Watsuki Nobuhiro, the mentor and historian

March 26th, 2014 by

Watsuki Nobuhiro is a manga artist, who has created among many other titles the immensely popular Kenshin manga series, about an ex-assassin turned wandering samurai. Kenshin is adapted into an anime series and not one, two but THREE live action films.

Kenshin is adapted into an anime series and not one, two but THREE live action films. One of them was released in 2012, the other two will be released in the summer of 2014.

Kenshin - cover art of volume 1
Kenshin – cover art of volume 1

Watsuki Nobuhiro was born in 1970, in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. He’s been drawing anime since a young age, winning the Hop Step Award for promising new manga artists with Podmark. He also practiced kendo, the Japanese martial arts dedicated to swordfighting with a wooden sword (shinai), but he wasn’t particularly good at it: he never won a match. This frustration with struggling to become better at martial arts would later become the inspiration for one of his characters, Myōjin Yahiko, featured in Kenshin.

Watsuki mostly made samurai-themed manga works with a strong historical theme, like Crescent Moon in the Warring States. This manga contained elements Watsuki would later re-use in Rurouni Kenshin, his most well-known work by far that ran from 1994 to 1999 in Weekly Shōnen Jump and sold over 55 million copies. It spawned multiple manga titles, an anime series and three live-action films. In his career he also mentored a lot of assistents, which he did so well that there once was a time that most authors for JUMP, a popular manga magazine in Japan, were all assistents of Watsuki…

Rurouni Kenshin is about a wandering samurai, Himura Kenshin, who was the most feared assassin during the Bakumatsu, a period of civil war in which the centuries long rule of the Tokugawa shogunate ended and was replaced by the Meiji emperor and his modern, western-oriented government. The manga takes place in the second decade of this new Meiji era. No longer a mass murderer, Kenshin takes up his blunted edge sword to protect innocent civilians against thugs and villians of differing stature and level of well, evilness. He does all this with an incredible display of power and skill, without taking any lives.

There’s a lot to like about the story of Kenshin, and Watsuki’s intense drawing style with a few bits of comic relief really pulls you in and keeps your attention for hours on end. He’s created very likeable characters that are easy to relate to, and in the odd bunch (Sanosuke, Yahiko, Kaoru, Saito, Megumi, Aoshi, Misao and many others) there’s one for everyone.

Watsuki admitted it took him a long time to become good at drawing action sequences – arguably this has become better in his latest reboot of the Kenshin manga – but as a reader you hardly notice. The suspense lays on very thick, without becoming a drawn out gimmicky experience like is the case with Dragonball. Kenshin’s biggest enemy has always been himself, or rather, his murderous alter-ego waiting to come out. In every fight he faces, this becomes a big issue, until a certain point I won’t talk about because of spoilers.

As you can possibly tell, Watsuki Nobuhiro and his work is highly recommended here on Evabeast. I’ve been a big a fan of Kenshin for over ten years now. It’s been the pivotal anime series for me during my teen years, and a major source of inspiration. In fact, I’ve found some Kenshin fan art I made from that period, and scanned it to accompany this article. See the middle column of this page for the thumbnails :). So as you can imagine, I find it to be very exciting to be a Kenshin fan anno 2014, as there’s still so many new Kenshin productions coming out, plus I still haven’t read all of Watsuki’s manga.

Ennio Wolsink is a Dutch ICT-entrepreneur, avid manga reader, anime watcher, Karate black belt and Japanese in spirit. He dreams of his own manga/anime productions.

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