By Benny Carrillo / May 19th, 2017
Not Quite the Romance You’re Expecting ~ Plot
Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds’ plot is rather interesting. As I mentioned the basic premise is that Chizuru is living amongst the Shinsengumi men while assisting them in finding her father. The game’s plot takes place from 1864 until 1867. During which a lot of historical events take place. Thankfully the game does highlight key terms and allows you to pull up a quick explanation. Even so, the political chaos of the period means regime changes and new factions popping up. How important is this backstory though? It mainly explains why the Shinsengumi are fighting certain factions and serves to set up the real plot: The Furies.
Remember those white-haired men I mentioned earlier? Those are the Furies. I won’t spoil specifics, but, these things are transformed humans that seem to be driven by insatiable bloodlust. Which makes them quite vampiric in nature. The Shinsengumi are hunting them in addition to keeping the peace in Kyoto and fighting for the Shogun. The fact that Chizuru saw them is what made the Shinsengumi keep her under house arrest as the furies are top secret. The questions regarding the Furies drives the games’ plot. The end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, meanwhile, serves as the backdrop. This isn’t bad in theory, but remember when I mentioned this is only half of Hakuōki ~Shinsengumi Kitan?
This is where the issue of breaking the game into two halves really becomes an issue. We do get answers as to what the Furies are and to other some other questions. But this serves only to open new questions. Really Kyoto Winds feels like setup for Hana no Shō. This even extends into the romance between Chizuru and the bachelors.
The problem isn’t that there’s no chemistry between them. Chizuru seems to get along well with everyone. However, that’s it. It feels like she forms a deep friendship with the Shinsengumi instead of a romantic interest. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it loops back to another question I asked at the beginning. Is this an Otome?
One of the reasons I like Otome novels is because of how they handle romance. It’s subtly built, but you get the sense of a deep emotional connection between the characters. While I like Chizuru’s interactions with the men of the Shinsengumi, things just never clicked. I never got the sense she was developing a relationship. Once again, I think that’s due breaking Hakuōki ~Shinsengumi Kitan~ into two parts. I assume that a lot of the payoff will be in Hana no Shō. Thankfully there is a bright spot in all of this and that is Chizuru herself.
A Damsel in Distress or a Courageous Maiden ~ Chizuru
When I was doing research, I noticed that people seem to be split regarding Chizuru. Some people love her because of the support she gives the Shinsengumi, while other see her as weak and a damsel in distress. So, what are my thoughts? Well like most things there’s truth to both sides. Considering there’s no way I touch upon all the bachelors without this turning into a light novel, let’s focus on Chizuru herself in regard to analyzing the game’s characterization.
I admit I did not have a great first impression of Chizuru. Even after my first couple of playthroughs, I felt like she was being underutilized. Otome novels usually have very well developed protagonists, which is in stark contrast to the faceless stand-ins that are the protagonists of male-targeted dating sims and eroge. However, Kyoto Winds really felt like at times it kept shoving Chizuru into a box.
Despite being the main character, it feels like Chizuru doesn’t do much at first. Yes, she supports the Shinsengumi and helps search for her father. But, most of the Shinsengumi tend to treat her poorly. It often felt like anytime she would build up some self-esteem or she started to feel like she was useful, somebody would shoot her down. They’d note they’re keeping her around because she’s useful in searching for her father and they could kill her at any point. Additionally, she’s being targeted by Chikage Kazuma, who wants to forcefully take her as his “mate”. Then there’s the Furies and the constant battles of the Shinsengumi. It’s frankly amazing that she doesn’t just curl up in the corner and cry. I was practically cheering when she finally met another girl named Sen since she was nice to poor Chizuru. This poor girl desperately needs a hug and everyone and it feels instead like everyone wants to kick her. A lot of that though is because of the environment and era.
Remember that Hakuoki takes place in 1864 Japan. I think it’s safe to assume that the times were not exactly kind to women. Add to that the fact that the Shinsengumi men are basically soldiers, and they’re going to be gruff and blunt. They still respect her, they don’t barge in or invade her privacy. But they make it very clear that what they say goes and a lot of that is to protect Chizuru. This is why I think a lot of people cite her as being “weak”. She does have to rescued often, but the reason for that is she’s not a soldier. No one should expect her to start dual wielding wakizashi and mowing down foes, especially when she’s already badass enough.
Yes, you did read that right. Chizuru is a badass. It’s just a much subtle brand being a badass. While she may never win a swordfight, she does show tremendous courage. She keeps her wits about her in dangerous situations. She remains relatively calm even when being held at sword point. And being a doctor’s daughter feels she has a duty to treat the wounded even in the middle of a battle. She finds herself in situations that would have most people running and handles it competently. She is awesome, but she’s overshadowed by others superior to her. Thankfully by Chapter 4 the Shinsengumi do start to acknowledge this and seem awed by her bravery at times. Also, not every character looks down on her.
A great example is Kazue Souma who actually addresses her as Yukimura-senpai. Souma is my favorite of the men since he is genuinely respectful towards her. Susumu Yamazaki and Hajime Saito were also two other routes that did stick out to me as well. To summarize, I see why Chizuru is decisive, but she has shades of immense potential going into Hana no Shō. Which, is where I think we can start talking about some issues.
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