Sunday, May 13, 2007

Kenshin and Vash

samurai cowboy 2, originally uploaded by Spiritus Ex Machina.

While the samurai and the gunman may appear to have little in coming, except perhaps apparent intent to harm, these two can be seen throughout anime in all times, in all places. For some, Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin, and Vash from Trigun, two of my favorite characters, the only similarity may be their intent to protect, using their weapons as guardians of love and peace, not of war.

However, these two go deeper then that and I'd like to break out of my regular postings even more to display the Kenshin/Vash traits which, with their similarities, tie them together as much as they tie them to our own bleeding otaku hearts. (Oh, and by the way - Spoilers are a definite!!!)

Of course, to start with the obvious; neither man wants to kill. More specifically, both have killed in the past, many people might I add, and they have a deep sense of regret about this. Even more so though, someone close to them, in Kenshin's place seen as an obvious love interest, with Vash's only potentially so due to age difference, are killed, either by the hero, as in Kenshin's case, or by an act of violence by a loved one against another loved one, as was the case of Vash when his brother Knives killed the crewmembers of the ship they were traveling on, leading Rem to sacrifice herself to save the others. So, as we often see, the heavy hands of regret and loss keep their weapons from dealing that lethal blow, or shot, and instead, more often merely wound the offender.

Now, to get into their traditional disposition, and that's best summed up by Wolfwood when he is still early on in meeting Vash - "So You CAN smile! Seeing Your previous smile so empty was like You were hiding most excruciating pain behind the mask of smiled face."

This fits because, while both Kenshin and Vash have a near constant smile, they've experienced things in their lives which few others have, and also live with the realization that much sorrow came about on their account. On the cheerier side though, this does mean that generally both Kenshin and Vash lead what appear to be happy lives on a day-to-day basis, especially when playing with kids, or helping out the women, Kenshin and Ms. Kaoru, and Vash and Milly, and more specifically, Meryl. Often, while the relationship appears strained, especially when the two hero's do something rash, we get glimpses into both Ms. Kaoru's and Meryl's hearts showing not just admiration, but true affection, and even love for the heroes.

One important idea throughout the story, maybe which I ought to have mentioned earlier, is the fame, or infamy, they have in their own respective worlds. In fact, in both cases the name Battousai the Manslayer, Kenshin, and Vash the Stampede, Vash of course, are so infamous, and feared, that the first episodes deal almost entirely with showing how Kenshin and Vash are indeed really the infamous ones and how due to their attempts at shedding the name, and all related baggage, they actually appear as if neither could truly be that dangerous. Of course, this fact is what wins over the hearts of their friends and loved ones, as well as we the fans.

Now, to look at a more general view of the anime itself, I believe we must consider the setting in which these characters live. Kenshin lives during the early Meiji period, where samurai are losing their place in society, and the revolution, that catapulted Kenshin to fame, has now lead to an uneasy society, filled with unrest, but also, so thinks Kenshin, the potential for peace. That struggle is what Kenshin trains his whole heart on achieving, and we always see Kenshin standing up for that ideal, even if it means crossing with an old ally.

Vash is much the same. After barely surviving the trip in space, due to Knive's own violent actions, Vash has seen the few colonists that survived, and landed on the desolate planet they reached, grow little by little, and Vash desperately wants to prevent such wanton violence that he saw with Knives, and to hopefully protect the people, who are themselves trying to scrape out their own existence.

Both Kenshin and Vash had some part in shaping the new world, and both feel a bit of responsibility for the progress, or lack thereof.
Which leads me into my next, and perhaps final point (due to length), and that is what we see often with heroic characters in anime, and other stories, and that is a near complete disregard of their personal safety. Kenshin, in a very stirring scene, goes to find Tomoe Yukishiro, his love, who’s by all accounts betrayed his trust, and yet, battle by battle, he pushes on. This is a unique experience though, particularly since in regards to the Rurouni Kenshin anime, this happened in the OVA's and not the series itself, but more importantly, Kenshin and Vash, in order to protect their loved ones, often go blindly, willing to sacrifice themselves for their friends. Of course, more often than not this leads to anger by those closest to them whom they were trying to protect in the first place, and thankfully these loved ones usually rush in saving the heroes from their own recklessness. Since of course, no hero can truly stand on their own, or so we're lead to believe.

Well, while there's significant amount more I could say, I'll leave it at this for now, lest I make myself tired of hearing about two of my favorite anime characters ever. If you like this kind of thing or if you hated it, or none of the above, please comment in and share your opinion. I know this was probably pretty obvious for those who've seen both shows, or read all the manga, especially if you’ve done so many times, but for those who have seen the series and maybe didn't get the greatest look, I guess this was for you.

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