In part 1 of my series on playing Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi as a complete baby to otome games, we learned that there are many beautiful shinsengumen to choose from, each with their own charms. I decided to let my heart/brain lead me to start. The first run of a game is important. You can’t fast forward and it’s your introduction to the characters and story. It should be respected. It seemed right to not look up answers that would endear me to one guy or another. For the first play through, I decided to just roll with whatever route my choices put me on. It turns out that was Hajime Saito, a beautiful cinnamon roll too good for this world, too pure. It’s only natural that the route I was most initially excited for would be the one I ended up on. It’s like fate or something!
So, Saito. He’s one of the Shinsengumi’s best swordsmen, specializing in a one handed strike that comes from a fluid and speedy movement out of the sheath. Hey, swords are important. This isn’t one of those games, so swords are the only thing getting unsheathed here. For some reason, I always go for the quiet, experienced warrior types who could kill you but won’t. Other anime husbando of mine include Kenshin and Jin from Samurai Champloo. I say “for some reason” because in reality, how fun would these types be to date? They don’t say much about themselves, they hardly show emotion, and they certainly do not shower you with affection. Romance with a real life stoic samurai would probably be exhausting. In fiction, however, it’s rather intoxicating.
Being with a man that dangerous and that quiet messes with your mind and conditions you to get really excited over even the slightest hint of attention. That’s how Saito’s route goes. The romance meter can jump over the tiniest sliver of interpersonal connection. It’s about the slight smiles, the implicit respect, the soulful eyes. This no talk, less action paradigm left me and my girl Chizuru very thirsty so I flipped out whenever Saito showed up for any reason.
When bae looks good in Japanese AND Western clothes
Oh, and he becomes a vampire thing. In Hakuoki, the partially real history of the late Edo/early Meiji periods is mixed with a lore about demon families that used to rule Japan. Demons have regenerative powers and superhuman strength, but are averse to sunlight. Sound like a familiar mythical being? It turns out my missing dad (who is also a demon?! And not my real dad??) created a top secret formula for the Shogunate to turn humans into demon-like creatures called “furies.” In a fight with the game’s (or at leas this route’s) villain, poster boy for the demon 1% Chikage Kazama, Saito gets mortally wounded. Of course he has to go and drink the demon potion and of course the best way to deal with his bloodlust is to let him drink my blood. In slow burning supernatural romances, blood drinking has always been used as a way to show the fine line between trust and danger with romantic leads, so it’s no surprise it shows up as a mechanic in this game. Seriously, according to supernatural fiction, men are hottest when they could very easily kill you right this second. You can also make the man endure it or give him medicine, but that’s not very sexy, is it? Especially since Hajime Saito’s favorite drinking spot is the ear (*ﾉ∀`*)
Another cliche that reared its head: every stoic warrior has to have a personal demon, even if he is an actual demon. For Saito, it’s that he got rejected all his life because he’s left handed. Yep. Aww. But I, with my honest heart and eyes, can accept him for who is. My relentless, stubborn acceptance of him even earned me a kiss eventually. A kiss that I was very anxious for after playing this game for two legs of a 6-8 hour total car trip. A kiss that had to wait until the next day after my fiance threw a pillow at my head because he wanted me to go the fuck to sleep...
In the end, we decided to stay together and weather the slow march of time as a couple, no matter what changes would shake Japan. Cue some cherry blossom and falling snow imagery because Saito is obsessed with impermanence. The happy ending, like everything about Saito’s route, was very understated but sweet. The game did throw one more weakness of mine at me before the credits rolled, though: the gravitas of the first name. This isn’t something most of us are too familiar with because we just throw each others’ names around constantly, but if you’ve ever had a partner or friend who never calls you by your first name, you might understand. That first time they drop your first name is just *clenches fist and looks off into the distance* All this to say, one of the big romantic finales was that my character finally called the beautiful shy snowflake “Hajime.”
I still have five more routes to go through, but I think it’s safe to say Hajime Saito will hold a special place in my game-heart.