Now, I’m finally covering one of the new three characters introduced in Kyoto Winds, Kazue Souma. He is the youngest out of all the bachelors and one of the very few Shinsengumi warriors who historically survived the Boshin War. Just as written in history, Souma is the only bachelor to be shown alive at the end on other routes.
Souma is introduced as a warrior from a samurai family who worked for another domain. He later left his domain to join Shinsengumi after being impressed and inspired by their warrior spirit. As a new recruit, he was appointed as Kondou’s page, making him Chizuru’s kouhai (junior) alongside another recruit Risaburo Nomura.
Again, I’m irked by the translation. They translated Chizuru and Souma’s relationship as “teacher” and “student” instead of senior and junior. Consequently, Souma calls Chizuru “Miss Yukimura” and refers to her as his “teacher”. Similarly, Chizuru also refers to him as her “student”. For those who don’t understand Japanese, this can cause misunderstandings, yes? If it’s going to be like that, it would’ve been much better if they just stuck with the Japanese terms, keeping the “Senpai” and suffixes “-san” and “-kun”! The anime dub also stuck to that! It’s much better than this translation!
Ahem. Anyway, Souma is quite a stereotypical kouhai character. Honest, earnest, and hardworking while also a bit gullible, Souma is quick to become one of my favorite characters.
There will be HEAVY SPOILERS! Read at your own risk, don’t say I haven’t warned you!
In Kyoto Winds, Souma’s route focused on his pursuit of becoming a true warrior and his devotion to the Shinsengumi. Even though he was born from a samurai family and even appointed to officially work under a domain and later the Shogunate army, Souma was disheartened and disappointed that his peers don’t have any warrior spirit. His fellow soldiers much preferred to be in their comfort zone rather than risking their necks on the battlefield even though they were supposed to be samurai. Souma was at a loss of his path until he met the Shinsengumi.
When he first met the Shinsengumi, he didn’t have a nice first impression about them and thought they were ruthless like the rumor said. Not a strange reaction considering they literally dragged Souma to their compound without explanation. However, after Kondou apologized to him directly and even bowed to him while doing so, Souma was completely taken aback and revised his opinion about them. Well yeah, I would’ve been surprised too. It’s extremely rare for someone in a high position willing to bow down like Kondou did. Props to Kondou. But honestly speaking, I think Sano, Heisuke, and Shinpachi also still needs to apologize properly instead of letting Kondou did it for them.
After accompanying them on a patrol and witnessed their deeds, Souma realized that the Shinsengumi are exactly the true warriors he is aiming to be. The soldiers that he knew are nothing compared to them. To Souma, a true warrior isn’t determined by social standing or connections. A true warrior is someone who is passionate about defending those around them, even at the risk of their own lives. This view was considered radical at that time, and many would’ve criticized Souma for it. Still, Souma stuck to this belief because he had seen plenty of men who claimed to be a warrior yet so complacent and happy to be handed what they were given at birth. Once joining the Shinsengumi, Souma takes his new role seriously no matter how small the job or task he is given.
Funnily, Souma at first didn’t know that Chizuru is a girl. It took him a freaking WHOLE MONTH until he found out, which led to a comical moment between the three pages.
Souma’s swordsmanship is only a little above average. Against small fries, he would be okay, but against an experienced swordsman, Souma is as good as dead. However, Souma’s bravery, diligence, and earnest disposition soon earned him respect from the captains. Even Okita, who likes to bully new recruits with his harsh training and rarely praises anyone, gradually accepted Souma. Okita initially hated Souma for his upbringing. He came from a warrior family and yet he threw it all away to join the Shinsengumi. This is like insulting the Shinsengumi who are working bone to bone so they can have the life that Souma was given. It’s like Souma is rubbing it all over their faces. But knowing how sincere Souma’s respect for the Shinsengumi makes Okita trust him enough to entrust Kondou and Chizuru’s protection to him.
In Edo Blossoms, Souma tries to find his purpose in life. For all his good nature, Souma has a bad habit of trying to atone for things that are out of his control. Throughout his route in Edo Blossoms, Souma (along with Chizuru and Nomura) is always rescued by their comrades whenever they’re in a bind. The continuous rescue that comes at the cost of their comrades’ lives causes Souma to develop a survivor’s guilt, fettered by a self-imposed emotional exile. He sees himself as worthless, undeserving to live at the expense of his comrades whom he believed deserve to live more than him. From this, he questions what kind of purpose that fate has given him to let him live.
Saito and Chizuru help Souma learn not to let the past bind him. There’s no point in going on lamenting what has passed. To truly honor the legacy of those who have given their lives for him, then he must keep on living and discover his purpose. Seeing Souma not succumb to despair, speaking so optimistically about the future was a sign of his tremendous growth. At last, he saw a worth in himself.
Unfortunately for Souma, the game didn’t give him the spotlight that he deserves. On his own route, Souma hardly has any chance to shine. Every time there seems to be a chance, someone else always appears to save the day, and this happens plenty of times. Whenever Souma seems to have defeated his enemy, another one appears and he gets his butt kicked immediately. Souma is more often being saved than did the saving, which is what I found a waste for his potential, especially because at the end, he became the last Chief of Shinsengumi.
Even after becoming a Fury, Souma always ends up being saved. I get that all the sacrifices made were to build up his character, but I can’t see any point in it because Souma is always denied his moments to shine. Souma always wanted to show that he is strong enough to protect the people he cares for, proving it wasn’t wrong for them to place their trust in him, only for him to be made into a character that was being protected. It’s no different than showing how much he failed in his conviction. It’s just so undeserving for Souma, always being left lamenting how powerless he is! Seeing Souma and his self-imposed sense of guilt was too much!
Look, I don’t expect him to beat someone at Kazama’s level (yeah, that’s just too far-fetched), I just expected him to do something more that proves how he has what it takes to protect his loved ones.
Even Hijikata acknowledged Souma. When he first met Souma, Hijikata’s impression of him was a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later type of person. After meeting him again after Kondou’s execution, Hijikata was shocked by Souma’s growth. He couldn’t even be more proud of him. He soon appointed Souma as his personal aide and Chizuru as Souma’s page. He came to the decision that should his time come, he’ll entrust the Shinsengumi to Souma. Sure enough, in the chapter before the last of Souma’s route, Hijikata discharged Souma from his position. He won’t let Souma die in this battle, he doesn’t deserve it. Souma came into picture as a new recruit who has yet to walk the dark side of the Shinsengumi, so Souma shouldn’t bear the sins that Hijikata and the others have done before his arrival.
The discharge from Hijikata was hard to take for Souma as he had prepared to die in this battle as a warrior of the Shinsengumi. Souma wanted nothing more but to join his comrades in their last stand. Still, he respected Hijikata’s last order, his last wish. When the news of Hijikata being attacked reached him, Souma was close to breaking down for losing another comrade. He was hesitant in finding out Hijikata’s fate until Chizuru reminded him of his purpose.
Hijikata, as expected from top 3 Hakuoki bachelors. Even in other bachelor’s route, he’s still able to left strong impression. Looking at the dire situation in the final chapter, Enomoto and Otori were ready to surrender, but not Hijikata. He couldn’t accept surrender and decided he’ll fight to the end because he owed his men, his country, and even the men who hated him. Hijikata belonged to the generation that prized honor over an arbitrary collective good, and he would shoulder the burden of his generation alone.
Having to watch the fatally wounded Hijikata who was beyond saving really hurts! In his last moment, Hijikata gave the flag of truth, the symbol of the Shinsengumi, to Souma to carry the legacy of the Shinsengumi. I admit that I cried when reaching this part. In other routes, it was only mentioned that Hijikata died. To actually see him dying like this was really….AAAAHHHHH! At least Hijikata was able to die in peace after he’s finally freed from his burden after so long carrying it by himself. (TT_TT)
And this moment made it all the more reason for me to be frustrated that Souma wasn’t given a spotlight! Had Souma been allowed to shine, it would’ve made more emotional impact that led up to this moment!
This undeserving treatment extends to the supposed main antagonist of Souma’s route: Miki Saburo. Miki is Itou’s younger brother by blood. Despite being brothers, Miki is the opposite of Itou; he is brash, rude, and rough. To put it simply, he’s like a delinquent looking for a fight with other Shinsengumi members with Itou being the only person able to control him. He’s also perceptive enough to suspect that Chizuru is actually a girl, once even trying to forcefully undress her when she was going to take a bath (thankfully, this was stopped by Souma and Nomura).
At first, I thought he’s just the type of self-centered and prideful antagonist, but he’s actually a much more humane character.
In spite of his personality, Miki loves and admires his older brother. He believes that Itou would achieve greater things and far better than Kondou and the rest of the Shinsengumi warriors. When Itou was killed, Miki was beyond furious. It’s not just Itou, he lost many of his comrades to the Shinsengumi. Itou’s death wouldn’t have happened if only Itou didn’t plan to kill Kondou. The Shinsengumi had no choice but to off him first before Itou killed Kondou. However, the way they killed Itou was disturbing. They made him heavily drunk so he couldn’t fight back when killed, and then his body was used as bait to lure Miki and the other members of the Imperial Tomb. Not only was it a horrible way to die, Itou’s body also suffered disrespect. No matter how much I dislike Itou, even I don’t think his body deserves to be treated that way. Miki has every right to hold a grudge against the Shinsengumi. Reason doesn’t matter, what matters is the fact that his brother and comrades were killed.
However, despite his talk, Miki doesn’t necessarily hold a grudge against the Shinsengumi as a whole. His vendetta only directed to Hijikata who planned the assassination, Kondou for approving it, Sano and Shinpachi who used his brother’s body as a bait, and Saito who spied on them and leaked their plan to the Shinsengumi. Heisuke is not included because Miki thought he died during the Aburano Koji Incident. The only reason he fought against Souma is because Souma is opposing him.
Miki made it his goal to crush the Shinsengumi, going as far as joining the Imperial Army. Even though it was under coercion, Miki became a Fury and embraced the power at the cost of his lifespan as long as he could get his revenge. For Miki, getting revenge on the Shinsengumi is his reason for living, but fate deprived him of any chance for revenge as the people he had sworn to kill either died at the hands of the Imperial Army or were missing in action. By the time he found Hijikata, the vice-commander was already dead. All his enemies died, the Guardians of Imperial Tomb is no more, and he’s no longer a human. The people from the Imperial Army only see him as nothing but a burden for being a Fury. As a result, he feels he has no place in the world.
Without anything else to live for, having nowhere to go, Miki intended to die by Souma’s hand, thus why he challenged him. At the end of their fight, Souma is able to relate to Miki. They are similar: they are left to pick up the pieces of those who’ve passed on, which led to Souma’s decision to spare Miki’s life and encouraged him to keep living to see the end of the war. Before this, Souma already sympathized with Miki. As Miki said, whatever the reason, the Shinsengumi killed his brother. If Souma is in his position, he couldn’t say that he won’t do the same thing as him if the captains or Chizuru are killed the same way. It’s too bad the game didn’t explore the conflict between Souma and Miki.
Seeing him trying to die hit me hard. Miki is different from the other antagonists who have much bigger plans and goals. He is never concerned over the fate of the country or making a name for himself, he’s just helping his brother. He’s not some greedy selfish evil big shot, he’s just a man who’s grieving over losing his family.
Like Souma, Miki has a lot of potential, but he isn’t given a proper moment to shine or even proper closure. The game mostly focused on Souma and the Shinsengumi’s struggle, Miki hardly appears despite being the main antagonist, and when he did appear, it didn’t give a strong impression until the end. His final fight against Souma was also lackluster. I know that Miki is planning to die, but I expected him to put up more of a fight to make it convincing for Souma and Chizuru.
In terms of romance, there are not many romantic moments between Chizuru and Souma in Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms. It’s almost like Hijikata in his route. Their progress is subtle, though still much better than some routes, mainly because once they entered a relationship, while not many, their moments are cute, funny, and wonderful~ (^_^)
In this route, Chizuru is taking more in charge due to her being Souma’s senpai. It’s a fresh change from other routes. I like how Chizuru is teaching Souma (and Nomura) to be a good page, and they in return are very eager to learn from her. Even after knowing Chizuru is a girl, their admiration didn’t waver, and they still respect her as their senior. Perhaps the revelation that Chizuru is a girl made them admire her even more because she’s able to stay for this long with the Shinsengumi.
Unlike most members of the Shinsengumi who initially didn’t have a good impression on Chizuru for becoming Hijikata’s page even though she’s useless as a swordsman, Souma never looked down on Chizuru in the slightest. He respects her as his senior even if she’s only doing menial tasks. There was no hesitation nor doubt in Souma when Chizuru’s role was questioned.
Having Souma and Nomura as her juniors is a good thing because they bolstered Chizuru’s confidence. Chizuru was always troubled by the fact that she can’t fight and is always protected by the other warriors. She thought what she was doing was not good enough, so hearing Souma defending her gave Chizuru the assurance she needed and she learned to take pride in her job even over the simplest task.
Chizuru sees herself in Souma. He reminds her of herself during the time she first met the Shinsengumi. Souma, working hard to become a true warrior and dedicating himself for the Shinsengumi is similar to how she is doing her best to be useful for the Shinsengumi. Their similar experience allowed them to understand each other’s hardship. This is evident when Souma was depressed over having to leave behind the people he should be protecting. Chizuru understood Souma’s pain of being unable to help their comrades who have given their lives to protect them. Their mutual pain brought them closer as they are wondering together why fate decided to let them live.
The romantic or fluffy moments between them are not much, but the fact that they are technically pages and spent most of the time together is enough reason to think the progress in their relationship is not rushed (for me at least). Besides, the moment they finally confirmed their feelings for each other, their interactions became cuter. Chizuru and Souma having feelings for each other was very obvious for Hijikata to notice that he actually played a matchmaker! XD
Both Souma and Chizuru were so innocent during the early time of their relationship. When Souma and Chizuru attempted to have their first kiss, Souma backed away at the last moment because he was too nervous. They decided to put it on hold! But my favorite part is when Souma admitted to Hijikata that he is in love with Chizuru, Nomura and the others were eavesdropping on their conversation and teased the new couple, much to Souma and Chizuru’s embarrassment. This is why they’re one of my favorite pairings~ (^v^)
The most surprising thing is, other than Sano, Iba, and Ryouma, Souma is the only other bachelor who made love with Chizuru. They did so the night before Souma departed as the Shinsengumi chief to negotiate surrender along with Enomoto and Otori. Going to the Imperial Army as the chief of the Shinsengumi is the same as asking for a death sentence. The chief represents the Shinsengumi as a whole, meaning Souma would be carrying the crimes of all the Shinsengumi members on his shoulders. The possibility of him being executed like Kondou is very high.
Souma is fully aware of the risk and still decides to take the responsibility because if no one steps in to take it, that would be affirming the Empire of Japan that the Shinsengumi is just a group of scoundrels. He wouldn’t let the name of the Shinsengumi to be tainted, not when those who have died entrusted everything to him. This is a difficult choice for him and Chizuru, but their shared loyalty for the Shinsengumi led to this decision. Additionally, Chizuru saw that Souma had finally identified his purpose, so she didn’t want to be an obstacle for him.
It hasn’t been long for the time they spent as a couple since they confessed their love to each other. Chizuru wants to make what might be their last moment together count: She asks Souma to spend a night with her despite knowing it would make their separation all the more painful, especially if Souma never returned. If it’s going to be their last night together, then they both want to carve every part of themselves into each other’s memories. Ugh….I’m really weak to a moment like this one! No matter what everyone said, I’m so touched when they decided to spend a night together. Sweet and romantic….!
Their true ending in Edo Blossoms is pretty much predictable, with Chizuru and Souma reunited again after three years of separation. But it’s still okay. (TTvTT)
Last but not the least, the inclusion of Nomura as a new page and Souma’s best friend is also a welcome addition to the game. Nomura is the typical idiot but kind and loyal character who would speak his mind without thinking much. He’s also dense, unable to read the mood. He was even so sure that Chizuru is a guy that he said it right in front of her that she’s not in the slightest bit girly at all, which earned him a beating from Shinpachi and Heisuke (you deserved it, Nomura, even if you didn’t know that she’s a girl at that time). Seriously, how could he not even find her the least bit cute?! He brought out the necessary light-hearted moments in the midst of all seriousness. That’s why I’m very sad when he died…! For once I hoped that Hakuoki didn’t follow real history…! (TToTT)
Overall, Souma’s route is okay. Although, rather than a protagonist, it’s more like Souma is there just to prop the Shinsengumi captains, to show how awesome they are instead of Souma himself. His route is similar to Hijikata’s route in that it revolves around the Shinsengumi until its end, but it lacks the emotional impact compared to Hijikata’s route.
Kodo’s absence is also another negative point. Even though his involvement is a big one for making Miki a Fury and all, he’s only mentioned and never appeared in Souma’s route. After he was mentioned once by Miki, and then revealed that he was killed offscreen by the Fury Corps. There was no mention of how to cure Souma from the effect of Water of Life. The whole problem with Water of Life and Furies was not resolved properly. It’d be better if Kodo was also made an antagonist in this route.
Still, I love Souma’s route due to his character development and his relationship with Chizuru and the Shinsengumi captains. In the romance department, it’s more appealing than Shinpachi and Sanan at the very least. Souma is just too lovely for me and he immediately became one of my favorite characters in Hakuoki! And he’s voiced by Kaji Yuki! You should know Kaji Yuki playing as Alibaba (Magi), Shu Ouma (Guilty Crown), Yukine (Noragami), Shoto Todoroki (My Hero Academia), and Takeru Homura/Soulburner (Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS). Kaji Yuki nailed it as Souma!