Hakuoki Shinkai Fūkaden [Heisuke Tōdō Route]
And now, I’m covering the second of the Shinsengumi’s “cheerful trio” (Sano, Shinpachi, and Heisuke). He’s in second place amongst the trio that I like (Sano being number one). Since he’s the same age as Chizuru, it’s also easier to accept the progress of their relationship. And unlike most bachelors, Heisuke’s character is pretty consistent throughout his route.
There will be HEAVY SPOILERS! Read at your own risk, don’t say I haven’t warned you!
Heisuke is the youngest captain within the Shinsengumi. And despite his small build, he’s a strong swordsman. Being the youngest, he’s more cheerful, brighter, and quite childish than the others.
However, he’s actually more insightful than he looks. Along with Sano and Inoue, he’s the nicest captain to Chizuru since her arrival in the Shinsengumi (I’m not including Shinpachi here because he’s willing to kill Chizuru if necessary and even said that right in front of her in Zuisoroku FD) and one who was against killing her (although, he also made a stupid mistake by accidently blabbering a sensitive information that almost sealed her fate).
Chizuru and Heisuke are around the same age, so it didn’t take too long for them to get used to talking with each other and getting along. Although there are times when Heisuke is being insensitive, this is done unintentionally and he would immediately apologize once he realizes he is wrong. At heart, he is still innocent and earnest, and I personally found him more relatable than the other bachelors. Maybe it’s because of listening to the Drama CDs, but I think Heisuke is the cutest of the bachelors when it comes to expressing his feelings for Chizuru as he’s very shy and clumsy in expressing it.
At the beginning, I thought Heisuke was the tactless blabbermouth who developed an unrequited crush on the heroine type of character that I often found in the manga/anime in general. I was pleased to find that Heisuke is more mature than he appears. Unlike other captains who either care more about swordsmanship or politics, Heisuke prioritizes causes. Most Shinsengumi swordsmen, Kondo in particular, are loyal to the Shogunate and fight for them. This isn’t the case with Heisuke. Rather than fighting for the Shogunate, Heisuke considered the civil conflict secondary to keeping the peace in Kyoto. His political view doesn’t align with the Shinsengumi, but still follows orders because he believes they would protect the people of Kyoto. Only when they started directly answering the Shogunate did Heisuke decide to leave to join the Guardian of Imperial Tomb.
It’s not like he began to hate the Shinsengumi or anything. It’s just working directly for the Shogunate is against his conscience and belief, so he wants to try finding a different answer. Unlike others who could look the other way in regards to the research on Water of Life, Heisuke couldn’t accept it. This is partially why he thought it’s not right to let the Shogunate continue ruling the country. The battle between what he believes in against his emotions brought out his character’s benevolence. His dilemma between staying with his friends or following what he believes was realistic.
He and the Shinsengumi have differences when it comes to political views, but the happy memories he made with his Shinsengumi friends make him want to go back to their side after knowing Itou’s plan. However, he hesitated to return because he doesn’t know what he is supposed to fight for anymore should he do so, since he had no loyalty to the Shogunate. Not even his friendship with his Shinsengumi friends were enough to convince him to return.
What saved Heisuke from this dilemma was Chizuru. In the midst of heightened tension between the Shogunate and Imperial family within the Shinsengumi, Chizuru is the only one who has no relation to any of them. Yes, she decided to help the Shinsengumi and started to consider herself one of them, but her decision was made because she was more concerned for Heisuke. And to Heisuke, Chizuru is an innocent girl who shouldn’t be involved in a bloody fight in the first place. Ever since Heisuke left, both have missed each other (the scene where they met at the tea shop is so adorable! Why didn’t they make a CG out of it?!). Additionally, Heisuke was feeling guilty that he couldn’t keep his promise to help her find Kodo. If there’s one thing that he was sure is the right thing for him to do, that was protecting Chizuru.
By the time he left the Shinsengumi, Chizuru had already become an important person for Heisuke. Counting what happened in his route in Hakuoki: Shinsengumi Adventures, he already developed feelings for her. His feelings for Chizuru wiped any doubts he had. Screw politics, ideals, loyalties, nationalism, what matters to him the most now is protecting Chizuru. She is his new reason to fight and return to the Shinsengumi.
As someone who is also not fond of politics since it was too complicated, I’m rooting for Heisuke to just throw away all those difficult thoughts from his mind. It might seem irresponsible or oversimplifying to some, but I don’t think it’s wrong to fight simply wanting to protect someone you care for. Plus, I think the whole politics and all were too much for Heisuke. It’s beyond him. It doesn’t fit him.
Now that his dilemma between the Shinsengumi and the Imperial Tomb was over, Heisuke’s new struggle was adjusting to his new life as a Fury after he became one. When protecting Chizuru, he was critically injured by Amagiri, and was faced with the decision to die or drink Water of Life to survive. Heisuke chose the latter out of his desire to protect Chizuru. Soon, Heisuke realized that being a Fury was much harder and horrifying than he thought.
His life became anything but normal. He was sleepy during the day, he couldn’t hang out with Sano and Shinpachi in the open anymore, and most of all, he has a nearly uncontrollable bloodlust that at times caused him to lose himself. As he became less and less human every day, Heisuke became frightened that he would lose himself completely. It’s driving him crazy and his worldview changed. Even the sight of the sunset that he used to find beautiful scared him. And then there’s Sanan who suggested that he drink blood to satiate his thirst and just abandon all human morality he has. At this point, I couldn’t think of Sanan as anything more than being nuts. He’s not completely lost it yet, but to me, he’s already enough to be considered nuts. shivers! (0_0III)
Heisuke’s fear grew as days passed. He could fight to protect his loved ones but at the same time he himself might potentially become the danger itself for them due to his bloodlust. His fear reached its peak and nearly broke him when he learned that the more he used his Fury power, the shorter his life would be. Each day, he was worrying when he will die and turn into ash, his fear of death slowly eating him away. He finally cried after seeing his old friend, Ryunosuke, was living a normal happy life with the woman Ryunosuke loved. This saddened Heisuke further, lamenting that he lost any chances to have a normal life. He didn’t want to die, yet he accepted that the fate of Fury is inevitable. He believed himself to be as good as dead already.
Another trouble was added to his plate by Sanan, who became obsessed with his Fury research, and eventually betrayed them. When it came to fighting his former friends, Heisuke was still naive. He couldn’t fight completely with the intent to kill. Since he was dead to the general public, he was the only one who could freely stop Sanan and his Fury army, so Hijikata gave him the order to handle the former general secretary. It seemed unfair since it’s like placing all the burden on Heisuke alone, but Heisuke accepted and was ready to take Sanan down with him. He resigned to his fate, that he tried to push Chizuru away from him while dismissing her concern as mere pity.
Keyword being “tried”.
In his hard times, Chizuru was there for Heisuke. She made it clear that she never seek protection or gain anything from him, all she wanted was to be by his side. She reminded him what he truly want was something much simpler: to protect people who are important to him. And he made his vow not as the captain of the Shinsengumi, he made it as an individual. When being given the option to leave the Shinsengumi with his two best friends Sano and Shinpachi, Heisuke didn’t take it because he was worried for Chizuru’s well-being. Unlike Heisuke himself, Chizuru never saw him as a monster and she never gave up hope of finding a chance to prolong his life.
Just like Chizuru, I couldn’t bear to see Heisuke being overly pessimistic. It was frustrating, so I was like, OH YEAH! When Chizuru slapped him to give some sense into him. In most routes, Chizuru was more passive and only used words to convince the bachelors and all. Seeing her using a bit of force was satisfying (sorry, Heisuke, but you need it). True to what he said, Chizuru’s presence gave him the confidence to see through all the hardships coming at him. Despite his condition, Chizuru always comes first to him.
I have no complaints about the romance between Heisuke and Chizuru, Heisuke’s character development, and Chizuru’s role on this route. Heisuke grew from, to put it simply, an unintentionally inconsiderate brat into a mature adult while still retaining his cheery disposition would make all Heisuke fans proud of him. Similarly, Chizuru takes a more active role in supporting Heisuke and also bravely facing the mind-controlled Sen is something to be praised. Even though she didn’t fight, she’s not just a bystander. Seeing the two of them together gave childhood friends becoming a couple vibe, most likely because they are the same age.
Another thing that I love from Heisuke’s route was Kazama. This route showed another side of Kazama that was not shown in other routes. Despite his disdain for humans and Furies, should bigger danger arise, he was willing to tolerate working with Heisuke. Even though it didn’t happen often, his banter with Heisuke was entertaining to watch. I was quite disappointed that in Edo Blossoms, Kazama was not present when Sen was kidnapped and instead was replaced by Kimigiku. While I could understand why, it was still a waste because the interaction between Heisuke and Kazama during this time in the original was equally fun to watch.
Also, Heisuke is one of humans/Furies that Kazama personally acknowledged as a warrior (not counting his acknowledgement in his own route). It’s never easy to gain Kazama’s respect, especially when you are a Fury that Kazama considered as nothing more than a fake. For Heisuke to earn Kazama’s respect of all people was a big feat. He respected him and Chizuru enough to let them slide despite Heisuke being a Fury, telling them a way that might negate the effect of Water of Life, and even promised to never involve himself with them ever again so they can have their peace. Of course, Kazama was being a tsundere and refused to admit this on their faces. (^w^)
And another change that I wholeheartedly welcome: In the original, Sen stopped Kazama from targeting Chizuru to be his bride by promising to bear his child in her place. In Edo Blossoms, Sen threatened Kazama that she would use her authority as the Princess of Yase Clan to turn demons throughout Japan against him and his clan. I was never a fan of the Kazama-Sen pairing, so I’m grateful for this change that Otomate made. Also, while Kazama agreed to stop trying to kidnap Chizuru, he didn’t say that he would exactly give up on making her his bride. Sen’s condition was limited only if he did so by force, but if Chizuru herself is the one willing to be his bride, then Sen has no say in the matter. Well, Kazama still ended up giving up due to his newfound respect for Heisuke.
Sen and Kimigiku’s more prominent inclusion was also a plus. Sen was cool when she threatened Kazama and Amagiri. That’s a demon princess for you! But what I like was that this route gave more insight on Sen and Kimigiku. Sen is admired and loved by the demons in her village, but she didn’t have any close friends before meeting Chizuru due to her role as a princess. Her bond with Kimigiku was also shown to be more of sisters rather than a master and her servant. As two of the only three female characters in the whole game, I appreciated their roles in Heisuke’s route.
And then Kodo. I initially expected for Kodo to appear since Heisuke’s struggle revolved around his identity as a Fury. I don’t like Kodo, but him not appearing on Heisuke’s route felt lacking for Heisuke’s growth since Kodo was partially responsible for Heisuke’s condition and also providing answer.
Overall, I enjoyed playing Heisuke’s route, but I think the route focused too much on the angst aspect and it lacks the CG of Heisuke and Chizuru together. The route was dragging too much in Heisuke trying to come into terms with his fear. Heisuke’s banter with Kazama became the saving grace that prevented the route from falling into full-blown angst. Maybe it’s not as romantic as the other routes, but I don’t mind with Chizuru and Heisuke’s relationship progress that felt purer, befitting their age.