Hello fellow otome lovers, I have come with my first ever “review” on an otome game and I hope you stick around for more. As suggested by the title, I am going to be discussing the popular otome game franchise: Hakuoki. In this post, I will only be covering the remastered Steam edition of Kyoto Winds. I have little knowledge of the original games and never played them, so apologies if I appear quite ignorant here and there on the finer details of the series (and boy, what a series it is!)
[Warning] THIS IS A RATHER LONG REVIEW. PLEASE UTILISE THE TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE!
For those like me and not in the know, Hakuoki is an otome game where you play as Chizuru Yukimura (first name is editable) who ends up going to Kyoto from Edo (Tokyo) in order to search for her missing father. Once there, she is almost immediately entangled in Shinsengumi affairs since she was at the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessed these white-haired, red-eyed men gleefully slaughter some ronin out on the streets. These once human beings are known as “Furies” which Yukimura later learns is tied to her father’s disappearance. However, upon being witnessed to such an act, the Shinsengumi put her on house arrest at their place and the rest is history as Yukimura soon woos one of the 12 romantic interests in the game. Yes, 12.
Apparently, the original game had half that. As for other major differences between the original game along with its two sequels, I would suggest reading this post on visualnovelreviews as not only does it explore the differences between the original game and Kyoto Winds, but the writer is one who has played all the Hakuoki games leading up to the remastered versions, so the writer knows what he/she is talking about.
Although, since I am a newbie to the series, I have the fortune (misfortune?) of being less biased than the writer above and so, I have the advantage of being blind to all the characters including the new ones giving me less wary and reserved review of them especially.
But without further ado, on to the actual review.
Well, who doesn’t like a good vampire story? If I hadn’t read Kazumi Hasegawa’s piece on this game, I feel I would have been a bit blown away by the sudden shift in genre. Vampire-like beings called Furies is certainly not what I would have been expecting from an historical game about the Shinsengumi.
Continuing on, the plot of the first game, Kyoto Winds, follows Chizuru Yukimura to Kyoto in order to find her missing father, Kodo Yukimura, who was a doctor sent for by the shogunate government for some sort of project or medical assistance. However, almost as soon as she has set foot into the city, she is attacked by a group of frenzied white haired, red-eyed men who seem to relish bloodshed. Thankfully, she is saved by some members of the Shinsengumi (Okita, Saito, and Hijikata), but because she bear witnessed to the white-haired men’s bloody frenzy, she is taken back to Shinsengumi headquarters and after much discussion, she is confined to house arrest under the samurai group. She soon discovers that they also are looking for her father, but they don’t specify as to why until it comes to light that the shogunate government had issued orders for the Shinsengumi to aid in an experiment headed by Kodo which involves vampiric beings called Furies, or Rasetsu and a substance called the Water of Life or Ochimizu. And at the center of all of this is Chizuru and the role she must play in tracking down her father to pick up the pieces he left behind, all while also learning secrets about herself and possibly romancing 1 of the 12 men who help her along the way.
I won’t take long on the music because I don’t have too much to say except that it’s fairly nice. The title screen song is something you will definitely get used to and feel almost nostalgic for by the time you finish this game and that’s not a bad thing. Other than that, here is a playlist of all the OST in Kyoto Winds, I believe. There are Edo Blossoms songs in there, too, so ignore them for now or go ahead and get hyped for the next game.
Protagonist: Chizuru Yukimura
The protagonist of Hakuoki is a young lass named Chizuru Yukimura, but as you can see up above, her first name is changeable. Typically, if you leave the default name, the characters in the game will say the name which can be a bit cute and exciting, but for whatever reason, that wasn’t the case in Kyoto Winds. At least in the Steam port of the game, even when I left it as the default name, the characters never said it which did kind of take me out of the moment at times, but it is what it is.
As for the girl herself, I would say Chizuru is an alright protagonist. Consequently, Chizuru isn’t that strong physically and doesn’t really improve as the story goes on in that front despite being with the Shinsengumi for 4 years and thus having the facilities to train up. Though to her credit, there is one specific scene that involves her pushing Kondo Isami, the chief of the Shinsengumi, to train her, but it’s only for like half a day at most.
With that being said, I do believe we should cut her some slack. As told above in the story, Chizuru never intended to be stuck with the Shinsengumi under house arrest when she arrived in Kyoto. She just wanted to find her father. Even the members of the Shinsengumi acknowledge that it was their own misgivings and distrust towards her in the beginning that brought her into their mess of Furies and samurai conflicts. Yes, she could have probably put more effort to train during her time with them, but you really have to wonder how much she would have improved in just 4 years when many of the warriors of the Shinsengumi have been training in swordplay and battling since they were fairly young. Plus, effort alone is sometimes not enough even if you constantly do your best to grow stronger (sorry, looking at my boy Souma here).
I gave her 4 stars for 4 years of putting up with the Shinsengumi’s mess. Just kidding. I really put 4 stars because during my playthrough, Chizuru proved to be not too much of a 1D protagonist compared to other blank and lackluster otome protagonists. Understandably, otome game developers aim to create a balance between interesting and flavorful protagonists while still keeping them versatile enough to fit into the palate of the common folk like us, so it’s easy to project ourselves onto the character. Alas, sometimes that can create female protagonists that are as interesting as wet cardboard on the side of the road.
For me, I found Chizuru rather insightful at times and her personality proved to have some layers to it that made her feel like a person. She made mistakes, she did her best, she had internal conflicts and selfish desires – she has good points and flaws. That’s what makes a good character, let alone protagonist. Could she be improved upon? Yeah, but she’s alright in my book.
(Note: Don’t take the star system too seriously. I just wanted to give a quick glance rating for those who didn’t want to read so much. But it is based on how I thought they were as an antagonist and if I thought they had the proper goals aligned with their objective).
There’s quite a few antagonists since depending on whose route you do, the people who get in the way of your love and happiness differ slightly. Kazama is always an antagonist no matter whose route you do until you land on his, of course, so he’s excluded from this section since he’s a love interest and has his own blurb below.
Kyuju Amagiri & Kyo Shiranui (CV: Ryū Yamaguchi & Hiroaki Yoshida)
Both of Kazama’s lackeys, have their own individual personalities in their own right and don’t just blindly follow Kazama. In actuality, they each have their own personal goals to accomplish and they sometimes go off on their own in order to accomplish them. Amagiri, who is perhaps the nicest and most polite of the trio, usually likes to avoid unnecessary fighting and is the one who will often end up talking Kazama out of pushing things further than what’s necessary and useful. Although he is a calm and calculative one, he also shows a displeasure in the existence of Furies and hopes to stop their production. If I recall correctly, the only route he truly fights someone to the brink of his death is Saito who ends up a Fury due to Amagiri’s hard thrashing.
On the other hand, you have Shiranui who is quite cocky and outgoing with a confidence in his gun slinging ability that is not unfounded but is sometimes overbearing to hear. He is an interesting man who holds more loyalty to his clan, the Chousu, and more so, Takasugi Shinsaku, a samurai who was part of the Chousu domain as well, before his death. He appears as a main antagonist in Harada’s route. On the other hand, he comes to the aid of Chizuru and Sakamoto at the end of the latter’s route because surprisingly, the two are rather good friends. What a twist, eh?
Saburo Miki & Kanryusai Takeda (CV: Takashi Kondo & Takehito Koyasu)
These two antagonist are the troublesome Shinsengumi captains of the 9th and 5th division respectively who are too nosy for their own good.
Miki is the main antagonist of Souma’s route. Miki is the younger brother of Itou Kashitarou, an officer of the Shinsengumi who joins around the group around chapter 2 or 3. However, growing dissatisfied with the clashing of policies and ideologies with the Shinsengumi, Itou leaves with his brother and a few members of the Shinsengumi (including two romanceable captains). It is later discovered that Itou plans to have Kondo assassinated, so the Shinsengumi leaders decide to act first and subsequently killed Itou before his plans were enacted. This enrages Miki beyond belief and his villain origin story is complete. Why is it Souma he goes after and not the other more prominent Shinsengumi members? Souma actually had no role in the assassination plot, so it’s not that. I suppose it’s because Souma kind of gets in his way, and they just continuously cross paths. Other than that, it is a wonder, isn’t it?
Takeda on the other hand is pretty much just a jerk from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, Miki is also a haughty overconfident mess who harasses Chizuru (while probably knowing she was really a girl), but Takeda takes the cake on being a narcissistic cruel piece of work. He is the main antagonist of Iba’s route, so another new villain for the sake of a new route. Takeda also grows dissatisfied and disillusioned with his place in the Shinsengumi and appears to try to join Itou’s group, but even they don’t want him. I’m sure that must say something to his character. Eventually, he leaves on his own, but not before nearly kidnapping Chizuru who tailed him after witnessing him in the room that held all the research on Furies (Rasetsu), demons and the Water of Life. Iba comes to the rescue and seems to successfully strike him down into the river, but Takeda comes back at the end of Iba’s route as a Fury with a demon arm, ready for revenge.
Shintaro Nakaoka (CV: Daisuke Hirakawa)
Nakaoka is a loyal friend of Sakamoto’s and when you first start the latter’s route, you probably wouldn’t think he would later turn out to be an antagonist, but he does (thanks to the little miss behind him above, more on “her” later). Nakaoka and Sakamoto are both nearly killed one night when a group who believe Sakamoto would do the world a whole lot of good if he was gone from it. Nakaoka who happened to be there was kind of collateral damage. Regardless, he and Sakamoto are only saved when they take the Water of Life courtesy of the miss up above and Chizuru’s father. Thinking it was the Shinsengumi who tried to kill them, Nakaoka begins to harbor a hatred and way of thinking that distances himself from Sakamoto and the rest is history.
Kaoru Nagumo (CV: Hasumi Itou)
Kaoru is a rather mysterious girl Chizuru meets out in the streets one day being harassed by a group of ronins. Thankfully, a couple of captains, Okita and Heisuke, are there to help break it up and that’s when Okita notices are similar Kaoru looks to Chizuru.
We later find out that Kaoru is indeed related to Chizuru as her twin brother. Yes, Chizuru isn’t the only sibling out here cross-dressing. With that said, while Kaoru appears in other routes, she, or rather he, is the real main antagonist in Okita’s route and uses him to make Chizuru suffer and despair because he harbors a rather intense hatred towards his dear sister for living such a peaceful and happy life up until that point while he suffered abuse at the hands of his adopters. Their background story is a bit on the longer side, but just know that they did not grow up together and lived in separate domains before meeting again in Kyoto though Chizuru has no memory of having a twin brother believe it or not.
Kodo Yukimura (CV: Ryuuga Saito)
And finally, the man of the hour, Mr. Kodo Yukimura. The whole reason Chizuru decided to travel all the way from Edo to Kyoto and got herself in all this Shinsengumi, rasetsu, ochimizu nonsense in the first place and he wasn’t even necessarily worth it. He isn’t even Chizuru’s blood father and just adopted her when parents died after their homeland burned down by invaders (humans, of course). I thought when I first saw him that he was a sweet old man, but boy was I wrong. He is a rather twisted individual who just saw those like the Shinsengumi as lab rats for his experiments with the Water of Life (ochimizu) and had no hesitation to cast them aside when he was done. Not even bothering to tell them where he was going either. What a jerk.
Why is he doing all this? According to the Wikipedia page, his goal depends slightly on the route you chose, but to my understanding he is mainly producing Furies en masse in order to revive the fallen Yukimura clan. In some routes, he appears beside Kaoru who is significantly a bit more chill than he is in Okita’s route, but still somewhat twisted due to his background. Both want to bring Chizuru back with them, however (Kaoru shows more concern and care for his sister when he is with Kodo). Understandably, Chizuru wants nothing to do with them really because of how disappointed, hurt, and upset she is with Kodo in his role as the creator of the Furies and Water of Life. But, will she go with them in Edo Blossoms? (Spoiler: No.)
For this section, I will be going in order of how I did the routes. I didn’t consult any guides for suggested route order so please don’t use my order as a reference. With that said, I don’t believe doing orders outside of a suggested order ruins the experience but certain plot points and reveals may not hit as hard if you’re not totally blind to them (if you plan on doing all the routes).
Note: The star system takes into account: my enjoyment of the route and character, his story/motivations, and other frivolous small details.
Hachiro Iba (CV: Mamoru Miyano)
Coincidentally, the first route I fell into was Iba’s, one of the new additions to this version of Kyoto Winds. As a newer character, he may be unappreciated in some circles, but I found this soft boy to be rather charming in his own right.
Iba is a hatamoto of the shogunate, meaning he’s kind of hot stuff in the bakufu government. His family owns a famous dojo back in Edo (Tokyo) where he became acquainted and friends with the Shinsengumi members along with our dear protagonist Chizuru who he was childhood friends with. Unfortunately, Chizuru completely forgot about him until he reappears in her life later at a tea shop in Kyoto (in any other route besides his own, he remains forgotten).
His character is rather gentle and affable. To me, even though he definitely has that hardcore bushido spirit of the samurai, he’s kind of a cinnamon roll in his own right because he was rather soft and only when he is pushed to does he really set out to harm or kill if needed especially when it comes to Chizuru.
I would say that I do agree that because he is an added route, moments that are centered on Iba tend to feel fleeting and sometimes even understated since it can easily be brushed or overshadowed by moments with the Shinsengumi cast. Still, as a first route, I thoroughly enjoyed his route and really felt for him towards the end (especially one CG where he looks mad with such visceral pain that you kind of wanna ease his pain no matter what). He takes on a extra baggage along with being a Fury that none of the others have just for Chizuru and her protection so that’s pretty admirable. I won’t detail here what it is, but it does continue to effect him into the next game, so perhaps if I do a review on Edo Blossoms, I’ll go into more detail.
In conclusion, I really liked Iba and would recommend his route, but don’t expect it to overshadow the original main cast unless you aren’t enamored with them.
Kazue Souma (CV: Yuki Kaji)
Another new comer to the Hakuoki franchise! And not only that, but he’s voiced by a rather popular VA (well, Iba was too, but I think more people are familiar with Yuki Kaji, no?).
Anyways, Souma is a boy you meet out on the streets doing a round with the Shinsengumi boys. He is brought in for questioning because he is in possession of a woodblock print that shows a Shinsengumi Fury which is a big no no. However, after Souma appeared to have no idea what a Fury is, they let him go, but he is none to impress to much by the Shinsengumi as he quite some prejudices against them from rumors he’s heard about them.
Yet, in a plot twist, after growing increasingly frustrated with the inadequacy of his domain and his colleagues, he ends up joining the Shinsengumi inspired by them and their leadership under Kondo. He ends up being Kondo’s page and is thus under the senpaiship of Chizuru who as Hijikata’s page, is senior to him. Due to this, the two end up having quite a lot of time together and the rest is history.
Now, my boy Souma here is an even bigger cinnamon roll than Iba. He tries so hard, but I hate to say it, he’s the weakest in terms of physical prowess in the game, but he makes up for it with his determination and creed to become a better warrior that can not only protect those around him, but can also be of use for the Shinsengumi. I would say he does have quite a bit of character development from a disliker of the Shinsengumi to becoming a page and thus trying to seek his own life purpose among his journey with the warriors (though admittedly this is more explored in the next game, Edo Blossoms), but given the fact that he is new, I don’t believe he is a horribly written character.
His eagerness to grow stronger and the mix of frustration and sadness when he realizes even after turning into a Fury, that he’s still weak and has miles and miles to improve on, is rather relatable. Guess we’ll see how he turns out once we reach Edo.
Souji Okita (CV: Showtaro Morikubo)
The first original character whose route I stumbled across and the first who I sadly got an unrequited love ending from was this troublesome stubborn man.
If you’re not a connoisseur of the real-life Shinsengumi than you may not be familiar with the core members of the Shinsengumi. Thank Gintama for originally introducing me to the historical Shinsengumi and if you haven’t already, definitely check out the real Shinsengumi and Gintama while you’re at it.
But I digress. Okita Souji is the captain of the Shinsengumi’s first division and his prowess with the sword is no joke. Self-dubbed “The Sword of the Shinsengumi,” Okita makes it an aim to act and not think as a warrior under Kondo’s Shinsengumi and be the sword needed to cut down any enemy that stands in their way. He admires Kondo above all and would do anything and everything in his power to keep the chief’s dreams alive. In doing so, it appears that he neglects himself as a person and more than just a mindless sword that does as he’s told. Not to say Okita doesn’t have much of a personality outside of that, but it certainly is the root of his very being and anyone that strikes at that root especially when it involves Kondo will feel a personal wrath that will sweep them up like an angry hurricane of vengeance. The only thing that could possibly stop him is his unfortunate diagnosis of tuberculosis (which is sadly historically accurate, by the way). An illness that renders him practically bedridden by the end of the game IF you don’t play his route.
Besides that, Okita is a rather sardonic, mischievous and often times sadistic character who loves to threaten death to those who seem to mildly inconvenience him (specifically Chizuru). Often times he says it in jest, but there are times he is deadly serious about it. All in all, he is a character I really enjoyed and even though he frustrated me at times with his stubborness and underhanded remarks, I still found him pretty attractive. Not to mention, he has the same voice as my boy Yosuke in Persona 4, so how can I possibly hate him?
Plus, I have a thing for sadistic man apparently.
Hajime Saito (CV: Toriumi Kohsuke)
Saito is the leader of the 8th division of the Shinsengumi and is another brilliant sword of the Shinsengumi who does as he is ordered to without much hesitation. He is basically the kuudere of the group. He is calm, analytical, and stoic to the point of indifference at times, but of course, he has a soft side and doesn’t seem to shy away from sharing a smile or two.
I would actually go as far as to say that even though he may have a taciturn personality, even from the beginning he appears to hold no reservations or undue suspicions towards Chizuru. Some of the others are wary and not shy to voice their suspicions towards her in the beginning, albeit sometimes subtly. On the other hand, perhaps because of his quieter nature, Saito appears at most apathetic until it is revealed that he helped convince Hijikata to let Chizuru outside to look for her father (a choice you can decline before Okita reveals this truth to you).
Although, admittedly, some may not take to this type of character but I, as a quiet introvert myself, find Saito honestly enjoyable and insightful in his own way. I also admired his resolve and duties to the Shinsengumi to go as far as leaving the group in order to spy on the defected group of Shinsengumi members under the leadership of Itou Kashitarou. He’s a pretty good actor, too, considering everyone minus Hijikata and Kondo (who gave the infiltration orders) really thought he was leaving the Shinsengumi for real. An admirable character who appears to have no internal struggles, but I would say that isn’t entirely true. But more on that when I cover Edo Blossoms.
Additionally, I have a soft spot for cold (almost emotionless) characters warming up to the protagonist. Add snow into the mix and you’ve got my weakness.
Heisuke Toudou (CV: Hiroyuki Yoshino)
The youngest and shortest member of the Shinsengumi also happens to be the 8th division captain. I will be honest, I actually didn’t think I’d enjoy Heisuke’s route as much as the others mainly because he was on the younger side and just reminded me of a very energetic and boisterous younger bro…which he kind of was. I mean, the vibes were there.
And yet, his route proved to be more of the poignant one. Although, Heisuke is indeed mature and dependent enough to lead his own division, you learn the deeper you get into his route (which is only chapter 5 really), that this boy holds so much worry and conflict over choosing the right thing and not feeling so lost. Along with Saito, who we already established was just a spy, Heisuke goes with Itou’s group because he feels it’s the right thing to do and that the style of leadership and politics within the Shinsengumi isn’t for him. Yet, going along with Itou’s group also appears to cause a great deal of cognitive dissonance in this poor boy as the defected group isn’t so hot on good principals either.
Ultimately, it takes the assasination of Itou and Heisuke being fatally wounded for him to come back to the Shinsengumi, but as a Fury. As you can see, his story turns out to be the unexpected emotional rollercoaster and his indecisive conflicted nature on where to go in life and what’s the best thing to do is universally relatable. Yet, with the help of Chizuru, he does his best to remain positive over his situation. Wishing the best for this little dude.
Sanosuke Harada (CV: Kouji Yusa)
Okay, I lied back there with Saito. Harada is perhaps the most outwardly nicest of the Shinsengumi lot and even though he may seem intimidating at first (the first CG of him with Heisuke and Nagakura does no favors), he’s a pretty swell guy. Of course, he is on the wary side with the whole lot of them when it comes to Chizuru at first, but that’s expected.
Anyways, he does his best to look out for this naive little guy, going as far as getting her to hang out with a friend, Sen, when Chizuru receives some depressing updates on her father’s whereabouts. He also holds no qualms or cares over the fact that she’s different and directly tells her so towards the end of his route.
Other than that, he is pretty funny character and is part of the trio of goofs with Nagakura and Heisuke. The amount of times Harada roasts Nagakura was not enough, not enough for me. He is also interesting in the fact that he appears to be the middle ground within the trio and dare I say the Shinsengumi? He may be in disagreement with some things, like the Water of Life (or ochimizu), but unlike Nagakura who vehemently vocalizes his distaste for it, Harada bitterly understands why Hijikata and Kondo do what they do with it. He is kinda the big bro – reliable and worldly. Harada’s been through his bout of life experiences, including nearly committing a near successful seppuku in his younger years, so he definitely isn’t just giving empty advice or guidance.
He is a warm character that I appreciated and one with nice depth to his story. Also nice that he is the only one who manages to slide out of taking the Water of Life and thus doesn’t turn into a Fury. So, sorry ladies, no hot “vampire” Harada sensually drinking Chizuru’s blood CGs in Edo Blossoms. Although, I’m sure there are plenty more tasteful CGs to be had.
Shinpachi Nagakura (CV: Tomohiro Tsuboi)
I have to admit, while I do disagree with some of the points brought up in that visualnovelreview Hakuoki review, they were right that the former side characters still felt like side characters outside of their chapter 5 routes. I swear, if you didn’t look up a guide to get onto Nagakura’s route, you’re lying. I felt like just when I had him, he was always with Heisuke or Harada or both and thus increasing romance/affection would go to the other two. Since I had played several routes before Nagakura’s, I did remember a couple instances where I could gain romance with him, but then I ended up forgetting others. This man was kind of done dirty, I’m not going to lie.
I do feel like Idea Factory, or whoever was really in charge of writing could have done a better job integrating him into the main story, but at the same time, I do know that’s a challenge so perhaps I’m asking too much. Upgrading a former side character to a main love interest is harder than one may think.
Anyways, enough complaining, I haven’t even talked about Nagakura himself. He is definitely more of the loud-mouth of the group and a bit of an oaf, but he has some passionate sincerity that is seen through his warrior spirit and role as a captain of the Shinsengumi. No, really, he is quite the passionate fellow and we love him for it.
Keisuke Sanan (CV: Nobuo Tobita)
Alright, again admittedly I knew this was a route that I was probably going to mildly enjoy but the romantic feelings weren’t there. I mean, Sanan is nice in his own way, but he is a very concerning man.
Sanan is the vice-commander of the Shinsengumi and is quite the nice and kind man in the beginning but once his arm is injured beyond use, he basically renders himself useless. This is in spire of still holding a plethora of knowledge to act as consultant and strategist for the group. He is a warrior through and through and if he can’t hold a sword to fight properly than what use is he? Honestly, I wish he would have seen his strengths outside of being a “sword of the Shinsengumi” (see a pattern here?). Due to this, Sanan gradually becomes more cynical, self-deprecating (not in the funny way), and bitter towards himself and others.
Eventually, he takes the Water of Life to become a Fury and thus is renewed with new life and a stronger sense of purpose. Unlike the others, he embraces the Water of Life and being a Fury to a rather unhealthy degree as there are a couple times he accosts poor Chizuru about her role and her opinion on it considering her own father is the creator of the elixir. Yet, both times he’s rather unstable and pushy about it and one time he even pulls his sword on her, demanding that she offer up some of her blood for research to improve the elixir.
Now, if you’re hoping that by the end of his route, Chizuru tells him to chill and helps him find an identity outside of being a Fury which seems to consume his whole personality, then you would be wrong. Some gamers love to see character development in routes, but Sanan has minimal since he is virtually the same throughout the whole game even on his route. Personally, I don’t care too much especially considering there is a a whole other game that goes more in depth with the characters.
Regardless, I thought he was okay, but he is at most friend-zoned. Additionally, I just learned thanks to the Hakuoki Wikipedia page that in the original game, depending on whose route you do, Sanan can actually be an antagonist. If that is true, then that explains a lot.
Susumu Yamazaki (CV: Takayuki Suzuki)
Okay, I know a lot of you guys appear to like Yamazaki here, but I gotta friendzone him, too. His story and route is better than Sanan’s to me, but I just couldn’t muster up more than amicable friendly feelings for Yamazaki. His cute and all, and I tried, but I really can’t see him more than just a friend.
Yamazaki is part of the Shinsengumi’s Watch which you can kind of think as the reconnaissance team who spy, gather intelligence and work in the shadows to help the operations of the Shinsengumi run smoothly. A pretty cool role if you’re okay with operating on the down low and not being fully appreciated for your work since you’re basically a ninja.
Anyways, Yamazaki is a respectful, nice and rather quiet young man who can easily fade away into the background and be overshadowed by the more stronger personalities. Although, I would say he shines brightly with his own passion and determination to improve upon himself as he too feels rather weak and powerless in the worst cases. Props to him though, once he becomes a Fury, he actually holds himself strong against the likes of Kazama. Something I wasn’t expecting, so perhaps sheer willpower is a strong force after all.
(Also, can someone please fix the Wikipedia entry for the VA for this man? I believe they link the wrong Takayuki Suzuki and it’s a bit maddening seeing that. I don’t know how to edit on Wikipedia, so I’ll have to leave it to someone else).
Ryouma Sakamoto (CV: Daisuke Ono)
Guys, I will have to preface Sakamoto’s section by admitting that his route was partially ruined for me because I’m a Jojo fan. I only recently got into the anime back in November but I’m already on Stone Ocean and trying to read that part to get into the next part which is Steel Ball Run (look forward to Jojo posts on this blog in the future). With that said, Daisuke Ono voices one of the main Jojos, Jotaro Kujo, and while Sakamoto doesn’t sound exactly like Jotaro, I could still hear it here and there a little. Not to mention Sakamoto’s right hand man, Nakaoka is voiced by Daisuke Hirakawa who voices Jotaro’s right hand man, Kakyoin. Coincidence?
So, in short, his route was rather funny to me seeing a couple parallels like that.
As for Sakamoto himself, what a man. He is one of the new routes introduced to the remastered version and the furthest removed from the Shinsengumi (so his route is perhaps not the best to do first in Kyoto Winds and especially Edo Blossoms if you skip straight to it). Originally a samurai from the Tosa Clan, Sakamoto is now a ronin who helps the Satsuma and Chosu Clans (the main antagonists of the Shinsengumi towards the end especially), unite together and arm them for war against the shogunate. Sakamoto is one who wishes to see democracy and Western ideas take hold in Japan and due to his radical thinking, he has made enemies across Japan, including the Shinsengumi.
But enough of background info. If you want a flirtatious mischievous handful then Sakamoto is your guy. This man really is asking to be punched in the face for such forward advances and blatant attraction to Chizuru. It’s funny but can be a tad worrisome. It can also turn some off and I won’t blame you.
But his accent is rather cute. The Tosa accent he has sometimes ends with a sort of “nya” sound, so he basically sounds like a cat at times which is just too funny.
Chikage Kazama (CV: Kenjiro Tsuda)
Oh boy, this one. My man Kenjiro Tsuda voices this guy and while I still feel mixed towards Kazama, I can’t completely hate a character voiced by Tsudaken – it’s impossible.
Kazama is a pure-blooded demon who comes after Chizuru to abduct her as his bride-to-be once he finds out she is a demon herself from the rather respected Yukimura Clan. He is very narrow in this vision, not allowing himself to see the other men as nothing but obstacles and weak worms who are not deserving of such a demon girl as Chizuru. He can be rather sadistic and cruel to others and even Chizuru herself as there are plenty a time he kicks her to the side so he can fight properly and without distraction.
But Jesus, this man can be fickle. The CG above comes from a scene where literally the first words out of his mouth was to reassure her he hadn’t come to kidnap her. Apparently he came just to admire the scenery at the temple where Chizuru and the Shinsengumi were staying at currently. Surprisingly, he does just that and doesn’t even lay a hand on her, but they do have a rather civilized conversation that doesn’t end without him insulting the Shinsengumi, of course, but he admits he does admire her loyalty towards them even if it’s futile.
By the time I got to Kazama’s route, I had done all but one route so his cruelty and sadistic pleasure was well ingrained in my subconscious even if I wanted to see past that to focus on the man demon in front of me during chapter 5. Honestly, he’s not so bad in his own route and it’s actually Chizuru that follows him once she is saved by him from some enemy soldiers. Even when Kazama declares he is going to Edo to find Kodo, Chizuru’s father, he appears to be ready to set out alone until Chizuru says she wants to come to. He seems a bit taken aback and appears reluctant to take her along until Sen also pushes for the two to go together.
So, if you’re the type who likes jerks who are dangerous(ly hot) and sadistic who wants to take a poor girl by force to be his wife then by all means hope onto the Kazama train.
Toshizo Hijikata (CV: Shinichiro Miki)
Is it really any big surprise that Hijikata, the main man of the series gets five stars or am I just basic? It’s a bit of both, but of course, as the intended main route of the game, more details and planning follow his story line and it better considering he is the vice-commander of the Shinsengumi and honestly feels like the leader on most days (seriously, where is Kondo sometimes?).
Known as the demon vice-chief who will command his subordinates to commit seppuku or harakiri for just staying out past curfew, it almost appears at first that Hijikata is a rather cold uncompromising man who holds a rather short temper, but of course there’s more than meets the eye with him.
A part of his seemingly taciturn and stoic nature is more of a front. Considering he is the vice-chief of the Shinsengumi, he can’t be acting all soft and kind to just everyone even at the cost of his image. He remains tacitly stubborn in his ways and as a true samurai, you will be hard-pressed to find a man who is so dedicated to the samurai spirit and way of life than Hijikata is even though he is just a small town boy who grew up helping his family sell medicine. With this rural background, Hijikata aims to prove himself and his fellow Shinsengumi members that they are just as much of a warrior (if not more so) than those lazy cowards sitting too comfortably in their ivory castles who claim to be true warriors just because of their privileged backgrounds. Seriously, at the end of his route, after he turns into a Fury, the little speech Hijikata gives in the midst of his aggrieved rage drives him to say something like that and more. It’ll move you or give you the shivers if you care an ounce for this man.
You also gotta remember that these characters were based on real people so makes you wonder what mess the real Shinsengumi had to go through.
All in all, I do like my boy Hijikata. He has all sorts of sides to him that appeals to me and the general Hakuoki playerbase no doubt. As the main love interest, I would say he is no where near a bad one, but if he isn’t your cup of tea, you literally have 11 other men to choose from.
In the end, I have to thank Kazumi Hasegawa’s little essay on Hakuoki for bringing me into the franchise. The way she wrote about it was appealing enough for me to look into the game and as an otome fan, it was no problem playing it to do my own sort of self-research into the game. I still agree with most of what she said in my previous post about women finding their own personal and alternative narratives in a such a highly nationalistic and masculine game such as Hakuoki. I would disagree now with my previous sentiments that Chizuru seems to be just a woman who needs to breed for the revival of her clan as I now know she is more than that. I guess with the way Kazumi wrote her, I thought Chizuru was more of a silent protagonist who was submissive to the roles of the other men in the story when that seems to be far from the case once I actually played.
Ultimately, I found this game more enjoyable than I thought I would find it. For some reason, I thought I wouldn’t really be entertained playing historical otomes despite loving history myself, so I’m just an idiot. Especially considering Hakuoki centers around the Shinsengumi, an entity that interests me greatly…well, I really was a fool for being prejudiced. I have learned from my mistakes and aim to include more historical otomes in the future if I can find some.
With that said, of course I have already started on Edo Blossoms and will return to write up another review of that came and thus indulge in the conclusion of each entertaining and emotional storyline the game has to offer. I have only done 3 routes at the time of writing and I have to say that I’m pretty satisfied with how all 3 wrapped up, but I am easy to please so that might not mean much.
Regardless, thank you for reading a rather long piece. I’m pretty new to the reviewing otome games, so please bare with me and I hope to come back soon with part 2 to the Hakuoki game series. Take care for now!