|Rurouni Kenshin character|
Seta Sōjirō on the cover of Rurouni Kenshin Kanzenban Volume 13
|Created by||Nobuhiro Watsuki|
Tara Jayne (anime episodes 31-47)
Lynn Fischer anime episodes 51-52)
Melissa Fahn (anime episodes 54-56, 61)
Clint Bickham (New Kyoto Arc)
|Nickname(s)||"Heaven's Sword" (天剣 Tenken?)|
Seta Sōjirō (瀬田 宗次郎?), addressed as Sojiro Seta in the English-language dubs, is a fictional character from the Rurouni Kenshin universe created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. In the story, he is Shishio Makoto's right hand man. Sōjirō has been favorably popular with the Rurouni Kenshin reader base, placing high in several popularity polls.
Creation and conception
Nobuhiro Watsuki has stated that the character design of Sōjirō is loosely based on Okita Sōji, the captain of the first Squad of the Shinsengumi. The name Seta Sōjirō originates from "Okita Sōjirō," the name Okita had in his early life. The specific personality model is from the Okita in Ryōtarō Shiba's novel Shinsengumi Keppuroku ("Record of Shinsengumi Bloodshed"); in that version Okita "lost an important part in his human heart," making him without emotions and "pretty scary." Watsuki reported that some fans did not like the fact that a character modeled on Okita is a villain; Watsuki argued that since Sōjirō is based on the Shinsengumi Keppuroku Okita, the design "works well" and that Sōjirō is "a strong antagonist." Watsuki felt that Sōjirō was more difficult to draw than Watsuki initially anticipated, and that he only accomplished around one fourth of what he imagined the character would appear in his mind. Watsuki had no design model for Sōjirō; Watsuki envisioned Okita as having bangs (fringes), so to Watsuki it was no surprise that Sōjirō also had bangs. Watsuki gave Sōjirō a "slightly feminized air" so that Sōjirō's smile would "look good" on the character. In Volume 9 Watsuki stated that he wants to properly portray Sōjirō since he is a popular character.
The fact that Sōjirō has no emotions is also based on Shiba's version of Okita Sōji. Watsuki said that this concept became one of the most difficult aspects to reflect in the drawing. Okita died when he was young, but Watsuki decided not to kill Sōjirō in the story in order to atone for the murders he committed, but instead start living on his own instead of having someone make his decisions for him. He hoped to draw him in more of the next chapters but soon thought that would not be possible.
Sōjirō is Shishio's right hand man, a young assassin trained by Shishio himself. Sōjirō is known for his lack of kenki (offensive aura), or, simply, emotion. He possesses no anger and incites no fear in his enemies, other than with his sword. This is reflected in his appearance, as he looks very ordinary and has no distinctive features in either his dress or his face.
Sōjirō is often seen smiling and has polite manners, always referring to others with Japanese suffixes. He is sarcastic, hiding his true emotions behind his smiling face. However, he does have a special relationship with Komagata Yumi, who functions as an older-sister figure towards him. Sōjirō usually dresses up in a blue kimono with white handguards.
Sōjirō's constantly smiling face and polite manners stem from his tragic past. Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in September of the first year of Bunkyū (1861), Sōjirō is an illegitimate child. Sōjirō's father left him in the care of his family, who badly mistreat him. He is assigned chores such as carrying rice to and from the family warehouse, and whenever he faltered, he was beaten by his family. Sōjirō built a defense against their lashings; he put on a smiling face, and endured the torture until they got tired of beating him and left him alone.
One night, he meets Shishio, who was on the run from the police. Sōjirō witnesses Shishio kill some police officers and Shishio is about to kill him for it until he notices Sōjirō smiling and therefore spares him in exchange for food and bandages. Shishio tells Sōjirō that only the strong may live and that his predicament is his own fault for being weak. This new mentality, and a sword given to him by Shishio, determine his defence when his family finds him housing Shishio. Sojiro quickly finds himself cornered by them, attempting to murder him and blame his death on Shishio. He lashes out at them with Shishio's sword, killing every one of them at the age of eight.
Sōjirō's apparent lack of emotion, his simple, insensitive mentality that the strong will live and the weak shall die, and his skills make him a formidable foe for Kenshin. As a master swordsman of his own style, Sōjirō's abilities have earned him the nickname of "Heaven's Sword" (天剣 Tenken?, Ten meaning Heaven and Ken meaning Sword, "Tenken" means swordsmanship of natural endowments). His shukuchi utilizes such powerful speed that, to an observer, it appears that the distance between the two fighters has shrunk (hence the name shukuchi, which means "reduced earth").
During his fight with Kenshin, Sōjirō continually states he's only moving "three steps below shukuchi" or "two steps below shukuchi." While moving at the speed his shukuchi utilizes, the only thing that can be seen is Sōjirō's footsteps ripping through the tatami mats. During "one step below shukuchi", he is able to attack from an omni-directional angle, utilizing not only horizontal but veritical space. While performing true shukuchi, he completely disappears and cannot be seen, even by Kenshin. Sōjirō can dodge the Kuzu-ryūsen (九頭龍閃?, lit. "Nine-headed Dragon Flash"), a move which apparently cannot be evaded even by Kenshin himself. Sōjirō is also the first one ever to slash Kenshin in the back in the series.
Sōjirō is also well versed in the Battōjutsu style like Kenshin, as is evident when he decides to use a stance similar to Kenshin's and when he destroys Kenshin's first sakabatō. Combining the true speed of shukuchi with the Battōjutsu, he has created his only named technique, Shuntensatsu (瞬天殺?, lit. "Instant Heaven Kill"), meaning "immediate killing by heaven's sword". It is named this because the speed behind the attack is so swift that the opponent dies instantly before falling to the floor. Judging by its appearance in the anime, it appears that the Shuntensatsu is very similar to Kenshin's Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, except that it uses speed rather than strength.
Sōjirō first appears when he assassinates government official Ōkubo Toshimichi, who is on the way to a meeting. Sōjirō's superhuman speed allows him to enter Ōkubo's moving carriage unnoticed. Disgruntled samurai are already on their way to kill Ōkubo, but Sōjirō finishes him off before they can, although it is the samurai who officially take the credit (the real-life Ōkubu being killed by them). Later, after Senkaku is defeated by Kenshin, Sōjirō duels with Kenshin using Battōjutsu, resulting in a tie due to the breaking of both their swords. Sōjirō is then assigned by Shishio to gather the Ten Swords located in the east side of Japan.
When Kenshin finally arrives at the Room of Reduced Space in Shishio's lair, he finds Sōjirō waiting for him. As they begin to duel, it seems Sojiro holds the upper hand, bewildering Kenshin with his superior speed. But when the confrontation forces Sōjirō to question Shishio's principles, his true emotions surface, allowing Kenshin to negate his advantage by reading/predicting his moves. As he struggles with his own confusion, the battle reaches its climax with Kenshin using the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki and Sōjirō using his Shuntensatsu. The result is a victory for Kenshin, but Sōjirō discovers the key to his move, having spotted it before he used the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki.
Sōjirō informs Yumi of the key to Kenshin's ultimate attack and asks her to tell Shishio. Before she leaves, he asks her for one last favor; to return the Wakizashi to Shishio that had once saved him from being murdered (by his family). Sōjirō then leaves Shishio's faction to become a wanderer seeking to find his own truth.
Daryl Surat of Otaku USA said that while Sōjirō is a "kid," the character scored highly in popularity polls among readers because Sōjirō always smiles despite the abuse inflicted upon him. Surat used Sōjirō as an example of Rurouni Kenshin being a "neo-shonen" work that appeals to boys and girls.
In Live-action film
- Rurouni Kenshin Profiles. Viz Media. 2005. ISBN 978-1-4215-0160-4.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Chapter 135". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 16. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-854-6.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2004). "The Secret Life of Characters (26), Seta Sōjirō". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 9. Viz Media. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-59116-669-6.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "The Secret Life of Characters (26) Amendment, Seta Sōjirō". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 16. Viz Media. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-59116-854-6.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Act 134: The Second Secret". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 16. Viz Media. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-59116-854-6.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Chapter 133". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 16. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-854-6.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). "Chapter 129". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 15. Viz Media. ISBN 1-59116-810-4.
- Surat, Daryl. "Heart of Steel." Otaku USA. Volume 4, Number 1. August 2010. 34.
- New Live-Action Rurouni Kenshin Films Cast Sōjirō, Aoshi