Gender Dynamics of Rurouni Kenshin

*** THIS IS JOEL PAGAN’S BLOG POST***

Anime has been a large part of my life ever since my childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of staying up late at night to catch whatever cool shows were on Toonami. The one that drew me in the most was Rurouni Kenshin, the tale of the Wandering Samurai, who had forsaken his life as an assassin and know seeks only to protect. This is emphasized by his iconic backwards blade, a katana with the sharp end on the opposite side of the blade. The setting of the series is in a post-Feudal Japanese society, so what we see is many of the traditional values held during that period are being challenged. This can be seen through Rurouni relatively meek and calm nature, as opposed to many of the other samurai he encounters, whos till carry those ideals of masculinity from the Feudal-era. It can also be seen in his love interest,  One of the characters I was able to identify strongly with was that of Honjo Kamatari, a relatively minor character in the series, but an important one in terms of gender dynamics.

Honjo Kamatari at first, puts on the appearance of a female warrior. It isn’t till layer on during her training sessions that we see he is actually a male dressing as a female, defying gender norms for his time.

 

Kamartari would end up being a “garden variety character” reader poll would rank the Kamatari as number 10 in a “most popular character” contest. In a “free talk,” where the creator talks about his characters, he explains how Kamatari came about. “Okama” is Japanese slang for homosexual and “Kama” means scythe – hence HonjO KAMAtari. He then went through several options of “male appearing on the surface, but personality-wise, will be feminine,” “a very erotic and seductive, womanly appearance from the outside, but manly man on the inside,” or “a big macho gay guy.” After some struggle he was suggested why not go with “just a ‘pretty girl’ type” and Kamatari was born.

But Kamatari would prove to be more than just a minor character for a lot of young readers and watchers. As a character that defied gender norms in a Shonen(akin to Haku, from Naruto), he shows that there are many ways of being comfortable in one’s own body, and is affirming to any who would choose to follow the same path.

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