Sympathizing with Sanan in Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds

One of Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds’ major plot points is the supernatural soldiers within the Shinsengumi. Certain members are given a specific sort of medicine known as the Water of Life. It transforms them into powerful and durable beings akin to vampires. They can only walk around at night, have white hair and crimson eyes when enraged and go mad at the sight of blood. While every iteration has explored these characters, it is this specific entry and Keisuke Sanan’s route that gives us an opportunity to better understand what happens when a man becomes one of the Furies.

Editor’s note: there are some general spoilers regarding Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds’ Furies and the first three chapters of Keisuke Sanan’s story.

In Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds certain members of the Shinsengumi are given the Water of Life. Early cases were test subjects made of people who were fatally wounded or condemned to death. The medicine left these people in crazed and in pain. While it gave them increased strength and regenerating health, an uncontrollable fighting force filled with terrifying bloodlust wasn’t much use to anyone. And within the first few chapters of the story, Secretary-General Keisuke Sanan joins their ranks.

Shortly after the game begins, Sanan is injured in a battle. His left arm becomes largely useless. This means he’s a warrior who can not fight. He goes from one of the smartest, strongest, and most useful members of the Shinsengumi to a figure of pity. This has a detrimental effect on his attitude, turning someone who used to be kind and patient to someone more brusque and cold. It is difficult to blame him, seeing how he was disabled and the way it affects every part of his life. Of course his confidence will take a hit.

It makes it easier to understand the actions Sanan takes and his mindset. We have a man who has lost what made him valuable. He is betrayed by his own body. He’s even betrayed by some of the men he leads, as they pity him and talk about him behind his back. He’s now seen as a sick invalid. He is dealing with depression and grieving the loss of his life. So, he researches the Water of Life medicine. He perfects it. He decides to take it.

On his Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds route, we see him take the medicine. We see Sanan face the pain of the transformation and wish for death. We are able to understand the price he pays to become a fully functioning member of the Shinsengumi again. We see a gentle and kind man we cared about become someone we should fear, then exist in this state where we never really know if we could or should trust him again.

More importantly, we see what this new life does to him. Drinking the Water of Life and becoming a Fury is as drastic a life change as Sanan becoming disabled after a battle. He’s forced to hide himself away. He has to rebuild the trust he shares with Chizuru. He needs to come to terms with what he has become. This time, we are there when all of this happens.

Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds gives us the chance to see the struggle of a man who begins as one of the best the Shinsengumi has to offer, finds himself depressed and disabled and finally takes a medicine that alters who he is. The Furies are humanized in this route, since we see someone good and reliable become one of these terrifying creatures. It is an enlightened look at what could drive a person to do something so drastic to themselves and glimpse at the aftermath.

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