The Hakuoki series has always been one that offered an opportunity to enjoy alternate histories. Adding supernatural creatures to retellings of historical events is going to do that. As is adding in romance elements, since the players falling for these warriors will want happy endings with the men they love. Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms takes this concept to new heights. These new and expanded storylines offer even more alternate takes, some of which play with the course of fictional events.
Editor’s note: Hakuoki spoilers appear in this article.
The traditional Hakuoki routes introduced the idea of new possibilities to the story of the Shinsengumi. The real Souji Okita dies of tuberculosis. While the fictional one is just as ill, the Water of Life buys him more time and ensures a more pleasant end. The game runs with the rumor that Heisuke Toudou was the illegitimate child of the head of the Toudou house as a plot point. It also ignores the fact that he was accidentally killed by another member of the Shinsengumi in real life. Here, he becomes a Fury and lives. There are times when it feels like Toshizo Hijikata’s path is the most true to life, due to us witnessing the number of deaths of other members of the Shinsengumi along the way before being resigned to accept his own demise. But even in his story, we get to see events unfold in a different manner due to the presence of demons and supernatural elements.
The inclusion of new characters in Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms builds on this. Its added routes continue to twist history on its head. Hachiro Iba did lose use of his left arm in real life and still wanted to maintain his role as a warrior, before sustaining greater injuries like a fatal gunshot wound and committing suicide. Here, he loses use of his arm, gets a demon’s arm to replace it, which then eventually is accepted by his body and becomes a human arm again. But, his impact on actual fictional history is lessened by his decision to fade from the limelight. In Kazue Souma’s route, we see Chizuru Yukimura and him running from place to place, always two steps behind the action, before he ends up becoming the leader. When in actuality, as an aide of Hijikata, he would likely have been in the midst of the action.
There are even alternate takes on these alternate takes! Susumu Yamazaki is the perfect example. In every Hakuoki game prior to Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms, he dies. This is in-line with his real-world counterpart’s story. But in these retellings, Yamazaki lives. He comes with the Shinsengumi to Edo and has an opportunity to extend his life with Yukimura. With Keisuke Sanan, we all know that he eventually dies. It is supposedly unavoidable, due to his being one of the first Furies. But in Edo Blossoms, he gets this chance to keep going. Even though we see firsthand what being a Fury does to his body in his route, the influence of Yukimura provides a chance to live even longer.
Even though Hakuoki is primarily a romantic visual novel, the appeal of offering these various takes on alternate timelines is appealing. The story twists and turns what we think we know, making other scenarios plausible due to the inclusion of a new character and supernatural elements. Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms especially pull double duty with this element, due to each one offering more bachelors. In this way, the game even begins to play with its own takes on history, changing the stories even further. Both constantly force people to imagine what may or may not have been.