Rurōni Kenshin is a manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki. It was published between 1994 and 1999 in Shūeisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine, and was compiled into a total of twenty-eight volumes. It was adapted into a 95-episode animated television series as well as an animated film. The first 62 episodes adapted the first 18 volumes while episodes 63 to 95 are completely original.
In addition, a series of OVA episodes recount Kenshin’s past, and explain, in particular, the cross-shaped gash on his cheek. A new anime adaptation by studio Liden Films was announced on December 19, 2021 during Jump Festa ’22. In this article, we are going to focus on the adaptations of the Rurōni Kenshin anime, as we are going to bring you the proper chronological watch order.
Rurōni Kenshin watch order by release date
In this section, we are going to bring you an overview of the Rurōni Kenshin works in the proper release order:
- Rurōni Kenshin, Season 1 (anime, 1996)
- Rurōni Kenshin, Season 2 (anime, 1996–1997)
- Rurōni Kenshin: The Motion Picture (movie, 1997)
- Rurōni Kenshin, Season 3 (anime, 1997–1998)
- Rurōni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (OVA, 1999)
- Rurōni Kenshin: Reflection (OVA, 2000–2001)
- Rurōni Kenshin: New Kyōto Arc (OVA, 2011–2012)
In the next part of this article, we are going to tell you how you should watch the series in chronological order.
Rurōni Kenshin chronological watch order
In this section, we are going to give you a chronological overview of the works in question:
Rurōni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (OVA, 1999)
The story begins with a young boy named Shinta who is saved from death by a wandering swordsman named Seijuro Hiko. He finally begins to train Shinta so that he can protect himself. He then changes his name to Kenshin, a more appropriate name for a swordsman. In this OVA it is made clear what was the importance of Kenshin within the Bakumatsu for the Isshin Shishi and the origin of his famous cross-shaped scar.
Rurōni Kenshin (anime, 1996–1998)
Arriving in Tokyo in the 11th year of the Meiji era (1878), the former Ishin Shishi Himura Kenshin wandered around Japan until he reached Tokyo. There he is attacked by a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru, who mistakes him for the Hitokiri Battōsai, but ends up forgetting about him when a man appears claiming to be the “Hitokiri Battōsai” – smearing the name of the fencing school that she teaches.
Kenshin decides to help him and defeats the fake Battōsai, revealing himself to be the real ex-killer turned pacifist. Kaoru invites Kenshin to stay in her dojo, claiming that she doesn’t care about her past. Although Kenshin accepts the invitation, his fame causes him to accidentally attract other warriors who wish him dead.
However, Kenshin also meets new friends, including the young Myōjin Yahiko, who wants to match his strength but ends up becoming Kaoru’s disciple, Sekihō Army fighter Sagara Sanosuke, who realizes that the current Kenshin is different from the one he was. Inspired by Kenshin’s devotion to his past, he hated Ishin Shishi for killing his leader Sagara Sōzō and Doctor Takani Megumi, who wants to atone for his sins as a drug dealer.
Rurōni Kenshin: Reflection (OVA, 2000–2001)
The OVA begins with a montage of Kenshin’s life, told from Kaoru’s point of view. Kenshin, torturing himself again feeling happy after such a destructive past, decides to wander again. Kaoru is strong and supportive, promising to welcome him home with a smile and his son. For fifteen years, he wanders, returning from time to time.
However, this makes his son, Kenji Himura, feel resentful towards Kenshin due to abandoning him. In her teens, she leaves for Kyoto where he hopes to learn Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryu from Seijurō Hiko, hoping to be as strong as his father, and create his own legend. However, before long Yahiko Myōjin detects it at Kaoru’s request.
Rurōni Kenshin: The Motion Picture (movie, 1997)
During the Bakumatsu, two hitokiri warriors from the Ishin Shishi, Himura Kenshin and Gentatsu Takatsuki, clash, resulting in Kenshin’s victory. The story then shifts to the Meiji period where Kenshin is now a pacifist traveling from Tokyo to Yokohama with his friends Kamiya Kaoru, Sagara Sanosuke, and Myojin Yahiko.
There, Kenshin befriends former samurai Takimi Shigure while stopping a group of sailors from attacking young female Toki. Former Shinsengumi Saito Hajime, now a police officer, warns Kenshin not to contact Shigure as government intelligence agencies consider him a suspect as he is associated with criminals.
Yahiko befriends one of Shigure’s subordinates, Yasuharu Musashino, and learns that they are soldiers preparing to overthrow the Meiji government. Yahiko insists on joining them to carry the honor of his late father, who died during the war. However, Shigure knocks him out and Kenshin, Sanosuke and Kaoru search for him in Tokyo.
Gathering information that Shigure has caught Clan Ishin survivors from previous wars to raise an army, Sanosuke is surrounded by Eibin Tamano and Sadajiro Kawaji. After finding Yahiko, Kenshin tracks down Shigure’s forces attacking Tokyo with the goal of assassinating the Attorney General and starting a new rebellion as compensation for not doing the Bakumatsu.
Kenshin, Saito, and Sanosuke enter the area and attempt to stop the terrorist attack. As Kenshin and Shigure exchange punches, the latter realizes that the former was Gentatsu’s killer and becomes angry as he was his best friend and Toki’s brother. However, Shigure escapes when his forces suffer several casualties, including Musashino.
When the police are ordered to kill the enemies, Kenshin Yamagata asks Aritomo, the general of the Japanese army’s ground forces, to give him time to arrest Shigure alone and avoid bloodshed. Toki is also worried about Shigure and asks Kenshin to save him.
Rurōni Kenshin: New Kyōto Arc (OVA, 2011–2012)
In 19th century Japan, a dark force lurks beneath the newly reformed country and threatens to overthrow the current government. The latter is led by Shishio Makoto, a former government assassin who took over Kenshin’s position after the latter retired and swore never to kill again. Due to this unprecedented situation, Kenshin leaves Edo and ends up in Kyoto to put an end to Shishio’s plans and save the country.