- "Hiko Seijūrō" redirects here. For the one-shot character, see Hiko Seijūrō (I).
Hiko Seijūrō XIII (
Physically, Hiko is a tall man with a somewhat angular face and a very developed physique. Like Kenshin, he has a rather youthful appearance, despite being 43 years of age. He is also considered very handsome as seen from Masukami and Ōmime being smitten with him at first sight. He has long, jet black hair, usually kept in a ponytail. He wears a short-sleeved gi, colored blue in the anime and red in the manga, and black hakama pants tucked into knee-high boots. He also wears an ankle-length, white cloak with red lining. The cloak is an heirloom of the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu, and is comprised of several heavy materials that weigh down the wearer, as well as counter-springs in the shoulders that constantly apply a pressure of roughly 200lbs (90kgf or 900N). The garment acts as a training device, helping to maintain Hiko's strength as well keep the powers of Hiten Mitsurugi under control out of combat. Watsuki mentions in the manga that the image of the billowy cape was inspired by similar garments is Todd McFarlane's Spawn comics, particularly the exaggerated collar.
Hiko is shown to be very sarcastic, egotistical and a punishing taskmaster, often referring to Kenshin as "my stupid/idiot apprentice," and bringing up embarrassing incidents in Kenshin's past to provoke him into training harder. Kenshin describes his personality as "twisted, brusque and misanthropic", being vindictive to the point that he remembers more embarrassing and negative things about a person than the person concerned.
He dislikes the complications of personal socialization, and hearing of the ills of society, both of which he finds annoying, and to the latter's weight, ultimately incessant and depressing. In order to avoid having to work with people, he makes his living as a pottery artist alone on a mountain (a profession that he is reported to excel at). He also comes off as somewhat lazy, professing to have retrained Kenshin to save himself the bother of having to deal with Shishio, and later on, he complains about having to protect Kenshin's friends, after the latter pleads with him to do so (though he does). Hiko is vastly narcisstic; his work in pottery he attempts as a means to challenge that he can accomplish anything. And his skill with the sword as well. All testaments to his sense of boastfulness .
Despite this rough exterior, he has a deep sense of responsibility to Kenshin and those he protects in the rare cases when he does get involved. He loves sake, himself, and teasing Kenshin, and while he is frequently seen drinking copious amounts of sake alone, he never becomes drunk. He and Kenshin frequently have bouts of slapstick conflict between them, and although he treats his apprentice rather roughly during training, he does so mainly to only to get his attention; he remarks to him as his idiot apprentice as he desires Kenshin to be more knowledgeable and insightful, while also to see him have more confidence in himself. Also knowing the ultimate destiny as a master of the Hiten Mitsurugi style, he also wants to ensure Kenshin would not bear regrets when that day would come, and for him to know that, despite his rough teachings, that he never wanted his apprentice to be miserable using the style.
His philosophy as a swordsman is that the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryū should be used to protect people from suffering, but only if it is used independently from any political power. He also seems to possess considerable insight, wisdom, and foresight. He was correctly able to predict exactly what would happen to Kenshin if he participated in the revolution, was able to correctly identify Kenshin's psychological problems during their second training, and was able to both explain to Kenshin what was wrong and help him overcome it. Also, during his confrontation with Fuji, he correctly identified Fuji's despair at being so freakishly large that people saw him as a monster and not a warrior, and helped him overcome it by giving him a respectful opponent that he need not hold back against.
Also, unlike Kenshin, while never shameless about it, he appears to have absolutely no compunctions about killing his enemies, as seen during his first meeting with Kenshin when he slaughters a group of murderous bandits in cold blood. However, during his fight with Fuji, Kaoru notices that he reversed his sword so that only the dull edge hit the giant warrior and so he spared his life and also said that Fuji survived his attack because of his humongous size.
Hiko is the most powerful fighter in the series, vastly superior to all other characters. During Kenshin's second training, while Kenshin seemingly was on par in sheer speed to his master, Hiko in fact greatly suppresses his true capacities beneath his 90-kilogram cloak. The only time in the series he is seen without the cloak is when he removes it in preparation to kill Kenshin during their second bout of training. Despite this handicap, when Kenshin strikes at Hiko with his "entire body and soul" at one point (devoting all his attention that he falls afterwards and passes out), he only manages to graze one of Hiko's bracers. Ultimately, Kenshin is only able to match his master when unleashing the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki. According to Kamiya Kaoru, Hiko's might and level of skill makes the space measured from his own sword's reach and length from himself into a barrier-like zone which any seasoned fighter would be wise enough to sense and not cross into; taken in the context of martial arts and kendo, Hiko's ma'ai is at such a level of skill that, if one were to enter this zone, it would only mean instantaneous defeat.
Unlike Kenshin and most other wielders of his style, Hiko has perfectly mastered the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryū, able to wield and perform all of its techniques, skills, and methods to the maximum limit, able to focus his destructive might whilst minimizing his vulnerability to counterattacks. This is because of his superbly muscular and peak-developed body; whereas the Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryu puts so much strain that it will gradually cause permanent damage to a user with any less of a conditioned body than Hiko himself, he can perform at maximum output regularly and for long durations without any debilitating side-effects. This also gives him a distinct tactical advantage of surpassing the style's normal limits, letting him use any technique and go beyond god-speed without the need of the two-step battōjutsu strikes or actual running to reach speeds faster than the human eye can detect. His absolute mastery of this style even makes him one of few wielders in history able to use the Hiten Mugen Zan, an attack of such speed and power that it can utterly destroy the ground before him and unleash a countless barrage of slashes due to its unperceivable speed. Overall, his all-around prowess in his style is a level of accomplishment rarely seen even in true masters of the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū. Even though Hiko is chronologically past his prime, his might and vitality remains as great as ever, even in relatively peaceful times. When Hiko told Yahiko and Misao his real age, the two were shocked and pondered if Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryu acts as some sort of fountain of youth.
In addition to pushing himself to peak human conditioning, Hiko possesses tremendous sheer physical strength, able to block the gigantic swinging blade of Fuji and repel it. A highly versatile swordsman, he is proficient in a variety of attack methods and stances, including thrusting, backhanded, underhand, as well as able wielding his sword in either hand with equal efficiency and just as seamlessly switch between them all. He is also equally proficient in hand-to-hand combat, able to seamlessly use both unison. While possessing a superior sense of judgement in combat compared to Kenshin, Hiko is also extremely perceptive and analytical, able to instantly see through his opponent's strengths and weaknesses, letting him easily exploit them, likewise able to understand the nature of his opponents.
Nothing is known about Hiko's past prior to meeting Kenshin. They first met on the day that Shinta (Kenshin's true name) and his traveling companions are under attack by bandits. He comes upon the scene by chance and saves the young boy from being killed but arrived too late to save anyone else. He tells the boy to go to the nearby town and tell them what happened, assuming that they would help him. He later receives news that nobody matching the boy's description had been seen in town, and assumes that he committed suicide. He then decides to journey back to the site of the massacre to bury the dead. When he arrives, he is surprised to find that, not only did the boy not commit suicide, but Kenshin had stayed behind to bury the dead himself. When he comments on this fact, assuming that the boy's companions had been his family, Kenshin reveals to Hiko's further surprise that his companions were in fact slavers. After his parents died of cholera, he had been captured and was to be sold when the slavers came under attack by bandits. He also tells Hiko of the three young women who he had wanted to protect, but who instead sacrificed themselves for him. Hiko then pours sake on their gravestones as a tribute. Impressed by the boy's inner strength and kindness, Hiko asks him for his name. When the boy tells him that his name is Shinta, Hiko gives him the name of Kenshin, stating the name Shinta sounded too soft to be the name of a swordsman. He then takes the boy as his apprentice and surrogate son, and trains him for the next six years.
Kenshin proves himself a worthy apprentice until the news of the war reaches them. This event causes a heated argument between master and apprentice because of their different view points on the war. Hiko believed that someone wielding Hiten Mitsurugi should not attach themselves to a political entity because the power of the style would ensure victory for that entity, whether its ideals were right or wrong. Moreover, he understood that as an independent swordsman, the decision to kill was the swordsman's alone and that way, the swordsman could kill only those who deserved death. As a soldier however, he knew that many of the men Kenshin might be ordered to kill would not deserve to die, and he understood the effect that would have on his idealistic, kindhearted student. However, Kenshin would hear none of it, believing that it was his duty as a powerful swordsman to stop people from being hurt however he could. Kenshin therefore left, and as a result did not complete his training. This became a source of anger and disappointment for Hiko, who knew that, at only 14 years old, Kenshin was not prepared mentally or emotionally to deal with what he would have to do and see as a soldier. Hiko would occasionally hear rumors of Kenshin's exploits during the war, though he made no effort to contact him. One day, as the war drew to a close, he was traveling through the meadow-turned-graveyard where he had first found Kenshin. There, he finds a freshly made cross with a woman's scarf around it. He infers much of what happened to Kenshin from this marker and sadly realizes that his student finally learned his lesson.
Hiko and Kenshin do not meet again until about fourteen years later when Kenshin comes to finally complete his training. Initially, Hiko simply refuses point blank to have anything to do with him, but as Kenshin begs him, he sits down to listen to Kenshin's reasons for returning. However, his story does not sway Hiko, who condemns Kenshin's choices and actions in the strongest terms. He reiterates to Kenshin that while Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū is used to protect people, it can only do so effectively if the wielder is independent of any political power. He then tells Kenshin that, because he appears to be incapable of understanding that, he does not deserve to learn the style's final secrets. He tells Kenshin to leave, going so far as to say that his apprenticeship had been a mistake. However, Yahiko, Misao, and Kaoru arrive to see Kenshin, and the former two kick Hiko's door down in anger over his treatment of Kenshin. He then sends Kenshin off to fetch some water as a pretext for questioning the three new arrivals about Kenshin's past without him there. When Kenshin returns, Hiko realizes that although Kenshin made a mistake in joining the war, his years spent as a wanderer demonstrated that Kenshin understood both his mistake and the teachings of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū. He agrees to complete Kenshin's training, spoiling the moment somewhat by mentioning that he only agreed to do it because he didn't want to be bothered with killing Shishio himself.
As they start their training, it becomes apparent to Hiko that Kenshin's skill has deteriorated due to his wanderer years, and Hiko spends a few days getting him back up to par. However, after that training is complete, Kenshin still does not manage to perform to Hiko's satisfaction. He then tells Kenshin he has only one more chance to hit him or he would not learn the final technique, and Kenshin subsequently manages to graze Hiko's bracer (though he forgets to land properly and passes out). After commenting on how pitiful Kenshin's hit was, Hiko begins to teach him the final technique. He starts by demonstrating to Kenshin the Kuzuryūsen, a nine-strike stabbing attack which he indirectly implies to be the final technique of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū. When Kenshin uses this technique on Hiko to demonstrate his ability, Hiko counters with his own Kuzuryūsen, and bests Kenshin. He then tells Kenshin that, because of Hiko's superior weight and strength, Kenshin's Kuzuryūsen would never be as effective as his own. Then, as Kenshin laments his inability to use what he believes to be Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū's final technique effectively, Hiko reveals that there is a technique that can break the Kuzuryūsen. After getting a few laughs out of Kenshin's confusion, he tells Kenshin to think about how to break the Kuzuryūsen, which can neither be blocked nor dodged. Kenshin's answer is battōjutsu; to land an attack before the Kuzuryūsen can hit. Hiko states that a battōjutsu of such incredible speed that it surpasses the god-speed is indeed the answer; the basic form of the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki. When Hiko mentions that it will be difficult to use a battōjutsu fast enough to break the Kuzuryūsen with a sakabatō, Kenshin unconsciously reverts to his battōsai persona to gain the power he needs. Displaying a total lack of regard for his own life to learn the final secret, the battōsai prepares to attack, but Hiko sheaths his sword and walks away. He tells Kenshin that, as he is now, he cannot master the final attack, and tells him to spend the night in contemplation and introspection.
The following morning, Kenshin reveals that he has not been able to discover what it is that he lacks. In response, Hiko tells Kenshin that he is a broken, unstable swordsman who is doomed to live the rest of his life alone and in pain, and that he would inevitably revert to the assassin he once was. Hiko then sheds his weighted cloak, and tells Kenshin that he must kill him to prevent the assassin from re-emerging, and for Kenshin's own good. Faced with the absolute certainty of death, and the realization of how much his death would affect his friends, Kenshin incidentally performs the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki to save his life. As the duelists stand after the clash, Hiko reveals to Kenshin that, because Kenshin had taken so many lives, he had come to unconsciously believe that his own life was absolutely worthless. This belief served as a foundation for Kenshin's misery, and only by overcoming it could he overcome the assassin and find peace in life. As he finishes telling Kenshin this, he loses consciousness and falls to the ground, having been hit by the full force of the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki. Kenshin rushes Hiko back to his house and gives him what he believes to be powerful medicine, hoping to save him. The following morning, Hiko, fully recovered, wakes Kenshin up by kicking him and tells him to get a move-on. Kenshin, extremely relieved, leaps at Hiko to hug him, only to crash into a set of shelves as Hiko dodges. After mentioning (somewhat unnecessarily) that he doesn't want a hug from Kenshin, he reveals that "medicine" Kenshin gave him was just water that Hiko used as a placebo to stop Kenshin from panicking over a bite he received from a non-venomous snake. He reveals that, rather than the medicine saving his life, a loose peg in the hilt of Kenshin's sakabatō caused the power of the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki to be decreased when Kenshin used it. He then offers Kenshin the weighted cloak as testament to the fact that Kenshin had learned the succession technique, but both quickly agree that it would look ridiculous on Kenshin. Kenshin answers that he has no intent to carry the title of Hiko Seijūrō XIV, but then asks a favor to Hiko to protect his friends while he goes to fight Shishio, and Hiko does insult his "idiot apprentice" for asking him to clean up his mess, but still does so as they part ways.
He is later seen arriving at the Kyoto branch of Oniwabanshu just in time to save Yahiko from the giant Fuji. He manages to both block a strike from Fuji, who was capable of cleaving the Aoi-Ya inn in half, and push Fuji's sword aside. He then asks Yahiko if he is injured, and while Yahiko seems to be fine, he is annoyed that Hiko seemed to arrive at the most dramatic possible moment. Hiko blames Kenshin for this, saying that Kenshin never actually gave him directions, so he had to wander all over Kyoto before he found where he was supposed to be going. After a short talk with Fuji about how, despite his size, Fuji was a warrior and not a monster, the two face off. After dodging an incredibly powerful, two handed strike from Fuji, Hiko defeats him with the Kuzuryūsen, but does not kill him due to using the blunt side of his sword. After Kenshin returns and recovers, he is seen at Tomoe's grave with Kenshin, who had finally overcome his woes and accepted his dark past as part of himself, despite his sins.
After the events of the series, it is unknown where life has taken Hiko Seijūrō XIII and the Hiten Mitsurugi style, although the manga and anime hint that Omine of the Kyoto Oniwabanshu bears deep affection for him and likewise he was shown to enjoy such affection.
In the OVA SeisōHen/Reflection, Hiko is seen training Kenshin's son Kenji, who has sought the master of Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu to understand his father in his strength. Later, as Myōjin Yahiko comes to retrieve Kenji as his mother has fallen ill and to make him realize that his father's strength wasn't what was truly what made him the man he was, Hiko, seeing his current student leave his tutelage, comes to a conclusion that the Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū no longer seems relevant in the changing world, and that its secrets will die with him, as he remarks to Yahiko: "The only thing that doesn't seem to change is the moon." It should be noted that the direction that "SeisōHen" went conflicts with what the author had originally intended as an ending to Rurouni Kenshin, as Watsuki did not bear any creative input to its production, and wanted Kenshin to live happily, as opposed to its depiction of Kenshin's future.
Development & Reception
Hiko Seijūrō was originally a character in Nobuhiro Watsuki's debut one-shot, where he was a swordsmanship teacher at a castle overrun in the feudal era, and his design and personality were then massively different. As Kenshin's childhood prior to the days of his life as the Hitokori was expanded upon, Hiko's design was simplified so his hairstyle and cape would be easier to draw, and his personality was revamped to the somewhat self-absorbed but still selfless and just warrior he is.
Live action film
In January 2014, it was revealed that Hiko would appear in Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, the second live-action film adaptation based on the series, portrayed by Masaharu Fukuyama. He appears briefly at the very end of the film, finding Kenshin unconscious on a beach.
The character makes a full appearance in the third film, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends. The film recounts Kenshin's early tutelage under Hiko, and depicts their later training in Kenshin's pursuit of the Amakakeru.
- The name Hiko Seijūrō is in fact a title granted to each succeeding master of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū. Since Hiko Seijūrō II, each new master has discarded his own name in favor of the name of the creator of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū. (After Kenshin mastered the final attack of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū, Hiko revealed that teaching it required the teacher to die at the blade of the student in the process, after which the student replaced him as the next master. Only Kenshin's use of a sakabatō permitted Hiko to survive.) As Kenshin declines to take the name "Hiko Seijūrō XIV"(having no desire to pass on the techniques of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū due to its potential for causing death), his master is the last man ever to be known as Hiko Seijūrō.
- Hiko XIII is the only master to survive the passage of the final technique; though Kenshin learned the Final secret; factors permitted Hiko's survival; Kenshin's use of a reverse blade sword with no killing edge, the sword's blade being dislodged by it's loosened holding pin. These factors weakened the swords full attack strength, however Kenshin used the final technique on others without killing them leaving only a deep gouge wound.
- Nobuhiro Watsuki has mentioned in character notes that he is comparable to the Joker in a deck of cards because he is so powerful. As such, he ended up being difficult to include in the story because he could simply solve Kenshin's problems with little effort, and because finding opponents for him would be difficult without overshadowing Kenshin's own opponents. Due to this, his only fight in the series is with the giant Fuji, another "Joker" card that defeated Kyoto's entire police force single-handedly, but was not involved in the story in a narrative sense. Thus Hiko does not appear except in flashbacks once the Kyoto arc finishes, though he is featured in the OVA series and Watsuki has stated that he wished he could have used Hiko more often.
- A character named Hiko first appeared in a one-shot story by Watsuki named Crescent Moon in the Warring States set in the Sengoku Period of feudal Japan, which was later included in the English language Rurouni Kenshin manga volume six. Watsuki has stated that this story is canon and tells the story of one of the previous Hiko Seijūrōs. From this story it appears that the various Hiko Seijūrōs followed different ideals and beliefs for the use of the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryū. Whereas Hiko Seijūrō XIII believed that it could only be wielded by a free sword, independent of any ideology and loyalty, this previous Hiko had pledged his loyalty to the daimyo of a small prefecture and served him as a samurai. His weapon was a shirasaya nihonto with the name Fuyutsuki ('Winter Moon') painted on its hilt. Hiko claimed that the Fuyutsuki, like his cloak, was an heirloom of the Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū, leading some readers to believe that the same weapon is wielded by Hiko Seijūrō XIII (both swords have a similar appearance, though his nihonto lacks the hilt markings).
- It should be noted that Hiko is one of the few characters to comically anger Kenshin as well as make him lose his normal composure.