In live action film, he was played by Ryunosuke Kamiki.
Sōjirō was an illegitimate child born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1861 and his father left him to be raised by his family. However they were extremely abusive of him and constantly assigned him difficult chores. To deal with his constant beatings, Sōjirō developed a habit of always smiling, which endured until they got bored with hurting him and left him alone. After one such treatment, which involved getting a bottle thrown into his head, Sōjirō saw Shishio Makoto, who had just recently been burned, kill a policeman that had been sent after him. Shishio turned his attention towards the boy and prepared to kill him, but stopped when he saw that Sōjirō was smiling. The former hitokiri spared him and had the boy bring him some food and bandages, while he took shelter in his family’s storehouse. When Sōjirō called him old man, Shishio responded that he wasn’t old enough for that and told the boy his name. Sōjirō asked him if he was a bad guy, but Shishio responded that the government was the bad guys so the boy asked him if he was a good guy. However the former hitokiri said no, he was a villain. Later on Sōjirō was working while his foster brothers were talking about the news about Shishio, while he thought to himself that they wouldn’t find the former hitokiri. One of them asked Sōjirō if he’d seen anything and that he should tell him if he did. When he demonstrated his sword skills on the barrel of rice that Sōjirō had been carrying, then blamed him for it, resulting in another beating. Later on he was talking with Shishio, who asked why he was smiling after being beaten. Sōjirō said when he first ended up with his foster family, he’d get mad or cry when he was abused, but that just made them hurt him more. So he took to smiling, which made them get tired of it and now he did it all the time. Shishio noted that now Sōjirō did it without being aware of it and the boy said it was how he was and it was his foster family who made him that way. Shishio responded that he was wrong and it was his own fault for being weak, since the strong lived and the weak died and no smile would spare him from that. Shishio then gave Sōjirō a wakizashi as thanks for his help. Later on the boy sat with it, thinking to himself it had to hurt to be cut by a sword and decided to give it back, since he wasn’t meant to be a swordsman. However his foster family called for him and Sōjirō hid the wakizashi under the storehouse, before going to see what they wanted. But they’d figured out that he’d been hiding Shishio and he was struck down, before they decided to just kill him. Sōjirō ran away and hid where he’d left the wakizashi, but one of his foster brothers found him. However the boy suddenly snapped, beheading him and killing the rest of his family. Shishio, having heard all that had happened, came outside to find Sōjirō standing over his foster’s families bodies. The former hitokiri asked Sōjirō to join him, which he agreed to and as they walked away, the boy asked Shishio if he’d ever be like him. Shishio just replied that they’d see and Sōjirō went on to become his disciple and strongest of the Juppongatana.
First Encounters with Kenshin
After Shishio found out that Okubo Tosimichi had asked Kenshin Himura to deal with him, he sent Sōjirō to assassinate him. Sōjirō used his great speed to get to Okubo’s carriage and told him that Shishio was honored he would send Kenshin against him, but it was all in vain, before killing Okubo. Later on, as Kenshin came upon the scene, Sōjirō appeared behind him, telling him if he didn’t want to die yet, he shouldn’t go against Shishio, and disappeared before the former Battosai could see him. Soon after this, Sōjirō went with four of Shishio’s men to meet with Shinomori Aoshi. However, the four were slaughtered after they angered the omnitsu and Sōjirō complimented him on his skill. He introduced himself and asked Aoshi to come meet with Shishio, but he refused, saying he had no need to be allied with a man that threw away his men to test someone’s strength. Sōjirō responded by asking how cold was someone who sliced them apart, knowing their purpose. He walked away, telling Aoshi that he’d be welcome in Kyoto if he chose to come and to miss two turning points in history would be a disgrace to the okashira of the Oniwabanshu. Sōjirō went to meet Shishio and asked him what he thought, to which the former hitokiri responded he liked a man who could chop others like firewood. Sōjirō asked what they should do next and Shishio said they should go meet Kenshin. Sōjirō then asked his master if he was enjoying this. Later on, Sōjirō went with Shishio to Shingetsu village and one of their men was apologizing for losing Kenshin. Sōjirō asked what they should do and Shishio, saying he was in a good mood due to having his first herbal bath in months, decided to forgive him, but said he wouldn’t again. At that moment, another soldier walked in to tell Sōjirō that Kenshin and Saito Hajime were approaching and Shishio told him to go meet them. When he greeted them, the former Battosai recognized Sōjirō as the one who killed Okubo by his voice. Sōjirō said that he was just a guide today and Shishio was waiting for them in back, before bringing them to him. After they arrived, Saito asked Sōjirō if he should be standing at ease, since Kenshin could take one leap at Shishio and kill him. Sōjirō said he wasn’t worried since the former Battosai, unlike Saito, would never resort to dirty tricks. Sōjirō watched as Shishio explained his plan to Kenshin and then sent Senkaku to fight the former Battosai. After Senkaku apparently struck down Kenshin, Sōjirō said he was weaker than expected and continued to watch the two fight. Sōjirō said the former Battosai was having a hard time and hadn’t even had a chance to strike, then asked Saito why he didn’t help him out. Saito responded he didn’t plan on revealing his sword moves on an opponent like that and that Kenshin was waiting for Senkaku’s self-destruction, which Sōjirō didn’t understand. However at that moment, the former Battosai managed to get Senkaku’s leg to snap and Sōjirō noted Kenshin thought so many things while he was fighting. After the former Battosai challenged Shishio, who just told him to come back when he was hitokiri again, Shishio threw a sword to Sōjirō, telling him to amuse himself with them instead. Before leaving, Shishio told Sōjirō to show Kenshin his Tenken and the two faced off silently for a time. Sōjirō finally broke the silence, saying he was sorry, but if he didn’t hurry, he won’t be able to catch up with Shishio. The two took the stance for Battojutsu before attacking each other and Sōjirō’s attack cut Kenshin’s sakabato in half. Saito noted it was a draw since they were both unable to continue and Sōjirō noticed his sword was cracked and broken beyond repair. Sōjirō said there was no winner or loser and he’d be on his way for today, but he hoped they’d meet again and asked Kenshin to find another sword before then. Sōjirō left and caught up with Shishio, telling him to get mad at Kenshin for the state of the sword. The former hitokiri said he had another request for him and Sōjirō said if it wasn’t about paying him back, then he could go ahead. Shishio told him to gather the Juppongatana.
Launching the Great Kyoto Fire
After gathering together Iwanbō, Kariwa Henya, and Yūkyūzan Anji, Sōjirō brought them to Kyoto, where they ran into Aoshi. Sōjirō said it was great he’d come to Kyoto, but the omnitsu just replied by asking who was listening in on his talk with Okina. Sōjirō said they’d gotten to Kyoto this morning, but Aoshi replied it was that morning he began to feel someone watching him. Sōjirō apologized and asked if he’d come with them now, but Aoshi said he didn’t wish to be with anyone. Sōjirō said that it wasn’t about being with anyone and he wanted the omnitsu to meet with Shishio just once. Sōjirō went on to say it sounded like his talk had gone badly, but their information wasn’t bad either and he thought it should be worth taking a look at. Sōjirō brought Aoshi to Shishio’s base, walking in on him as he was practicing one of his secret strikes. Sōjirō watched as Shishio explained why he didn’t need or want Aoshi to join them and when the omnitsu asked what he knew about Kenshin, the former hitokiri said beyond his battle with Sawagejō Chō, nothing. Aoshi started to leave, but Sōjirō said Okina definitely had some contact with Kenshin and proposed attacking Aoi-Ya and conducting a torture or two to learn something. Aoshi agreed and Shishio told Sōjirō to prepare a room for the omnitsu. Sōjirō was later sent to make final preparations on Shishio’s plans and returned with a box of sweets to be greeted by Yumi. Sōjirō noted she looked annoyed and she asked where he’d been to which he responded that staying in the hole that was Shishio’s base would drive anyone mad so he bought some local treats. Yumi asked Sōjirō exasperated if it took him three days and he replied he couldn’t decide which were good. She just put her head in her hands, prompting Sōjirō to ask what the problem was and she told him Uonuma Usui had arrived, which was a disaster. At that moment, Usui showed up and Sōjirō offered him one of the sweets. The blind sword responded Sōjirō only left Shishio’s side under orders and said with his Shingan, he could see right through him. Usui just said that whatever Sōjirō and Yumi were hiding, it was of no concern and told Sōjirō that the Juppongatana were to gather immediately. After arriving in the great hall, Sōjirō greeted Honjō Kamatari and Elder Saizuchi, to whom he said it was good to see he was doing well. Saizuchi said Sōjirō was the only one who said so, before Sōjirō asked him where Fuji was and Saizuchi said he was outside since he couldn’t fit into Shishio’s base. After Shishio himself appeared, Sōjirō apologized to him for disappearing for the past three days. He offered his master one of the sweets he’d bought, revealing that inside the box, he’d written that the ship was prepared and Usui might have sensed something, but he wouldn’t worry. Shishio thanked Sōjirō for the trouble, taking the box from him, and said he’d have some later. The former hitokiri then told Sōjirō and the rest of the Juppongatana that they’d soon make the Great Kyoto Fire a reality. As their plan was put into action, Sōjirō went with Shishio to the ironclad battleship he’d prepared and after Kenshin, Saito, and Sanosuke arrived, Sōjirō told the former hitokiri the last was just a friend of the former Battosai’s. Sōjirō asked Shishio if they should settle the score from Shingetsu village, but Shishio said they couldn’t waste time. After Sanosuke rendered the ship unusable, Sōjirō asked his master again if they should settle the score from Shingetsu village. However Shishio instead challenged Saito and Kenshin to a deal at his lair, before leaving with Sōjirō.
Duel with Kenshin
When Sadojima Hōji proposed to Shishio that they should just have Anji, Usui and Sōjirō stay to fight Kenshin and his allies, while the rest of Juppongatana went to attack Aoi-Ya, Sōjirō thought it was an excellent plan. However Shishio turned it down, since it would be against the code of a swordsman, before telling Sōjirō to gather the rest of the Juppongatana. But when they were gathered, Shishio changed his mind, telling Sōjirō, Usui, and Anji to remain to fight, while the others attacked Aoi-Ya. After Aoshi began fighting Kenshin, Sōjirō asked Shishio which of the two he thought would win. Sōjirō said he hoped the former Battosai would win, since he wanted some closure for Shingetsu village and the battleship. Sōjirō asked Shishio what they should do if Aoshi won, to which he responded that he’d defeat the omnitsu himself. After Hōji received news of the Juppongatana at Aoi-Ya being defeated, Sōjirō said their opponents were stronger than them and in this world, the strong lived, and the weak died. He went on to say if he fought as well as all the Juppongatana, shouldn’t that be enough? Sōjirō went to wait for Kenshin and once the former Battosai arrived, he said it’d been a long time and he was glad to find him well.
Kenshin asked Sōjirō if he would stand aside since he had no time, but Sōjirō told him that if he was worried about Aoi-Ya, the forces they’d sent had been defeated. Kenshin and Sanosuke were surprised and Sōjirō said Hōji had reacted the same, but that was how it was. He went on to say he was the one who had no time, since he now had the work of all the Juppongatana and he couldn’t dally with Kenshin. Sōjirō and Kenshin attacked each other with Batojutsu, but this time, Sōjirō’s sword ended up cracked while Kenshin’s remained unscathed. He noted that the former Battosai had improved and he was already remarkable, but he didn’t understand how someone like Kenshin could be so strong. Sōjirō went on to say that strong as the former Battosai was, he’d never beat Shishio, before attacking with lightning fast speed. However he went past Kenshin without striking him and said he must have made a misstep, but he’d just have to finish the former Battosai with the next one. Kenshin called the technique, Shukuchi, and Sōjirō said he truly was a fine swordsman and even he hadn’t heard of it until Shishio told him about it. However Sōjirō said what he just used wasn’t Shukuchi, it was three steps below Shukuchi, which is why Kenshin was able to see and dodge it. Sōjirō went on to say after he saw the former Battosai fight Senkaku, he thought that speed would be enough to finish him and apologized for taking him too lightly. Sōjirō proceeded to use two steps below Shukuchi and after driving Kenshin into the air, managed to almost land a hit, but he barely managed to block. The former Battosai attempted to use Kuzu Ryusen, but Sōjirō managed to dodge and get behind Kenshin, slashing him in the back. When Kenshin was still standing, Sōjirō said he thought for sure that he’d gotten the former Battosai that time. He then noticed his sandals were completely worn out and asked Kenshin to give him a minute to put on another pair. Annoyed, Yumi asked Sōjirō why he didn’t finish the former Battosai off when he was so close, but he just asked what had made her so angry. Yumi said Sōjirō had the strength but not the attitude and it wasn’t like he could just take Kenshin down anytime. However Sōjirō responded that he would never take the former Battosai so lightly and he was far better than expected. But however strong Kenshin was, Sōjirō said he had a fatal flaw, using his sword to protect the weak, which left him no chance of winning. As he finished putting his sandals on, Sōjirō said Kenshin defied an eternal truth and if helping the weak was possible, why wasn’t he protected back when he was a child? Sōjirō went on to say that somehow, fighting the former Battosai made him angry and just looking at him made him angry. Yumi told him to finish Kenshin with the next strike and Sōjirō said he’d finish it with one move short of Shukuichi. He also said if he wasted his greatest blow on the former Battosai, he’d just be much more annoyed. After facing Kenshin again, Sōjirō attacked, going in from every side before attacking and the former Battosai said if a sword could protect the weak, where was Kenshin to protect him?
As Sōjirō attacked again, he thought to himself there was no one to protect him, he was protected by the truth Shishio taught him and a sharp sword, so it was Shishio who was right. However Kenshin was able to see Sōjirō coming due to his emotions coming out and he found the former Battosai’s sword trained on him. Sōjirō asked him if meant to let him live and Kenshin said he couldn’t remember "the back then" he spoke of. He went on to ask if there could be another chance and Sōjirō suddenly snapped, remembering that he was crying on that day he killed his foster family. He cried that Kenshin was an impediment, which drove him crazy and that he didn’t care what was right or wrong and he’d kill the former Battosai with the next strike. Sōjirō took a Batojutsu stance and said he was going to use the only move he named, Shunten-Satsu, but Kenshin asked if he could do it with his mind so muddled. Sōjirō noted he was confident and told him to worry about himself, as well as that even if he read his moves, he’d be to slow to react. However Kenshin took the stance for the Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki and Sōjirō noted he was serious. Kenshin replied he was always serious otherwise no one would believe what he said and Sōjirō wondered to himself if there could be another chance. He went on to say he had to strike at full strength to know if Kenshin or Shishio was right and the Shuten-Satsu would decide.
Sōjirō attacked, disappearing due to his speed, but the former Battosai’s Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki beat Sōjirō. As Yumi looked after him, Sōjirō said he didn’t think it was possible to reach such power by never killing and the fight showed him that he was wrong. However Kenshin said if truth could be found through a fight, they’d have all the answers and it had to be found over a lifetime. Sōjirō said he was a harsh man and he didn’t give up the answers easily. After Kenshin and Sanosuke went ahead to face Shishio, Yumi asked Sōjirō if he was okay. He told her that a doorway in the back would led straight to Shishio’s room, as well as the secret of the Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki to tell Shishio, Kenshin’s left foot. Sōjirō explained that the left foot added acceleration and force, making the former Battosai even faster, but it wasn’t easy. Before Yumi could leave, Sōjirō gave her the wakizashi Shishio gave him so long ago to return it. He said that he couldn’t say Shishio was wrong, but he needed to find the answers on his own. Sōjirō told Yumi to take care of Shishio, but she replied he hardly needed help, and Sōjirō said that wasn’t what he meant. Yumi told him she knew what he meant and to take care of himself, before he left, wandering to try and find his own answers.
Sōjirō’s most notable aspect is the fact he seems to lack any form of emotion, having no anger and causing fear only through his sword. He often smiles and is quite polite, but Sōjirō is actually rather sarcastic, hiding his emotions behind his smile. Sōjirō believed strongly in Shishio’s motto of “the strong live and the weak die”, following it completely, but after his battle with Kenshin, he seeks to find his own answers Sōjirō seems rather close to Yumi, whom he often exasperates, having a sibling like relationship with her.
AbilitiesSōjirō is a very accomplished swordsman and because he seems to lack any form of emotion, others can’t read his emotions and thus know what he’s about to do. Sōjirō is a master of his own natural sword style and had earned the nickname, “Tenken” (Heaven’s Sword). Sōjirō also possesses shukuchi, a level of speed legendary amongst swordsman that makes him even deadlier. He is mainly seen using “three steps below shukuchi”and then “two steps below shukuchi”, which is slower that full shukuchi. At this speed, the only thing that can be seen of Sōjirō before he strikes is his footsteps ripping apart the tatami floor. At “one step below shukuchi”, he can attack from different angles, since he can move vertically with it as well. At full shukuchi, Sōjirō disappears completely and can’t be seen by anyone, even Kenshin. He can also utilize the Batojutsu style and combines it with his shukuchi to create his only named technique, “Shutensatsu”, which translates to "Instant Heaven Kill. As the name suggests, it kills the opponent so quickly to the point they will not even have time to feel pain and seems to be very similar to the Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki, but uses speed as opposed to strength.
- Sōjirō was based loosely on Okita Sōji of the Shisnengumi, particularly the version in the novel, Shinsengumi Keppuroku.
- Sōjirō had no design model and Nobuhiro Watsuki, creator of Rurouni Kenshin, said he found Sōjirō more difficult to draw than he anticipated and only accomplished a fourth of what he originally planned for the character’s appearance.
- Sōjirō is a very popular character in Rurouni Kenshin, making it into the top 10 in the last two popularity polls and number 1 on a poll on who Kenshin’s greatest rival was.