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Top 5 Strongest Swordsmen in "Rurouni Kenshin"

Jeremy explores many topics as he juggles his passion for writing with his career as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Kenshin and his Battosai form

Kenshin and his Battosai form

Rurouni Kenshin

Rurouni Kenshin, sometimes called Samurai X, chronicles the tale of a red-haired swordsman, Kenshin, who seeks to atone for his past sins as an assassin dubbed "Battosai the Man-Slayer." Haunted by the murders of war he committed years ago, Kenshin now wields a reverse-blade sword (capable of striking foes with a blunt edge to prevent them from dying), and wanders Japan, protecting innocent lives as penance for his past.

Throughout his travels, he encounters a variety of characters and many powerful swordfighters. Kenshin also struggles to contain the murderer within himself, and repress his natural talent for killing.

Well, good luck with that, Kenshin, but we're here to examine the six best fighters seen in the series, and what makes them so powerful!
Warning: spoilers ahead.

Saito's Gatotsu stance

Saito's Gatotsu stance

5. Hajime Saito

First, the brutal anti-hero, Hajime Saito, who fights for the harsh justice of "aku soku zan," or "slay evil immediately." Saito begrudgingly works alongside Kenshin to thwart the efforts of rebels, and the two are acquainted from Kenshin's days as Battosai.

Saito's strengths:

  • Expet swordsman and skilled martial artist
  • Signature attack is a powerful thrust called the Gatotsu
  • Ruthless and cunning strategist

Saito wields a katana and the techniques of the real-life Shinsengumi. He had a brutal battle with Kenshin where both fighters barely walked away alive, although this clash took place before Kenshin's re-training.

The best part about Saito? He was an actual historical figure with impressive sword skills.

Aoshi Shinomori

Aoshi Shinomori

4. Aoshi Shinomori

The reserved Aoshi Shinomori leads a group called the Oniwabanshu, Aoshi excels in defensive swordfighting, moving fluidly across a battlefield with a technique called Kaiten Kenbu. He has a compassionate heart buried beneath his cold exterior, but can be misguided with his intentions. At the end of the day, he proves a steadfast ally to Kenshin.

Aoshi's strengths:

  • Lethal with either one or two blades, utilizes a defensive style
  • Nearly bested Kenshin both prior to and after Kenshin's retraining
  • Brandishes several unique techniques, including one that hits six times at once (don't question it, it's anime)

Impressively, Aoshi is the only of four (the others being Kenshin, Saito, and Sanosuke) who battled the fearsome Shishio and wasn't knocked out at any point.

Plus, he once defeated Sanosuke in a single blow. Sano loses many of his fights, granted, but he's always able to endure a long beatdown before falling - except against Aoshi.

Makoto Shishio

Makoto Shishio

3. Makoto Shishio

The diabolical Makoto Shishio replaced Kenshin as an assassin after Kenshin became disillusioned with murdering. Betrayed by his own government, Shishio survived an assassination attempt - but his body was heavily mutilated. This helped influence his beliefs in social Darwinism; only the strong deserve to survive.

Shishio's strengths:

  • Once he's seen an attack once, he can develop ways to counter it
  • All-around incredible swordsman
  • "Cheats" to grantee victory (utilizes gunpowder, throws innocents in front of himself to block hits, etc.)

Eventually, he crosses blades with Kenshin in a climactic battle. Fans like to dispute who the stronger of the two really is; both are certainly powerful swordsmen

Shishio's biggest weakness is time - he can only safely battle for fifteen minutes before his body temperature rises to dangerous levels. You gotta give this guy credit - he fought, and mostly defeated, four main characters in a row (though all of them had been previously injured). Still, perhaps there are stronger assassins around.

Kenshin Himura

Kenshin Himura

2. Kenshin Himura

Protagonist Kenshin takes today's silver medal. His small height and thin build make him physically weaker than some characters, but his legendary speed and technique more than compensate. See below for a quick analysis of his abilities compared to Shishio's.

As the series progresses, Kenshin completes his training of the Hiten Mitsurugi sword style, further advancing his already monstrous skill.

Kenshin's strengths:

  • Lightning-fast, and able to quickly analyze opponents
  • Masters the ultimate attack of the Hiten Mitsurugi style
  • Manages to pull off the ponytail surprisingly well

Kenshin wields the reverse-blade sword, designed to spare opponents' lives; if he used a regular weapon, his adversaries would quickly perish. Though his days as a man-slayer are over, the fact that he can still beat talented swordsmen who don't handicap themselves demonstrates his amazing talent with a sword.

Still, I'm afraid you're not quite number one, Kenshin.

Kenshin Vs. Shishio

This clash is a topic fiercely debated, in my mind, Kenshin emerges victorious.

It's true Shishio knocked Kenshin out. But that was only because our ginger hero had previously fought (and beaten) two talented warriors, obtaining injuries in the skirmishes.

Additionally, Shishio 'cheated' multiple times in their battle, like when he cut through his own girlfriend's body to land a sneak attack. Plus, Kenshin landed five hits at one point that would have surely torn Shishio apart had he been wielding a normal blade.

Seriously, you're going to regret that on Valentine's, Shishio.

Honorable Mentions

More impressive fighters

SwordsmanAbilitiesReasons Excluded

Amakusa Shōgo

Powerful wielder of the same sword style Kenshin uses.

Status as a filler character.

Seta Sōjirō

Incredibly fast.

Relies completely on speed and lacks experience.

Uonuma Usui

Effectively wields a spear and shield despite being blind.

Simply not quite skilled enough.

Udo Jin'e

Ruthless swordsman who can magically (well, with ki) paralyze opponents.

Strong-spirited foes can break his spell.

Hiko Seijuro XIII

Hiko Seijuro XIII

1. Hiko Seijuro XIII

First place has to go to Kenshin's teacher, the thirteenth student of the Hiten Mitsurugi style.

Hiko matches Kenshin in speed and technique, but far surpasses him in physical power. He's is an interesting mentor to our protagonist; he lends a hand when needed, but is sarcastic and verbally while doing so.

Hiko's strengths:

  • Amazingly talented (has never lost a real fight in the series)
  • Like Kenshin, has mastered the Hiten Mitsurugi style and all its techniques
  • A bigger build lends power to his form, and he'll kill when necessary

Despite their differences in philosophies, Kenshin readily admits Hiko's skills are "undoubtedly the best." In fact, the creator of the show had trouble incorporating Hiko into the plot, stating that Hiko is strong enough to solve Kenshin's problems easily.

Lazy, antisocial, and blunt, Hiko appears rough around the edges, but wields the most lethal blade of all.


Kenshin's adventures are a few decades old by now, but there's still a lot of fun to be had with them. If you're looking for an anime that blends realism and fantasy, give Roruni Kenshin a try. The English dub is surprisingly good, too.

I'll see you at our next countdown, and remember, despite what anime teaches you, stabbing your girlfriend through the heart will not make her love you.

Questions & Answers

Question: Are the Kenshin live-action movies good?

Answer: Yes. They're not perfect (some actor choices are puzzling), but they nailed Kenshin's depiction and the action scenes. The latter two in the trio of films are particularly worthwhile.

Of course, since they're in Japanese, don't watch them if you're opposed to subtitled movies.

© 2015 Jeremy Gill


McP on October 18, 2018:

It's really hard to tell. Kenshin's foes might be separated into two groups: those who he could much as wanderer and those who forced him to enter his battousai mode. And one notion at that point: Kenshih, even as battosai, would never be as fast as he used to be with a blade, since he's using his reverse blade now. Second notion: we're talking about pre-retrained Kenshin:

- Saito - was his strongest enemy at that point, he needed to enter his battousai mode, and it seemed to be a draw;

- Jinei - was able to force Kenshin to enter his battosai mode just as Saito did, but unlike him, he got stomped after that;

- Aoshi (one blade) - had some kind of the upper hand over Kenshin, but it was "just" Kenshin. And he still lost to him.


1. Kenshin Battousai / Saito Hajime

2. Kenshin Battousai / Saito Hajime

3. Jinei Udoh

4. Kenshin wanderer

5. Aoshi Shinomori

Now, we have: Shioshio, Sojiro, Aoshi (two blades) and Usui.

First, Usui;

A man, who has never fought Kenishin. But he fought Saito and Shishio. During Bakumatsu, he lost to Shishio (who at that point, was probably a marginally inferior to Kenshin as Hitokiri Battousai, since it's Kenshin, who's called "the strongest man from Bakumatsu") and lost. We don't know how close or how one-sided that fight was, but he was inferior. Then, Shisho became somehow stronger, but reached a limitation as well. Usui also got stronger, but he didn't dare to cgallange Shishio again. Might be a sign, that he was still inferior. He lost a duel to Saito, but was doing very fine, even managed to temporary overhelm Saito. But lost at the end. He's a bit inferior to Saito and clearly superior to Jinei.

Second, Sojiro;

He was the fastest guy in the universe, faster then Kensing and Hiko, but not faster then their swords. He won his first duel to Kenshin and broke his blade in battoujitsu fight. But it should be noted, that his sword was in terrible shape after that as well. And it was "just" Kenshin. In their remach he was still on top, until he was mentally broken, but again: he was fighting a Himura Kenshin, not Himura Battousai. He has never truly experienced an speed and ferocity of Himura Battousai, let alone Hitokiri Battousai (with a standard blade, I mean). And at the end, regular Kenshin could react to his movements and attacks. The only question: could his Shuntentatsu beat Battousai's Battoujitsu?

Third, Aoshi (with two blades):

Kenshin wanted to fight him without using a sword at all. Anyway, he was forced to and Aoshi gain some advantage, then it was very even and more like a tie. At the end both of them decided to use their final attacks, and Kenshin's final was faster.

Finally, Shishio:

He managed to overhelm Kenshin. Worth of note: Kenshin was tired and injured after his fights with Aoshi and Sojiro. Shishio knew Kenshin's fighting style, while Kenshin didin't knew his. Thanks to Sojiro, he even had almost a full knowledge over Kenishin's final attack. He also stomped Saito (injured, Saito tried to catch him off-guard, but hit that metal ring on his forehead instead of his face, which resulted in new Saito's injures for nothing). He defeated Aoshi, who was - lust like Saito - tired and inujred at some point (not as heavy as Saito though). Woth to note: Aoshi tried to buy time for Kenshin from the very begining, while Saito tried to kill Shishio. Shishio should be placed high, but despite his place, he's still overated in my opinion.

Finaly, the full list:

1. Hiko Seijuro - he's on another level afterr all, no contest;

2. Kenshin Himura / Hitokiri Battousai - two sides of one man: one is fierce and deadly, while the other had nearly unbeatable final attack;

3. Shishio Makoto - great strenght and endurance, clearly above Saito's, which puts him a bit higher. But on the other hand, he proved himself only against tired and injured enemies, was unable to counter Himura's ARNH. He also got many blows from Kenshin, after he recover. Either from those blows would be fatal, of not Kenshin's blade. His final, Kaguzuchi was inferior to ARNH, even after the first blow was blocked.

4. Saito Hajime - well, he foguht Hitokiri Battousai three times as I remember and survived. He forced Kenshin to enter his Battousai mode again after many years, and at the end that fight was a draw. He enterd to his duel with Shishio with inujures, the his fatal mistake cost him another wounds.. befer the real fight has even started. Also, Shishio had knowledge over his fighting style. Those factors resulted in that sad outcome: Saito was stomped. But he's somehow more proven then Shishio, and I'm not sure, if it shouldn't be a tie between them, I'm also open for arguments that Saito could be marginaly superior on neutral ground.

5. Seta Sojiro - fastest guy, which great final attack. His battoujitsu was about equal to Kenshin's, his Shuntentatsu was perhaps the only attack, that was equal in speed to ARNH. It was less powerful though. Anyway, despite his speed advantage, Kenshin was able to react to his blows after he could read him. As long as he seemed to have no emotions, he had some special kind of advantage over Hitten Mistrurugi style, not sure how well it would be against the others. Anyway, if Kenshin Himura had enough speed to match his blows, Kenshin Battousai or Saito Hajime should be able to do even better. Perhaps even Aoshi.

6. Usui Uonuma - lost to Shishio, lost to Saito. But still, managed to give Saito a hell. More then that, Saito actually bested him after taunted him and overhelm him mentaly. Perhaps he would have a few more wounds without that. Or perhaps he could even... And anyway, that turtle shield seemed to be a great counter to Saito's thurts. His spear gives him a greater reach then any katana, which might be very useful.

7. Shinomori Aoshi - mostly due to his final, without that, he has two defeats from Kenshin's hand.

8. Jinei Udoh - I believe, that he could overcame Aoshi in a regular fight. Anyway, I doubt that he could match Aoshi's final. Inferior to Aoshi with two blades, superior to Aoshi withsingle blade.

Honorable mention: Souji Okita

I dont care about Enishi or Shougou, they were excluded from my list. Doesn't mean, that I consider them as inferior to all those on my list.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on August 14, 2018:


I strongly disagree with your list rankings, and your information isn't correct: Enishi appeared in the anime as well as the manga. If you wade through more of this article's comments, you can find more of my thoughts on him.

Jacob on August 14, 2018:

In my opinion, I feel that the tier list is

1. Enishi

2. Shishio

3. Seijiro Hiko XIII

4. Kenshin

5. Saito

6. Aoshi

I hope you know who Enishi is. He was manga only, but he was stronger than Kenshin be a noticeable margin. Kenshin one because he pulled his punches last minute, similar to how Obito did

hissy on May 14, 2018:

I probably didn't explain myself too well when it comes to Kenshin vs Saito.

Even if Kenshin had used a real sword and Saito still approached the fight by starting very slowly, Saito likely wouldn't give Kenshin the chance to hit him like that.

Saito knew the damage Kenshin's sword could do and attacked him 3 (4, the upwards Gatotsu) times the exactl same way, he was literally asking Kenshin to show him some kind of cool counter. After Kenshin flipped his sword, Saito handled the fight very differently and avoided any kind of damage.

The argument would make sense if Kenshin flipped his blade the exact moment he went for Saito's neck, I will give you that. But that would be evil man.

By that logic Kenshin would have killed Aoshi the first time he came up with the shortened blade tactic. If you press a few buttons, Kenshin always wins. This can't be used in favor of any character in the series.

hissy on May 14, 2018:

Hey Jeremy.

I am amazed you are still up for debate after all this time; let me go into detail then. After thinking about it thoroughly, I came to this conclusion:

Let me first adress the point you brought up multiple times, which is that Saito would have lost the fight quickly if Kenshin had used a real sword. If anything, Saito would have won that fight 3 seconds in, because he was holding back considerably the entire time, until he admitted himself that Kenshin is a bit better than he expected him to be. And by that logic Saito would have also killed Shishio instantly, without his helmet. (whyever a timy 2cm thick metal plate survived Saito's Gatotsu without a scratch while even the ground under Saito was destroyed from the sheer wind of his movement... is beyond me anyway. The metal plate itself is nothing but a plot induced flaw in logic.

While neither swordmanship nor unarmed combat is truly important for a comparison, I'd like to point out a few things.

In terms of physical strength as well as endurance, Saito beats all characters (aside Shishio). He is portrayed as the Broly-like character anyway. He took a full force Kenshin slash to the back of his neck and flew through a wall and stood up like nothing happened. Aoshi on the other hand showed fatigue from simply blocking ryu tsui sen (though it is hard to tell what exactly happened in that scene).

In a non-canon part of the manga, Saito also broke free of steel wires with just his strength alone.

It's very hard to tell who is the better hand to hand combatant. But Saito's punches dealt far more damage to Kenshin than Aoshi's (thought the later might have held back). Saito also fights based on experience rather than tradition, and his physical strength is so huge that he blew up a huge metal door by piercing it with a sword. He is far above Kenshin in that regard (although Kenshin blew up a huge robot with ARNH (Amakakeru...) in the third part of the manga). If Aoshi has problems just blocking an attack from Kenshin, then Saito's would be unblockable (which is it anyway, as it's a stab... only in manga those can be blocked).

You brought up that Aoshi beat Scrubosuke with 1 punch, while Saito... didn't. You can't use that argument because in their first fight, Saito used a sword. You either kill with it or not, you can't just knock people unconscious with a stab. During their fist fight Saito was just trying to prove that Sano lacks technique, but the latter didn't care. Anything Aoshi can do strength-wise, Saito can do better.

I'd say Saito takes it 7/10, he is so much of a bulwark with such great defence... which he doesn't even need... Aoshi may as well be incapable of damaging him.

In terms of swordfighting I will give it to Aoshi. Not because he is the better swordsman but because his defensive style pretty much counters any "regular" sword style. If kind Kenshin couldn't even lay a finger on him, neither won't Saito. Again, he won't be able to block Gatotsus, though.

I don't really know how Jissen Kenbu would be of any importance in a fight. Kenshin was caught off guard by it, but Nenji couldn't care less. It's also very likely Saito saw this technique being used somewhere else. In a non-canon manga, Saito was ambushed by Kenshin and reacted to it like it was nothing, and Jissen Kenbu is basically just that, allowing a surprise attack from any direction.

I'd say Aoshi takes i 9/10 with 2 Kodachis, and without the use of ougis.

But the most important part is that which basically any swordfight manga is about... the clash of ougis. And here Saito takes it 10/10.

Kaiten Kenbu requires momentum, it requires you to visually approach the enemy so he becomes afraid and has to guess where to block/evade first. Gatotsu Zeroshiki requires none of these things and is very likely faster, based on its destructive capabilities. Basically whenever Aoshi would use his ougi, Saito's will beat it as it's a perfect counter. And if Saito uses his ougi first he wins anyway.

Saito's ougi was completely shat on by Shishio, but Shishio has this plot powered strength given to him to be immune to any technique he already saw. I have absolutely no doubts Shishio would have dealt with ARNH in similarly easy manners, had he seen it before. Shishio also couldn't care less about Kaiten Kenbu either, and he also did exactly what I said Saito would do: simply attack first.

Of course I am primarily putting them against each other, where counters and matchups are of great importance. So let's view them rather generally:


+++ stronger

+++ experienced

+++ ougi

- runs out of options in a prolonged fight


++ exotic fighting style

+++ Kodachi defense works outstandingly well (though he only truly used it with 1 Kodachi)

+ Jissen Kenbu

- is physically nowhere as strong as one might think

- his ougi are basically 3/6 fast slashes... you know, 1 should be enough

Saito just has the raw power needed to win any fight, while Aoshi requires on gimmicks which may or may not work on his opponent. And even if Jissen Kenbu works or the enemy gets caught off guard by the combination of kenpo and Kodachis, he doesn't get some kind of magically big advantage from it.

And at this point I will also bring up that it's likely that Saito even would let himself get hit by an attack off Jissen Kenbu and just tanks it. In the 3rd part of the manga Saito was repeatedly stabbed rather deeply but didn't even care, and then crushed the face of an opponent with just his right hand (his weaker one).

I do think that 2nd part Aoshi is stronger than Sakabatou Kenshin w/o Ougi, but weaker than Kenshin with normal sword. But I a) am somewhat sure that also applies to Saito, and b) sword Kenshin is infinitely more powerful than everything but Sojiro and Hiko because Kuzu Ryu Ken kills everything. It would have cut Shishio into bits too. It's in many ways much crazier than ARNH.

Finally, whether one is the better fighter than the other can be debated by putting them up against different enemies, but I am sure that Saito beats Aoshi. Gatotsu counters defensive Kodachi styles, Saito is strong enough to tank attacks, his normal attacks can push Aoshi to a point where the latter runs out of stamina quicker and while Aoshi can surprise Saito with his tricks, so can Saito surprise Aoshi by just punching him so hard he flies all across the room.

Saito -blows up- stone plates under him by just dashing forward.

Anyway, gotta thank you here for still running this page and actually answering my first post. Just take a high five from a long running, big Kenshin fan.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on May 06, 2018:


I'm not as familiar with the manga, but I don't quite agree with your analysis if Saito in terms of the anime. In my humble opinion, his bout with Kenshin that was disrupted would definitely have gone to Kenshin (that hit on Saito's neck would have been fatal with a real sword) if he hadn't been handicapped with a reverse blade sword, and Saito didn't do too well against Shishio even with two surprise attacks.

After his second fight with Kenshin, Aoshi seemed to understand some of the mentality that came with Kenshin's powerup (your own life is worth living), and I believe that determination noticeably gave him power in his fight with Shishio. But hey, it's a tough call, and one I enjoy debating.

hissy on May 06, 2018:

Don't we just love it when people bring up Rurouni Kenshin these days. Like, at all?

Like many others, I would have put Saito over Aoshi.

The problem is that we never saw Saito's full extent of abilities as he always just jerked around and then one with one hit (especially in all the manga chapters where he had additional fights).

Generally it could go either way, a fight between those 2 could have been crazy. I was always under the impression Saito is stronger, probably due to his extreme confidence backed up by an endless winning streak.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on May 01, 2018:


Glad you brought Enishi up. From my thinking, he's not quite as strong as he looks because his style was designed to counter Kenshin specifically; it wouldn't be as effective against others. Additionally, unlike opponents such as Shishio, Kenshin didn't really have the desire to defeat him, and I'd say he definitely held back during their fight.

Still, I can respect that opinion.

Eden on May 01, 2018:

Jeez am i the only one who thinks one other powerful character is exempted what about yukishiro enishi people for all it's worth remember that for every of kenshin's techniques enishi's has a counter or even superior technique in my opinion i think he more than deserves to be ranked at the very least third

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on April 29, 2018:


I don't mind your disagreeing; in fact, you're certainly one of the more polite and well-reasoned fans I've encountered.

It's certainly possible my exclusion of Sojiro has to do with the suspension of disbelief required to believe a young boy could have the skills he does. Part of Kenshin's allure to me always was its semi-realism and partial historic roots, and Sojiro steps a bit too much outside that for my tastes. Still, I'll try to keep my biases out of countdowns as much as possible, and would be interested in hearing more debates on the subject.

One final point: his mental instability could be used a possible weakpoint (I could definitely see Saito purposefully exploiting this if he ever fought him).

Andrew on April 29, 2018:

I’m tempted to agree with Sweglord a bit on this one. For the most part I believe this list to be spot on however, I do think it’s up in the air where Seta Sojiro falls. As Sweglord said He is shown to be holding back, and he is mentally all over the map, going as far as to have a complete breakdown.

Although it is speculation on my part I almost think Kenshin is the only one that could best him, due to the inner conflict that his philosophy causes in Sojiro. It’s hard for me to imagine Saito or Aoshi countering the Shukuchi.

I understand the argument that he is the least experienced, but I’m not sure that matters. I think he’s demonstrated that he can hold his own.

Again, I do appreciate the article and your reasoning for where they fall and I’m not arguing for the sake of it I’m just curious what your response will be.



Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on March 31, 2018:


Good analysis, although I've always thought Soujiro's skill just doesn't line up with his young age and is one of the show's most unrealistic aspects. Additionally, remember that Kenshin fought him after already taking injuries from his battle with Aoshi, making his win even more impressive.

Interesting you mention Jin'e dodging the battoujutsu considering he only evaded half of it. Don't get me wrong, he was definitely a worthy fighter, but it seemed like Kenshin predicted he would dodge and planned accordingly.

sweglord on March 31, 2018:

I think Soujiro should be higher, maybe fourth or fifth on the list. I think he was the one that actually came the closest to beating Kenshin other than Shishio. If Kenshin didn't psychologically manipulated him he could have simply gone far beyond godlike speed and win the fight. Remember that he was holding back the whole time. Overall I think that it's really up in the air between Soujiro, Saito and Aoshi. But Seijuro, Kenshin and Shishio are undoubtedly the best. Also remember that Jin'e was the only one in the series to dodge Kenshin's battoujutsu, even when Kenshin was in manslayer mode, so he's definitely one of the strongest.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on January 09, 2018:

@Luke and Rag Del

Thanks for mentioning Okita, it's a good matter to discuss. I don't doubt he's skilled, but I'm hesitant to put a character we almost never see battle on the list, plus his physical capabilities were impacted by tuberculosis.

Also, if memory serves, we witness Saito saving Okita in Trust and Betrayal, another point for the Lone Wolf of Mibu.

Luke on January 09, 2018:

@Jeremy Gil

On the Saito vs Okita matter; according to Wikipedia, Okita was the same age as or even two years older than Saito. Don't really understand why you'd consider Saito to be more experienced. Perhaps if you put the 24/26-years old Okita against a 34-years old Saito.. Some records say that Okita was considered the strongest of the Shinsengumi, while some sources claim Okita actually feared the left-hand technique of Saito. It would be an interesting match-up though.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on January 03, 2018:


Slow down there, friend. I enjoy the live action movies, but in terms of anime canon, they can be ignored.

Kenshin's master is stronger; both Kenshin himself and the creator of the series admit it. Hiko didn't fight Shishio because he doesn't have Kenshin's compassion, which is what prompted Kenshin to get involved with the Kyoto war in the first place. Additionally, Kenshin feels responsible for Shishio because he was Kenshin's replacement after Kenshin quit being an assassin. Hopefully that clears things up!

Ramquel P. Tendido on January 03, 2018:

Im just confuse, if Kenshin's master was stronger than him, he should be the one to fight Sishio Makoto since in the movie Rorouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends,( i dont know if it was shown in anime too) Kenshin needs his allies ( Saito, Aoshi and Sanosuke ) to defeat Sishio...

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on January 03, 2018:


Sojiro is in the honorable mentions, if it helps. Him against Saito would be interesting, but Saito's got much more experience, and I bet he'd win through either superior strategy or dirty tactics.


Thanks for the heads-up; I should remember to double-check my spelling of Japanese words. You're also correct about Jin'e, although since ki doesn't really come up again in the show, I'd argue magic would almost make more sense in this case.

Ramquel P. Tendido on January 03, 2018:

how about seta sojiro.. i think he can beat Saito..

SenseiAgot on October 24, 2017:

Some pointers Jeremy, Saitou technique is called Gatotsu. Also, Jin'e doesn't use magic, it's simply ki.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on September 12, 2017:


Thank you, and never fear--I could discuss Aoshi vs Saito all day long. You make good points both ways, and I agree that Saito has a definite edge in experience.

It's true that Aoshi's emotional state is unstable, but he arguably emerges mentally stronger than Saito at the end. The series emphasizes the power of "the will to live" (which is what Kenshin learns after being retrained by Hiko), and Aoshi likewise learns this from Kenshin.

In other words, the show displays that it takes fortitude, not weakness, to display mercy/compassion and value life. Kenshin greatly strengthens after recognizing this, and even Hiko seems to somewhat adopt his pupil's mindset (he continues living despite the normal death of the master after teaching the student the ultimate attack, and he spares Fuji). In the end, Aoshi seems far closer to this strength than Saito, and as I mentioned to Luke, correctly realized that fighting defensively against Shishio would ultimately help more than Saito's fruitless offense.

But hey, that's just my opinion. Glad to see people still so interested in the series years after its completion!

Joe on September 11, 2017:

Great article - thank you for it.

On the Saito vs Aoshi point, I would side with Saito marginally based on the following.

Saito and Aoshi are both great technicians. While Saito is more of a specialist in one technique and is able to vary it excellently, Aoshi has a few different techniques that he executes with excellence. So I think on a technical level, there is nothing or almost nothing to choose between them.

Some people say Saito, is more limited because he relied one technique, however, in the anime he was extremely innovative using his belt to disarm Kenshin and his jacket to throttle him, and in the manga, he adjusted his gatotsu against the Su Shen by leading with his hand instead of the sword to and grabbing the guy’s mouth so as to not have a blind spot against the long range weapon. He was a complete master of the gatotsu and could use it any way he wanted, so I don’t think using less techniques is a disadvantage for Saito, but it is arguable Aoshi has a slight edge with his various techniques.

I would say that Saito has the advantage of experience being older than Aoshi (Saito around 34 and Aoshi around 27 in the 10th year of the Meiji era), having fought and survived the chaos and deathmatches of the bakumatsu and kept on sharpening his skills as a Police spy. As Saito stated in the anime, he had more death match experience than Kenshin, Aoshi and Sano put together.

Mentally, both are both excellent at analysing their opponent's techniques, however, I feel Saito is able to better psychologically analyse his opponent due to his greater experience and he demonstrates this against Usui and Kenshin.

I don't think the Kenshin fight at the dojo is fully indicative of Saito's full ability because he kept on raising his intensity level to match Kenshin (rather than starting at full intensity) and there was no resolution to the fight since Saito was testing Kenshin. For all we know he could raise his level quite a bit more.

And when he fought Shishio both his legs had been stabbed, and yet he mustered up a pin point accurate gatotsu that hit the target as well as a zero stance gatotsu (which he never used against Kenshin). His performance against Shishio pretty much matched Kenshin’s initial performance against Shishio despite his injured legs (which is a more of a problem for a swordsman than a wound to the torso) until the Guren Kaina knocked them both out for a while. Aoshi on the other hand only defended against Shishio (understandable due to his Kenshin fight injuries).

Aoshi has youth on his side, but both were pretty much at their physical peak. It’s possible Aoshi may have a slight advantage in terms of potential agility or endurance. However, I think there would be nothing to choose between them in speed as Saito’s gatotsu has to be extremely fast to work.

Saito probably had the psychological advantage. Saito was never confused about his reason for fighting. He had a bedrock of confidence and clarity of mind. Aoshi’s state of mind in comparison was quite confused for a lot of the anime, and only afterwards does his mind get clearer through meditation.

In hand to hand combat too, Aoshi may also have the slight edge with his kenpo which incorporates kicks and punches, while Saito’s style was more like boxing. However, I think that the biggest advantage for Saito is that he is deceptive, cunning and more than willing to fight dirty. Aoshi seemed somewhat more honourable in his fighting style (although he did some dishonourable things e.g. fighting Okina)

Overall it’s really tight, but if they survived 100 matches against each other, I’d give it to Saito for 60 of them.

There is also Watsuki the author’s statement Saito could defeat Kenshin, unless Kenshin was fighting for someone, while Aoshi never defeated Kenshin.

Hope that didn't bore you! But it's certainly an interesting topic for me!

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on September 09, 2017:


Sounds like you've experienced just about everything the series has to offer! I agree that the non-Trust movies and OVAs never match the quality, though I enjoyed some of the fights from the live action films. They're not stupendous, but some fun can be had for diehard Kenshin fans.

Luke on September 09, 2017:

@ Jeremy Gill

Trust and Betrayal is indeed a masterpiece, loved it as well. The english dub is horrible though, with some embarrassing translations as well.

I've also seen the remake 'New Kyoto Arc', which in my opinion was -apart from a few fights- kind of disappointing. I'm also not a big fan of the 2nd OVA 'Rurouni Kenshin: Refection'. Both are way below the quality of the anime and Trust and Betrayal.

I've also watched the live action movies, but none of them could convince me to be honest. Have to give them credit for their effort though. Any thoughts?

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on September 05, 2017:


True, only Saito fought Kenshin when Kenshin was willing to kill. However, after further training from Hiko, Kenshin is said to access his full swordsman potential, just without his killing intent. Thus, Aoshi also fought Kenshin at his peak, and he was defeated by Kenshin's ultimate technique, a move Saito never had to face.

Regardless, Saito and Aoshi are both undoubtedly quite skilled, and I can respect the viewpoint of Saito being stronger.

I have seen Trust and Betrayal, and highly recommend it to Kenshin fans who haven't. Loved it, even have a few tracks from it on my mp3. It finally shows how lethal Kenshin was a Battosai and revisits some familiar faces.

Luke on September 04, 2017:

@ Jeremy Gill

Thanks for your kind words & response. You also seem to know a lot about Kenshin. I've been kind of busy these last few months, so I apologize for my rather late response.

Here are my thoughts: Aoshi indeed becomes stronger after mastering the 2 blades and, unlike Saito, fights Kenshin after the latter masters the final attack. However, Aoshi didn't fight Kenshin during the revolution, a period where Kenshin becomes known as the manslayer for his ruthless killing. Saito (and the other Shinsengumi-captains) did fight Kenshin on multiple occasions, with all fights being inconclusive. And although incomplete when compared to the Kenshin who masters the final attack, the Kenshin during the revolution appears more dangerous as he would probably kill everyone who is in his way.

During their first fight after 10 years, Kenshin could have decapitated Saito were it not for the reversed-blade sword. True. But then again, Saito was holding back the whole time as well and could have stabbed Kenshin with his first Gatotsu if he had used his full strength. When both become serious, the fight again ends inconclusive.

You could have a valid point about Aoshi's tactical analyses against Shishio. However, as Saito lives by the code of the samourai, I think stalling time wouldn't be something Saito would do, especially as a former Shinsengumi-captain. I would say that, even though he knows that he can't beat Shishio in his current condition, he still fights him 'because he lives and dies by the sword', perhaps hoping on a lucky stab with the zero stance. During the show, I think Saito shows that his analytical en tactical skills are peerless.

For me personally there's no doubt. Saito would win against Aoshi for sure.

On another note, did you watch the OVA 'Trust and betrayal'? If you haven't, I would strongly recommend it. Although being more 'dark and sad' and having a different drawing, I believe it's truly a masterpiece, perhaps even better than the anime. It basically tells the story of Kenshin during the revolution. Would like to hear your thoughts on that as well!

To conclude, as stated below by Rag Del, I think Okita Soji derves a mention as well. The captain of the first squad of the Shinsengumi was said to be on par with Saito, where others state he was the srongest of the Shinsengumi. Unfortunaltely, he dies of tuberculosis during the Bakamatsu.

Rag Del on August 14, 2017:

You failed to mention Okita Soji.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on May 29, 2017:


Thanks man! To be honest, Fuji was never one of my favorite characters (his giant size contradicts with the semi-realistic feel of the show), but simply being that large certainly grants a major advantage.

Yes, Saito vs. Aoshi is definitely a hard match to call. Another point I'd like to make is that Shishio (renowned for being very intelligent and analytical) admits the fight could go either way when asked if Kenshin or Aoshi will prevail, showing he has faith Aoshi could potentially defeat Kenshin.

Still, you make some good points and I'm curious to hear more thoughts about that matchup.

Isaiah on May 29, 2017:

A very impressive list indeed, and with valid reasons and a cogent analysis. Very well done.

Hiko Seijuro is without a doubt the strongest swordsmen in the series. Even the creator himself said so. In fact, the character is so strong that the author was unable to include the character in too much of the plot. Simple because Hiko would've solved all of Kenshin's problems in perhaps less than 10 seconds' time.

I feel like Fuji should be mentioned somehow. I think Fuji is severely underrated. Fuji's monstrous size came with: a) tremendous durability b) tremendous strength. Every time I tried to think about it, I still have trouble imagining how Shishio might be able to take down Fuji. I kept thinking about the effects of Shishio's techniques might have had on Fuji. For instance, Guren Kaina might have given Fuji a what...? Foot blister?

It is unsurprising to see somewhat of a debate between the rankings of Aoshi and Saito. Both are good, no doubt. The only problem I have with Saito is the inflexibility of his techniques. Who knows, maybe Saito does have other techniques in his arsenal. But I think if Saito and Aoshi were to fight each other, it would all boil down to tactics and strategy, or maybe the knowledge and insight into the other's techniques. Because in terms of skills and techniques, both have techniques to counter the other. For instance, Aoshi's Ryusui (water flowing) technique would make it difficult for Saito's Gatotsu to connect.

But in my opinion, I think that Saito might have a slight edge. Becaues if Aoshi were to execute his Kaiten Kenbu Rokuren on Saito (which requires Aoshi to get into close quarters with Saito), then Saito would have finished the fight with the Gatotsu Zero Shiki. Of course, if Aoshi had known in the first place the existence of the Zero Shiki, then things would be different.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on March 26, 2017:


Thanks for your well-thought out and polite response. I can tell you definitely know a lot about this series!

Here's my thinking: Perhaps Saito is stronger than Aoshi during Aoshi's first fight with Kenshin, but Aoshi definitely seems stronger after he masters his two blades.

Kenshin and Saito's clash had no conclusion, true, but Kenshin landed a blow to Saito's neck at one point that, had Kenshin been wielding a normal sword like Saito was, would have decapitated him, making me think that Kenshin's skill at the point (prior to his re-training) is superior to Saito.

With Shishio, it's true that Saito's attack would have killed him were it not for his hidden head-guard, but this was a surprise attack, and little reflection of superior skill. Even Saito's ultimate hidden form of the Gotetsu (something Shishio hadn't seen before) was countered effortlessly.

Aoshi (who also was injured, like Saito, from before the contest) not only lasted longer, but recognized that his best chance was to stall for time rather than attack an opponent he could not beat.

In short, Aoshi had to fight (and almost won against) Kenshin at his peak, something Saito never did, utilized a superior strategy against Shishio, and took out Sano faster than Saito ever did.

Luke on March 26, 2017:

@Jeremy Gill

We could surely agree to disagree, but please allow me to highlight certain points.

I the 2 battles where Kenshin fought Aoshi, the former came out twice on top (although with a very small margin), whereas the battles between Kenshin and Saito had no winner (even during the Bakumatsu). Saito was even toying around with Kenshin at first when they met in the Doyo. However, I do have to admit that Kenshin had not mastered the Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki when he fought Saito. On the other hand, he was able to beat Aoshi the first time as well, without having learned the final technique.

It was stated by Watsuki himself that, if Kenshin and Saito were to have a rematch, Saito would win. But if Kenshin had something to fight for/protect (let's say he'd have to protect Kaoru), he'd win the fight. I think it just shows the determination/inner strength of Saito and his 'Aku Soku Zan'. I feel like Aoshi is missing this kind of 'inner convinction'.

You correctly indicate in your text that Aoshi was the only one out of 4 not being knocked out by Shishio. However, I feel like you're missing a critical point here. Saito (besides having severly injured legs) was trying to actually kill Shishio (and would have succeeded if not for the hachigane), whereas Aoshi was only stalling the fight, buying time for Kenshin to recover. Furthermore, Shishio possesses the unique ability to neutralize any attack he's seen before, making it even thougher for Saito due to his inflexible Gatotsu-technique.

I'm also not a big fan of the reasoning that, if a beats b and b beats c, automatically a is stonger than c. With that being said, I honestly think that we'd have to look at every character seperatly and making top 5's or 10's is very difficult. Seta could for example potentially win from every character in a fight, due to his (theoretical) universal superiority in speed.

To conclude, I think Aoshi is a very lethal fighter. He's very smart, fast and combines great techniques with kenpo. He'd be a very though opponent for Saito, no doubt about it. However, I really believe that Saito is his superior in almost every aspect, having much more experience, battle-awareness and being more ruthless. However, as I've stated before, the key element which would make Saito victorious in almmost every batle is his strong conviction, that of 'Aku Soku Zan'.

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on March 23, 2017:


I respect your view; we can agree to disagree. Saito gets loads more screen-time than Aoshi, causing many fans to favor him. However, in my opinion, Aoshi both did better against Kenshin and took out Sanosuke much faster than Saito.

Luke on March 22, 2017:

Nice list, good written as well, but I'd rank Saito higher than Aoshi. Perhaps even above Shoshio..

Anonymous on February 09, 2017:

Where is Shogo Amakusa??

Asif Istiaque Ahmad on August 05, 2016:

I totally agree with you regarding the ranking of the 5 strongest Swordsmen of Rurouni Kenshin. The most surprising thing is that I also think of the same reasons of not including the honorable mentions in the list of top 5.