And now, I’m going to cover Sano’s route. He is the last of the cheerful noisy trio (Heisuke-Sano-Shinpachi) and I dare say he has one of the most romantic routes in the whole game.
I’m warning you, there will be a HEAVY SPOILER in this entry. Read at your own risk, don’t say I haven’t warned you.
As a character, Sanosuke Harada or Sano is what you call a ladies’ man, gentleman, etc. He is handsome, kind, strong, sensitive, to put it simply, he is an ideal man to become a husband. No wonder he’s so popular with women, as opposed to his best friend Shinpachi (the poor guy, but that is his own fault). I enjoyed playing his route. Sano was one of the very first Shinsengumi members who was kind to Chizuru and could tell that she was a girl from the beginning. Sano understood that Chizuru was just a young woman who was at the wrong place and at the wrong time, and he sympathized with her situation. He’s under the obligation to kill Chizuru should she proven to be a liability or a threat and warned her to understand how dangerous the situation would be for her if she knew more than necessary about the Shinsengumi. Despite this, Sano tried what he could to make Chizuru’s stay comfortable, even went as far as taking her out for a brief stroll even though it went against order.
Sano firmly believed that a warrior must always protect women and children. For this reason, he often said that a woman, including Chizuru, whether she’s a human or demon, must not get dragged into a battlefield. In the present time, many women may take offense from his statement, but I certainly don’t. There are three reasons why I support Sano:
- Hakuoki takes place during the Edo Period where society works differently from the modern time.
- When he said this to Chizuru, his concern was justified. Unfortunately for the heroine, she’s not a fighter in any way despite having learned a bit of swordsmanship and a demon. I’m not going to sugar-coat, in a physical fight, Chizuru is very weak, even against foot soldiers.
- He’s not saying this because he looks down on women, he said so because he cares and doesn’t want any woman (and children) to get hurt.
If Chizuru was able to hold her ground just fine, then I’ll be a bit angry at Sano for constantly saying women shouldn’t fight. However, since Chizuru pretty much couldn’t protect herself, I have nothing to refute Sano’s statement.
I enjoyed Chizuru’s interaction with Sano very much in terms of romance. Unlike most bachelors, Sano was more open-minded and straightforward to Chizuru in expressing his concern. As I mentioned before, whenever Chizuru was feeling down, he was quick to realize and immediately tried to find a way to cheer her up. Chizuru was touched by Sano’s continuous kindness that gradually bloomed into love.
On the other hand, in Sano’s view, even though Chizuru was weak in a fight, she has a strong heart. It’s very obvious that she had it rough living with the Shinsengumi who might kill her at any time, and yet never once Chizuru complained nor she begrudged them for her situation. Instead, she strove to be useful for them because she knew that deep down they’re good people at heart. Sano was impressed by Chizuru’s sincerity and bravery, and eventually trusted her enough to open his heart to, including his secret dream that he never shared to even his closest friends.
Of course, the progress of their relationship was not without obstacles. There were several problems, mainly from the fact that Chizuru and Sano are of different races. Chizuru was having an identity crisis due to her lineage as a demon. Chizuru developed some sort of inferiority complex, thinking she’s not good enough for Sano since she’s not a human. And this was worsened when Shiranui (I really wanted to punch him for this) bluntly told her that she’s a monster and one day she’ll be abandoned by the humans she called her friends.
Thankfully, Sano eased her fear near the end of Kyoto Winds by telling her that he never thought of her as a monster (YEAH, YOU TOLD HER, SANO!). In his eyes, Chizuru was just a normal girl with a fast healing body and nothing more. To him, both humans and demons experience the same feelings. I really loved the part when he said this because he said it while pulling Chizuru into his embrace so she could listen to his heartbeat! EEEEEEEPPPPPP! (^/////^)
While Chizuru was no longer concerned about being seen as a monster at the end of Kyoto Winds, Chizuru still has insecurities about her lineage. In Edo Blossoms, Chizuru’s insecurity about herself was for a different reason. Being a pureblood female demon descended from once the strongest demon clan of the east made her a target for male demons like Kazama, especially considering the fact that female demons are rare to begin with. Chizuru was plagued with fear that if not Kazama, then other male demons might come after her. She believed that she would only bring danger to the people she loved and could never have a normal life.
At the same time, after he was defeated by Shiranui and nearly got killed, Sano was frustrated by the difference in power between himself and Shiranui. From their third battle, Sano realized that Shiranui had been holding back against him during their previous battles. The realization crushed Sano’s pride and self-esteem a great deal. It didn’t help when Heisuke, Sanan, and Shinpachi pointed out how it’s impossible for him to take on a demon one-on-one. The reminder of his loss could be considered a taboo for Sano. Shinpachi tried to make a joke out of the fight, but this backfired and instead it ticked him off. The bitter memory of his defeat soon clouded his mind. Sano began avoiding Chizuru after she refused to tell him what’s bothering her. He was already bothered by his defeat, and with Chizuru not opening up to him, Sano came to believe that he was the problem. He thought that she started growing sick of him for failing to protect her from Shiranui.
I felt bad for Sano, but seeing him so troubled by his bitter memory of his defeat was interesting. It shows how human Sano was. He’s mad at himself, and then being told he can never defeat Shiranui since he’s only a human, still Sano chose to continue fighting as a human. No matter how many times people around him tell him it’s impossible for him to win against a demon without becoming a Fury, Sano believed he could win if he kept trying. Sano proved himself right in the end.
That’s not the end, there were two other problems for Sano. First, it lies in fulfilling his dream. Sano, despite being a warrior, was actually a family man. All he wanted was to have a family and live peacefully with them. Knowing this dream made Chizuru’s insecurity grow because she thought Sano would never have his dream fulfilled due to the danger she might pose if they were to ever be in a relationship. Chizuru has given up and was determined to never confess her feelings for him. Honestly, whenever Chizuru was thinking like this, I was like “COME ON, CHIZURU! BE MORE OPTIMISTIC! GET THE MAN ALREADY!” It’s kinda frustrating. I understand why she felt that way, but still I couldn’t help but feel frustrated.
Before meeting his friends, Sano used to be some delinquent who formed a close friendship with an older boy until this friend of his decided to give up his position to get married and lived in the countryside with his wife and kids. Back then, Sano doubted he could live that way, but after spending his time fighting and risking his lives on a daily basis, Sano finally realized how wonderful it would be to have a family and just settle down. Despite knowing this, he couldn’t bring himself to commit to a relationship with any woman. While he wanted to have a family, he also took pride in being a warrior. Having a quiet life with a family is something impossible for a warrior unless he gives up completely like Sano’s old friend did. Sano was faced with an internal dilemma. Sano always hesitated to take the final step most likely because of his loyalty for his friends in the Shinsengumi. And yet, he also couldn’t completely let go of his dream. He was fully aware that he couldn’t have both sides of life and must give up one of them.
The other problem was his personal conflict in regards his wavering faith in Shinsengumi and Shogunate. Sano has been with Kondo and Hijikata since before the Shinsengumi was formed, and followed them because he trusted them. He’s already happy and proud enough that the Shinsengumi protect the citizens of Kyoto. However, Sano began questioning the Shinsengumi after Heisuke became a Fury and Kondou gradually let the fame got the better of him. He lost sight of what they were actually fighting for. For Kondou, perhaps he’s fighting for the Shogunate, but Sano didn’t believe the whole thing started just so they could fight for the Shogun’s war. Sano found himself unable to serve the Shogunate as he opposed the actions of the Shogunate that mandated the research of the Water of Life, the serum responsible for ruining many lives including his best friend. Furthermore, the approaching war would bring chaos to the town they have been protecting.
Meeting Chizuru changed everything. He finally found a woman that he loved more than anything, even if it means leaving behind his old friends. And Chizuru’s presence helped Sano in making up his mind to leave the Shinsengumi for good. I think it’s the best for Sano to leave. Staying with Shinsengumi when they have too much difference that they couldn’t compromise would only worsen their relationship and won’t be healthy for Sano’s psyche, so it’s better to leave before things could escalate to the worst scenario.
Chizuru and Sano’s romance was one of the best! They’re the only one pair that is shown to reach the top of a relationship: becoming a complete family. They have a son at the end of Edo Blossoms! When I saw their ending, I thought that I’d love to see their life as a family with their son. And Otomate made it come true through Ginsei no Shou!
Other than Chizuru and Sano’s relationship, what I love from Sano’s route is that, for a change, unlike the other routes, Sano stays as a human. Even though he knew that the Water of Life could save his life in the worst case scenario and knowing the huge power differences between humans and demons after his loss against Shiranui, Sano still decided to stay true to his conviction to live his life as a human. Plus, he has proven in his fight against Kodo that even as a human, he could still win against a demon without solely depending on strength or power. I like it since this is, in a way, proves that humans can defeat demons in one-on-one fights. In a true fight, strength is not everything after all.
I also like Sano’s friendship with Heisuke and Shinpachi, more with the latter. Sano and Shinpachi have been best friends since forever. If it weren’t for Kodo’s genocide plan, Sano would have fought along side Shinpachi first before helping Chizuru. And while it seems Sano left the Shinsengumi only to protect Chizuru, it’s actually not the case. Sano would have been willing to leave the Shinsengumi together with Shinpachi even if Chizuru was not there. Making the decision to leave Shinpachi was also hard for Sano. And Shinpachi, he’s really the man! He’s saddened and hurt that Sano left him after everything they went through, but Shinpachi understood and with a big heart gave them his blessing, placing his best friend’s happiness above his own. I’m so touched that he didn’t let that affect their friendship!
The additional inclusion of Ryunosuke and Kosuzu made Sano and Chizuru’s journey even better! It’s sweet to see Chizuru being all bashful to admit that she’s Sano’s lover while Kosuzu and Ryunosuke quickly realized her relationship with Sano and teased her for it. Ryunosuke also served as giving another moment for Sano to reminisce his past and how he had to give them up that led to the present, one decision that while saddened him in a way, it’s a decision he didn’t and would never regret. I love seeing Sano acting so brotherly towards Ryunosuke.
And then Shiranui. I like him as a character. Sure, there were times I had the urge of wanting to beat him up to a pulp, like that one time with his harsh remark towards Chizuru. But as the story progressed, he won over me. He made sarcastic and harsh comments about how he hates humans and all, seemingly looking down on them like Kazama. In reality, that’s not actually the case.
His side of the story was further elaborated in Stories of Shinsengumi DLC that was told from his POV. Unlike Kazama, Shiranui didn’t look down on humans with disdain. This was because Shiranui formed a close friendship with Shinsaku Takasugi, whom he said to be a very interesting human. While Kazama and Amagiri helped humans of Satsuma to pay their ancestral debt, Shiranui wholeheartedly supported Takasugi out of loyalty to his human friend (there’s still a debt to pay, but mainly for Takasugi’s sake). Shiranui won’t let anyone mock his best friend, even if it’s Kazama when the latter accused Takasugi as another greedy human.
Unfortunately for Shiranui, Takasugi died of tuberculosis before the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. Takasugi’s death greatly affected Shiranui. All his talk about hating humans and saying humans are weak and everything was only a way for him to cope with his friend’s death. Takasugi’s death showed Shiranui the side of the fragility of human lives that he didn’t see before. He became afraid of experiencing the same pain again if he were to involve himself with humans, so he decided to cut all ties with humans once the war was over. Losing one human friend was more than enough for him. I couldn’t imagine the pain he’s suppressing inside. It must be very hard on him….(TT_TT)
Shiranui’s loyalty to Takasugi persisted even after Takasugi’s death. Shiranui still wanted to at least help fulfill his dead friend’s dream. He used guns even though he didn’t need them because he wanted to show to people how great of a weapon it was to prove that Takasugi was right in modernizing Japan’s military. That way, Takasugi’s dream can continue to live on. He also refrained from causing a ruckus within Choshu forces to avoid people badmouthing his late friend. And when Kodo made the Choshu forces into Furies, Shiranui made it his goal to stop them and even apologized on their behalf, not wanting to taint his best friend’s name.
Sano and Shiranui’s rivalry is another charm from Sano’s route. Shiranui found Sano interesting since they first met and enjoyed their fight that he held back just so he could enjoy their fight longer. At first, Sano was just someone for him to kill some time when he’s bored, and later turned into a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of thing. Shiranui started to respect Sano after not only Sano fought and killed Kodo, but Sano also taught him while it’s painful, there’s a meaning in fragility of human life: it’s because they knew their lives are short that humans are able to do their best so they can live their lives to the fullest without regret, making the best of the little time they have. This reminded Shiranui of how Takasugi worked so hard until the very end of his life and brought him closure.
I found this part of Shiranui endearing and that’s what made him win over me. Seeing Shiranui like this made me hope for Shiranui to have his own route that will reveal more about his times with Takasugi. Takasugi appeared in Urakata Hakuoki, but Shiranui didn’t and the game is non-canonical, so I don’t give the game much thought. If there’s one thing that disappointed me, Shiranui never changed into his demon form in this route like in the original even though he’s supposed to be Sano’s rival.
Overall, Sano is one of the bachelors with the most romantic route. That opinion hasn’t changed ever since I played the previous games. This updated version of the game only increased more of the romantic moments and I couldn’t help but squeal two times more than before! Even after finishing his route, I have this urge to replay it again from the beginning! Sano as a character is still below my personal favorites, but it doesn’t make him any less than them. If someone like him exists in real life, I would love to have him as my husband! (^w^)
Is my entry too long? Is it boring? Sorry if it is, but my hands won’t stop typing until I’m satisfied. Perhaps the other entries would be the same, hahaha.