Of course you can learn plenty of things from manga! Reading is always an educational journey, and though comic books employ more drawings vis a vis words, it is a visually aided education nonetheless. From something as rich and action-filled as the history-based romantic story of Rurouni Kenshin, you can pick up nuts of knowledge such as the different ways a sword can maim you, names of Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu techniques, and specialty sweets in Kyoto.
I’ve learned the following things too:
6. Swords are pretty dangerous things. If this point has not been driven enough (haha, pun), the Rurouni Kenshin manga will illustrate–very vividly, though black and white–just how many ways a sword can kill you. They come in many forms and names–the kodachi, wakizashi, tachi, katana to Kenshin‘s sakabato–all of which have their distinct way of pulling you from the earth where you stand and throwing you back to the ground, probably with a few limbs less. Blood spurts too, a lot of it, in the same graceful path the aggressive sword has taken. Which brings us to my next learning–
5. You do not want to have lived during the Bakumatsu. Samurai and shogun — some of the romantic figures of pre-Restoration Japanese history. Lovely though their kimono, shiny their swords and honorable their bushido, one thing is for sure — they did not particularly get along. As Kenshin himself once put it, Kyoto in the days of the Bakumatsu knew no day without the shower of blood and rolling of heads. Something to that effect. It’s great to read about it, but I sure am glad I wasn’t there.
4. Justice is a dish served many different ways. Just like potatoes. Kenshin as a hitokiri for the Imperialists delivered tenchu or justice from the heavens, a belief he grasped tightly to assuage his conscience. Years later his brother-in-law Yukishiro Enishi comes to deliver to him jinchu, or justice from men, for Kenshin’s crimes. The argument between the two raged on in the final arc of the manga, and you can guess who won the battle. At the end of the day though, no matter the noble reason, even the legendary hitokiri firmly believes that killing is wrong.
3. The fight is for happiness. A friend once said that to live life pursuing your own happiness is selfish. For someone with a life virtually destroyed and a past so dark, Kenshin still strove to fight for happiness. Not for his own, but for the happiness of those around him, a task that returns the happiness to him. A gift that keeps on giving.
2. Heroes are not immortal, even if they are drawings. I think this is a particularly important admission of comic book writers. It is already unbelievable that men can fight so savagely through several volumes and still survive the blood loss. In the end, heroes don’t have to be immortal (sorry Bella). They just have to have made a difference.
1. Living is a lot harder than dying. The same friend has said that she was more afraid of aging than dying. More than vanity, maybe it is a reference to how easier it is to lay down inside a coffin than to trudge through another waking day. In historical Japan where suicide to preserve honor is a moral code, the hitokiri sought atonement on earth for his sins on earth. That is probably much more painful, but a lot braver. And I think it makes sense.