Hijikata’s route in Era of Samurai Code of Love is a journey. Toshizo Hijikata is the terrifying right hand man and friend of Shinsengumi leader Isami Kondo. His cold stare and commanding battle prowess have earned him the nickname Demon Deputy among the Shinsengumi men. He is a man of honor an dignity, willing to do whatever it takes for the Shinsengumi. Even if it means sacrificing something he holds dear. But is that all there is to the Demon Deputy? What does Hijikata the man want?
No matter which adaption of the Shinsengumi story you play. Hijikata is always the same. So I kind of knew what to expect from Hijikata before I even started this route. Well Voltage did not disappoint, he turned out exactly as I would imaging the Vice-commander of the Shinsengumi to be.
Thoughts on Toshizo Hijikata: The moon on a cold winter’s night
Hijikata is a warrior first and a man second. So I wasn’t expecting sweet words and flowers from him. In fact I would have been extremely disappointed by those things. This route was more about showcasing the Shinsengumi and their ideals than it was a cohesive romance story. As the vice-commander of the Shinsengumi, Hijikata is revered by his men and allies for his formidable fighting skills and tactical prowess. He lives for the Shinsengumi, devoting everything to their cause. One could say that Hijikata is married to his job. His ideals, hopes and dreams are so entwined with the Shinsengumi that there is little else to Hijikata as a character. To him, the highest honor is to eventually give his life in the service of the Shinsengumi.
His single-minded devotion has lead the others to call him a Demon. With his harsh manner of speech and his penetrating gaze, his very presence commands fear an obedience from his subordinates. The only Shinsengumi members that seem to be immune to his imposing presence are Soji Okita and Isami Kondo. Both seem to have a intimate knowledge of Hijikata’s past, becoming the MC’s confidants throughout the route. Especially, Okita, who seems to have an almost brotherly relationship with the Demon Deputy. While Kondo’s jovial disposition, serves as a foil to Hijikata’s icy personality.
If it weren’t for those two, I think I might have actually given up on finishing Hijikata’s route at all. For the first five or so chapters Hijikata barely even makes an appearance. When he does it’s only to bark orders at the MC or one of his men. When he’s not shouting orders or demanding things, he’s making everyone within five feet of him piss their pants in fear. Because of his personality Hijikata he can be extremely difficult to approach. So I completely understood the MC’s need to give him a wide berth.
But, Hijikata isn’t a cruel man. Rather a man out of time. Like the rest of the Shinsengumi, he is clinging to a set of ideals that no longer matter in this new age. It is both admirable to see Hijikata cling to the old samurai ways in the midst of so much change. His convictions are iron clad, so he has no tolerance for weak, wishy-washy people. While Hijikata is strict with his men, he also holds himself to an even higher standard.
When he is injured in battle he hides his injuries from the others, relying on his own treatment. He understands that his men look up to him, so he works hard to protect his image at all cost. Hijikata is a very proud man. But, he’s not one to let hard work go unnoticed. When the MC successfully completes a recon mission he orders Okita to give her an expensive sweet as a reward. Later when the MC stands up to him, he personally compliments her.
He is not altogether cruel, displaying some genuine moments of kindness throughout the course of the story. Hijikata is just a man with some very strong convictions. He refuses to let anything get in the way of his dreams. When Hijikata does open up, he reveals a much softer, vulnerable side. He hasn’t lived an easy life. So, I appreciated the fact that he felt comfortable enough with the MC to reveal his past to her. As a warrior he walks a difficult and dangerous path. But with the support of the MC and his men, he is able to brave any storm with his head held high.
Thoughts on the MC: A fondness for strong-hearted women
First I want to commend Voltage for giving us an MC that has a skill other than cooking and eating! The MC in this game is the daughter of a local physician. So she’s even trained to practice medicine! At the start of the story, her father has since passed on. Instead of becoming destitute or trying to marry a man for protection. She takes over her father’s practice and continues treating patients in his stead. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me to have an MC that can take care of herself!
Despite living among the Shinsengumi, she manages to stand her ground against Hijikata, one of the organizations most feared commanders! Sure she has moments of weakness, but who could blame her? The poor girl is held hostage by ronin, watches her house and everything she owns burn to the ground, and then gets whisked off by a band of ruthless samurai all within the span of a few hours.
I think she is allowed to have some moments of fear and despair, it’s a human response. The one thing I did not like was how quickly she fell for Shin. I get it when your only other option is a demon commander, you kind of want to latch on the first hot guy to show you kindness. Aside from that I was impressed by the way she handled herself. She is even willing to die for the Shinsengumi cause which I loved! This MC was a total badass!
Do I Recommend Hijikata’s Route?
Yes and no. There really isn’t a lot of romance in Hijikata’s main story in Era of Samurai Code of Love. I know that sounds weird given this is an otome, but hear me out. This route is more of an ode to the Shinsengumi; their convictions, their struggles, and their devotion to a single cause: peace. If anything, this route would have been just as good without any romance.
This route is more about falling in love with the Shinsengumi and by extension Hijikata himself. In my mind Hijikata and Shinsengumi are synonymous with one another. The romance in comparison seemed a bit forced. I just had a hard time imagining Hijikata in love with anything other than the Shinsengumi.
So, if you’re looking for flowers and rainbows, Hijikata is not for you. In fact he’s a cold-hearted bastard for the majority of the route. Hell, he’s barely even in the damn route for the first half of the game. I found that I spent more time with Kondo and Soji than I did with Hijikata. I was starting to have flashbacks to Shin’s route from Amnesia: Memories but, I stuck with it.
Hijikata is very subtle with his affections for the MC. I just didn’t feel the love between Hijikata and the MC. I kind of wish this route had been split into two parts. The first part for getting to know Hijikata. The second for fleshing out the romance between the MC and Hijikata.
There are two endings available in Era of Samurai: Code of Love: Written by Fate and Written by Love. In the Written in Love Ending, the ronin are defeated (Ikedaya Incident) and the town’s opinion of the Shinsengumi becomes more positive. After resting in town for the night the Shinsengumi return to the compound for some much needed celebration. Slipping away from the festivities, Hijikata and the MC share a passionate moment alone bathed in moonlight. In the Written in Fate Ending the townspeople turn on the Shinsengumi. Now that the ronin are dead, Hijikata tries to send the MC away. But she stubbornly insists on staying by his side. The game ends with an emotionally charged and bittersweet romantic moment between the MC and Hijikata. I prefer the Written in Love ending hands down, moonlight vows and a haiku for the win!!
Hijikata’s route is a great start to Era of Samurai Code of Love. While it isn’t my favorite Voltage route ever. It still did an excellent job of introducing us to the world of the Shinsengumi while taking some interesting liberties with the story. But I have some reservations in recommending it. Without the forced romance this would have been a perfect route. But with it Hijikata’s route is just kind of meh.