Shishio Makoto (志々雄 真実), known in western order as Makoto Shishio, is a fictional character from the manga and anime series Rurouni Kenshin. He is the primary antagonist of the series' Kyoto arc. Shishio was based roughly on the original lead commander of the Shinsengumi, Serizawa Kamo.
After the death of Yukishiro Tomoe, Himura Kenshin became a free wielding swordsman to protect members of the Ishin Shishi. Shishio Makoto became his successor as hitokiri (assassin) and was responsible for the assassination of I'izuka, the man who had betrayed the Choshu party. The future Meiji government was more secretive about Shishio than Kenshin; many members of the Chōshū and Satsuma clans (the members of the future Meiji government) had very little information on him.
Later, the new Meiji government believed it would be in their best interests to eliminate Shishio. While they had found Himura to be an idealistic servant of the Imperialist cause, Okubo and other Meiji officials correctly concluded that Shishio was an opportunistic sociopath who would undoubtedly use his vast knowledge of government secrets to plunge the country into turmoil for his own personal gain. Thus, during the Boshin War, Shishio was knocked out from a blow to the head from a gun, doused in oil and burned alive by the Ishin Shishi. He survived, sustaining severe damage to his entire body to the point that he must wear bandages day and night to cover his disfigured skin, giving him an appearance similar to a mummy.
Shishio, with the aid from a man named Sadojima Hōji, assembled a group of the best fighters in Japan, called the Juppongatana (Ten Swords), to overthrow the Meiji government. He envisioned a Japan ruled by him, enforcing the principles of Social Darwinism, or what he called "the strong eat the weak". Using this belief, Shishio ran a campaign against the Meiji government, as he felt it was too weak to effectively lead the country. Using his motto, he molded an ideological disciple out of Seta Sōjirō, who served as his right-hand man, and the strongest of the Juppongatana. He planned to strengthen the economy with petroleum once he took over the country. At some point, he met Komagata Yumi, whom he shared a romantic relationship with.
Shishio is extremely ruthless and coldblooded. Living by the belief that weak only exist for the benefit of the strong, he generally appears heartless, though in reality he isn't. For all of his ruthless nature, he was still in love with Yumi, and understood her feelings. He was also able to form some bonds to a degree with Sōjirō and Hōji.
Shishio displays very high intelligence, in some ways giving him something of an evil genius persona. He is extremely crafty, being able to hide from the Meiji government despite their efforts to find him, and his plans nearly succeed in bringing them down. He also learns from his mistakes; after his brush with death from being knocked out with a bullet to the head, he takes to wearing a hachigane (iron headband) to keep that weakness from being exploited.
Shishio's sword, like Kenshin's, is a work by master swordsmith Arai Shakku: a blade called Mugenjin; its self-sharpening serrated edge flaked away in a regular pattern as it was used and it had become soaked in the flesh and body fat of the victims he had killed over the years. As a result he is able to execute fire-oriented techniques using the oils as fuel.
Shishio's monstrous strength, stamina, resistance to injury, and ability to read his opponent place him in at least the same league as Kenshin. (For example, throughout his fight, Shishio demonstrates the ability to stop Kenshin's Ryushosen using his fingers, dodge and counter Saito's Gatotsu Zeroshiki, see through Aoshi's Jisen-Kenbu technique, and take Sanosuke's Futae no Kiwami without injuries.)
Shishio uses Mugenjin to execute techniques referred to by Hōji as "The Three Secret Swords":
Secret Sword 1, Homuradama - This is the technique Shishio has used the most. Using friction to ignite the human fats that have soaked into his sword over time, this serves to distract the opponent from his swings. The result is being simultaneously burned and slashed, more then compensating for the weakness of his serrated sword not being able to cut as deep as a normal one.
Secret Sword 2, Guren Kaina - He fills his gauntlets with gunpowder, and ignites them with the sparks caused by the Mugenjin. Thus it results in an explosion. Guren Kaina yields a lot of force and is usually performed while his opponent (such as Kenshin or Saitō Hajime) is at close range, preferably in his grip.
Final Secret Sword Kaguzuchi - The Kaguzuchi is the ultimate technique in Shishio's arsenal. He activates it by scraping his blade from the base to the tip on the end of the scabbard, creating a miniature fire cyclone around the blade. The technique is not fully revealed, but it's believed that Shishio starts the fire and then slashes at the enemy, thus he can incinerate them entirely while still cutting them. Before Shishio could utilize the Kaguzuchi, he was countered by Kenshin's ultimate attack.
Note: In the Rurouni Kenshin: Enjou! Kyoto Rinne video game for the Playstation 2, when Shishio makes contact with his Kaguzuchi, the flames rise upward and form a giant pillar or wall of flames, sending the opponent upward while severely burning him at the same time. Shishio then emerges from the flames as it dissipates. The opponent is seen falling behind him. In the game Jump Ultimate Stars , Shishio can perform the Kaguzuchi and it is listed as one of his support attacks.
However, for all of his power and skill, Shishio had a fatal weakness: Because he was set on fire, most of his sweat glands were burned. Therefore, once he engaged in battle, his body heat rose far above normal levels. Though Hōji believed Shishio's body heat contributed to his power in battle, it became his downfall, as he spontaneously combusted after merely 25 minutes in battle.
Kenshin and Saitō Hajime both spend a considerable amount of time looking for Shishio, meeting him once in Shingetsu village. However, Shishio left soon after they found him. After the ordeal in Shingetsu village, Kenshin ventured onward to Kyoto where they would have their duel. Upon arriving in Kyoto, Kenshin searched for the swordsmith Arai Shakku to forge a superior Sakabato. Unfortunately, Shakku had passed during the ten years that Kenshin had last seen him, and found his son Arai Seiku as head blacksmith instead. Kenshin instead sought after his former mentor Hiko Seijuro XIII, but discovered Seiku's predicament which involved one of the members of the Juppongatana: Sawagejō Chō.
After defeating and arresting Chō, he revealed that Shishio had planned to have the Juppongantana burn down Kyoto. However, Kenshin and Saitō find that the plan to burn down Kyoto was just a diversion, and the Shishio's real plan was to use a steel plated battleship (The Purgatory) that Hōji had purchased for him to attack Tokyo. Kenshin, Saitō, and Sagara Sanosuke pursue and intercept Shishio in a harbor not far from his target; And using a set of explosives Sanosuke obtained from his long-time friend, Katsuhiro Tsukioka, destroys The Purgatory. However Shishio, Hōji and Yumi, escape.
Although his plan was foiled, Shishio was still not beaten, and instead arranged a duel to the death at Mount Hiei. Knowing that, Kenshin, Saitō, and Sanosuke travel there the next morning. While they were doing so, however, Shishio sent most of the Juppongantana out to kill Kenshin's friends at the Aoi-ya, keeping only his strongest subordinates with him, and Shinomori Aoshi who had allied himself to Shishio in order to get to Kenshin. The Juppongantana sent to the Aoi-ya, however, were all beaten.
After defeating Aoshi and Sōjirō, Kenshin faced Shishio himself. Unfortunately, Kenshin had been worn out and injured from his consecutive fights with Aoshi and Sōjirō, and Shishio knocked him out fairly easily. Saitō entered and ambushed Shishio, attempting kill with a blow to the head. However, Shishio's hachigane (a headband containing a metal plate to cover the temple) stopped the attack, after which he easily blocked every move Saitō used against him and defeated him. Sanosuke also entered to fight Shishio, but couldn't even injure him, despite landing a direct Futae no Kiwami to the face. Finally, Aoshi entered, and managed to stall Shishio long enough for Kenshin to regain consciousness.
The two continued their fight, during which Shishio's body started to overheat to dangerous levels, but kept fighting despite that. At one point, Yumi intervened, standing in the way of a blow from Kenshin. Taking advantage of his moment of vulnerability, Shishio ran his sword through Yumi in an attempt to hit Kenshin. Kenshin ridiculed Shishio for betraying his love, but Shishio remarked that he understood that he did what Yumi wanted of him, which was in fact the case. Eventually, Shishio's body heat rose to the point where his blood evaporated and the fat and oils in his body ignited. The end result was Shishio combusting, and continued to burn until all that became of him was ash. He is later seen in Hell with Yumi and Hōji (who committed suicide in jail), commenting that they try and take it over. In a edited version of this episode, the whole event in Hell is non-existent, and Hōji in fact was saved from death by one of the Juppongatanna.