Title: Rurouni Kenshin
Author(s): Nobuhiro Watsuki
Artist(s): Nobuhiro Watsuki
Languages: Japanese, English, Spanish, Indonesian, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, Polish
Grade Level(s): 7-12
Mature Content?: Violence, some graphic.
Following the story of a wandering samurai, or ronin, Rurouni Kenshin tells a fictionalized, but historically based tale of the struggles of the Meiji Restoration, in late 19th-century Japan. The country is rapidly westernizing and modernizing its infrastructure, military, social and cultural norms, and there are a number of growing pains that come with that, even 10 years after a bitter civil war was resolved. The story focuses in on those struggles, with unjust businessmen trying to take advantage of the new influx of western technology, and holdovers from the era of samurai rule, while the protagonist tries to navigate those competing values. It is fictional, again, but the majority of the characters, organizations, and struggles in the story are true, based on the history.
Ideally, this tale could be used in a unit on imperialism in world history, and how different cultures have responded to those forces. Japan, for example, responded to imperialism and western influences very differently from even neighboring China. Yet, the story could also perhaps fit well in a world literature class, looking at cultural values for instance, while also bringing up good content for point of view and historical fiction. Further, it could be a text included in a unit on characterization and archetypes in texts, focusing either on graphic novels or manga.