After much thinking, I decided to do my most favorite Otome Game, Hakuoki. I know it’s already released a few years ago, but I just have to write this!
The game has several remakes, and the latest one is the Shinkai series. In localization, the first two Shinkai games are titled “Kyoto Winds” and “Edo Blossoms“. Shinkai Fuukaden, on the other hand, is basically those two games combined into one ported into Nintendo Switch. Since it’s a hassle to write separate posts of Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms, I think it’s better to just write the whole complete routes.
I’m going to post from the least to the most likeable bachelor. I want to save my favorites for the last! (^w^)
For the first post as well as the first route that I played, it’s about the bachelor that I like the least in the entirety of Hakuoki, Sanan. He is one of six new bachelors included in the Shinkai series and the oldest one. I heard he’s quite popular in Japan, so no wonder he got a route of his own. Sanan is the General Secretary (the localization translated his title as Colonel, but I chose to go with the wikipedia title) and also shared the same position as Commander together with Hijikata. Amongst the Captains and bachelors, he’s the oldest one. I have no problem with the age gap by this time for two reasons: First, the story took place during Bakumatsu era, which is normal for pairs with huge age gap to be in a relationship. Second, as long as Chizuru is already old enough and the pair are mutually in love with each other and have a healthy relationship, I don’t mind at all (several of my uncles and aunts are like that).
There will be HEAVY SPOILERS! Read at your own risk, don’t say I haven’t warned you!
Frankly speaking, I don’t like Sanan much, not to the point of hating him though. My first impression of Sanan when I played the original game was that he is the kind intelligent type character who served as the “main brain” for the Shinsengumi. At the beginning, he was kind and considerate, but then he became a Fury and my opinion about him changed 120 degrees, especially after he attempted to cut Chizuru for her blood. And let’s not forget about what he became in Sano, Heisuke, and Saito’s routes. Remembering him in all those three routes boiled my blood! I felt like seeing Jekyll and Hyde in him! A mad scientist! Even seeing him in Hijikata’s route didn’t make me feel much better about him. However, his route in Shinkai gave more depth and development into his character.
Sanan suffered a severe injury that crippled his right arm. This is a fate worse than death for a samurai. For those whose aspiration lay in holding a sword but was unable to wield one, then living was no better than being dead. To make things worse for Sanan, the arrival of Itou Kashitaro into their ranks caused a slump in his position within the Shinsengumi. Even though Hijikata and the others insisted that Sanan is still an important and irreplaceable member to them, it didn’t make Sanan feel any better.
His frustration of not being able to fight together with his comrades and the pity he got from some of the other members made Sanan bitter. He would scold anyone for a little mistake, becoming cynical, causing many members to think badly of him. Chizuru’s concern, while well-intentioned, was taken more as an insult to Sanan even though he knew she didn’t mean anything bad from it. He hated being seen as disabled.
I could sympathize with Sanan’s predicament. He is a warrior of the Shinsengumi. Being forced to stay on the sideline must have pained him. To him, being intelligent and cunning as a strategist was not enough to help his comrades. Before being a General Secretary or a strategist, he was a swordsman. He had been working hard together with Hijikata to fulfil Kondo’s dream since their old times at Shiei Hall. It’s understandable that Sanan became so desperate to heal his arm by drinking Water of Life and became a Fury. To him, being a warrior of the Shinsengumi was everything. If there’s even a slightest bit of chance to heal his arm, he will take it, even at the cost of his humanity.
While I feel for Sanan, at the same time, a part of me was also frustrated by the way Sanan acted before he became a Fury. Sure, holding a sword with one hand lessened his power and strength significantly, but there has to be a way to fight using his sword with only one arm. Did he even try to do it? Did he even try to find a way? He’s smart, so he could’ve tried to think up another way to fight with his sword that doesn’t rely solely on strength. There are different ways of swordsmanship. But no, for a smart person, he instead wasted his time drowning in his self-pity. sigh
When his arm was healed, Sanan was obviously happy because he could fight as a swordsman again. Yes, he couldn’t go out in the open anymore, but he won’t be useless like before. And this was when another problem rose for Sanan. In the original, despite the bloodlust, he was proud of becoming a Fury. After becoming a Fury though, he aimed to deploy the Fury Corps to get more credits and even tried to convince the others that adding more Furies is necessary despite the risk of going mad due to bloodlust. Unlike the rest who have reservations about Water of Life, Sanan considered it as a gift from heaven. He became obsessed with his Fury research even more than before.
In Shinkai, Sanan’s internal struggle was explored in more detail. He was still proud of being a Fury, but he was troubled by the fact there were times he feels like he is going to lose himself. Leading the Fury Corps and continuing the research on Water of Life took up his time, isolating him from everyone. He began to question his own existence in the Shinsengumi for a different reason. His arm has healed, he became a swordsman again, and yet he still feel he’s dead. It didn’t end with that.
Other members, especially Heisuke who joined Fury Corps after becoming a Fury, saw a change in Sanan’s behavior, particularly in how he overkilled their enemies. He would kill enemies who couldn’t fight back or try to run away without hesitation. And then there’s a string of murders when they moved to Edo after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. It’s not strange that Heisuke and Hijikata were suspicious that he was starting to go mad from bloodlust. Sanan once again felt he was losing his way when the Fury Corps was forbidden to enter the battlefield, stripping Sanan’s honor away from him. Again, Sanan was desperate to help himself and the Fury Corps that he formed a temporary partnership with Amagiri behind Hijikata’s back.
Sanan also realized that being a Fury was not a blessing like he thought it was. He found that his life became shorter the more he used his Fury power. His left shoulder began to crack, showing that it would be only a matter of time for him to turn into ashes. He didn’t know how long his body could hold up. This forced him to leave the Shinsengumi. Staying and waiting only meant a death sentence for him and the rest of the Fury Corps. If he’s the only one who became a Fury, he would have been willing to just wither away as a warrior. The thing that stopped him from choosing this path was the rest of the Fury Corps who trusted him to save them. Sanan couldn’t just abandon them. Once he found out the fate of all Furies, any pride Sanan had on being one vanished. He scoffed at the thought, thinking himself stupid for ever took pride in it.
About time for you to open your eyes, Sanan! Throughout your route I’ve been waiting for you to say that. It never ceased to annoy me whenever you said that being a Fury is godsend and blah, blah, blah. (_ _lll)
But of course, Chizuru saved him from losing sight of himself. In such difficult times, Chizuru was more concerned for Sanan. She would notice if Sanan seemed off and make some time to check up on him whenever she could. While everyone else was suspicious of his behavior and suspected he was the culprit of serial murder, Chizuru was the only one who believe in him. Chizuru helped Sanan remind himself that at his core, whether he’s a human or a Fury, was still a proud member of the Shinsengumi and a living being.
Chizuru had seen Sanan’s gentle side when she first arrived in the Shinsengumi. When he changed after his arm was injured, Chizuru always hoped that he would return to the kind Sanan that she knew and tried to understand him so she could convey her concern properly without being unintentionally insensitive. Her concern for him only grew after he became a Fury. She sought to have faith in him and frantically searched for him when he went missing. When he pretended to kill Heisuke and worked with Kodo, Chizuru was heartbroken, but a part of her still wanted to believe in Sanan (and she’s not wrong to keep this hope up). Touched by Chizuru’s kindness and faith in him, Sanan did his best to protect Chizuru in return. The people he killed including the ones who couldn’t fight back or tried to run away? Those people were working under Kaoru’s order to observe Chizuru, so he killed them, all for Chizuru’s safety. When he must leave the Shinsengumi to gain Kodo’s Fury research, he visited Chizuru to say goodbye while giving her a kiss while she was sleeping.
The peak of Sanan’s character development was when Sanan revealed his condition to Chizuru. He was close to giving up his life after he believed all his hard work to find a way to return Furies back into humans was meaningless. Again, he was surprised by Chizuru’s sincerity even after he made her went through a hard time during her captivity. Each time she did so made Sanan afraid because it gave him close to impossible hope to prolong his life so they can be together. Every time he tried to push this hope away, Chizuru refused to give in, urging him to find a way to prolong his life. She didn’t mind if he couldn’t become a human anymore. As long as they are together, she would be happy with him even if he remained a Fury. In the end, Sanan was no match for Chizuru’s stubbornness and faith in him.
The end of Sanan’s route was not bittersweet like Okita’s despite his condition. In fact, he and Chizuru went as far as going to Europe to the place where it was said the creature whose blood was used to create Water of Life was first sighted. In the original and other routes, it was only implied about the creature that became the basis of Fury. In this epilogue, it’s confirmed that the creature is indeed a vampire.
I found it interesting that there were several things that mirrored Okita’s route on Sanan’s route. First would be Sanan and Okita themselves. Sanan and Okita were faced with the fact that they couldn’t fight anymore for the Shinsengumi due to their conditions, and that led them to make the decision into becoming a Fury so they could fight again. This also led to a similarity in their romance with Chizuru. Sanan and Okita soon must face the fact that they wouldn’t live long and try to push Chizuru away from them. Chizuru decided to be with them regardless of their end. It didn’t matter if she come to regret her decision later on, she still want to stay with them even if their time together wouldn’t last long. She would endure anything to be by their side.
I also found this route kinda ironic. In Heisuke’s route, Sanan became the main antagonist, kidnapping Sen to create the kingdom of Furies and ended up being killed by Heisuke. In this route, however, not only did he teamed up with Heisuke, Sen and Kimigiku also joined the fray to assist him. Still, I liked it when watching him and Heisuke defeating Kaoru together.
Another thing, I found it funny when Sanan and Kaoru have a brief banter. Kaoru actually challenged Sanan in trading insults. The winner? Sanan of course! As Chizuru said, no one was more skilled in making snide remarks than Sanan. The moment Kaoru took offence and became agitated, he lost to Sanan. Other than Okita, Sanan is another person who REALLY gets under his skin (Kaoru said so himself). Lol
Speaking about Kaoru, he was still a jerk in this route with his twisted love for Chizuru. The difference was, he didn’t bear grudges against humans like in other routes and has no desire to restore the Yukimura clan. Instead, his hatred was directed against Kodo alone. This is a welcome change. I was bored since in other routes Kaoru’s obsession with revenge against humanity were all the same.
Kodo was still a madman. He intended to turn all humans and demons in Japan into Furies. Not only that, he was the one who arranged for the Yukimura Clan to be annihilated just so he could abduct Chizuru, who is a pureblood female demon, to further this sick plan of his. He abandoned Kaoru to the Nagumo clan, ignoring his abuse. I never liked Kodo, so I couldn’t care less about him. What made me disappointed is how Kodo was portrayed in this route at the very end. Not long after he intended to trap Chizuru for the rest of her life, he suddenly cared for Chizuru when she was attacked by Kaoru. His change was too abrupt. It only ruined his character. It would’ve been better if he just stayed evil.
Overall, this route is okay. Barely passed. The problem for me is, while I enjoyed Sanan’s growth in his route, I just couldn’t see him as a love interest for Chizuru. Yes, there were moments when I think his interaction with Chizuru was sweet, especially that part when he said his goodbye to the sleeping Chizuru, but it’s just that. Only the moment itselves was sweet. Perhaps it was because of Sanan’s appearance and voice. He looked so old that rather than a couple, I saw him and Chizuru more like a father and daughter. If he looks more like Hijikata, regardless of his age, maybe I could see them more as a couple.