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21st April 2011

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Swift Death To Evil: A Saito Hajime Retrospect (Rurouni Kenshin)

Saitou Hajime

"You tame a man with money, you tame a dog with food, but there is NOTHING that can tame a Wolf of Mibu."

If there’s one manga character that contributed a huge part in developing the personality that I have, it’s none other than Saito Hajime of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s Rurouni Kenshin. He is arguably one of the more stubborn characters in all of anime & manga. His appearance is also deceiving as he looks like a villainous character, but he’s actually a police officer. Saito is a great example of one who clings strongly to his beliefs despite the many changes happening around him.

Saito makes his first appearance in a flashback involving a confrontation between him and the main protagonist, Himura Kenshin. Both fought each other during the Bakumatsu period in Japan. Saito would eventually confront Kenshin again by targeting the people around him. Both get into an epic fight to the death, which was stopped. The two would become reluctant allies in facing Shishio Makoto, a crazed assassin looking to take over Japan. Saito “died” during the final battle with Shishio and hid to wait for a chance to fight Kenshin once more. He would eventually make his re-appearance in the Jinchuu Arc and aided Kenshin in his fight against Kenshin’s brother-in-law, Enishi Yukishiro. To sum up Saito’s personality in a nutshell, he is very merciless & blunt. The one thing that keeps him going is "AKU SOKU ZAN" (Swift Death To Evil). It is a code of justice he strongly follows from his days of being a member of the Shinsengumi, a militia group created to keep the peace & stop rebels. Anyone who preys on the innocent & causes harm to the government will be a target for execution. Saito’s sense of justice does put him at odds with the changes in the Meiji era of Japan, but he remained extremely vigilant & was even respected by Kenshin & his friends to a certain degree.

Saitou in Gatotsu stance. The only move he uses.

Is being resistant to change a good thing or a bad thing? In Helen McCarthy’s “500 Manga Heroes & Villains”, Saito gets an honorable mention on the “Antiheroes” section and is noted as a tragic figure because of his stubbornness to stay the same. However, his stubbornness allows for the safety of the public. In reality, there are many cases of corrupt cops who let things go unpunished. As the saying goes, absolute power corrupts. With the job market very tight in today’s world, questionable people are sometimes hired to take on positions of law enforcement.

One thing for certain is that Saito doesn’t let his violent past get the best of him. He is probably the most “perfect” character in all of Rurouni Kenshin. No emotional troubles whatsoever. To become good at what he does, Saito always looked forward. Being able to control your emotions can be a positive trait at times. Also, the code of “Aku Soku Zan” can be viewed as a code of morality (albeit extreme as it may be). Being taught morality at a early age often reinforces good habits in the long run. However, it’s important that those being taught actually UNDERSTAND what they are learning. Saito has made it an emphasis to carry out the code & engrave it into his psyche, knowing that Japan was going through a period of change & that some violent methods may be needed to ensure that change becomes positive.

Saitou's re-appearance in the Jinchuu arc.

In some ways, Saito Hajime reminds me of a Japanese Eliot Ness. Both are virtually “Untouchable” in regards to not being tainted by greed & corruption. They both craved action and have strong ideals. More importantly, they were about the people. Corruption is all around us. As much as there are laws/rules created to prevent such things from happening, there will be always be people who will find ways to get around them. We need those (like Saito without the violent measures) to provide a second voice & to ensure that the will of the people remains vocal.

With a new Rurouni Kenshin anime series on the horizon, it will be great to see the continued story of Saito in anime form since they missed out on his greatness in the later portions of the manga.

The blue smoke of the wolf is truly a smell of sarcasm, wit, and steel justice. Wouldn’t you say so?


Tagged: Nobuhiro WatsukiRurouni KenshinSaito HajimeShinsengumiShonen JUMPmanga psychologypsychology of justiceJapanese historypsychology of antiheroespsychology of morality

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