|Rurouni Kenshin character|
Shinomori Aoshi on the cover of Rurouni Kenshin kanzenban volume 8
|First appearance||Rurouni Kenshin Act 16: Megumi, Kanryū, and...|
|Created by||Nobuhiro Watsuki|
Yoshito Yasuhara (anime)
Terrence Stone (anime)
John Gremillion (New Kyoto Arc films)
Alex Organ (Live-action films)
|Portrayed by||Yusuke Iseya|
Shinomori Aoshi (四乃森 蒼紫), known in Western order as Aoshi Shinomori in the English version of the anime, is a fictional character in the Rurouni Kenshin manga series created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. He is the genius young Okashira (御頭, literally "the head", as in "leader" or "boss") of the Oniwabanshū for Edo Castle. After the Meiji Restoration Shinomori alone was offered rankings in the military, however, instead of abandoning his comrades, he decided to work with them for Takeda Kanryū. This decision leads to the death of his comrades and his defeat by Himura Kenshin, which results in driving him mad. For the remainder of the series, Shinomori swears to kill Kenshin at any cost in order to gain the title of "the strongest" and bestow this title upon the graves of his fallen comrades.
Creation and conception
Nobuhiro Watsuki based Shinomori on Hijikata Toshizō, the deputy Leader of the Shinsengumi. There are most certainly versions of Hijikata portrayed in books and fiction; Aoshi grew out of the Hijikata who killed his gentler feelings and buried his human weakness. Watsuki describes himself as a fan of the other version of Hijikata. Watsuki describes that version of Hijikata, seen in Moeyo Ken (Burn, O Sword), as "a bundle of raw combat-instinct who keeps fighting until the very death." Since, according to Watsuki, the addition of the Oniwabanshū occurred during the "last minute," he found difficulty writing with him since he had not resolved a "concrete image" for Aoshi. Watsuki says that he used no specific design model for Aoshi. As the image of Hijikata grew stronger within Watsuki, the Rurouni Kenshin author added fringes (bangs) to Aoshi's design. Watsuki held a chance to change the hairstyle while compiling the edited manga, but chose not to edit the hairstyle, since he did not want readers to believe that "Aoshi was wearing a rug or anything." 
Watsuki said he originally intended for his design of the 13-year-old "young Aoshi" to be used for another character. He says that many female readers liked young Aoshi. He described drawing Aoshi's fringes as "a pain."
During the run of the Kyoto arc, Watsuki reported receiving a reader letter that said "I'll bet Aoshi is gonna be another one of those characters who just happens to be around to help Kenshin in times of need." The letter "kind of got to" Watsuki and he told himself that Aoshi is going to be a "bad guy." As a response Watsuki decided to make Aoshi an antagonist in the arc and fight Okina (Kashiwazaki Nenji), his former master.
Born in January 1853 in Tokyo Prefecture, Shinomori Aoshi was raised a ninja of the Oniwabanshū, who worked for the Shogunate government during the Edo period. At the suggestion of Kashiwazaki Nenji (better known as Okina), Shinomori was given the position of Okashira at the age of fifteen, in time for the Oniwabanshou to defend Edo Castle. As a member of the Oniwabanshuu, he helped to raise Makimachi Misao from childhood. Misao, who was his protegee developed a strong admiration and romantic feelings for him.
After the revolution, since a few members of the Oniwabanshū were unable to adapt to life in the Meiji era, Aoshi and these members worked for the corrupt, power-hungry business man, Takeda Kanryū instead. Aoshi's subordinates included Beshimi, who specialized in darts and poison; Hyottoko, whose name literally means "Fire Man" who breathes fire; Han'nya, a skilled martial artist and deft ninjutsu practitioner; and Shikijō, a scarred "muscle man".
Aoshi is a grand master and Okashira of the Oniwanbanshou shinobi. Aoshi's weapon of choice is a kodachi, a sword that is described in the series to act like a shield because its light weight makes it easy to block with. He originally used only one of these short swords for defense and relied mainly on kenpo for his offense, but later used a two-sworded style. When in their saya, they appear to be part of a single sheathed sword, one blade appearing to be the hilt, while the second blade is stationed opposite the first and blends in with the saya itself, giving it the impression of being a nodachi. A dangerous opponent, he uses his speed together with a mix of sword and hand-to-hand combat moves. His physical strength is extremely high, having once knocked Sanosuke out with one blow to the back of the neck in the anime, and break Suzaku's sword in his grip in the manga.
- Onmyō Kōsa: (陰陽交叉（おんみょうこうさ）, "Shadow-Light Cross") Aoshi blocks an enemies striking weapon with one kodachi, then strikes it with the second kodachi, thrusting the first one through.
- Jissen Kenbu: (Actual-Battle Sword-Dance) Combo attack using "Ryūsui no Ugoki" to flow around the enemy, confusing them with a constant change in speed. Aoshi will then strike from various points, slashing them with his kodachi, then ending it with "Kaiten Kenbu". Before deciding to use a two kodachi style of fighting, this was Aoshi's final attack. Though he is nearly impossible to hit during the Jissen Kenbu, his switch from a defensive to an offensive stance is visible and allows enough time for a counter, a weakness exploited by Kenshin, and later Shishio.
- Kaiten Kenbu: (回天剣舞（かいてんけんぶ）, "Spiral Sword Dance" or "The Dance of the Wheeling Sword") Aoshi claims to have used this attack to defeat "all who have intruded upon Edo castle". It involves Aoshi rapidly spinning around three times, while holding the kodachi backhand, to slash the opponent thrice in an instant. Aoshi usually uses this attack after disorienting the opponent with Ryūsui no Ugoki.
- Kaiten Kenbu Rokuren: (回天剣舞・六連（かいてんけんぶ・ろくれん）, "Spinning-Heavenly Sword-Dance Six-Series" or "The Dance Of The Wheeling Sword Six Successions") This attack is Aoshi's ōugi. The attack involves Aoshi gripping his kodachi backhand, then slashing the opponent six times in rapid succession, an upgrade from Kaiten Kenbu made possible by the use of two kodachi, from both sides. In the anime, Shishio claims that the move relies on confusing the opponent on the direction from which each subsequent strike is going to come (a simplified explanation of Shishio's ability to counter it after Aoshi had been weakened and slowed by Kenshin's ōugi).
- Onmyō Hasshi: (陰陽撥止（おんみょうはっし）, "Dusk to Dawn Strike") Aoshi throws both kodachi at the opponent, hitting the end of the first one with the second one for an extra boost. The second kodachi is hidden directly behind the first, so the opponent would only see one kodachi heading for them in their line of sight.
- Gokō Jūji: (呉鉤十字（ごこうじゅうじ）, "Yin-Yang Cross") Aoshi crosses the two kodachi and moves them outwards in a scissor-like cut.
- Ryūsui no Ugoki: (流水の動き（りゅうすいのうごき） "Flowing-Water Movement") This is moving technique where Aoshi moves around silently, rapidly alternating between fast and slow movements and confusing the opponent due to the fluid motion & continuously changing speed. It can be countered by watching for the moment the user attempts to strike.
While working with Kanryū as "muscle" in his opium manufacturing operation, Aoshi came face to face with Kenshin, who was trying to rescue Takani Megumi. During the confrontation with Kenshin, Aoshi revealed that he aims to kill Kenshin, who was formerly known as the famed Hitokiri Battōsai. After an intense fight, their battle ends with Aoshi's defeat when Aoshi is struck a second time to the throat by his own Kodachi after Kenshin narrowly escapes death by having his scabbard reduce the damage brought on by Aoshi's Kaiten Kenbu. Kanryū betrays Aoshi and kills his four subordinates with a Gatling gun while they die one after the other protecting Aoshi, and when Kenshin had gripped his sword Kanryu ran out of bullets (in the anime, Beshimi threw a dart into the ammo belt, which jammed, allowing Kenshin to get in close) and was soon struck by Kenshin's sakabato and arrested. After the deaths of his friends and team-mates, Aoshi became even more determined to defeat Kenshin, obsessed even, stating that it is the only thing he can do for his fallen comrades now, to obtain the title of the strongest and bring it before their graves as flower.
Determined to achieve his goal, Aoshi follows him to Kyoto after training intensely for a few months and narrowly missing him when Kenshin heads to Kyoto with Saito and Misao, and joins Shishio Makoto (despite initially rejecting the offer) in hopes of fighting Kenshin. He lets no one stand in his way, going as far as fighting and severely injuring Okina (Kenshin however later remarks that Aoshi subconsciously held back against his former comrade) to try to learn of Kenshin's whereabouts (but fails to get the location). Aoshi joins forces with Shishio Makoto and plans to kill Kenshin and then commit suicide.
Towards the end of the Kyoto Arc, the much-anticipated battle arrives and Kenshin fights Aoshi. Kenshin saves Aoshi from his own madness, as he realizes that death is not the answer to his situation. To put an end to the feud and see who is truly the strongest, both decide to use their strongest attacks resulting in Kenshin's victory. Even though Kenshin's ougi, Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, activated after Aoshi's Kaiten Kenbu Rokuren (which was already cutting his neck), the sheer speed of the attack allowed it to strike first and incapacitate Aoshi. He later appears to fight against Shishio, though still weakened from Kenshin's Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, yet he still managed to buy time for Kenshin, who had been knocked unconscious by Shishio, to get back on his feet.
Aoshi spends his time meditating in a temple, needing time to sort through what he has done and been through. Before Kenshin leaves Kyoto, he asks if Aoshi would like to share a drink (of sake) with him; Aoshi refuses the offer (saying that he does not drink), but goes on to say he would be willing to have tea with him when they meet again.
In the Jinchū Arc, Aoshi returns to Tokyo with Misao in order to deliver the diary of Yukishiro Tomoe to Kamiya Kaoru. They arrived to discover that Kaoru is "dead," though Aoshi soon solves the mystery and reveals that the body buried of Kaoru was actually a doll, created by a man named Gein. Subsequently, he defeats Gein in the graveyard after the latter returns to try to retrieve his creation which he considers his masterpiece, and allows him to burn in the flames who he himself started after telling him that Aoshi burned the doll as a sign of pity. Joining Kenshin and his friends as they travel to Yukishiro Enishi's island to rescue Kaoru, he defeats Suzaku, a master mimic who is one of the four Sushin bodyguards of Enishi's second in command before leaving Kenshin to fight Enishi. Following the battle, he and Misao return with the group to Tokyo, only for Aoshi to announce that they will return to Kyoto very soon because the high mountains where he will buried the remains of his four comrades will hit winter before the plains do, and they will have to give them a finer resting place. Before leaving, he honors Kenshin's request in Kyoto by having a cup of tea with him.
Daryl Surat of Otaku USA said that while, in Surat's view, Aoshi does not engaged in "meaningful" battles, the character scored highly in popularity polls among readers because Aoshi appears "like a CLAMP character wearing Gambit's coat." Surat used Aoshi as an example of Rurouni Kenshin being a "neo-shonen" work that appeals to both boys and girls.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro. "Glossary of the Restoration". Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 3. Viz Media. p. 191.
- "The Secret Life of Characters (13) Okashira ● Shinomori Aoshi," Rurouni Kenshin Volume 4. VIZ Media. 184.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro. "Act 25: Duel of the Masters." Rurouni Kenshin Volume 4. VIZ Media. 55.
- Watsuki, Nobuhiro. "The Secret Life of Characters (31) Okina (Kashiwazaki Nenji)," Rurouni Kenshin Volume 11. Viz Media. 126.
- New Live-Action Rurouni Kenshin Films Cast Sōjirō, Aoshi
- Rurouni Kenshin Profiles. Viz Media. 2005. ISBN 978-1-4215-0160-4.
- Surat, Daryl. "Heart of Steel." Otaku USA. Volume 4, Number 1. August 2010. 34.