In the manga series Rurouni Kenshin, the character of Hajime Saito, who is based on the real historical figure, has a saying or motto, "Aku Soku Zan" (悪即斬), which is translated as "Slay evil immediately".

I found a few claims online that this was a real motto of the Shinsengumi the group that both historical Saito and fictional Saito are part of, but Wikipedia says it was probably not:

The "Aku Soku Zan" motto he lives by (悪即斬, most literally, "Kill those who are evil immediately,", translated as "Slay Evil Immediately" in the English dub and as "Swift Death to Evil" in the VIZ manga) is most likely fictitious, though it does encompass a common sentiment of the Shinsengumi during the Bakumatsu.

Is there any evidence that this phrase:

  • Was a real Shinsengumi motto?
  • Was a real motto of any contemporary group?
  • Was a fictitious creation from literature or folk history that predated the manga series Rurouni Kenshin?
  • Hard to prove a negative – congusbongus Mar 6 '17 at 4:46
  • @congusbongus That's true. Let's say for the purposes of this question, if a reasonable search effort through reliable sources doesn't turn up evidence for any of the three things I asked about, it's fair to say that such evidence doesn't exist and I will upvote and possibly accept a well-formulated answer that argues along those lines. "Reasonable" search effort, "reliable" sources, and "well-formulated" answer are things I'll decide once I see them. – Torisuda Mar 6 '17 at 18:53

Perhaps most telling is that the phrase is bad Classical Chinese. If I were to put it in English as "Evil, namely slay," that is not perfectly correct but would give a sense of the mangled grammar. The Ruroni Kenshin catchphrase is an uneducated riff on Chinese philosophical statements like 心即理 which are quite subtle in meaning and misunderstood by many modern Japanese people.

There are no Google Books results for 悪即斬 (that is, "Aku Soku Zan") in the 20th century. Google Books has limited coverage of Japan before 1990 but at least something ought to come up. There are also multiple Japanese Yahoo Answers posts saying that the author of Ruroni Kenshin made this up.

There are not many historical sources for Hajime Saito, as it is said he was a man of few words.


Both sides of the Meiji Revolution in 1868 Japan (the Shogun and the Imperial Court) used "aku soku san" as a motto and a way of life, it was a radical sense of justice that they held and was believed to be the only way by samurai of that time. the anime about Kenshin Himura is based in a lot of fact and even most of the attacks (the ones the aren't humanly impossible, of course) are real including the aku soku zan. But it wasn't exclusive to the Shinsengumi

  • 3
    This answer could be improved immensely by giving some sources or references. As it stands, it is "you'll have to take my word for it". – DevSolar Jun 12 '17 at 7:31

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