One of the most annoying things about having a viral cold is the fact that I was stuck inside doing nothing, but watching television and sleeping. Added to this insult, I was forced to watch my cousin’s kiddie cartoons all day because she spent a week with my family. It was a nightmare! Thankfully, while I was sick, I came across one of my favorite animated (anime) and manga series, Rurouni Kenshin. Rurouni Kenshin, which was created by Nobuhiro Watsuki, is about Kenshin Himura (an ex-hitokiri or manslayer) and his quest to attone for his sins and his vow to never kill again. One of my favorite characters in the series is Hajime Saito, who was a real historical person and a member of the Shinsengumi (a group of samurai who patrolled Kyoto and fought for the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Meji Revolution). Saito (see picture below of the real Hajime Saito), in the series, is an undercover cop for the Meji government and Kenshin’s oldest nemesis from the Meji Revolution.
Hajime Saito can be considered the anti-hero of the series because unlike Kenshin, who hates using violence or underhanded tactics to subdue his enemies, Saito has no problems using them to get the results he wants. Saito, in fact, design wise looks like a villain; his eyes are very narrow and resembles wolf eyes because they are amber in color. However, Saito is not a villain, nor is he a saint either. Instead, Saito is a complicated character who sticks to his principle of “Aku Soku Zan” (Slay Evil Immediately) rigorously and does not care what people think of him or his methods of dispensing justice. Because of Saito’s convictions and his use of dirty tactics, Saito is one of my favorite animated anti-heroes of all time.
When we first meet Hajime Saito in both the manga and anime, we assume he is a villain because he attacks one of Kenshin’s friends, Sanosuke Sagara, with his signature attack, the Gatotsu (a fictional version of the real Hajime Saito’s style of swordsmanship) and he engages Kenshin in a one on one match, which causes Kenshin to revert back to his hitokiri form (Battousai the Man Slayer); the battle ends in a draw. Later, we find out that Saito was sent by the Meji government to test Kenshin’s strength and determine whether or not, he is capable of riding another ex-hitokiri, Makoto Shishio for them.
Throughout, the anime and manga, Saito aides Kenshin in his battle with Makoto Shishio and later with Yukishiro Enishi, as well. However, Kenshin disagrees with Saito about killing enemies off and often stops Saito from finishing them off, which irks Saito to no end, but for the most part, he listens to Kenshin. Saito also has a habit of being blunt and insulting to just about everyone (friends and foes) in the series; he calls Sanosuke an idiot, Misao Makimachi a weasel, and Yahiko Myojin a kid. Saito also equates Kaoru Kamiya with a racoon and Megumi Takani with a fox. Saito can be very brutal towards his enemies and often mocks them as either a fool or a freak.
Saito, basically, has no concept of compassion and frienship towards anyone in the anime or manga; an exception may be his wife, Tokio and a boy named Eiji who lost his parents to Shishio’s men. Saito hardly respects many people in the anime and manga, as well; Kenshin and Aoshi Shinomori are the only ones he seems to respect, though he respects Aoshi slightly more because Aoshi is willing to kill his enemies, while Kenshin does not. Because Saito does not really care about emotional attachments, Saito allows everyone to think he is dead, so he can wait in the shadows for another opportunity to fight Kenshin. Sadly, in the anime they never resolved Kenshin’s and Saito’s rematch, though in the manga, there was a chance, but Saito declined Kenshin’s invitation because Saito felt that Kenshin was no longer Battousai the Man Slayer and duel with Kenshin, no longer interested him anymore.
Hajime Saito, in the end, is one my favorite anti-heroes in animation because of his sarcastic and cold hearted personality. Saito’s resemblance to a wolf fits his callous and blunt personality really well. Saito’s blunt and insulting comments to friends and foes alike, irks everyone, but when push comes to shove, Saito fights back and usually wins. While, Saito does not always get along with Kenshin and his friends, he nevertheless, helps them out anyway. In the end, Hajime Saito’s personality and philosophy rule him out as a traditional hero, but when it comes to dangerou situations, Saito is probably someone you need to protect innocent people from evil.