This week at Unime, we’re all thinking about resolutions. You know, it’s the beginning 2018. Just a while ago, everyone was talking about their plans for the new year.
But statistics show that by the second week of January, most people will have given up on their resolutions and went back to their normal lives. Sounds familiar?
Well, we decided to look up to our favorite anime and try to find characters who, despite having all the odds against them, stuck to their resolutions to the end.
There’s plenty of examples of those characters, from comical to heroic ones. But if there was an election to pick the most admirable one, my vote would undoubtedly go to Kenshin Himura. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you may know him as Hitokiri Battosai. Or Samurai X.
Rurouni Kenshin: the killer who decided not to kill any more
Rurouni Kenshin, also known in America as Samurai X, is one of those animes that deserve to be called a classic. It tells the story of Kenshin Himura, a ronin who decided to put down his sword and travel the world helping people in an attempt to expiate his sins.
A ronin is a renegade samurai. In the old days before the Meiji Restoration, the samurai were a military elite in Japan who served and protected the shogun and the daimyos. A samurai would become a ronin if he betrayed his master or failed to fulfill a mission. He should then live in dishonor, wandering around the world and living from theft. It was either that or death by suicide, known as seppuku.
Rurouni Kenshin’s story, though, happens during the Meiji Era, when the samurai no longer existed as a social class. Many of them had died along the way, and those who hadn’t, now lived as common people, serving no master. Some of them preferred to consider themselves ronins, wandering from city to city. That’s what Kenshin Himura, the main character of the anime, decided to do.
Kenshin had become a legend during the war, making a name for himself as Hitokiri Battosai. “Hitokiri” is a word formed by the Japanese for “people” (hito) and the English “killer”, thus meaning “assassin”. Kenshin was a very skilled swordsman, senselessly murdering his masters’ enemy. Once he picked up his sword, he showed no mercy.
But after the war was won and peace had been established, Kenshin regretted all his killing. His heart softened and he decided to leave behind his old identity and live the rest of his life as just Kenshin Himura. Leaving his masters behind, he became a ronin. Carrying a sword with a blade that could not cut, he promised himself he would never kill again.
I don’t want to give any spoilers but if you’ve watched the anime, you know Kenshin had countless opportunities to break that promise. There were many times when problems would have been solved way more easily if he gave up on his resolution and stained his blade with blood again.
But a samurai never goes back on his determination. What I admire most about Kenshin is that not only he chose not to kill but he also chose the hardest path: kindness. It hurt him whenever he had to pick up his sword, even if he knew he was not going to kill. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. If he could, he tried to solve everything through words and compassion. His unconditional kindness and his strong will to forgive his enemies resonated deeply with me.
After watching the anime and the OVAs, I strive every day to be like Kenshin. He has become an example to follow. I truly believe that if only everyone could be like him, the world would be a much better place.
Be like a samurai: learn the bushido code
Kenshin is not the only samurai I admire, though. From a young age, I’ve been fascinated by stories of the strong Japanese warriors. I admire their loyalty, their patience, their strength, and above all, their determination.
Because of that, I took the time to study a little more about the Bushido, the moral code that guides the action of the samurai.
I think now is a great time for everyone to learn and reflect upon it. After all, it’s still the start of a new year. This is the perfect time for us to think about our lives and our attitude and set intentions to change for the better. And I believe we all have a lot to learn from the great noble warriors of the past.
The word “bushido” means “the way of the warrior”. It was passed down verbally from master to pupil and from parents to children. It’s actually simple to explain, but really hard to follow.
The code has only seven basic principles, which are summed up in these short words: gi, yuu, jin, rei, meiyo, makoto, and juugi. I’ll explain them briefly.
Be honorable when dealing with everyone and anyone. Believe in your own sense of justice, and don’t let others lead you astray. For an authentic samurai, there are no shades of grey when talking about justice. There’s only right and wrong.
Yuu (heroic value)
Do not hide in your shell like a turtle. Don’t be afraid to act. You must live life to the
fullest, enjoying it to the max. A samurai must be brave and take risks when necessary. But remember that the courage of the hero is not blind. It is intelligent and strong. Replace your fear with respect and caution.
Following the intense training, the samurai gets strong and agile. He is not like an ordinary person. He must then use this strength to the greater good. His actions must be compassionate. He must help his comrades whenever he has the opportunity. And if the opportunity does not present itself, he must go looking for it.
This was clearly the rule that Kenshin values the most.
“Strong is the samurai who wins without fighting when he could have won in a fight.” A true samurai has no reason to be cruel. He doesn’t need to prove nor to show off his strength. He is polite including towards his enemies. Without this direct respect for each other, we are no better than the wild beasts. A samurai gets respected not only because he is strong, but mainly because of his attitude towards others. This is the true strength of the samurai.
The true samurai has only one judge to watch over his honor: himself. His decisions and actions are a reflection of his true self. You cannot hide from yourself.
When a samurai says he is going to do something, it is as if he had already done it. There’s nothing under the sun that can stop him from fulfilling his promise. He doesn’t have to say “I promise”. The mere act of saying has begun the action of doing it. To speak and to do are the same action.
Juugi (loyalty and duty)
Also pronounced as chuugi. To the samurai, when he says or does something, that means that that something belongs to him. He must take responsibility for them and for any consequences of his actions. A samurai is unconditionally loyal to those under his care.
“The words of a man are like his footprints; they follow him wherever he goes. Mind the path you are taking.”
I think we can all agree the Bushido is a difficult path to follow. But it’s worth it. May the Way of the Warrior inspire us all to be better people this year.
What do you think? Do you have the resolve to live like a samurai? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below!