I Fell for a Swordsman: My Time with Hakuoki

If you have any experience with group texting, then you’ll know that sometimes you just have no idea what’s going on.

This is what happened to me when two of my best friends started talking about a game called Hakuoki. One of them was just starting to enjoy the game while the other was completely outraged by her choice to play it. When I finally got the chance to ask what on Earth it was about, we decided instead to just play it. After about three hours I had an anime boyfriend. Just like that.

I promised my friend, the one who got me totally addicted to Hakuoki, that I’d start off my article with the phrase “so like”. I told her that not many well written, memorable articles start off with “so like” but she was adamant that it was completely appropriate for the following article… so here goes nothing.

So like, I’m the kind of person that if someone recommends something to me and I have no prior knowledge about it, I’ll likely just give it a try. Most of my music taste I’ve adapted from others. My iTunes library is a mix of classic rock, indie/alternative, pop, and soundtracks from musicals. Pop music I discovered on my own from listening to songs on the radio but the rest I’ve grown to love because of friends’ and family members’ recommendations. Same goes for TV and video games. So when my friend finally told me what Hakuoki was all about, I dove in with a “why not” attitude.

Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi on PlayStation 3 (or Memories of the Shinsengumi on 3DS) is a visual novel where you play as Chizuru Yukimura, a young woman who has travelled to Kyoto, Japan in search of her missing father. After only a few hours in Kyoto, she is attacked by strange ronin with white hair and a lust for blood. She is saved from these horrifying creatures by three men, whom she later finds out are members of the Shinsengumi – a special police force active in the mid 1800’s. The men can’t decide what to do with Chizuru, as she has clearly seen too much, so they bring her back to their headquarters to decide her fate. When the captains of the Shinsengumi discover that Chizuru is the daughter of Doctor Kodo Yukimura, a man that the Shinsengumi know and admire, they decide that she can stay with them while they help her find her father.

The story for Hakuoki is rich with Japanese history. Sections of each chapter feel like short lessons about what was really going on during the time period that the Shinsengumi existed. In both versions of the game there is an encyclopaedia defining certain words which relate Japanese history and the Shinsengumi. This is still a game though, so of course, in and among the facts are blatant fabrications to add action and suspense to the story – such as the horrifying creating called furies that are created when members of the shinsengumi drink “the elixir of life”. (At least I hope they’re not real.) The elixir gives whoever drinks it unbelievable strength, but whoever drinks the concoction will be punished with an insatiable lust for blood.

Aside from appreciating the awesome lore of the game, the main goal is to woo. You heard that right: to woo. Chizuru may be worried about her father, but she’s only got one other thing on her mind – staying warm during those long, cold Japanese nights. She’s definitely got a few options. Now, there’s many iterations of the Hakuoki series, such as the anime and different version of the game, but the canon significant other for Chizuru is the Hijikata Toshizo. In Stories of the Shinsengumi, the version I played with my friend, and Memories of the Shinsengumi, the version I bought immediately after leaving my friend’s place, you can also entice four Captains of the Shinsengumi and one secret possible lover.

The following are who you’re able to choose from, in no particular order:

Hijikata Toshizo is the hunky commander of the Shinsengumi. He has dark black hair and violet eyes. He is particularly strict to all members of the Shinsengumi as well as to Chizuru herself. Despite often treating Chizuru badly, he is very protective of her. Hijikata is also a poet – which his friend Okita teases him about endlessly – but I think this just makes him incredibly irresistible. That and his fantastic sense of humour… not.

Souji Okita (my boyfriend so hands off) is the enchanting Captain of the 1st Division of the Shinsengumi. He has brown hair, green eyes, and wears a robe that has a v-neck so deep you could drown in it. Souji is sarcastic but has a very good heart. He is very close with Hijikata, having known him for many years, so they’re clearly the two most likely to get together if Chizuru falls for someone else – but hey, that’s just my personal opinion. ‘Soukata’ is their ship name. Citation needed.

Saito Hajime (my best friend’s boyfriend so you know the drill, keep away) is the bewitching Captain of the 3rd Division of the Shinsengumi. He has indigo hair loosely tied into a long side ponytail. Saito is very quiet and extremely loyal to Hijikata. No one really knows what goes on inside Saito’s head but I imagine he probably just has Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up playing on repeat up there. Just take a look at him and you’ll agree. Also, you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head for the next week. Consider yourself Rickrolled.

Sanosuke Harada (probably should also be off limits but we have to share right?) is the mesmerising Captain of the 10th Division of the Shinsengumi. He has red hair and light brown eyes, and is also the tallest of all of the captains. Sanosuke is the joker of the group and the most cheery, almost always with a smile on his face. He likes pinã coladas and getting caught in the rain – again I’m just assuming, as long as his shirt is wet I’m happy.

Heisuke Toudou is the adorable Captain of the 8th Division of the Shinsengumi. He has long brown hair and blue-green eyes. His appearance can be deceiving because he looks as though he is only 15 or 16 years old, but is really 19. Heisuke is very cheerful and blushes often around Chizuru. This could be because he doesn’t want to tell her that he’s actually a undressing her with his eyes. It’s not weird, he does that with everyone.

Even with Hijikata and the four Captains there are more routes that you can take Chizuru on. On the 3DS version you can skip past the first three chapters, as they are identical each time, to get to the nitty gritty of making the fellas fall for you. Each story is different in their own wonderful way and each makes you consider switching boyfriends.

I started with Souji Okita’s route and I’d like to describe for you how this happened – more or less.

“So these are the guys you can try to get with.”
My friend handed over her phone and showed me all of my options.
“Okay. Um. This one?”
“That’s Okita.”
His chest glistened.
“Okay. I like the v-neck.”
“Oh my God.”
“He’s hot.”

And that was it. The story route where you get together with Souji is full of ups and downs. Does he like me? Does he hate me? Did he just insult me because he loves me so much, or does he really think that? These are all questions you’ll ask yourself the further you get into the story line. Now, I won’t lie, you’ll wonder whether or not you’ve made the right choice. You’ll feel this way during each route, but just go with your gut and remember – the v-neck sees all and it’s judging you. There will be a shameful amount of blushing and your friends will never think of you the same way again. Just embrace your inner weeaboo and all will be well. We’ll always have each other.

If you like visual novels, Hakuoki is actually a really awesome read and has a lot more in it than just beautiful anime men. I’m really happy my friend introduced me to it because now not only do I fit in with the conversations about the game on my group texts, I also have now myself become a victim of anime boyfriend shaming. Okita might be the background on my laptop and phone lock screen, but I don’t have a problem. Honestly. Just take one look at that deep V and tell me you aren’t entranced. Give Hakuoki a try before you judge. Just keep off the guys that are already claimed. I’ll know if you don’t.