin give an answer and explanation.

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1: In summation

Rurouni Kenshin episode 1 is, overall, a solid introduction to the series for both fans of the original remake and those being exposed to the story for the first time. While the first episode does fall into some of the pitfalls that classic shonen pilots do, it separates itself via the establishment of who Kenshin is versus who he was as Hitokiri Battosai.

Kaoru’s introduction is clearly the main focus of the episode. However, far more time is spent establishing who she is as a character than showing how she is with Kenshin. That being said, this is likely the right choice to make in order to allow the later, more climactic moments of the story to focus exclusively on Kenshin’s development.

Be sure to keep up with all Rurouni Kenshin anime news, as well as general anime, manga, film, and live-action news as 2023 progresses.