|Rurouni Kenshin character|
Kamiya Kaoru on the cover of Rurouni Kenshin Kanzenban, vol. 4
|First appearance||Rurouni Kenshin Act 1: Kenshin ● Himura Battōsai|
|Created by||Nobuhiro Watsuki|
Tomo Sakurai (drama CD)
Miki Fujitani (anime)
Reba West (anime, Sony dub)
Dorothy Melendrez (anime, Bang Zoom! dub)
Kara Bliss (Requiem for the Ishin Patriots)
Katherine Catmull (Reflection)
Amanda Hanawa (New Kyoto Arc)
|Portrayed by||Emi Takei|
|Aliases||Kory Kamiya (anime, Sony dub only)|
|Title||Master of Kamiya Kasshin-ryū|
|Relatives||Himura Kenshin (husband) Himura Kenji (son)|
Kamiya Kaoru (神谷 薫?), known as Kaoru Kamiya in the Media Blasters English-language dub and Kori Kamiya in the English Sony Samurai X dub, is a protagonist in the Rurouni Kenshin manga created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. In the story Kaoru is the instructor of a kendo school in Tokyo, Kamiya Kasshin-ryū (神谷活心流?). The students leave when many people are killed by someone claiming to be the Hitokiri Battōsai (斬り抜刀斎?) from the Kamiya Kasshin-ryū", damaging the school's reputation. Kaoru is saved from the murderous impostor by the real Battōsai, Himura Kenshin, now a wanderer who has sworn to stop killing. During the series, Kaoru grows fond of Kenshin due to his good actions to society and becomes his ally.
Kaoru also appears in the film version of the series and other media of the franchise, including electronic games and a series of original video animations (OVAs). Although Watsuki wanted to design Kaoru "more cutely" and to be "more fashionable", he toned down those qualities and made her poor and "down-to-earth". There was concern that Watsuki might kill her off, and critical reception of the character has been mixed.
Kaoru is the instructor of the Kamiya Kasshin martial-arts school. She inherited her fighting style and a small dojo from her father, who was drafted by a police swordsmen unit and died defending a comrade during the Seinan War. At the beginning of the story, Kaoru has no students and runs the dojo alone; she seems likely to lose it when Kenshin helps her. Despite occasional mood swings and a reputation for bad cooking, she is independent, compassionate, courageous and a good fighter. In her first appearance Kaoru searches for the assassin Hitokiri Battosai, who claims to be from Kamiya Kasshin-ryu. Kaoru is saved by the real Battosai, Himura Kenshin, and invites him to her dojo. One of her greatest fears is that Kenshin might return to wandering, leaving her alone again, and she is jealous if another girl (such as Takani Megumi) is interested in him. In the series' first story arc, Kaoru gains a student (Myojin Yahiko) and loses one (Tsukayama Yutaro).
When the Meiji government requests Kenshin's aid to kill the former Hitokiri Shishio Makoto, he bids Kaoru an emotional farewell and leaves for Kyoto. Kaoru falls into a depression before she follows him to Kyoto after a pep talk from Megumi. With the Oniwabanshu's Makimachi Misao, she defeats one of Shishio's Juppongatana: Honjō Kamatari.
In Tokyo, after Kaoru learns about Yukishiro Enishi's plans to kill everyone connected to Kenshin she teaches Yahiko the ougi of the Kamiya Kasshin. Enishi says that his goal is not to kill Kenshin, but to make him suffer by killing the person most important to him: Kaoru. He kidnaps her, leaving a replica of her dead body. Convinced that he again failed to save the one who was most important to him, Kenshin flees to the Fallen Village and falls into a catatonic depression. When he learns that Kaoru is alive, he and the group rescue her from Enishi. They marry and have a son, Himura Kenji.
In Samurai X: Reflection, although Kenshin and Kaoru are married he begins wandering again because he needs to help others; he returns every couple of years. Kaoru lets him go, promising to welcome him home with a smile and their child. Kenshin develops a mysterious disease, and Kaoru convinces him to transmit it to her. He leaves to help people in the First Sino-Japanese War, as he had promised the Meiji government. When he returns to Japan, Kenshin collapses in Kaoru's arms and dies.
In the pilot issue of Rurouni: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, first published in 1992, Kaoru is the sister of Megumi and Yahiko. Many of the character's details changed in her transition to mainstream manga.
Kaoru appears in all Rurouni Kenshin video games (including Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars), primarily as a supporting character. In the manga reboot Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration, Kaoru works for Takeda Kanryū to regain her dojo. After Kenshin defeats Takeda, she continues living in the dojo with Kenshin and his friends. Kaoru was played by Emi Takei in 2012's Rurouni Kenshin and its two sequels.
Watsuki said that he used "no specific model" and "no specific motif" in designing Kaoru, saying that if he had to name one model it would be Chiba Sanako of Ryōma no Koibito. He wanted to include the "commanding" qualities of Sasaki Mifuyu (佐々木 三冬?) from Shōtarō Ikenami's Kenkaku Shōbai. According to Watsuki, Kaoru is a "plain, regular girl" despite her commanding qualities. By the first Japanese compilation, he thought that the character worked and many female Rurouni Kenshin readers identified with Kaoru. At the time, Watsuki had not decided if Kaoru would be Kenshin's love interest. Although he wanted to design Kaoru "more cutely" and to be "more fashionable", he toned down those qualities and made her poor and "down-to-earth". The artist described her ponytail as "de rigueur" for a girl practicing kendo. According to Watsuki, he enjoys drawing Kaoru but filling in her hair is "sometimes a pain." At the end of Rurouni Kenshin, Kaoru received a new hairstyle. Watsuki felt that Kaoru would look odd without her ponytail, but her original hairstyle did not look maternal and he changed it for the ending. When female readers asked Watsuki if Kaoru was a strong fighter, he called the character "quite independent for her age" who could "hold her own" against the local dojo masters and compete at the national level (although she is weaker than Kenshin and Sagara Sanosuke).
Watsuki said that in volume seven the series took on a more adult tone, influenced by the shōjo manga he was reading at the time. During the series he considered killing Kaoru off, deciding against it in favor of a happy ending for a manga aimed at young readers and influenced by the previous story arc's upbeat ending. However, he thought the storyline then lost its main theme (revenge); readers praised and criticized the twist. Watsuki apologized to his young audience for the dark chapters suggesting that Kaoru was dead.
Kaoru has been popular with Rurouni Kenshin readers, placing fourth or fifth in every popularity poll. Watsuki described Tomo Sakurai's CD-drama voice as "not too airhead-y," "not too high" and "not too low."  Kaoru merchandise includes plushes, keychains and sweatbands. Miki Fujitani (who voices the character) said in an interview that in the OVA series Kaoru is brave and very different from her original version whose characterization has been felt closer to the calm Yukishiro Tomoe.
Manga, anime and video-game publications have responded positively to Kaoru; in T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews, Carlos Ross called her a "spirited girl". According to Megan Lavey of Mania Entertainment, the manga Kaoru is "a lot wiser" than her anime version. Kaoru and Kenshin's relationship ranked eighth in About.com's "Top 8 Anime Love Stories", with Katherine Luther calling it a "classic romance."
Kaoru's Reflection OVA series version was criticized; Efrain Diaz, Jr. of IGN wrote that although some of Kenshin and Kaoru's private moments are touching, others are depressing. According to Anime News Network's Mike Crandol, Kaoru is the least visually successful character redesign in the Reflection OVA. Citing the manga version's "distinctive girlish charm", Crandol said that the staff members tried too hard to make her look like Yukishiro Tomoe. Rebecca Silverman of Anime News Network was disappointed by Kaoru's lack of development in the series Rurouni Kenshin Restoration.
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