Friday, January 23, 2015

sword that gives life

Yesterday I was watching part 3 of the live action film series based on a manga called Rurouni Kenshin. Neither the manga (print) version, nor the TV (anime) version, had grabbed me when it first came out in the 90s. But the camera work/choreography of the live action film version is beautifully done, and oodles of my favorite actors feature in it.

If I had to explain the story in one sentence, it would be this: A brilliant swordsman and former assassin named Himura Kenshin vows never to take another life after the blood bath that ushers in the dawn of Japan's Meiji era, a vow that is tested over and over as he seeks atonement for his past.

So, anyway, I was watching the DVD by myself at home, and the expression "hito o ikasu ken" (sword that gives life) bounced against my ear drum. It crops up many times and in various forms in the story of Ruruouni Kenshin, but this particular time, the expression made me sit up and ponder.

I am usually very willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story. But did that expression even make sense? It could refer to the fact that Kenshin carries around a custom-made sword in which the blade is inverted so that the sharp edge and dull edge are switched. The idea is that Kenshin can knock bad guys out with his sword, but he can't use it to kill. But is not killing someone the same thing as giving someone life?

Actually, it now occurs to me that the expression can also be translated as "sword that spares life," which makes more sense in the context, so maybe I was making a mountain out of a molehill. In any case, it brought to my mind a certain passage in the Bible, and it also gave me an idea for an etegami. The accompanying words are the Japanese version of the following quote:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)


  1. Oh that beautiful and perfect Bible verse !! And how the sword is placed on the card at such a different angle! Thsnks for the background info on this show.

  2. I put a link to your blog on my site today because I got the wonderful, wonderful sheep this week. THANK YOU!!! If you read my post, you'll know that it came at such a perfect time and lifted my spirits so much. I feel honored to receive such a treasure. May you have every happiness this sheepish year!!

  3. You always find a way to beautifully illustrate "the theme" you are working on.

  4. WOW! This washed over me with such power as I read the Bible verse after reading the story. I have just read about the coming Solar Eclipse in Pices and how it brings the chance to experience love after healing trauma of the past. I have been praying for that and I knew, when I saw the sword in your collection that you sent me, that there was a strong power there for me. Healing is taking place and I love that etegami is part of it. Thank you for the interpretation/translation.