The day is May 14th, 1878, in the Eleventh Year of the Meiji. On this day, a terrible event happened, and forever remains infamous in the annals of history. Having now been a week since the revelation of Japan's greatest threat, Kenshin must now make a decision to his old ally, Okubo Toshimichi. But, on this day, what will happen will be of terrible shock to all- And the winds of change are ready to tumult about!
The day is May 14th, 1878. A week has now passed since the vicious duel between Himura Kenshin and his historic nemesis Saitō Hajime, and the surprise arrival of Meiji Secretary of the Interior Okubo Toshimichi. As the morning passes, Kenshin comes to finish up his daily chores, but Kaoru grows uneasy knowing of the date. At the same time, Megumi and Yahiko arrive at Sano's apartment to give him a rude awakening (the latter spent his night attempting to re-earn his bid on dice) and remind him today is May 14th.
Taking a gentle stroll down the neighborhood, Kaoru fills in the details to Doctor Oguni Gensai of the importance of this day. Knowing that May 14th is the deadline for Himura to answer to Okubo's plea for help against the growing threat of Shishio Makoto, the rest of the group rendezvous and catches up. With everyone's worry and want for Himura to not give into Okubo's plea for his safety of serving a potentially corrupt bureaucrat and only at the whims of the Ishin Shishi's help to clean up their mess made through the Bakumatsu, Kenshin comes to respond that if Okubo had fallen from grace into a greedy and vile corrupt politician, the one man who still follows the code of the Shinsengumi into the day of the Meiji- Saito Hajime, adherent to "Aku Soku Zan - Slay evil immediately" -would already have sunk his fangs into a man of such irredeemable quality within the shadows of society, with such men of importance not even arriving at their doorstep. (Somewhere else in town, Saito is abruptly interrupted from his soba lunch from sneezing due to the Kenshingumi talking badly about him.)
Realizing the time is best to get going, Himura decides to hurry on with his appointment and make an early catch of Okubo's carriage at Kioizaka. Though they wish to accompany him, Himura declines- It will be a very long meeting. As all they can do is see Himura depart, the group now can only hope for the best. Though conflicted himself, Kenshin implores the possibility of Okubo's plea to be that of truly benevolent action to maintain the current peace.
In Kioizaka, Okubo's carriage makes haste. With much on his mind, Okubo himself only hopes that Himura answers his pleas with a positive answer, and fears only the worst under Shishio's influence. As he speaks his last words, a surprise visitor opens up the carriage. With a message from Shishio, himself having correctly concluded that Okubo would turn to tracking down his predecessor in fear of his growing power, the guest finishes his delivery, holds down Okubo and gives to him a grisly departing gift.
Along the way, seven samurai dissatisfied with the Meiji halt the carriage in its tracks and kills the driver. To their surprise when they open the carriage, Okubo is already dead. Dumbfounded and confused, Ichiro Shimada of Ishikawa is pleased either way, and all come to claim Okubo's death and the infamy they have sent to the papers and government to tell the nation.
Only moments too late, Himura arrives at the crime scene. Seeing Okubo's brutalized corpse, the young messenger issues a warning to the rurouni, and tells him to back down against Shisho, or else, face the same fate. Realizing Shishio's eyes and ears throughout the nation, Himura is appalled. This day would be forever known as the Kioizaka Incident.
Shortly thereafter, the news spreads rapidly of Okubo's death. At the Kamiya Dojo, the news of Okubo's death even reaches the Kenshingumi. Himura makes way to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters.
Himura and Saito can only listen to Kawaji Toshiyoshi's words of grief and despair, as he mentions of this dirty tactic of Shishio's, to gain wind of impending assassinations and catch up beforehand to leave the world in the dark of his existence- And Okubo's was no different. With visiting governor Yamayoshi-dono of Fukushima Prefecture, they all come to learn of the grand and lofty, but humanistic goal of Okubo's to truly change Japan into a Nation State, free from the Han caste system of the Tokugawa Shougunate and even from the bare chaos that is the Meiji, one where the people themselves are free to choose their own paths to shape their country. As Saito and Himura depart, Saito further makes mention that the last of the "Three Great Imperialists" have now left this world and that no other politician can fulfill Okubo's grand visions, a most fatal position Shishio is ready to take advantage of.
As Kenshin wanders about Tokyo, he can only stare into the sunset and hear of the worries of the people, long weary and fearful of the horrors of war that have only ended ten years ago. With many words of those close to him on his mind echoing and resonating, a dark memento surfaces. With the grim reality, that to be a warrior is to walk the path of Shura, the eternal path of violence and bloodshed that one can never escape when set upon, Himura feels he cannot stand still no longer.
Night time falls onto the Kamiya Dojo, and to their dismay, Ayame, Suzume, and Megumi are to make haste to an emergency childbirth with Doctor Gensai, intervening their promise to watch the "Cursed Fireflies of Summer" with Kenshin. Not wanting them to be unescorted at a dangerous time of night, Sano also heads with them. With Kaoru and Yahiko being the only ones around, Kaoru decides to look nearby for Kenshin (Yahiko then declines and heads to bed).
After much searching, Kaoru has no luck, saddened. At that moment, Kenshin arrives from the darkness. Joyed, Kenshin however brings grave news, and explains to her that Shishio was behind the assassination of Okubo that morning. With heavy hearts, the two realize that Kenshin has to stop Shishio, and that he must depart for his adversary's stronghold, in Kyoto, the city of Kenshin's bloody past and pain. Feeling that nothing that can be done, his concern and fear of returning to the Hitokiri within, and knowing that if staying further, would only invite danger not just to himself but everyone in Tokyo, Kaoru tells him that who he was means nothing, as he is the wanderer who intervened and saved her and their friends, and that even if he becomes Hitokiro Battosai once more, he is still their Himura Kenshin. Touched, he tells Kaoru of how being with them all and that what she said helped mend his heart and allowed him to feel like a normal swordsman, everyday spent with them, and expresses that truly did. Embracing in a hug, Kenshin however tells her that he is a wanderer, and with a heavy and loving departure, he walks off, solemnly, into the distance.
Kaoru, feeling nothing can be done, as the man she loves descends far off into the unknown future, cries tears of grief and saddness, into the night.
The Eleventh Year of the Meiji, May 14th, 1878. On this day, Himura Kenshin, returns to wandering once more. And into the pitch black darkness, he disappeared, alone-
- The entire episode is based on the manga chapter Act 56, Meiji 11th, May 14th-Morning. Entirely new content was made with creative improvisation to give emotional depth and keep in length with the runtime.
- In the manga, the entire sequence which May 14th begins all takes place at the Kamiya Dojo, all when Kenshin is still doing his laundry. There is no walk with Gensai-sensei.
- No mention of the "Cursed Fireflies of Summer" and the promise made to see them between Ayame and Suzume.
- Megumi makes her appearance only after Kenshin's discussion of Saito and Okubo.
- Sanosuke is the only one present to arrive at the Dojo in the beginning. There is no scene of him being woken up at his apartment.
- Seta's assassination of Okubo is never scene in the manga. In the anime, a short scene is shown, signifying that Seta murdered him by impaling Okubo through the forehead.
- The scene of Kenshin at the Suimida River bridge is expanded in the anime; in the manga, it is a brief reflection where Kenshin decides to leave.
- Ayame and Suzume accompany Megumi and Sano to the emergency operation; in the manga, it is merely a young boy.
- The scene of Kenshin's departure:
- Kenshin immediately appears to Kaoru at her estate's entrance in the manga. In the anime, she walks out to the neighborhood path and looks for him.
- The entire departure in the manga takes place in darkness near the Kamiya Estate. In the anime, the departure takes place near the spot where Kenshin promised the girls that he would watch the Cursed Fireflies of Summer with them; this element would come back full circle with a significant filler episode after the last episode of the Kyoto Arc and hint at the never produced anime Jinchu Arc.
- The music used at the last scene of the episode is the famous Intermezzo of the Italian opera Cavalleria rusticana (lit. "Rustic Chivalry"). Although both works have their own circumstances regarding their story's events, the dramatic and heavy tone of the score implies a great foreboding of loss, and a possibility that one may never return, which is highlighted by a parallel of a great and awful duel that serves as the climax for both Rurouni Kenshin and Cavalleria.