Out of all the new routes from the Shinsengumi (Yamazaki, Shinpachi, and Sanan), Yamazaki is the route I like the most. I can’t see Shinpachi and Sanan as love interests for Chizuru, but Yamazaki has my approval. Chizuru and Yamazaki unexpectedly have a better dynamic than I thought. They have many similarities that enable them to relate to each other.
Yamazaki is a member of the Watch, a special squad of the Shinsengumi that specialized in black ops, mainly information gathering. Due to his ninja-like attire and ninja-like fighting style, he’s often mistaken as a ninja (and he actually used that to his advantage at certain times). Together with Shimada, he was assigned by Hijikata to look for Kodo and watch over Chizuru from the shadows (without her knowing until much later).
There will be HEAVY SPOILERS! Read at your own risk, don’t say I haven’t warned you!
When I first played the original game, I never gave a thought about Yamazaki since to me he’s just a side character who was very obedient to Hijikata. I changed my mind after seeing his signature “Yamazaki Style: Tatami Flip” in Shinsengumi Adventures. That left a big impression on me! And not forgetting that he also has additional scenarios in Stories of Shinsengumi, which gave out more about his character. It made me want to know more about him. I am so happy that he was given his own route in the Shinkai series. His route didn’t disappoint too! XD
As a member of the Watch, Yamazaki was tasked with gathering information from various sides, either in disguise or hiding. He was very good at it, even able to analyze based on the sounds of footsteps to know who the person is. He diligently did his given duty without question, but he has one problem in regard to his position as a member of the Watch: He can’t help his comrades who are fighting. Even if his comrades are fighting in front of him, Yamazaki was not allowed to give them any assistance because he must deliver information back to the Shinsengumi. This part of his job frustrated Yamazaki as he could do nothing but watch his comrades die. Letting your comrades die even though you could’ve done something to help, yeah, that must be painful for Yamazaki.
Because of his inability to help his comrades, Yamazaki thought little of his own well-being. He thought that he doesn’t fight much compared to the other warriors who are fighting on the frontline, so whatever injuries he may suffer was nothing. If he were to lose his life in the effort to keep his allies safe, he’d consider it a job done. It’s the commitment he made when became a member of the Watch. Despite having accepted his duty as the Watch and took pride in his work, Yamazaki still had reservations with his position of being forbidden to fight alongside his comrades. He delivered information, tending to the wounded, but Yamazaki didn’t feel that’s enough. Self-deprecation always haunted Yamazaki whenever this happened.
Other than his duty as the Watch, he also served as medical support for the Shinsengumi. His family’s business was needles and herbal remedies, so he was knowledgeable of East Asian medicinal practice, though the most Yamazaki could do was simple first aid and hygiene care. Because Chizuru was quite knowledgeable of western medicine since she’s helping Kodo in his clinic, Yamazaki shared his medical book with Chizuru. This was the first step for Chizuru to get into Yamazaki’s heart.
When Yamazaki first met Chizuru and heard about her situation, Yamazaki thought that she would only bring trouble to the Shinsengumi. However, during the first time she was allowed to go outside and saw she didn’t show any intention of running away (he was watching her from the back), he was relieved. He also realized that not a single captain ever thought she’d make a run of it at that time. As she has earned the captains’ trust, Yamazaki learned to do the same. To help her boost her confidence, Yamazaki revealed that she’s no longer the person they’re watching and they entrust her with managing the compound’s medicine box as proof.
Still, it doesn’t mean he stopped following Chizuru from the shadows. This time, rather than making sure she won’t run away, he watched over her so that she’ll be safe. And since Chizuru was entrusted with the medicine box, Yamazaki often accompanied her to the doctor’s shop to get their medical supplies, which brought them closer and Yamazaki came to accept her as a comrade.
Yamazaki was prepared to lose his life at any moment, so by sharing his medical knowledge with Chizuru, he hoped for her to take care of Okita and the other warriors in his place in case something happened to him. Chizuru, never one to take life lightly, didn’t like the way Yamazaki talked about himself, so she refused and insisted that Yamazaki was the only one who is the best fit to take care of Okita. Yamazaki was surprised by Chizuru’s concern. Chizuru helped Yamazaki understand that just because he never join his comrades in the battlefield, it didn’t mean that he’s not fighting at all. By gathering crucial information and delivering it to the Shinsengumi, Yamazaki was fighting the war in his own way. The realization that he’s fighting as much as his comrades are, only in a different way, renewed Yamazaki’s pride as the Watch as well as seeing Chizuru in a new light. He took Chizuru’s words at heart: Fighting is not the key to everything; just because one cannot fight doesn’t mean they are useless in other facets of life. While concerned for Chizuru’s safety, Yamazaki respected Chizuru’s wishes to stay.
Following this realization, Yamazaki became a voice of reason for Hijikata. He knew the importance of a leader during a war. Just like in a game of chess, if the king is taken out, then the whole battle ends. Since Hijikata was taking the lead and if he dies, then who’s going to keep the Shinsengumi together? A group without a leader sooner or later would be crushed. Standing on the front lines of the losing side would only result in meaningless death. Retreating and running away are two different things. Retreating doesn’t mean you’re a coward, you simply keep yourself alive so you can fight for another day. Yamazaki did a good job at this part. In fact, this was the first time he disobeyed Hijikata’s order. That’s the first time I saw someone brave enough to be fierce on Hijikata. Even the captains (not including Okita), didn’t dare to go or argue against Hijikata. Applause for Yamazaki. (^o^)
This was the start of Yamazaki’s change. The old Yamazaki wouldn’t hesitate to give up his life for the sake of his mission. It was both a strength and weakness for Yamazaki. Not hesitating to give up life in battle would make one more effective in fighting against enemies. However, this consequently may also cause the person to lose sight of his own life.
Like most other human bachelors, Yamazaki ended up becoming a Fury. Honestly, I like that Yamazaki’s power and way of fighting as a Fury was different from the others. Unlike those who rely on the strength of swinging their swords, Yamazaki relied on his speed to make an attack fast enough that the enemies couldn’t see him on time to guard themselves. Yup, a ninja-way of fighting! Even Kazama and Amagiri have difficulty fighting against Yamazaki’s super speed until they transform into their demon forms! Wow, not anyone can fight on par against them!
Despite having to live in the world of night, Yamazaki didn’t have an ounce of regret in becoming a Fury, and again, thanks to Chizuru. Her decision to stay by his side even though it means living forever in the darkness touched him. As long as Chizuru is with him, he can face his life. It’s very obvious that Yamazaki already developed feelings for Chizuru at the end of Kyoto Winds. You could see from the way he blushed when she told him she’ll always stay by his side. And afterwards he told her twice how unfair she was for stealing his heart like that (but of course Chizuru, being dense, didn’t understand what he meant) 😀
Like everyone who became a Fury, Yamazaki was struggling from bloodlust. The more he fought, the more blood being shed, the more he lost sight of himself. The side-effect distorted his mind, causing him to prioritize subduing the enemies before saving his comrades. He mercilessly killed those who can’t even fight anymore and at one point would’ve killed Chizuru in a moment of bloodlust if she didn’t offer her blood to him. After getting used to fighting as a Fury, Yamazaki once again returned to not caring much about his own life as long as his mission was accomplished. His failed attempt at rescuing Kondou and Okita’s sacrifice only further solidified his decision to forfeit his life.
In addition to his bloodlust, he also shared Hijikata’s frustration at the shogunate for so easily surrendering. Yamazaki was furious at the shogunate for ignoring Hijikata’s efforts and easily turned their back on the people who fought for them despite all the protection they have received. Ever since the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, Yamazaki has been haunted by the sights of the dead Inoue and their friends. So many of his friends sacrificed themselves yet the Shogunate seemed to spit on their sacrifices, adding more pressure on Yamazaki’s psyche.
Thankfully, Dr. Matsumoto and Chizuru opened his eyes that the power of Fury would steal his future, causing people to mourn for his death. So focused on fulfilling his mission, Yamazaki forgot that there are people who care for him and want him to live, mainly Chizuru. By going through the experience of saving lives with his medical knowledge and killing many as a Fury, Yamazaki finally learned how to cherish more of human lives, especially his own. Following this realization, it sprout Yamazaki’s wish to save as many lives as he can, not by killing. Knowing he could have a future of his own, different from the Shinsengumi, Yamazaki decided not to use his Fury power unless it’s absolutely necessary so he can live.
In the final act as part of Shinsengumi, Yamazaki and Chizuru confronted Kodo and his army of Furies. As the Shinsengumi already had their hands full fighting against the Imperial Army, Yamazaki and Chizuru made it their decision to carry the mission to find and stop Kodo’s plan by themselves. They didn’t want to further burden the Shinsengumi with another task of big magnitude. This was the part I like the most. Their loyalty to the Shinsengumi played an important part in strengthening both their relationship and character growth. They made it their personal mission to handle Kodo alone in hope of lessening the Shinsengumi’s burden and that would be their last mission. As people who couldn’t help the Shinsengumi directly in the front lines, this was the least they could do.
Yamazaki has found the path that he thought was the best for him, not as the Shinsengumi’s shadow but as himself. For Chizuru, Kodo was the reason why she’s sticking with the Shinsengumi. Knowing her father’s plan, Chizuru took the responsibility to stop him. As she has decided to accompany Yamazaki, she will leave the Shinsengumi together with him. They did everything they could for the Shinsengumi and so their time with the Shinsengumi has drawn to its close.
Yamazaki’s route has the most romantic blood-giving in the whole game. At first, Yamazaki drank Chizuru’s blood from her hand, but then when confessing his feelings, he asked Chizuru to give her blood mouth-to-mouth. That’s how their first kiss was! And Yamazaki, as usual, was very shy when he asked, blabbering that in the West the act of kissing is a gesture of loyalty, wanting something more than “loyalty” to come out of their relationship. Oh, Yamazaki, the way you’re being a coy was so CUTE! But then he immediately threw away all the hesitation and won’t let go of Chizuru. Then what’s the point of being shy only seconds earlier?! Just do that from the very beginning! XD
Overall, I like Yamazaki’s route. The progress of his and Chizuru’s relationship was much smoother than I thought. It mainly thanks to both of them having medical backgrounds, making it easy for them to interact. Not forgetting that both shared the feeling of helplessness for being unable to help their comrades fighting directly, but able to help them in a different way. Yamazaki learned from Chizuru that he was fighting on his own way and Chizuru received Yamazaki’s support and trust that gave her confidence that she’s more helpful than she thought. I could guess that their ending would be the two of them becoming doctors and taking over the Yukimura Clinic. It’s obvious considering medicine and medical support were often mentioned throughout the route.
Yamazaki himself was a likeable character. Due to his attire, he could be mistaken for a ninja, even earning the nickname “Ninja-kun” by Okita in one of a 4-koma manga that I once read. This was rather ironic for Yamazaki, because he’s supposed to be a samurai. Due to how ninja mostly operated, they’re often frowned upon by those of samurai class.
I also like how Chizuru was taking action in this route. She’s more determined in stopping her father than in other routes. Not only did she help Yamazaki in distracting the Furies, she even prepared to kill Kodo herself.
Not forgetting Kazama and Amagiri. Turns out, other than Hijikata and Heisuke in their respective routes (and Kazama’s), Yamazaki also earned Kazama’s approval. Yamazaki has proven himself adept in battle and together with Chizuru went through with their promise of putting an end to Kodo’s plan. Kazama said that he killed Kodo because he believed Yamazaki and Chizuru didn’t have what it takes to do it, but I think he killed Kodo before they did to spare them, Chizuru specifically, from the burden of taking Kodo’s life (again, Kazama being a tsundere).
If there’s one problem with Yamazaki’s route, it’s too short compared to most of the other routes. I wish they explored Yamazaki and Chizuru’s story a bit longer. They have a great chemistry that the other routes didn’t have, so I had expected to see more of his route.