Hakuoki Shinkai Fūkaden [Shinpachi Nagakura Route]
After Sanan, Shinpachi was the second amongst the six new routes that I chose to play. I quite like Shinpachi, who is part of the “cheerful noisy trio” (Heisuke-Sano-Shinpachi).
When I first played the original game, I wondered why he didn’t have a route of his own while Heisuke and Sano have. The Shinkai games finally added his route, but by this time, I already can’t see Shinpachi as a bachelor for Chizuru.
There will be HEAVY SPOILERS! Read at your own risk, don’t say I haven’t warned you!
Shinpachi was a funny guy and kinda dumb character amongst the Shinsengumi and one of the first who treated Chizuru kindly. While Sano and Heisuke often go to Shimabara for the sake and simply hang out with their friends, Shinpachi regularly visits the red-light district for the company of the women there. It was his wish to be popular with ladies. Sadly for Shinpachi, he’s not a women magnet due to his insensitivities, so his best friend Sano was the one who always got the girls (and the fact you don’t even know why you can’t be popular already shows that you’re hopeless). Instead, he’s popular amongst guys because of how manly he is, earning their admiration (which Shinpachi initially lamented because he wished he could be popular with girls). XD
Although, he was also one of the guys who would be willing to kill Chizuru if necessary and would participate in torturing prisoners (And I still wanna punch him for what he said in Shinsengumi Adventures about getting rid of Chizuru right when she’s there). But that can be put in the back of mind once knowing him personally.
I enjoyed many of his moments in his route, but there were often times I thought Shinpachi’s route was not handled properly, a mess. For one thing, the previous games always emphasize how Shinpachi considered Chizuru as his little sister. I have grown to get used to seeing their relationship as brother and sister, so seeing Chizuru romancing Shinpachi in his route just didn’t hit me.
Things went downhill when Shinpachi became a Fury at the end of Kyoto Winds. Amongst the captains, Shinpachi was against the most of becoming the Fury. He would rather die as a warrior in battle rather than becoming a Fury (even Sano at least accepted the vial first before later throwing it away). He wouldn’t even touch let alone take the vial of Water of Life when Sanan offered it as an alternative in the worst case scenario. He was also against Heisuke drinking it even when his best friend was close to dying, but relented to leave the choice to Heisuke and still considered him as his best friend after his transformation.
Since Sano didn’t become a Fury in his route, I thought the same could happen to Shinpachi, that he would stay as a human. Sadly, the story took the opposite turn. During the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, Inoue made a big mistake to spare their enemies, resulting in the said enemies to counterattack, critically injuring Inoue and Shinpachi (Inoue, I never thought you’d be this naive)! Knowing he’s not strong enough to protect Chizuru and defeat their enemies even with the Water of Life, Inoue regretfully made Shinpachi drink the serum he was carrying in his dying moments. Inoue knew full well how much Shinpachi hated the idea of becoming a Fury and was ready to accept any grudge he would hold against him.
Shinpachi’s nightmare came true, the moment he became a Fury, he lost it. If Amagiri hadn’t stepped in, he would’ve continued going on a rampage. He didn’t even remember having drunk Water of Life until later at the end despite Chizuru’s effort to hide this fact from him. Here, Shinpachi once again proved how great of a man he is. While it’s difficult for him to become the very thing he detested, he never blamed nor hated Inoue for turning him into one and he was glad he could protect Chizuru. What a big heart you have, Shinpachi! (TT_TT)
Still, in Edo Blossoms, Shinpachi’s optimism didn’t last long. Once everyone knew he became a Fury, they questioned how he had the serum and why he drank it. Shinpachi didn’t want to paint Inoue in a bad light, so he lied that he drank the serum out of his own volition. And he tried to be optimistic by convincing himself that he wouldn’t be alive had he not drunk the serum. Too bad for him, it was only a matter of time for him to break. It’s obvious that part of him still refused to face the fact that he is a Fury, even throwing away the medicine Heisuke gave him to suppress his bloodlust, insisting he wouldn’t go mad. He ignored orders and kept doing his activities in broad daylight like usual, insisting that he’s still a human. As if that wasn’t enough, Shinpachi also has his head full of Shinsengumi’s unpleasant situation.
Meeting with Kodo only gave him more of a slap on the face as Kodo called him a Fury. He didn’t want to admit to himself that he became Fury. He finally broke down when Kondou’s decision led to the deaths of many men and loss of their military sources. He lost faith in Kondou for treating him as a Fury rather than an equal and caring more for his title. And to pour salt into the wound, Kondou flat out told him that since Shinpachi is a Fury, he’s the same as being a deceased man and couldn’t let him leave the Shinsengumi.
I have to agree with Shinpachi here. He has every right to get mad at Kondou. I know that Kondou didn’t mean to hurt Shinpachi’s feelings, but he went too far with his words. Not just that, Kondou’s behaviour since he was made a daimyo (useless title since the shogunate didn’t have much authority anymore) was also inexcusable. It’s understandable that Shinpachi couldn’t see Kondou as the one he was willing to lay his life to like before. Still, it didn’t mean Shinpachi stopped caring for the Shinsengumi chief. Regardless of his mistakes, Shinpachi believed that Kondou didn’t deserve to be treated as a criminal, so he was crushed when learning he was beheaded. Adding more, Sano decided to defend Edo, leaving Shinpachi’s side. And again, Shinpachi let Sano go without holding any grudge. (TTxTT)
With everything that happened in such a short time, Shinpachi’s emotional crisis worsened. He started to fight relentlessly like he has a death wish and even embraced his identity as a Fury. He said it was to keep his men alive, but it’s clear that he was trying to cope with his grief over losing Kondou and missing his best friend. Too bad, the war won’t give him the time to leisurely sort out his breaking heart. The moment he lost control of his Fury power again, Shinpachi finally admitted that he regretted ever letting himself drink Water of Life and lost the will to live. He fell into despair that he secluded himself from the world.
It pains me to see Shinpachi’s struggle. He became the very thing he hated, not treated as a human by people around him, and then lost his friends. Above all, he couldn’t forgive himself for turning into a Fury that went against the very code he lived for. He was close to being an empty shell and desperate to throw his life away.
Thankfully, Chizuru was there with him. She never gave up on Shinpachi, patiently waiting for him to sort out his emotional crisis. After Shinpachi became a Fury, Chizuru was able to relate to Shinpachi in a way. After learning that she’s a demon, Chizuru also experienced an identity crisis. She understood Shinpachi’s predicament in accepting the fact that he is not a human anymore. Chizuru had always wished to be a normal human girl living a normal life as ever since the realization that she’s a demon, only troubles coming to her. It took a lot of time for Chizuru to come into terms with her heritage. The same way Shinpachi accepted Chizuru for who she is, Chizuru accepted Shinpachi unconditionally. There’s no reason to act differently just because they’re not humans.
And what I like from Chizuru in this route, for once, she actually trained her swordsmanship and spoke like a swordsman to reignite Shinpachi’s will to keep fighting. She reminded Shinpachi why he picked up his sword and what is the cause that he believed and most importantly, how his sword has saved many people. I’m so proud of Shinpachi when he fought and won against Amagiri without borrowing his Fury power. Amagiri didn’t change into his demon form, but for a human to win against a demon even in their normal form is not an easy feat. In return, he also earned Amagiri’s respect and thus, entrusted Chizuru’s safety to him. After all those depressions, Shinpachi finally got what he deserved!
Overall, Shinpachi’s route was okay. Just not in the romance department.
I get it that Otomate most likely decided to make Shinpachi a Fury to show his emotional struggle. I did enjoy his character development and was happy to see how much he matured at the end of his route. However, I think for Shinpachi, it’s better for him to stay human against all odds and still overcome his obstacles and come out triumphant. Actually, it would be better for some of the guys, specifically the ones who historically survived, didn’t become Furies. Even without Water of Life, they’ll survive in the end.
Another thing is his romance with Chizuru. Shinpachi already said more than often that Chizuru is like a sister to him. Throughout the game, there were hardly moments that I found would lead to romantic attractions towards each other because the idea of them being “siblings” had already been strongly attached into my mind. I mean, they could still bond without entering a romantic relationship. It’s too awkward for me. I like it better for them to remain as brother and sister.
For my fellow Hakuoki fans out there, if you have any suggestion of whose route I should do next, feel free to tell me. I’m saving my favorites for the last though.