Kenshin: A Protagonist Who Was “Too Old” for Shonen Jump

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In the realm of Shueisha’s Shonen Jump, a magazine renowned for its youthful protagonists and exhilarating adventures, the presence of a mature and adult main character is a rarity. The magazine’s editorial has decided since day one that its target audience is going to be primarily teenagers, who crave energetic escapades of youthful heroes.

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It is no wonder that many protagonists from the published series in the magazines are mostly teenagers. Interestingly, this tradition led to intriguing shifts in character design, as seen in the case of Kenshin Himura from the iconic series “Rurouni Kenshin”.

Nobuhiro Watsuki, the mangaka of the series originally envisioned Kenshin Himura to be 30 years old due to him wanting to have a more seasoned and mature main protagonist. However, the idea of Kenshin’s age took a transformative turn when Watsuki’s editor commented that a primary protagonist aged 30 was deemed “too old” for the Shonen Jump demographic.

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Responding to this feedback, Watsuki decided to lower Kenshin’s age to 28. This alteration was hoped to retain the essence of an experienced character while aligning more closely with the magazine’s expectations.

In a delightful instance of self-awareness, Watsuki incorporated Kenshin’s age modification within the storyline. A memorable exchange at the beginning of the series between Kenshin and Kaoru pokes fun at this transition as Kaoru expresses disbelief that Kenshin could possibly be 28. Kenshin retorts, playfully asking if being 30 would be more acceptable.

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This editorial decision to modify Kenshin’s age is not an anomaly probably not only in the Shueisha but also in other manga publishing companies as well considering it is based on what is best for business.

It is also not a bad decision at all since the change in Kenshin’s age highlights the malleability of creative endeavors and the delicate dance between the creator’s vision and audience resonance. While Kenshin’s age might be different from the original concept, the essence of his character remained unchanged—an honorable swordsman on a path of redemption.

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