Himura Kaoru (
Kaoru is a beautiful and slender young woman of average height with sleek, black hair (usually accented with a bluish or purple shine) ponytail so as to accommodate her kenjutsu practice and large blue eyes. Additionally, Kaoru sports a thick fringe of slightly curled bangs which hang past her eyebrows and are parted neatly in the middle as well as a few strands of shoulder-length hair in front of her ears. She sports a lean build thanks to engaging in regular physical activity. In training or combat, Kaoru dresses rather simply with a slightly worn, off-white uwagi and a hakama of a darker color (usually navy blue) while a sarashi wrapping covers and supports her upper torso.
However, in normal social settings, Kaoru displays a great fondness for fashionably colorful, patterned kimonos and always ties her ponytail with a large, colorful ribbon--her favorite of which is apparently a vibrant indigo-blue.
At the end of the manga series, Kaoru has cut her ponytail so as to carry herself with a more motherly demeanor.
Kaoru is a and strong-willed person with her all the pride and strength of her samurai lineage and, as such, is often quite a force to be reckoned with. Fiercely independent, she will gladly put her blood, sweat, tears and even life on the line in order to protect her father's legacy, her hard-earned belongings, and her precious friends with her own hands. Believing wholeheartedly in the Kamiya Kasshin-ryū's ideal of katsujin-ken (swords that protect life), Kaoru has great faith in the potential, honor and artistry of kenjutsu and rejects with equal fervor the idea that swords exist only to do harm and take life--satsujin-ken.
Kaoru also has a fiery and violent temper which she displays without restraint when she feels that she has been slighted or insulted, often flying into a wild frenzy if her first blow does not settle the matter. Unfortunately, she is also quite childish and largely incapable of coming up with witty verbal retorts if struck with an insult that hits too close to her true shortcomings, further prompting her to violence, resulting in humiliating herself and making herself look like a fool. Even so, her most unique personal trait is that she is quick to see the good in others, even when it is hidden deep beneath the surface, and is always ready with a kind word of encouragement when she sees an opportunity to help. Her strength, like her father's kenjutsu philosophy, exists for the sake of the people around her and she will not hesitate to lend her samurai spirit to others in need. Though some may call her naïve for sticking to such a credo while surrounded by more selfish people in such trying times, her sense of duty and honor will not let her give up under any circumstances.
Despite her compulsion toward swords and her rough-handed nature, Kaoru also has a strong feminine side. She has a great appreciation for fine clothes and art as well as a strong taste for good food (particularly Western gyūnabe). Kaoru is unapologetic about her masculine athleticism, but worries about her looks, thinking herself too plain to be attractive. She becomes embarrassed and flustered when drawn into adult conversations and, though she waves aside the idea of being in a romantic relationship, she is particularly possessive of Kenshin and becomes markedly jealous when it appears another woman may be getting close to him. However, Kaoru remains shy and uncertain about her true feelings for Kenshin for much of the series, either becoming emotionally overwhelmed or putting on a thin mask of indifference whenever it is suggested that she and he may be an item. More than anything, Kaoru fears that Kenshin's hitokiri nature may resurface, forcing him to return to his wandering and leave her all alone once more. Faced with this possibility, Kaoru often finds herself at a loss when the "Battōsai" peeks through, her willpower giving way to despair and a sense of helplessness. With the help of her friends, however, she regains her strength in short order and discovers that she is the one who can have the biggest impact on Himura Kenshin, and that she must be the one to keep his violent past in check. In the story, Kaoru is often compared to a tanuki (raccoon dog).
Friends and Allies
- Kamiya Koshijiro: Kaoru's father and Kenjutsu teacher who trained her as his student until his death leaving Kaoru as owner
- Himura Kenshin: Moving gradually from dear friends to love interests to husband and wife, Kaoru and Kenshin share a relationship that serves as one of the largest focal points of the series. Having initially been rescued from death, dishonor and loneliness, Kaoru greatly values Kenshin's company after he appears in her life and is rather insistent that he stay. Though Kenshin at first sees Kaoru as being equally important to any other person, her remarkable assertion that Kenshin's past is unimportant in relation to his present self convinces him in short order that Kaoru is particularly special. On the other hand, his expressed hope that Kaoru's philosophy of katsujinken will someday become the reality for all Japanese swordsmen gives her the confidence she needs to face the hardships in her path. Later on they marry and have a son named Kenji, who, as an infant, loves his mother, but hates his father (often pulling his hair, to which Kenshin simply smiles).
- Myōjin Yahiko: Kaoru and Yahiko have a brother-and-sister-relationship, thus the two of them are often seen butting heads with each other, and when that happens, Yahiko often calls her "ugly girl", or "raccoon". Despite that however, the two of them have a lot of respect for each other and for their respective skills and are very protective of one-another.
- Takani Megumi: Megumi and Kaoru had a very rocky relationship at the start of the series. This mostly because the two of them both had strong feelings for Kenshin and thus, they both wanted him. Despite that though, Kaoru has a lot of respect for Megumi due to her abilities as a doctor. Kaoru states, during the final part of the manga, that she has a lot of admiration for Megumi, due to her strong willed personality.
- Sagara Sanosuke: Sanosuke and Kaoru get off to a bad start when he becomes a freeloader at her dojo after he was utterly beaten down by Kenshin and quit his gig as Zanza, a fighter-for-hire. However, in time the two grow to care for each other as close friends, and Sano makes it a point for Kenshin and Yahiko both to make sure to attend to the timid Kaoru while becoming extremely enraged when she is apparently "killed" by Enishi. This even drives him to search Kenshin out after he had fallen to a state of grave despair to find and kill Enishi to avenge her, and Kaoru in turn feels similarly for Sanosuke and worries for his safety just like Megumi and the others.
- Makimachi Misao: Although they are fairly close in age, Misao's upbeat, jovial and quite immature personality contrasts with the more mature Kaoru. However, as time goes by the two share a sisterly bond, and it was only through Misao's assistance that Kaoru was able to defeat the Jupongatana member Kamatari. Just as with Sano and Yahiko, Kaoru's false death tremendously affected even the thick-headed, happy-go-lucky Misao and Aoshi's discovery of Kaoru being alive after all was just as much of a relief to her as it was to the rest of the Kenshin-gumi.
- Udō Jin-e : She was kidnapped by Udo in order to re-awaken the Hitokiri within Kenshin.
- Hiruma Brothers (Gohei and Kihei): Though initially in the pretense of Kaoru's friend and housekeeper, Kihei eventually reveals his true colours, telling Kaoru (with Gohei holding her at sword-point) that his plan all along was to acquire the Kamiya Dōjō for himself, due to the fact that the land's value would magnify in the years to come. At the last minute, Kenshin intervenes and saves Kaoru from these two villains.
- Yukishiro Enishi: Kaoru learns from Kenshin that his deceased wife (Yukishiro Tomoe) had a younger brother named Enishi, who sought to avenge his sister's death by making Kenshin suffer as much as possible. Enishi kidnapped Kaoru and made Kenshin believe she was dead (via a puppet doll created by Gein, which looked completely identical to Kaoru on the outside). Enishi was unable to kill Kaoru, because every time she was near him, she reminded of Tomoe. He even ends up saving Kaoru's life from Woo Heishin.
Though diligent in maintaining her own sense of duty and discipline, Kaoru is evidently quite unskilled at domestic practices like household chores. In both cooking and cleaning, she is decidedly inferior to Kenshin and, in particular regard to her culinary skills, several characters have remarked that she has absolutely no cooking talent.
Indeed, all of Kamiya Kaoru's abilities and talents lie in the realm of the martial arts. In keeping with her position as interim master of the Kamiya Kasshin-ryū style of kenjutsu, Kaoru's swordsmanship is highly regarded by all the other dojos in the Tokyo area and it has been stated by the creator that, while her combat skills are dwarfed by fighters of Kenshin or Sanosuke's caliber, they are at a level equivalent or superior to that of a "national-level champion". Her high comprehension of her father's style and kenjutsu in general lends itself to her proficiency with improvisational tactics, basic hand-to-hand combat and kenjutsu instruction.
As the interim master of the Kamiya Kasshin-ryū, she is naturally proficient in the succession techniques of the style, Hadome (Sword Halt) and Hawatari (Sword Crossing). She showed enough skill in the techniques to catch Yahiko's sword and disarm him simultaneously. However, by her own admission, her skill in the techniques are rudimentary as she has never managed to use them successfully in a dojo match, much less in an actual fight. Despite this, she has shown considerable ability in the use of other Kamiya Kasshin-ryū techniques, to the extent where she could defeat Kamatari Honjo, one of the Juppongatana, by breaking his kneecap with the Tsuka no Gedan: Hiza Hishigi.
She has also shown to be very analytical in battle, to a point where she rivals Kenshin's own keen perceptions. She is able to quickly deduce the mechanics of an opponent's technique and use it to her advantage. This was shown on many occasions, such as when she figured out Henya's Hiku Happa was done by conditioning his body down into skin and bones to make himself light enough to fly with his wings, when she attempted to exploit the weight of Kamatari Honjo's scythe and also when she figured out how Otowa's Bishamonken worked using magnetic force.
In battle, she has shown herself to be extremely resourceful and uses her intelligence along with her ability in kenjutsu to gain the upper hand in combat. Apart from her ability in swordsmanship, Kaoru has also shown herself to be extremely agile, being able to leap over two attacking Hishimanji Gang members with ease and even used her sword to help her flip over Kamatari's chain scythe by using it to push her off the ground.
Kaoru is a 17-year-old dojo instructor that is shown in the first episode/chapter of the anime/manga. She is also the first main character that Kenshin will meet. She is the owner of the Kamiya Dōjō after her father died during the war and the teacher of Yahiko who is currently teaching him the Kamiya Kasshin-ryū style. After Kenshin defended Kaoru from the fake Battosai, she invites him to live at the dojo, She then had developed feelings for Kenshin and soon starts to fall in love with him, though she denies it. She recognizes that Kenshin, despite of his violent past and being the Battosai, is a gentle soul who only wants peace by atoning for the lives he stole during the revolution, through protecting the lives of innocent people.
She is very different to Tomoe, Kenshin's first love, because of their personalities (being loud, insecure and a horrible cook). However, at the same time, like Tomoe, she helps Kenshin be himself (a kind-hearted person who protects the innocent), rather than a bloodthirsty killer. At one time, Kenshin faces no choice but to revert to the Hitokiri he once was, in order to fight without restraints and limitations against Udō Jin-e. When he is about to kill Jin-e in order to save Kaoru (who is motionless and about to die because of an a special type of Shin no Ippō move used on her by Jin-e), she manages breaks free of the hold and pleads Kenshin not to break his vow never to kill again.
At the beginning of the Kyoto Arc, when Kenshin decides depart Tokyo for Kyoto, in an effort to thwart the sinister plans of Shishio Makoto, he thanks Kaoru for everything she had done for him, i.e. accepting him for who he was and refusing to judge him for his past as the legendary Hitokiri Battōsai and then embraces her and says goodbye one last time before commencing his perilous journey. Initially Kaoru mopes for days, refusing to eat and leave her bed, despite being admonished by Yahiko, Tae and Tsubame. After being thoroughly reviled by Megumi for her behaviour, however, she comes to her senses and finally decides to join Yahiko and the two travel towards Tokyo, in hopes of bringing Kenshin back.
When in Kyoto, however, having met Misao, Kenshin, Hiko Seijūrō and the Kyoto Oniwabanshū, their grasp of the situation heightens and instead of aiming to bring Kenshin back, they aid his efforts. They successfully aid the efforts of the Oniwabanshu in helping defend the people of Kyoto from Shishio's forces, who are determined to burn the city to the ground and afterwards, take part in helping defeat members of the Juppongatana, who intend to destroy the Aoiya. She and Misao combine their efforts to defeat the scythe-user Kamatari, while Yahiko wins a hard-fought battle against Henya.
Kenshin and Kaoru, together with Yahiko, Sanosuke, and Megumi, eventually return to Kyoto after Shishio's defeat. It is interesting to note that Kaoru was the only person whom Kenshin bid farewell to before his departure, which convinced Yahiko that she was the one person Kenshin cherished most and had the greatest chance at bringing him back home. Megumi, too, believed that Kenshin harboured special feelings towards her and told Kaoru that she was the one person who could help Kenshin live on, despite the dangers he faced, since she provided him purpose.
At the end of the series, she and Kenshin marry and have a son named Himura Kenji, who bears a striking resemblance to Kenshin.
Appearances in other media
In Samurai X: Reflection, Kenshin and Kaoru are married, but he decides to wander again, returning to her every couple of years because he still feels the need to help others. Kaoru allows him to go, promising to welcome him home with a smile and their child. Kenshin eventually becomes ravaged by an unknown disease; to share his pain, Kaoru convinces Kenshin to share his disease with her through sexual intercourse. Kenshin then leaves to assist in the First Sino-Japanese War as he had promised the Meiji Government, not fighting and killing, but instead helping people. When he returns to Japan after a prolonged absence and they finally meet again, Kenshin collapses into her arms as he clutches her to him. Kaoru notices Kenshin's scar has faded away, signifying his death. While Reflection served as finale to the TV series, it is generally considered as non-canon due to significant differences from the manga storyline.
Rurouni: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story
In the original, "pilot" issue of Rurouni: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, first published in 1992, Kaoru is the sister of Megumi and Yahiko. As the unrefined brainchild of artist Nobuhiro Watsuki, many of the story's details changed during the transition to serialized, mainstream manga.
Kaoru also appears in all Rurouni Kenshin video games but in most as a supporting character including also Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars.
In the live-action film
Kaoru was played by Emi Takei in the live action movie
, with Alexis Tipton providing the English voice-over for Funimation's release of the film trilogy. Like the anime, she first meets Kenshin "mistaking" him as Hitokiri Battōsai, after learning of Udō Jin-e's killings (who masquerades as the Battōsai - in the anime, however, it is Hiruma Gohei who impersonates the Battōsai). After witnessing Jin-e murdering some victims, she believes him to be the real Battōsai and tries to stop him. Just as Jine-e is about to kill her, Kenshin rescues her. It is shown that Myōjin Yahiko is already a student at the Kamiya Dōjō, in contrast to the anime, where Kenshin and Kaoru meet Yahiko afterwards. Kaoru later learns from Saitō Hajime, that Kenshin is in fact the real Battōsai, but, like in the anime, she does not judge him based on his past, since she met him as a Rurouni and not the Battōsai and so allows him to stay with her in the Kamiya Dōjō.
The trailer of the second movie showed Kaoru's grief when Kenshin went to Kyoto. She was held hostage by Shishio's lover and henceman after she was kidnapped by Sojiro during the battle.
Development and reception
Watsuki said that he used "no specific model" and "no specific motif" when designing Kaoru. He said that if he had to name one model, he would point to Chiba Sanako of Ryōma no Koibito. He wished to include the "commanding" quality from Sasaki Mifuyu (佐々木 三冬) of Shōtarō Ikenami's Kenkaku Shōbai (JA). According to Watsuki, Kaoru became a "plain, regular girl" despite the "commanding" quality. By the compilation of Volume 1 in Japan he believed that the character model worked and stated that many female readers of Rurouni Kenshin identified with Kaoru. He had not decided at the time on whether Kaoru should be Kenshin's love interest. Watsuki wished that he could design Kaoru "more cutely" and to be "more fashionable" but decided to tone down those qualities as he felt that she needed to express "down-to-earth" and financially "poor" characteristics as well. Watsuki described her ponytaill hairstyle as "de rigueur" for a girl who practices kendo. Watsuki says that he enjoys drawing Kaoru and that filling in her hair is "sometimes a pain." At the end of Rurouni Kenshin Kaoru gets a new hairstyle. Watsuki felt that Kaoru would not look like herself without her ponytail, but that her original hair style did not appear like what a mother would wear, so he created a variation for the ending. When some female readers told Watsuki that they could not decide whether Kaoru exhibited strength or weakness as a fighter, Watsuki responded by saying that Kaoru is "quite independent for her age" and could easily "hold her own" against many dojo masters in town, making her a national-level champion at least, although even this level appeared weak compared to Kenshin and Sagara Sanosuke.
Kaoru has been highly popular with the Rurouni Kenshin reader base, placing between fourth and fifth in every popularity poll. Watsuki describes Tomo Sakurai's CD drama voice as "not too airhead-y," "not too high," and "not too low." Merchandise based on Kaoru has also been released, including plushes, keychains, and sweat bands. In an interview with Miki Fujitani, who is the seiyū for Kaoru, comments that in the OVAs series Kaoru is a brave woman totally different from her original version.
Several publications for manga, anime, video games, and other media have good response on Kaoru's character. When T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews writer Carlos Ross gave nicknames to the characters of Rurouni Kenshin he called Kaoru "a spirited girl". Megan Lavey from Mania Entertainment says that the manga version of Kaoru is "a lot wiser" than the anime version. In About.com "Top 8 Anime Love Stories", Kaoru and Kenshin's relationship ranked 8th with Katherine Luther noting it a "classic romance."
Kaoru's character in the Reflection OVA series received many negative responses. Efrain Diaz, Jr. from IGN comments that some of Kenshin and Kaoru's private moments in Reflection are touching, and some are depressing. Anime News Network's Mike Crandol comments that Kaoru is the least successful visual character redesign in the Reflection OVA in contrast to the manga version's "distinctive girlish charm", and that "the creators tried too hard to make her look like Tomoe."
- Kaoru shares her given name with Kurosaki Kaoru, the wife of Watsuki Nobuhiro.
- The series' metaphoric joke of seeing her, Megumi Takani, and Misao Makimachi as fox, badger, and weasel, all stems from a superstition based idiom, "The kitsune has 7 disguises, the tanuki has 8 disguises, and the ten/izuna has 9 disguises." Kaoru is considered a tanuki, as her skills as a martial artist and the head of her kenjutsu school are something that is oft underlooked through being a woman, and that from Yahiko's constant insult of calling her "ugly", she also has potential to be a beautiful woman.