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Sagara Sanosuke
Sanosuke

Name

Sanosuke Sagara

A.K.A.

Sano

Age

19

Date of Birth

February 1860 (First year of Manen)

Occupation

Former Fighter-for-hire

Sagara Sanosuke (相楽 左之助?) is a fictional character from the Rurouni Kenshin anime and manga series created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. He is known as Sanosuke Sagara in the English adaptation of the anime and is nicknamed Sano. Watsuki, being a fan of the Shinsengumi, created Sanosuke by basing his name and characteristics on that of a real Shinsengumi member named Harada Sanosuke.

Set during a fictional version of Japan in the pre-Meiji period, Sanosuke is a former member of the Sekihō Army. When the group is destroyed by the Meiji Government, he becomes a fighter-for-hire to calm his anger by fighting. During his introduction in the series, he encounters the wanderer Himura Kenshin, who easily defeats him and is able to convince him to stop his mercenary work and instead start protecting people. After that encounter, Sanosuke becomes Kenshin's best friend as well as his partner in most of their fights. He also appears in the featured film of the series and in other media relating to the Rurouni Kenshin franchise, including a plethora of electronic games and original video animations (OVAs).

Numerous anime and manga publications have commented on Sanosuke's character. Mania Entertainment praised his character development, noting that he becomes more trustworthy and reliable as the series progresses.[7] SciFi.com referred to him as a "video-game icon", and noted how he is portrayed as a "tragic figure".[8] Sanosuke has been popular with the Rurouni Kenshin reader base, placing second in every popularity poll. Merchandise based on Sanosuke has also been released, including key chains, and plush dolls.

Creation and conceptionEdit

Watsuki describes Sanosuke's visual motif by referring to his design model, Lamp, the main character of Takeshi Obata's Mashin Bōken Tan Lamp-Lamp. Watsuki, working as an assistant on Obata's manga, formed the character by doodling in sketchbooks, adding and subtracting elements from the proposed character "with blessings from the original artist, of course". Watsuki saw Ryōtarō Shiba's version of Harada as the one he wanted to use as a model for his design and has said that the character's big spiky hair is the strangest element he has ever drawn.[10]Sanosuke was one of the last major figures of the series to be created. Watsuki created him to be Kenshin's best friend, who is willing to punch him when he is sad to make him "wake up" from his sadness. Although Sanosuke is a main character in the series, Watsuki felt that he could not write everything he wanted about him, and thought that making him the title character of a series would prove interesting.[9]

In July 2006, the Japanese publishers of Rurouni Kenshin released the kanzenban edition. In the fifth kanzenban, Watsuki redesigned the character of Sanosuke in a draft version. To emphasize his hate of the Meiji Government, Watsuki drew the Japanese kanji for "evil" (惡aku?) on the back of Sanosuke's jacket; in the original series, the tattoo is located inside his clothes. Unlike in the manga where Sanosuke uses an oversized zanbatō as a weapon, Watsuki gave him a more historically authentic zanbatō; a sword notably thinner and longer in design. He also gave him an armor-like cloth to make him look more as a warrior.[11]

In the anime adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin, Watsuki's designs were combined with the voice talents of Yūji Ueda, a seiyū. In producing the English dub version of the series, Media Blasters chose Lex Lang as Sanosuke's voice actor. When writing Sanosuke's dialogue, Clark Cheng, the writer of the English dub script, noted that the character was smarter than he would have liked in the first few episodes, and tried slowly to change the character's dialogue to make him seem dumber so he would be more similar to the Japanese version of the series.[12]

AppearancesEdit

In Rurouni KenshinEdit

Sanosuke is a fomer member from the Sekihō Army, having admired the captain, Sagara Sōzō, and taking the family name, Sagara, from him. But when the revolutionary government encounters financial problems, it labels the Sekihō Army as frauds in order to "bury their promises." Sōzō is executed, leaving Sanosuke as one of the few survivors. Consumed with hatred for the Ishin Shishi, and guilt at not being able to protect his hero, Sanosuke becomes a fight merchant in Tokyo.[13][14] Over the next ten years, he gains a reputation as one of the strongest hired fighters of the city.[15] The destruction of the Sekihō Army and the loss of all his friends has caused Sanosuke to hate the Meiji Government and he wears the Japanese kanji for "evil" (惡aku?) on the back of his jacket. He bears this symbol as a mark of his loyalty towards his past in the Sekihō Army.[16] Sanosuke uses an enormous zanbatō in battle, giving him the moniker Zanza (斬左?). The blade has no edge and Sanosuke only uses it to smash and crush his opponents.[17]

[1][2]Sanosuke performing the Futae no Kiwami

In his introduction in the manga, Sanosuke is hired to fight Kenshin, but after the former assassin defeats him, he learns of the truth of Kenshin's no-kill approach and becomes one of his allies.[18] After being defeated by Kenshin, he stops using the zanbatō and decides to focus on hand-to-hand combat.[18] When the criminal Shishio Makoto tries to conquer Japan, Sanosuke helps Kenshin in the fight against him. Within his trip to Kyoto to aid him, Sanosuke learns the Futae no Kiwami (二重の極み?, lit. "Mastery of the Two Layers") technique from a fallen monk named Yūkyūzan Anji.[16]Futae no Kiwami is a special art in which the user performs two hits in quick succession with any part of his body. The first hit with the proximal interphalangeal joint neutralizes the hardness of the target, then the second blow, struck with the proximal phalanx, breaks the target before it recovers from the force of the first blow.[19] Using his mastery from this art with the his right hand allows him to defeat the third most powerful opponent in Shishio's army: Anji.[20]

Months later, in an act of revenge to Kenshin, Yukishiro Enishi fakes Kamiya Kaoru's death. Sanosuke furiously leaves Tokyo after seeing Kenshin's sadness over this.[21] In his wandering, he meets his family in the Shinano Province (Shinshū).[22][23] Years prior to the start of the series, Sanosuke left them family at the age of 9 to join the Sekihō Army.[22][23] Upon learning of their poor situation, Sanosuke attacks a former Ishin Shishi who was mistreating them and the town.[24] During these fights, Sanosuke's right hand is severely damaged from the overuse Futae no Kiwami.[25] and overcomes this disability when he discovers using both hands in succession which lessens the impact to his damaged hand.[26] Soon he returns to Tokyo to rescue Kaoru with his friends.[27] After a successful rescue, Sanosuke leaves Japan and travels the world to avoid being arrested for attacking the Ishin Shishi.[28]

In other mediaEdit

In the Samurai X The Motion Picture, Sanosuke helps to stop the samurai Takimi Shigure from overthrowing the Meiji Government as an act of revenge.[29] In the original video animations of the series, he is given a more humanized design and a more emotional personality. In Samurai X: Reflection, an older Sanosuke discovers Kenshin gravely injured when he is traveling in Asia. He arranges for Kenshin's return to Tokyo and Kaoru, telling him that this is the last time they will ever meet.[6] Sanosuke is also a playable character in almost all the Rurouni Kenshin video games[30] except Jump Super Stars[31] and Jump Ultimate Stars[32], in which he isn't playable but is available as a Battle koma.

ReceptionEdit

Among the Rurouni Kenshin reader base Sanosuke has been popular, having ranked second in every Shonen Jump popularity poll of the series[33][34] and has also ranked fifth in the "Favorite Kenshin's arch-enemies" polls featuring all Kenshin's opponents.[35] Merchandise based on Sanosuke has been released, including sweat bands,[36] keychains,[37] and plush dolls.[38]

The fact that the CD book voice actors, especially Tomokazu Seki and Megumi Ogata, who portrayed Sanosuke and Kenshin in the CD books, respectively, did not get their corresponding roles in the anime disappointed Watsuki.[3] Ueda, Sanosuke's seiyū in the Japanese anime, commented that voicing Sanosuke in the original video animations was very complicated because his character was notably older and he has not acted in the role for a long period. He also said that he would have liked to see more fights involving Sanosuke in the original video animations, but was happy to see that Sanosuke had matured as a character.[39] Lex Lang, the voice actor of Sanosuke in the English adaptation of the anime, commented that his first impression of Sanosuke was as a fight-driven character motivated by anger, but as the story continued Sanosuke became friendly and more likable. Because his voice is noticeably different from Ueda's, Lang tries to create his own interpretation of Sanosuke's character. Lang has noted that the scene of the episode 22 of the anime, in which Sanosuke is afraid of a train because he believes it is a demon, was the most enjoyable scene for him to record; he added "I recently saw it and had some big laughs."[40]

Several anime and manga publications have provided both praise and criticism of Sanosuke's character. Anime News Network said that Sanosuke's first fight in the series against Kenshin was stereotypical for an action series due to the differences between Sanosuke's and Kenshin's personalities, and to the music used in the anime that gives the impression that Kenshin would win.[41] SciFi.com commended him for being a good source of comic relief and described his appearance as a video-game icon. However, they commented he was a "tragic figure whose goofy peccadilloes have solid reasons behind them" due to being unable to avoid the destruction of the Sekihotai army and feeling guilty due to it.[8] Mania Entertainment praised Sanosuke's character development and transformation from an enemy of Kenshin into one of his most stalwart friends.[7] In the Samurai X: Reflection original video animation, Mike Crandol of Anime News Network referred to Sanosuke's revised design as "pretty awkward" since Crandol felt Sanosuke's original character design was "perhaps being too cartoonish to translate well into this new style," with the "new style" being the "decidedly more realistic look" exhibited in all of the Samurai X original video animations.[42]Sagara Sanosuke is a fictional character from the Rurouni Kenshin anime and manga series created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. He is known as Sanosuke Sagara in the English adaptation of the anime. Watsuki, being a fan of the Shinsengumi, created Sanosuke by basing his name and characteristics on that of a real Shinsengumi member named Harada Sanosuke.

Set during a fictional version of Japan in the pre-Meiji period, Sanosuke is a former member of the Sekihō Army. When the group is destroyed by the Meiji Government, he becomes a fighter-for-hire to calm his anger by fighting. During his introduction in the series, he encounters the wanderer Himura Kenshin, who easily defeats him and is able to convince him to stop his mercenary work and instead start protecting people. After that encounter, Sanosuke becomes Kenshin's best friend as well as his partner in most of their fights. He has also appears in the featured film of the series and in other media relating to the Rurouni Kenshin franchise, including a plethora of electronic games and original video animations (OVAs).

Numerous anime and manga publications have commented on Sanosuke's character. Mania Entertainment praised his character development, noting that he becomes more trustworthy and reliable as the series progresses. SciFi.com referred to him as a "video-game icon", and noted how he is portrayed as a "tragic figure".

Sanosuke has been popular with the Rurouni Kenshin reader base, placing second in every popularity poll. Merchandise based on Sanosuke has also been released, including key chains, and plush dolls.

Personality Edit

The destruction of the Sekiho army and the loss of all his friends has caused Sanosuke to hate the Meiji Government and he wears the Japanese kanji for "evil" on the back of his jacket. He bears this symbol as a mark of his loyalty towards his past in the Sekihō Army, but it also serves as a reminder that he will defend innocent people who have been wronged so others can avoid the same suffering he experienced. Sanosuke's influence on other characters is demonstrated when they place the same symbol of the Japanese kanji on their backs, as does his younger brother Higashidani Ota. Myojin Yahiko wears a smaller version of the kanji when he comes of age at the end of the manga.

Despite hating the Meiji Government, Sanosuke becomes Kenshin's best friend and sees him as a gentle person. Sanosuke compares Kenshin to his former captain, Sagara Sozo, whom he admires. Although he may punch him occasionally for preventing him from fighting, Kenshin notes this makes Sanosuke his most reliable friend, always willing to help. Since Sanosuke stops working as a fighter-for-hire after meeting Kenshin, he usually does not have money, asking his friends to pay for him even though he never returns the money. His lack of money has resulted in large debts to a restaurant in Tokyo; this situation is a recurring comical theme. He also forms friendly relationships with other main characters, notably with doctor Takani Megumi. Because Sanosuke is injured several times throughout the series, Megumi usually takes care of him and warns him about the dangers of fighting, but he never pays attention to her advice, and has to ask her to treat him again.

Sanosuke enjoys fighting and always seeks strong opponents to test his strength, even if the opponent is a friend. Sanosuke admires several fighters throughout the series, referring to them as "invincible" and showing them respect regardless of their morality. He eventually starts a rivalry with the former Shinsengumi member Saito Hajime when they first fight in the manga. Because of the fights he loses against him, Sanosuke sees Saitō as the person he has to surpass in order to become "really stronger".

Many characters refer to Sanosuke as a bird-head (tori-atama, meaning chicken/bird-head) as a reference to his hair.

Fighting Techniques Edit

At the start of the series, Sanosuke uses an enormous zanbatō in battle, giving him the moniker Zanza . The blade has no edge and Sanosuke only uses it to smash and crush his opponents. After being defeated by Kenshin, he stops using the zanbatō and decides to focus on hand-to-hand combat. After that, Sanosuke is introduced as Kenshin's most powerful ally, having gained superhuman strength and toughness from the numerous battles he has experienced since the age of ten. Within his trip to Kyoto, Sanosuke learns the Futae no Kiwami technique from a fallen monk named Yūkyūzan Anji. Futae no Kiwami is a special art in which the user performs two hits in quick succession with any part of his body. Sanosuke is only able to perform it with his right hand; the first punch with the proximal interphalangeal joint neutralizes the hardness of the target, then the second blow, struck with the proximal phalanx, breaks the target before it recovers from the force of the first blow.Sanosuke's right hand is severely damaged from the overuse of this technique, and this becomes a major hindrance to his fighting ability during the Jinchū arc.He overcomes this disability when he discovers that the Futae no Kiwami can be performed using both hands in succession which lessens the impact to his damaged hand.

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