While I absolutely love Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen, the OVAs that relate Kenshin’s bloody backstory, I’ve always found the ending of the series odd. No major spoilers here, except to say that after that happened, that which changed the course of Kenshin’s life and shook the very core of who he was, he continues to slay and slay and slay and slay until the revolution ends. Thanks for the lesson, Tomoe, for teaching me the pacifist route I need to take in life. I’ll start doing it in a few years, after I kill LOTS more people.
I understand Kenshin’s determination to aid the rebels, but didn’t the events of Tsuiokuhen show him that neither side is completely justified and that violence isn’t the answer (by the way, SPOILERS AHEAD now, both for Kenshin and for Naruto)? Didn’t Tomoe’s tragic death, at his own hands, show how much suffering happens through violence, how it’s repercussions spread even beyond two samurai fighting in a duel?
I had a similar problem with Sasuke Uchiha. I admit it, I like Sasuke, even though he pretty much stays a jerk from the beginning of Naruto to the end of Naruto Shippuden. His “Tomoe” moment happens with his older brother, Itachi, who underwent immense suffering out of his love for Sasuke. He kills his family, takes the blame for the operation, leaves his beloved village, has to work closely with evil people (doing evil things), and takes on all the hate and pain given him by Sasuke, all to save his brother, all out of love.
So out of such great admiration for his brother, out of such thankfulness, Sasuke of course becomes even more convicted to the stay the course of the Akatsuki, turning his venomous anger from Itachi toward Konoha. Apparently for Sasuke it’s revenge first (“I am an avenger”), love and appreciation for his brother second.
But for all the headpalming I feel like doing regarding these two, I can’t become too fed up with them, because doing so means losing patience with myself. Sasuke and Kenshin aren’t the only ones to return to their old ways after receiving a one-in-a-lifetime wakeup call. It’s same with me.
When I became a born again believer, I was excited about my faith. I had been convicted by Jesus’s death for my sins, feeling both sorrow and joy at what God did for me. And while there were certainly signs in my life that things had changed, lots of my old, nasty habits remained: I continued to judge people harshly, I turned toward the same vices as I always had, and I tried to control my life and lead it the way I wanted.
Change for me was slow. It is slow. Even today, I struggle with some of the same old sins (along with some new ones), and the process of growing closer to Christ is bumpy. It sometimes even moves backwards.
It can be discouraging when I struggle with the same sins over and over, or when I see people who come to faith and do a 180 in their lives, especially when I know how much God loves me. But I find encouragement in knowing that Jesus knows my struggles, he knows who I am and what troubles me, and he loves just the same. Change will come – I only need try my best to follow him and have faith that the Holy Spirit will work in me as I obey Christ.
I can also look to Sasuke and Kenshin, too, for an example of how things can and do eventually change. After all, Sasuke breaks right eventually, though it takes Naruto and a lot of fighting to get through his many layers of bitterness. And Kenshin, of course, becomes a man of peace.
I sometimes think that Kenshin’s change was a result of maturation, that it came as he grew out of his teenage years and was able to better self-reflect. I picture in my mind that he realizes he could have and should have walked away from a violent lifestyle right after the events with Tomoe and the assassination attempt, but he was too young, too inexperienced; he wasn’t ready.
I’m not always ready to grow either, because I’m too young, too inexperienced, or simply too prideful. But as I mature in my faith, I know I’ll keep growing, and that’s the encouragement that can keep me going when like Sasuke and Kenshin, I’m living my own way, as if I forgot that that the most precious person in the world died for me.