I had some concerns going into ‘Ladies Otome Month,’ namely “What if this really doesn’t click with me?” and “What if I can’t find anything interesting to say? I’m not thirsty enough for this.” Luckily, those concerns were unfounded, and I even found some comfortable familiarity among the Shinsengumi with my slight martial arts background. I was able to find an anchoring point and enjoy the game in my own way, which touches on an important underlying lesson: this game really allows for you to enjoy it at your own pace and in your own way–a freedom more otome games offer than you would think.
You know what also made this game fun to play? Knowing I could discuss not only the characters’ antics, but my own with the rest of the panel and friends. I was even a little caught off guard with how much I wanted to discuss, and how much fun it was to discuss, Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi. The solid writing and odd blend of the supernatural, romantic, and historical made for not only entertaining reading/play, but entertaining conversation. We joke about odd spinoffs and how this game is a gateway into enthusiasm for the genre, but I think that speaks to how the game sparks conversation and invites further speculation and improvisation on its events and themes.
Did I enjoy this game? Unequivocally. Am I now an otome convert who will seek out these games? No, probably not, but at the very least I will approach them with an open mind.
Otome games are one of the trickiest subjects. Often seen as simply “female-oriented dating sims,” they’re usually thought of by many to be unrealistic, flat games all about getting the booty. Girls, already imperiled by antiquated ideas of what constitutes a “real game,” can often feel the need to dismiss such games as ironic cringe. Even still, games like Hakuoki deserve the popularity they have for being fun games with interesting plotlines, beyond just being able to collect hot CGs of sexified samurais from history. For all the fun we had poking at some of the more… ‘stereotypical’ aspects of Hakuoki, it still was fun to play; it reminds me it’s okay to have games pander to girls in silly ways, even if it does mean making Twilight jokes at the game’s expense. I cannot tell you how much fun it was to play this along with Hilary, Niki, and Audra. Until next game, true believers!
Years ago, I picked up Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom for the PSP when it was first localized into English solely out of curiosity. I wasn’t expecting the title to become something of a gateway to the otome visual novel genre. But that is exactly what happened. I can happily say I’ve never looked back. Since then, I’ve played some truly excellent otome VNs, largely because of the great impression Hakuoki left on me. I don’t often replay games, but the tragic and noble tale of the Shinsengumi is one I keep going back to time and time again, even going so far as to play the two Vita versions of the game for the additional content. I was thrilled to get the chance to replay the PSP title for this podcast, using it as an excuse to play through two characters routes I hadn’t yet, while getting to appreciate Hakuoki‘s surprisingly strong narrative chops all over again. Okita and Kazama’s routes proved just as memorable as my previous playthroughs, and I’m now planning on dusting off my Vita to try playing through the additional story in those releases. This podcast helped remind me of my continuing fondness for the Hakuoki games, and it also reminded me just how truly memorable Chizuru’s journey with the men of the Shinsengumi is, mysteriously sudden cherry blossom appearances and all!
First foray into
Otome; a new world as
Sweet as the spring breeze.
I find myself returning
To this path without trying.