A List Of All The Anime Shows In The World What Does "Tenken" Mean?

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What Does "Tenken" Mean?

The word “Tenken” is a rarely used term in the English dictionary, of course, but it is a term that has a meaning for a very specific crowd of people. The word – stolen from the Japanese and spread across the anime-watching subculture in English-speaking countries – has layers and layers to its meaning. Some of them are seemingly contradictory in nature, so to understand the word, it is somewhat important to understand its history.

Let me start by going over some popular definitions you’ll find on the web:

  • “Heavenly Sword. Having great skill with the sword — to a degree that skill can only be a gift from the heavens.”
  • “To move, think, or act with god-like speed and precision.”
  • “Relating to swordsmanship – to act or move with god-like speed.”

All of these are rooted in the way in which the term Tenken was popularized in the US, which is through the Japanese anime series known as “Rurouni Kenshin”. Within this anime, the character Seta Soujiro, an 18-year-old swordsman, fights without emotion, passion or anger. Because of this, he is almost completely unpredictable on the battlefield. His speed, accuracy and skill are unmatched. Indeed, Soujiro is never defeated in combat, even by the greatest heroes of the series. His name is “Tenken”.

This gives us some alternative definitions of what Tenken might mean. It can mean:

  • Someone who is brutally effective.
  • Someone who is extra fast, extra talented or extra smart.
  • Someone who shows no emotions at all.

But in this absolutely fantastic anime series, the character of Seta Soujiro is not just an emotionless master swordsman. As his story unfolds, we learn about his tragic past and what he hides beneath his emotionless mask.

From the inside, he is torn. Inside, he just wants to be allowed to be weak. We see this in his final battle with Kenshin (the protagonist of the series) as Soujiro begins to let out his emotions and has this inner dialogue:

If it’s right to save people who were weak, then why didn’t you save me? Why didn’t anyone protect me?

Then he says, their swords locked, “You didn’t protect me. If what you say is right, then why didn’t you protect me?” Seta begins to have a massive breakdown. He begins to sway, clutching his head as he stumbles across the room, screaming. Due to this emotional breakdown, he loses the fight with Kenshin (but is not killed).

Basically we find out that despite the fact that he seemed like this completely heartless killer, he’s this torn and sensitive person who has repressed every bit of emotion he has. His constant smile is a mask against the rest of the world and against his demons.

So we can add these definitions to our list:

  • Someone who pretends not to experience emotions, but has a strong emotional side.
  • Someone who presents a tough exterior, or a false appearance, to protect themselves from demons or their past.

After this battle, Tenken decides that he will start wandering to find out who he really is. He says:

“It’s a little unfair. . . . When you’re trying to repair a brick building that was done wrong the first time, you have to tear it all down before you can start; no other can be done. because brick is very strong.”

So we can also see Tenken as a term that means:

  • Someone who seeks redemption or truth.
  • Someone who has to share his identity and restore it.
  • Someone who seeks to be better at great cost.

All of these things are powerful and meaningful to me, which is why I have adopted the name “Tenken” as my moniker in my online interactions. My blog is also named after Tenken – specifically, http://www.TenkenatHeart.com

And I. I’m Rob Tenken.

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