Over the next few months, we’ll be posting pieces written by Micah, a former Christian aniblogger. While his site, Otaku Collision, is no longer extant, we’ve arranged to keep a few of his treasured works (greatest hits?) alive on our site. Today we’re posting the first, about Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen (Trust and Betrayal). Coincidentally, in the coming days we’ll be posting our own piece about this amazing OVA.
Shame is a curse that reminds us of our failures. Whenever I’m brought to my low points, when I remember the people I’ve hurt and the sin I’ve committed, shame has its grip on my heart. It tells me I’m a horrible person and I’m not worth loving. I can hear the whispers from Satan, “You can never be forgiven.” No matter what I do in my own strength, shame never disappears and it continues to grow as a result of my resolve to defeat it. I am the Hitokiri Battōsai, a man who only kills and has hurt the one he loves the most. With no way to receive pardon, humanity has no hope. However, the free gift of forgiveness from Christ goes deeper than anything and Himura Kenshin’s scar on his face symbolizes this same kind of change.
Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal reminds me there are other people in the world that are under such shame that they feel too far gone from forgiveness. Revolutionary assassin Himura Kenshin has murdered countless people and works to uproot the shogunate of Japan for the sake of justice. His ideals for creating an era of peace for the common people by his participation in war have turned him into a murderer, one who lives solely by the sword. He had been driven into an insane killing craze, and has found himself assassinating high government officials, bodyguards, and anyone who stands in his way. Kenshin is a man consumed by bloodlust, who knows only the look of terror and fear of his enemies.
It is only when Kenshin meets Yukishiro Tomoe that he transforms into a man of peace. After she witnesses the young assassin murder a man in combat, she is forced to accompany Kenshin, the Chōshū clan fearing she would publicize his identity. The two make their way into the country in the remote village of Otsu where they masquerade as a married couple until further notice. While living with her, Kenshin realizes her soft-spoken words and kind personality contrast his emotionless, furious attitude. The longer he stays with Tomoe in the country, the more their relationship grows and the more he becomes like her. Eventually, a man who has killed over 100 people, the legendary Hitokiri Battōsai, falls in love with this woman and she makes him a man of peace.
However, at the same time, Kenshin meditates on his past and comes to realize the meaning of his murders, of taking away the life of another. He had stolen what was not his and hurt many people along the way including the victim, their family, friends, and others. Kenshin’s skill with the sword had caused a ripple effect of terror and despite his intent, brought more destruction than peace.
Most importantly (spoiler ahead), Kenshin discovers near the end of Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal that among his assassinations was that of Yukishiro Tomoe’s fiancé and childhood friend; he killed him in cold blood. In exchange, a scar etched by his opponent’s blade where it nicked him on his cheek. He can’t bring back this man from the dead and feels as though the only way he can receive peace is to give up his own life.
At the end of the movie, Kenshin is locking swords with a deadly enemy. He is bleeding profusely and has multiple injuries from other swordsmen he has fought. The odds are stacked against him and Kenshin’s lack of energy leaves him open to a wide open slash to the chest. Suddenly, Tomoe leaps in front of the deadly strike, taking the steel blade to her body. Kneeling in front of her bloody form and looking down at his love, he remembers his guilt for murdering her previous love. Unworthiness fills his being as he sees how he could never repay the sacrifice she just made. Tomoe breaks these thoughts by taking a nearby knife and etching another scar into his cheek, one that runs perpendicular to the cut engraved by her fiancé. Tears running down his eyes, blood dripping from his cut, he can’t figure why he had been shown so much grace when he had hurt his wife so badly.
What it is that he didn’t understand was that Tomoe had forgiven him.
I tend to find myself more and more like Kenshin when I’m dealing with my past sin and how I view Jesus. Here I am, a lowly human who has committed wrongdoing against the creator of the universe, yet He would still love me enough to save me from my actions. He would send His only son to earth to die a gruesome death so I wouldn’t have to suffer the eternal consequences. How is that fair? How did I ever deserve that kind of love and how did Jesus ever deserve torture?
Forgiveness isn’t fair. It isn’t what we deserve; instead, it’s an act of grace.
If you ever try to think about how unequal the exchange of forgiveness is, you will always be left owing the other person more than you can pay. God knew we couldn’t pay what was owed for our sin and that’s why Jesus came. He predestined this entire process from the very beginning, one built on love.
You can never work your way to God’s grace: He gave it freely of His own will. You can never be good enough to earn forgiveness, otherwise you would have never needed it in the first place. Your sin requires an eternity in Hell and Jesus taking that on for us is very unfair, but isn’t that the amazing news of the Gospel? Love is tough and our God shows it perfectly without any flaws.
We can see our mistakes presented in front of us and shame will try to tell us we aren’t worth loving. Our sin separates us from God and it tells us we can never be forgiven. We truly are like the Hitokiri Battōsai. However, love is precisely what saved us and is the weapon against shame. Himura Kenshin received forgiveness for his murder by the scarring of his face and Christians are given the same grace through Jesus Christ, the one who etched the cross into our hearts.