Shinomori Aoshi is the genius young leader of the Oniwabanshū onmitsu. He became the leader of the Oniwabanshū at the age of 15 on the recommendation of Okina. Known to his followers as the "Okashira", Aoshi's skills in combat, stealth and reconnaissance are the best. Having missed his chance to gain glory for the Oniwabanshū during the Bakumatsu, he led a group of his men in serving as enforcers for the wealthy industrialist and opium dealer Takeda Kanryū in the hopes of finding a new battlefield in the Meiji era. When Kanryū made himself the enemy of the legendary Hitokiri Battōsai. Aoshi believed that his long-missed chance to prove the superiority of the Oniwabanshū had finally come. Unfortunately, Kanryū's wicked deception and greed cost Aoshi's men their lives and the shame of being defeated and then rescued by Battōsai drove Aoshi to be completely obsessed with defeating the Battōsai at any cost in order to gain the title of "the strongest" and bestow that title upon the graves of his fallen comrades.
Tall and lean, Aoshi is frequently described as being very handsome, with a long, youthful face and short black hair cut neatly in back but with a distinctive fringe of permed bangs falling in front of his face and parted in the center. Aoshi's most distinctive feature is his eyes, which are a piercing, ice-cold blue.
For most of the series, Aoshi sports decidedly Western dress in the form of a deep blue, collarless short-sleeved dress shirt with a goldenrod trim, matching deep blue slacks and shiny black dress shoes. More distinctive still is his trademark coat - a long, sweeping trench coat of light tan with a ribbed goldenrod interior trim. He also wears deep blue, wide-mouthed fingerless gloves.
After his trench coat is destroyed and his mind cleared by Kenshin, Aoshi displays his renewed allegiance to the Oniwabanshū by switching his slacks and coat for a shinobi shozoku worn over his dress shirt. His shozoku is similar in design to Han'nya's, carries the same deep blue and goldenrod color scheme as Aoshi's old outfit, but also is tied with an obi belt left in a long bow like Misao's.
At first glance, Shinomori Aoshi appears cold and emotionless. He bears a calculating nature that shows itself in his high observational intelligence, a reticence to say more than is necessary and a demeanor that rarely shows emotion. He rarely smiles except when smirking with confidence to intimidate in his supreme combat and tactical abilities.
This long-standing confidence in his abilities has fostered in Aoshi a fixation with being the best and demonstrating his superiority as well as the superiority of the Oniwabanshū across all the land. Even from a young age, he lived for battle and has allowed the shame of being left out of the Bakumatsu in his youth to drive him toward combat in the Meiji era, not caring whom he has to fight or why so long as his opponent is strong and victory will bring glory to his Oniwabanshū. After his Oniwabanshū onmitsu are murdered in front of his eyes, Aoshi's already frigid soul sinks deep into the shadows of his nature and his desire for victory in battle becomes an obsession that threatens to transform him into an honorless murderer.
However, his icy and ruthless demeanour hides a deeply passionate nature; Aoshi's ordinarily cold heart bleeds for his comrades and he places their well-being and happiness before his own without hesitation, as displayed when he declined glamorous government positions and solitary battles so as to look after his subordinates. Though he is sometimes short with them, Aoshi never allows his men to be insulted by outsiders and will defend their honor with violence if necessary. Even when his soul is poisoned, his obsession with battle and victory is specifically fuelled by his need to honour his late comrades with the "flower of being called the strongest". Even after Aoshi succumbs to the darkness and pits himself against former comrades, he holds his true strength back subconsciously, unable to fully sever ties with those alongside whom he has fought. Aoshi also shows the ability to be compassionate even behind his steely expression and glacial eyes; even while ruthlessly completing a mission or securing a victory, he is able to feel sympathy for innocents who have been harmed or respect for an opponent's spirit, but keeps these feelings separate from his duties. Though accustomed to blunt, dispassionate analysis, Aoshi reveals that he is reasonably well versed in employing tact and sensitivity where the facts are too harsh for certain ears.
In volume 24, Aoshi had been through heavy meditations and decided to live a peaceful life by means of being a master of Okina’s inn, Aoiya.
- Previous Okashira - Predecessor and master.
- Makimachi Misao - Aoshi and the Oniwabanshu raised Misao being the only granddaughter of the previous commander. She was the only woman whom Aoshi really cared in the entire series. The two have a brother-sister relationship during the early years but Misao has fallen deeply in love with him that leads her to travel the entire Japan in search for him. During that time, he was lost at anger and madness for the death of his four loyal comrades that result from nearly killing Okina. Misao witnessed the scene and her love for Aoshi turns into hatred. She severed ties with him and declared herself as the new Okashira of the Oniwabanshuu. Kenshin helped Aoshi regained his senses at their final battle and convinced him to come home at Aoiya. Kenshin also told him that the members of Oniwabanshu was still eager to see him and the woman who really loves him is still waiting for his return, which is Misao. As Aoshi regained his senses and realises all his mistakes, Misao’s feelings for Aoshi re-kindled once again. While his exact feelings for Misao have never been stated, he obviously cares for her and the two had been usually seen together during the Jinchuu arc. Aoshi and Misao married after the events of the Rurouni Kenshin series as stated by the author, Nobuhiro Watsuki in his appearance at Comic Con 2006.
- Himura Kenshin - Aoshi first meets Kenshin during Kenshin's mission to free Takani Megumi from the clutches of Takeda Kanryū. After a long duel, Kenshin manages to defeat Aoshi. Soon after, Kanryu appears with a Gatling gun with the intention to kill everyone in the room. Aoshi's life is saved through the self-sacrifice of his comrades, becoming human shields to protect Aoshi. In the aftermath of the battle, Aoshi, now psychologically scarred, vows to defeat Kenshin so that he may adorn the graves of his loyal followers with the title "strongest". He even betrays his comrades in Kyoto and joins the evil Shishio Makoto in order to achieve this goal. Eventually, Kenshin defeats Aoshi again and helps Aoshi realize that his actions are dishonoring his fallen men and they would never have wanted him to pursue such a quest. Afterwards, after much soul searching, via meditation, Aoshi becomes Kenshin's comrade and friend, later helping him liberate Kamiya Kaoru, after she is kidnapped by Yukishiro Enishi.
- Oniwabanshū - The Okashira of the Oniwabanshu, Aoshi leads his group and strongly cares for them, not allowing them to be insulted. After his strongest men are defeated by Kenshin and then killed by Kanryu. Aoshi believes their reputation is tarnished. Aoshi becomes obsessed with killing Kenshin in order to redeem their reputation as the strongest. Through Kenshin he realizes that he must let the past go and should not continue doing evil in the name of his followers.
- Takeda Kanryū - Hired Aoshi and his group as his private security force. After Aoshi belittles Kanryu as a greedy and insignificant insect who only cares for materialistic things and has no honor, Kanryu uses a Gatling gun to kill everyone. He's eventually stopped by one of Beshimi's darts (in the anime) and Kenshin. However, all of the Oniwaban were killed protecting Aoshi.
- Takani Megumi: Keeps a watch of her, as she produces opium for Kanryu. While searching for Kenshin afterwards, Aoshi finds Megumi in the Kamiya Dojo and threatens to kill her if she doesn't reveal where Kenshin is. By the end of the series, however, Aoshi is allies and on good terms with Megumi and the rest of the Kenshin-gumi.
- Shishio Makoto: Enemy, Former Ally, who offers him the chance to fight Kenshin and defeat him, in order to prove the worth of the Oniwabanshu. Later on, after realizing the error of his ways and realizing that his battle with Kenshin resulted in the latter being weakened and at a disadvantage against Shishio, he makes amends by fighting Shishio in order to give Kenshin time to recover.
- Saitō Hajime: The two of them help in the battle against Shishio and Enishi, at one point even fighting together and annihilating Enishi's soldiers in his base in Tokyo, while the latter is on his island.
With nearly unrivaled intellect and analytical skills, Aoshi's senses are so acute that he can deduce even the most minute of distances to the tenths of a meter, and has acute enough hearing to be affected by noise dozens of feet away.
Aoshi is a grand master and Okashira of the Oniwabanshū Ninja clan. Aoshi's weapon of choice is a kodachi, a short-sword where he uses primarily for defense while using Kenpo as his offense, with the exception of his ultimate technique, Kaiten Kenbu. After being defeated by Kenshin, he adopts a second kodachi, a technique the previous Oniwaban Commander used as well. When in their scabbard, 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 later snapping Suzaku's sword with only his hand in the manga.
Onmyō Kōsa: (陰陽交叉, Yin Yang Crossing) Aoshi blocks an enemies striking weapon with one kodachi, then strikes it with the second kodachi, thrusting the first one through. It can slice even the toughest of shields, including steel tonfa that are supposed to repel any sword attack.
Jissen Kenbu: (実戦剣舞, True 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, he is vulnerable for an instant when he switches from a defensive to an offensive stance, a weakness exploited by Kenshin, and later Shishio.Kaiten Kenbu: (回天剣舞, Revolving Heaven Sword Dance) 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. Only by using his scabbard as a buffer was Kenshin able to survive this attack.
Kaiten Kenbu Rokuren: (回天剣舞・六連, Revolving Heaven Sword Dance: Six Links) This attack is Aoshi's ōugi. The attack involves Aoshi gripping his kodachi backhand, then slashing the opponent six times in rapid succession, from both sides (it relies on confusing the opponent on the direction from which each subsequent strike is going to come). It's basically Kaiten Kenbu but done with two kodachi, the key difference being that the unpredictability of where it strikes first puts the opponent at a disadvantage. Only Kenshin and Shishio, Aoshi's strongest enemies, have beaten this attack. However, it should be noted that Aoshi was severely weakened by Kenshin's ōgi first.
Onmyō Hasshi: (陰陽撥止, Yin Yang Plectrum Halt) 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. If such swift opponents as Kenshin are able to avoid both the swords, Aoshi usually uses this opening to kick them while they are vulnerable.
Gokō Jūji: (呉鉤十字, Five Hook Crosses) Aoshi crosses the two kodachi and moves them outwards in a scissor-like cut, usually to kill the enemy by slicing their carotid artery. The kanji 鉤十字 can alternately be read as "kagijūji", the Japanese term for a swastika.
Ryūsui no Ugoki: (流水の動き, Move of Flowing Water) 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 beaten by watching for the moment the user attempts to strike. True to Aoshi's ninja heritage, the technique's imagery is evocative of the ninjutsu technique of kagebunshin no jutsu, in where a ninja exploits the limits of human vision to create illusions with footwork and control of movement to distract and confuse opponents.
Even though Aoshi's skills rarely fail him in the midst of combat, he's still able to adjust and adapt to the direst of situations, even to the point that he hides himself in a recently dug grave to escape Gein's burning end.
Though rarely showing mercy to his enemies, as well as being almost harsh to his subordinates when they fail in their missions, Aoshi values their well-being and sees more honor in living a lowly life as Kanryu's bodyguard than taking up the highest of glory in the military because he cannot bring himself to abandon his last four men. Their deaths tremendously affect Aoshi, plunging the leader into an insufferable depression with his need to defeat Kenshin as the strongest of the Bakumatsu and kill himself as payment to his four men who lived and died to be of use to their dear leader.To this end he almost even kills his former boss Okina for being in his way, but subconsciously his sense of right and wrong forbids him from losing yet another comrade and he reconciles with him and Misao both once his long-standing path of battle with Kenshin was over. He does not seem to harbor romantic feelings for Misao, but even at his worst he deeply cared for her well-being, which is why he would not let her join his last four men on their journeys.
After his Oniwabanshū onmitsu are murdered in front of his eyes, Aoshi's already frigid soul sinks deep into the shadows of his nature and his desire for victory in battle becomes an obsession that threatens to transform him into an honorless murderer. Walking the path of chaos, Aoshi trains for months at the interstice between life and death in the hopes of defeating Kenshin as the Battosai and returns to Kyoto, where Shishio welcomes him as an ally in the hopes of using him to help him defeat Kenshin.
When Kenshin returns to his master to master the final secrets of the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu to match such deadly forces, Aoshi confronts his former superior Okina and nearly kills him when the latter refuses to spill Kenshin's location to the merciless Aoshi. However, once Kenshin finishes his training and Okina awakens from his coma, he is able to deduce that unlike Shishio, Aoshi had not fully sunk to the path of the devil and still remained attached to his inherent humanity. Promising to bring Aoshi back to Misao and her friends, Kenshin finally has a rematch with the former Okashira.
Aoshi effortlessly dominates Kenshin earlier in the fight with his tremendous jump in swordsmanship, but Kenshin finally unveils the truth behind what is truly the strongest: the will to live. Citing his newfound determination to never forfeit his life as the secret behind bringing out his very best without sinking to chaos as the Battosai he once was, Kenshin berates Aoshi for having surpassed all limits with his power, yet become so weak in the inside. Aoshi finally realizes the depths of the sins he has committed and returns to the proud warrior he had been, but adds that he cannot move forward without settling things straight and finding out who is truly the strongest. He and Kenshin pit their ōgi against another, but despite Aoshi striking first, Kenshin's lightning-fast Battojutsu Amakakeru Ryu on Hirameki struck and put Aoshi out of commission before he could finish the first slash.
Finally cleared of his insanity, Aoshi aids Kenshin in the final battle against Shishio when the latter had defeated the weakened Kenshin and his two allies Saitō and Sanosuke easily. Still badly injured from Kenshin's ōgi, he nevertheless manages to hold off Shishio until Kenshin rises to his feet and witnesses Shishio's life and schemes come to an end.
Aoshi later returns in the Jinchu arc to deliver Yukishiro Tomoe, Kenshin's late wife's diary but finds that following Kaoru's falsified "death" had shattered Kenshin's own sanity, though with his quick wit Aoshi sees through Enishi's deception and reveals that Kaoru was merely kidnapped. Defeating hordes of Enishi's goons to find his whereabouts, Aoshi later joins Kenshin in the struggle to finally put an end to the former Hitokiri's grim past and settle the score with Enishi. He defeats the Chinese swordmaster Suzaku despite becoming unarmed in the fight and later tries to aid Kenshin once Enishi overwhelms him, but decides against it and witnesses Kenshin's final victory.
5 years later, Aoshi still lives a peaceful life with Misao and the other Oniwabanshu, freed from his own hurtful past and having come to peace with ordinary life as defender of Kyoto and taken up the duty of erasing those who abuse the techniques of shinobi for their malignant ends, yet still very good friends with the Kenshin who was no longer a swordsman and against killing.
Development & ReceptionEdit
Nobuhiro Watsuki based Aoshi 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 "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.
In Live Action filmEdit
It was announced that Yusuke Iseya played Aoshi in the sequel. Ishiya was rumored to be cast as Shishio Makoto.
Unlike the manga and anime, he didn't work for Kanryu, who is sent to jail in the first film.
The flashback revealed Aoshi witness his comrades were killed by the guards who working with the Shoguntune government and he went missing before he join to Shihso's group.
- In his earliest appearances, Aoshi's hairstyle was slicked back, with strands of bangs framing his face, similar to Saitō Hajime's hairstyle. As the series continued, Aoshi's hairstyle gradually developed into a more conventional hairstyle, which was used for the anime and most of the manga.
- John Gremillion who voices Hijikata Toshizo in Anime series Intrigue in the Bakumatsu Irohanihoheto also provides the voice of Aoshi in the New Kyoto Arc. And both of these characters in which he voices are based off each other.
- Aoshi's image song was "Warrior's Blue". Unlike the other Rurouni Kenshin's song, this does not have any lyrics but it is a pure music instead because Aoshi was a silent type person. The music was about his sadness for the lost of his four loyal comrades.
- He was the main subject in Misao's image song, "Ice Blue Eyes". The song refers to Misao's romantic feelings for him and on the other hand, his eyes recognizable color.
- Aoshi's eyes has always been described to be piercing blue.
- Aoshi was a popular character in both male and female audiences.
- During his conversation with Kenshin at the end of the Shishio arc, Aoshi mentions he can't handle sake, and has no tolerance so he can't drink. He prefers drinking tea.