A few years ago, my son and I were sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for his appointment. While he felt horrible, I was secretly glad to get a few more minutes in to read Rurouni Kenshin. I think I was on volume 13 or so. My son asked if he could see my book even though he hadn’t started reading the series yet. Humoring him, I handed it to him. He flipped to the end of the book and announced, “Aren’t you going to be sad when Kenshin leaves?”
What!?!! I snatched the book back from him. No! Kenshin couldn’t leave!
That’s the way the story was going. I had feeling it was going to happen, so I knew but I was in denial. I flipped to the end to see what my son had seen in one little flash: Kenshin walking away. And in that moment, I felt devastated. The rest of the volume just wasn’t the same after that.
If you’re wondering what this “manga” is, let me just give a short description. It’s a thick comic book (usually compiled of several “chapters”) started in Japan. As such, the book reads from right page to left page, opposite of what Americans are use to. There are also Korean comic books that look similar but read from left to right. We’ve also come to know them under the umbrella term “graphic novel.”
Rurouni Kenshin was the first manga that I’d encountered with both great art and a multi-layered character. They weren’t just two-dimensional representations though the lines on the page said otherwise. I fell in love with the characters and their stories. As such, I devoured all 28 volumes as quickly as I could. Yes, even though my son had thrown a spoiler in, I kept reading – I just had to know what happened to these characters. At one point, I was even crying over the story line. Isn’t that what great writing is about? Involving the reader deeply enough to make an emotional investment in the story?
The author, Nobuhiro Watsuki, also had little “interruptions” in the story to tell you about his life. Since I’m someone who loves to see how other artists work, this was a wonderful insight for me. I loved these clips and felt like I got to know Watsuki personally. It was like a little blog in the story. This is what inspired me to put my own “end notes” in my chapters for the printed versions of Sacred Knight and Weblinks.
And the artwork, have I mentioned the artwork? Not only are the colored prints included the volumes beautiful, but I learned a lot from Watsuki’s raw sketches included at the beginning of some of the chapters. And I used the building to work on perspective exercises.
I had a heck of a time convincing my boys (who were the ones that got me hooked on the Yu-gi-oh manga) to read Rurouni Kenshin, but once they did, they were reading it as quickly as I was. It’s still a manga we all treasure — spoilers and all.