Saitō Hajime (Rurouni Kenshin)

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In this Japanese name, the family name is "Saitō".
Saitō Hajime
Rurouni Kenshin character
SaitoHajimeRuroKen.PNG
Saitō Hajime on the cover of Rurouni Kenshin Kanzenban Volume 7
First appearance Rurouni Kenshin Act 48: Resurrection of the Wolf
Created by Nobuhiro Watsuki
Voiced by Japanese
Hirotaka Suzuoki (anime, OVAs, The Motion Picture)[1][2][3]
Ken Narita (New Kyoto Arc)[4]
English
Daniel Woren (Samurai X anime version)
Kirk Thornton (anime)[5]
Ken Webster (OVAs, The Motion Picture)[2][3]
John Swasey (New Kyoto Arc)
Portrayed by Yōsuke Eguchi
Profile
Aliases Mibu no Okami (壬生の狼?, lit. "Wolf of Mibu")
Fujita Gorō (藤田 五郎?) (new identity)
Relatives Tokio (wife)
Mishima Eiji (adopted son)
Affiliations Shinsengumi (formerly)
Meiji Government

Saitō Hajime (斎藤 一?) is a fictional character from the Rurouni Kenshin manga and anime series created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. In the English language anime dubs, he is known in Western order as Hajime Saito. Watsuki, being a fan of the Shinsengumi, created Saitō as an anti-heroic foil to Himura Kenshin, the main character of the story, while basing him on the real life Shinsengumi member of the same name.

Set during a fictional version of Japan in the Meiji period, Saitō, known as the "Mibu no Okami" (壬生の狼?, lit. "Wolf of Mibu"), is the former third squad captain of the Shinsengumi, a pro-shogunate force. During the Bakumatsu, he had a long time rivalry with Himura Kenshin, an assassin of the Imperialist cause. In the series, he is initially introduced as an antagonist who encounters and once again duels with Kenshin. It is later revealed that Saitō, who had only been testing Kenshin's strength, is now a spy agent working for the Meiji Government. After the reveal, Saitō becomes one of the main protagonists of the series, forming an uneasy alliance with Kenshin.

Saitō appears in the featured movies of the series, as well as the original video animation (OVA) series and other media relating to the franchise, including a wide range of electronic games. He has also been one of the most popular characters of the Rurouni Kenshin series, ranking near the top of the series' popularity polls. His character is featured in various types of merchandising developed for the series, such as figurines and key-chains. Several anime and manga publications have commented on Saitō's character.

Creation and conception[edit]

Redesign of Saitō in the kanzenban series.

Nobuhiro Watsuki based Saitō Hajime on the actual historic figure of the same name who was the captain of the third squad of the Shinsengumi in the Meiji era. Watsuki altered the character to a higher degree than the other historic figures who appear in Rurouni Kenshin since the character Saitō has a greater role in the story than the other characters.[7] In the development of Rurouni Kenshin Watsuki planned for Saitō to be a "dirty" hero who maintains his "Swift Death to Evil" policy and does not become friendly with Kenshin's group, being rather aloof to them. Hajime has no specific model for his design. Since Watsuki intended for the character Saitō to be a villain, he made the character's face "villain-ish."[7]

Watsuki considers Saitō as the "curse" of the villains in the series since he defeats the enemies who consider themselves the strongest.[8] Watsuki came up with the idea of the Gatotsu sword technique that Saitō uses in the series from the fact that the historical figure's favorite move was the "left single-handed thrust,"[7] or hirazuki, a technique mainly for slashing downward, stabbing, and thrusts.[9] Watsuki gave Saitō's left-handed technique the name "Gatotsu" to fit with the action comic theme.[7]

In July 2006, the Japanese publishers of Rurouni Kenshin released the kanzenban edition. In the sixth kanzenban volume, Watsuki included a draft page featuring a redesigned appearance of Saitō's character.[10]

In the anime adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin, Watsuki's designs of Saitō were combined with the talents of voice actor Hirotaka Suzuoki, who also voiced Saitō in the original video animations and Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture. However, due to Suzuoki's death in 2006, he was replaced by Ken Narita as the new voice actor for Saitō in the two-part Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc movies.[11]

Appearances[edit]

In Rurouni Kenshin[edit]

Saitō Hajime, known as the "Mibu no Okami" (壬生の狼?, lit. "Wolf of Mibu"), is the former captain of the third squad of the Shinsengumi, a loyalist force of the Tokugawa shogunate.[12] A powerful and ruthless swordsman, Saitō lives by the code "Aku Soku Zan" (悪即斬?, Swift Death to Evil),[13] and frequently fights using the Gatotsu, a special left-handed stab variant of the Hirazuki technique of the Shinsengumi,[14] and its different stances.[15] During his time in the Shinsengumi, he was a close associate of fellow Shinsengumi member and first squad captain Okita Sōji,[16] and also developed a rivalry with the pro-Imperialist Himura Kenshin.[17] At the end of the Bakumatsu, the pro-shogunate forces were ultimately defeated and Saitō was forced to go into hiding. He later changed his name to Fujita Gorō (藤田 五郎?) and started working for the Meiji Government as a spy agent.[6][18] Saitō is also married to a woman named Tokio (時尾?), who does not appear in the story.[19]

In his introduction in the series, Saitō attacks and seriously injures Sagara Sanosuke. Saitō has been hired by Shibumi, a corrupt politician, to kill Kenshin; thus, his attack on Sanosuke serving as a warning to Kenshin.[16][12] While Kenshin is dueling Shibumi's assassin Akamatsu Arundo, Saitō appears at the Kamiya dojo, using his alias "Fujita Gorō", and poses as a police officer who urgently needs to speak with Kenshin.[14] When Kenshin returns, upon recognizing Saitō, he reveals Saitō's true identity as the former Shinsengumi third squad captain.[20] They fight,[21] and just as they are about to kill each other, Ōkubo Toshimichi appears and stops the duel, revealing that Saitō was only testing Kenshin's abilities[22] to see if he was skilled enough to face Shishio Makoto.[23] Having revealed his true allegiance with Ōkubo, Saitō postpones the duel, and leaves to kill Shibumi and Arundo.[23]

Saitō then travels to Kyoto to fight Shishio under government orders. Along with Kenshin and Sanosuke, he assaults Shishio's battleship, the Purgatory.[24][25] Accepting Shishio's challenge to fight on Mount Hiei, Saitō kills Uonuma Usui, one of the Ten Swords,[15][26] and later ambushes Shishio, almost, but failing to kill him as Shishio had been wearing a hachigane (iron headband).[27] Months later, Saitō is sent to arrest Yukishiro Enishi and he helps Kenshin fight against The Six Comrades, defeating Yatsume Mumyōi.[28] He also fights against the first of the four Sū-shin guards of Woo Heishin, Enishi's second-in-command, and defeats him.[29] Afterwards, Saitō is transferred to work in another location after rejecting the continuation of his duel with Kenshin.[30] Five years after the end of series, it is revealed that Saitō continues to work for the government.[31]

In other media[edit]

In the movie Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture, Saitō is assigned by the government to stop the samurai Takimi Shigure from overthrowing the Meiji Government as an act of revenge. He also receives assistance from Himura Kenshin to protect a foreign minister from the rebels.[32] Saitō makes an appearance in the two-part New Kyoto Arc movies, where some of his scenes and fights from the manga series are altered and removed.[33]

Saitō also appears in both of the original video animation (OVA) series. In Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal, his role and activities as a Shinsengumi captain during the Bakumatsu are depicted. As a result of his involvement in the Ikedaya Affair, he and his Shinsengumi comrades successfully prevent the burning of Kyoto by an extremist faction of the Ishin Shishi. His interactions with Okita Sōji as well as his first encounter with Himura Kenshin are also shown.[34] Saitō has very brief cameo appearance in a flashback scene of Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection.[35]

Saitō is also a playable character in the Rurouni Kenshin video games.[36] He also appears in Jump Super Stars[37] and Jump Ultimate Stars,[38] but not as a playable character.

Reception[edit]

The character of Saitō has been well received by manga readers and as the series continued he went on to become one of the most popular characters among the Rurouni Kenshin reader base, having consistently placed near the top of the Weekly Shōnen Jump character popularity polls of the series, ranking third in the last two.[26][39][40] He has also ranked second in the "Who is the best enemy of Kenshin?" poll featuring all Kenshin's opponents.[41] Two polls by the official Rurouni Kenshin anime featured Saitō as one of the series' most popular characters. In the "Favorite Character Then" poll, Saitō was ranked third, while in the "Favorite Character Now" he was also placed third.[42] Saitō's design initially received negative feedback from Shinsengumi fans who believed that Saitō had a more handsome face than the face Watsuki used. Watsuki also recalled that one of the complaints criticized Saitō's selling of "Ishida powdered medicine" from the Hijikata family.[7] Later, Watsuki was pleased with the fact that Saitō's popularity with fans increased as the story progressed.[7] A plethora of merchandise have been released in Saitō's likeness including figurines,[43][44] keychains[45] and wall scroll posters.[46]

Several anime and manga publications have provided praise for Saitō. His fight scenes in the series, in particular, have also been acclaimed. While reviewing the volume 7 from the manga, Mania Entertainment writer Megan Lavey applauded the fight between Himura Kenshin and Saito Hajime at the Kamiya Dojo as the "high spot of the [Kyoto Arc] high spot".[47] In the volume 14 review for the manga, Lavey described the end of the fight between Saitō and Usui as "very gruesome and not for the faint of heart".[48] In the DVD volume 7 review for the anime, Mania Entertainment's Chris Beveridge described the fight scene between Saitō and Kenshin as "definitely choreographed well". He praised "the viciousness in the attacks, masked under their cold calculating facade" as being "wonderfully done, providing a real feel for these ultimate killers".[49] His appearance in the OVAs has also received praise. Mike Crandol of Anime News Network states that during the character's brief appearances in the Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection OVA series, he appears to be "truly menacing."[50] Mark A. Grey of Anime News Network said that the song "Hoeru Miburo (Howling Wolf of Mibu)" in the anime series "perfectly" represents the character.[51]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aniplex, Fuji TV (October 30, 1996). "新たなる血戦への序曲· 迫り来る狼の影!". Rurouni Kenshin. Episode 28. Fuji TV.
  2. ^ a b Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal (Director's Cut) (DVD). ADV Films. 2003. 
  3. ^ a b Samurai X: The Motion Picture (DVD). ADV Films. 2001. 
  4. ^ "New Rurouni Kenshin Anime's Part I Promo Video Streamed". Anime News Network. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ Aniplex, Fuji TV (April 24, 2003). "Prelude to the Impending Fight: The Shadow of the Wolf Draws Near". Rurouni Kenshin. Episode 28. Cartoon Network.
  6. ^ a b Rurouni Kenshin Profiles. Viz Media. 2005. ISBN 978-1-4215-0160-4. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "The Secret Life of Characters (21) Saitō Hajime (Fujita Gorō)". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  8. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2006). "The Secret Life of Characters". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 22. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0196-1. 
  9. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Glossary of the Restoration". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  10. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2006). Rurouni Kenshin Kanzenban, Volume 6. Shueisha. p. 2. ISBN 4-08-874155-2. 
  11. ^ Green, Scott (2012-12-06). "Sentai Filmworks Licenses Rurouni Kenshin ~ New Kyoto Arc Anime OVA". Crunchyroll. Retrieved 2013-04-02. 
  12. ^ a b Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 49: Wolf Without Mercy". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  13. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Glossary of the Restoration". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 14. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-767-1. 
  14. ^ a b Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 50: Scheme". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  15. ^ a b Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 114: Fangs That Bite". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 14. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-767-1. 
  16. ^ a b Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 48: Resurrection of the Wolf". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  17. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 179: Remembrance 14: And So, Time Passed". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 21. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0082-5. 
  18. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 180: Night Fell ...". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 21. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0082-5. 
  19. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 71: To Kyoto, Once More". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 9. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-669-1. 
  20. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 52: The Wolf's Fang". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  21. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 53: Agreement". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  22. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 54: The One Who Stops the Two". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  23. ^ a b Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 55: Enter Ōkubo". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-357-9. 
  24. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 101: The Great Kyoto Fire (Part II)". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 12. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-712-4. 
  25. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 102: The Great Kyoto Fire (Part III)". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 12. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-712-4. 
  26. ^ a b Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 113: Usui's Shingan, Saitō's Shingan". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 14. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-767-1. 
  27. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 139: Howling Laugh". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 17. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-876-7. 
  28. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2006). "Act 199: Inadequate Strategy". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 23. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0276-3. 
  29. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2006). "Act 239: Sū-shin Battle — Saitō vs. Seiryū". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 27. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0674-2. 
  30. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2006). "Act 252: Autumn Wind". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 28. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0675-0. 
  31. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2010). "Haru ni Sakura". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 9 (VIZBIG Edition). Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-2081-8. 
  32. ^ Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture (Blu-ray Disc). Aniplex. 2011. 
  33. ^ Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc (Blu-ray Disc). Sentai Filmworks. 2012. 
  34. ^ Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (Blu-ray Disc). Aniplex. 2011. 
  35. ^ Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection (Blu-ray Disc). Aniplex. 2011. 
  36. ^ "Rurouni Kenshin: Enjou! Kyoto Rinne official website". Banpresto. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  37. ^ "Jump Super Stars official website". Nintendo. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  38. ^ "Jump Ultimate Stars official website". Nintendo. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  39. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "Act 58: To Kyoto (Part I)". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 8. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-563-6. 
  40. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 135: Those Who Gather, Those Who Part". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 16. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-854-6. 
  41. ^ Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2006). "Act 237: Quarrel". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 26. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0673-4. 
  42. ^ "Rurouni Kenshin Poll: Favorite Character Then & Now". Anime News Network. June 3, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2012. 
  43. ^ "Rurouni Kenshin Classic Trading Figure - Saito (Pair of Color & Clear Version)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  44. ^ "Samurai X - 8" Saito Hajime Figure with Acessories". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  45. ^ "Rurouni Kenshin Keychain - Saito". PowerAnime.com. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  46. ^ "Rurouni Kenshin Anime Fabric Wall Scroll Poster (23"x16") Inches". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  47. ^ Lavey, Megan (2004-10-27). "Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #07". Mania Entertainment. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  48. ^ Lavey, Megan (2005-08-07). "Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #14". Mania Entertainment. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  49. ^ Beveridge, Chris (2001-05-10). "Rurouni Kenshin anime Vol. #07". Mania Entertainment. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  50. ^ Crandol, Mike (2002-01-22). "Ruroni Kenshin second OAV series Seisouhen, part 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  51. ^ "Rurouni Kenshin DVD 7: Shadow of the Wolf". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 

External links[edit]