「蹉跌の回廊」 (Satetsu no Kairou)
“The Cloister of Failure”
The battle for Koufu Castle begins, and with it the unfolding of events in accordance to history. More specifically, the unrest within the Shinsengumi (i.e. Kouyou Chinbutai) was depicted a lot more, after many of them had all come to the stark realization that the days of katana and spears is over in the face of guns and cannons. As a result, the two Shinsengumi captains that would later leave the group due to disagreements with Kondou — Nagakura and Harada — were shown at odds with their old school commander when he insisted that they continue with their attack to retain their honor. This was after word had already gotten out that Imperial forces had taken over the castle, and a good half of their own forces deserted the campaign in the middle of the night. In comparison to the Battle of Toba-Fushimi where they vastly outnumbered the enemy and still lost, this was just utter suicide. The only one able to calm them and not betray Kondou’s decision was Hijikata, who asked them to hold off while he went back to Edo for bakufu reinforcements. However, the battle still went on, and goes down in history books as the Battle of Koushuu-Katsunuma, where the Shogunal forces were outnumbered ten to one and suffered a crushing defeat.
As per history, Kondou does narrowly escape this suicidal campaign, for which Hakuouki plays up Chizuru’s fictional involvement. She earnestly decides to remain with the Shinsengumi and fight, and makes a promise with Hijikata to protect Kondou and not die. Interestingly enough, they played up Kondou’s decision to go off and die on the battlefield after charging in and realizing that he sent off all his men to die in a losing fight, to which Chizuru “saved him” by convincing him that he has to burden the hardships of living on to keep the Shinsengumi together for the sake of all those who died before. With the retreat order finally issued and Nagakura and Harada going to the front lines to recall their troops, the really big fictional moment was the revelation that Chizuru’s father, Koudou, had unleashed an army of improved, undying Rasetsu that can walk around during the day. As surprising as that was, it went one step further by showing that Shiranui didn’t even have any what their pure-blooded demon researcher was up to.
「遠き面影」 (Tooki Omokage)
In the next episode, the momentary truce between Harada and Shiranui put pretty weird spin on the rivalry that was built up in season one, but did open my eyes to the possibility that Kazama and his followers may no longer be the ultimate antagonists in this series. After all, Kazama stopped Kaoru from killing Okita, after the latter busted on the scene to protect Chizuru and wound up succumbing to the effects of his incurable tuberculosis. In Kazuma’s eyes, killing Kaoru was his way of dealing with what he deemed lack of demon pride and disgracing the Yukimura name, which was somewhat ironic seeing as Koudou had just betrayed Satsuma and gone off with his own ambitions of reviving a new breed of Yukimura demons. Even though Koudou and Kaoru had betrayed him, Kazama was still concerned about retaining the prestige of the pure-blooded Yukimura demon bloodline. What’s more, he proved to be a noble demon of sorts, by agreeing to give Chizuru some time to try and find her father and talk to him before he’s hunted down. Again, all in expectation that Chizuru has some demon pride within her.
As for Kaoru himself, I’m still not completely convinced he was sincere about his feelings about trying to reunite with his twin sister Chizuru, given how he’s been shown to be jealous of the fact that she got to live a peaceful life while he had nothing but hardships. Even when he was killed, he questioned why it always has to be her while he continues to get the short end of the stick. However, I do feel there was some part of Kaoru’s character that did want to be reunited with Chizuru, though I’m willing to bet it had become completely twisted after all this time. The interesting bit that he revealed was that the Yukimura line was nearly wiped out by humans after refusing to help overthrow the shogunate, and that Koudou isn’t actually from the Yukimura family, but a branch one that protected Chizuru during the strife. With this revelation, the death of her brother, and loss of identity on who she is, it was kind of hard not to feel sorry for Chizuru, who felt like she had been living a lie her entire life.
If that weren’t bad enough, Nagakura and Harada do leave the Kouyou Chinbutai at the very end of this episode, after getting annoyed over how Kondou runs the unit. In reality, it was Shinpachi who wanted to leave and Sanosuke following him as his good friend — something that Okita seemed aware of without even being told. At this point, I’m curious as to whether they’ll make a reappearance in the series, seeing as they never do return to the Shinsengumi historically. Unsurprisingly, Saitou remained after getting some renewed motivation from Chizuru in the previous episode. The question is, what will become of the Shinsengumi now that they’re in disarray and Kondou is acting completely irrational in the preview? Sannan looks like he’s still doing his nightly rounds (of feasting), whereas Saitou will be meeting with Amagiri. As the downfall of the Shinsengumi is nigh, the only semi-good ending I can foresee happening is stopping Koudou. I can’t wait to see how all that unfolds.