I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Rurouni Kenshin Hokkaido Arc. There are only 4 chapters out right now so things can change, but right now I’m not feeling it. It feels like a cop out— a money draw— and I’m not a fan of the new cast of characters. They seem like an excuse to have something new instead of actually being pertinent to the story. But every once in a while, you can see the original Rurouni Kenshin through the dust and dirt. Sometimes, if you really squint, you can see the talent and writing that made the original the masterpiece that it is. Chapter 3 of the Hokkaido Arc wrecked me, and it wasn’t even about my favorite human, Kenshin. No, it was Yahiko, Kenshin's boy wonder, closing the door to his adolescence and opening a newer, unknown door. And it almost made me cry. What a moment for Myojin Yahiko.
For Yahiko’s entire life, he has looked up to Kenshin— the kind mentor, the powerful swordsman, the just protector. Yahiko wanted to be strong because Kenshin was strong, Yahiko wanted to protect others because Kenshin protected him. Kenshin was his ideal. But, five years after the conclusion of Rurouni Kenshin, things have changed. Kenshin can no longer be that man for Yahiko; he can no longer wield a sword, can no longer protect. The realization that Yahiko must make his own path intimidates him. Becoming your own person, straying from what you know and love can be scary. And lonely. The three manga pages are perfect, please read them (click to enlarge gallery).
Wow, goodness, my heart. Yahiko is starting to become his own man. Realizing that his goals and the goals of his idol don’t add up, he’s closing that door in his life and starting a new personal journey. He loves Kenshin and always will— he will always look up to him as a strong and amazing person— now he must make his own way. And that’s exciting, bittersweet, courageous…and incredibly lonely.
As a child, Yahiko always had an arrogance to him that would get him in trouble. Running through the street, proclaiming to be the Tokyo Samurai, promising to protect the weak and defeat the baddies... as a ten-ear-old was a little much. But today’s Yahiko acknowledges that as he watches his younger self run through his life and call out to Kenshin. Yahiko is not that person anymore, although in some ways I bet he still wants to be. But his world has changed, so he must change with it in order to fulfill the promise he made to Kamiya Kasshin Ryu. And our little-boy-now-man is mature enough to walk down that path even though he fears it. Kenshin gives him his sakabato and he gives it back. What symbolism, what fire!
Again, what a moment for Myojin Yahiko.
Maybe it’s because I grew up with Yahiko— I was ten when he was ten, twelve when he was twelve— maybe it’s because I love every aspect of Rurouni Kenshin and am a crazy person, but these three pages mean so much to me. To see him admit this to himself was an amazing development. To see the little snot-nosed runt I knew be so emotionally mature and brave, I was astonished. Maybe this Hokkaido Arc will have something for me. For better or worse, I love this franchise and will follow it to the very end. But if you’re ever at a bypass where you have to make an important life choice, think of Yahiko’s courage. Maybe he will help you.