My love of Sakura Wars and Azami Mochizuki

Back in December of the year 2020 I participated in a collaborative effort started by Pin__XXX to make a Sakura Wars fanzine. Many fans from across the world participated and the final product was 200 pages! In said fanzine I wrote a 600 word column about my experiences with the series and praised my favorite character Azami Mochizuki. I decided I want to share said column on The Story Arc, however it didn’t feel right to post an article that was only 600 words to the site, so I have created this. This article contains all that I said in the original fanzine column but almost all points have been expanded and more have been added, enjoy.

Hello, my name is Skeith and I have been a huge fan of Sakura Wars for a few years now. My first exposure to the franchise was via the massive crossover video game Project X Zone, which featured six characters from the Sakura Wars franchise. As a teen I went on a crusade to play every game feature in X Zone in order to broaden my horizons and learn more about gaming history, a journey that made me the gamer I am today. Obviously Sakura Wars was included in this journey.

I first started via the PSP port of Sakura Wars 1 and 2. The games were never localized so I played how most Sakura Wars fans did before CJ_Iwakura’s fan translation of the first game came out a few years ago, via scripts that have been around the internet for over two decades: the Kayama scripts. Looking between a script and the game was an obtuse experience at first, however once I got used to it I fell in love with this franchise and it’s characters.

Reading this while looking at the screen was how I, and most older SW fans experienced the series

I went on to play the rest of the series, including games like Hanagumi Taisen Columns, loving every step along the way. Characters like Sakura Shinguji, Hanabi, and Rikarita hold a special place in my heart. Then I was out of games. I had played every single game in the Sakura Wars series (except Mysterious Paris for the PS2 which has no English script anywhere) and watched all of the associated anime. I felt a void was left in my life as I completed my new favorite series. This void existed for a few years until the fateful day of April 13th 2018 when it was announced that Sega was working on a new game in the Sakura Wars franchise

When Shin Sakura Wars was first announced I was more excited than I had been in years, eagerly telling the very few English Sakura Wars fans I knew (The English fanbase is much smaller than Japan’s, at the time I only knew a small Discord of about ten people) that Sega had confirmed a new game was being made and eagerly waited for the first trailer to come out.

After many months of waiting Sega delivered the first trailer for this new game and I was introduced to my favorite fictional character ever: Azami Mochizuki.

From the moment I saw her in the first trailer I fell in love with Azami’s character design. From her yellow maid outfit to her odd eyebrows everything about her seemed perfect. On social media for the year between the reveal trailer and the game’s Japanese release I would only use Azami profile pictures in anticipation.

When the game came out in Japan I bought it day 1 (Despite having very limited knowledge of Japanese) just to experience a new Sakura Wars game and finally see Azami in the game, hoping she would be as great as she appeared to be in the trailers.

And she was! I could only understand a limited amount and had to ask other people to translate more of it for me, but I loved her arc of wanting to become a real ninja even if it was a lie from her grandfather. Make the dream a reality. Azami is a ninja. One part of this that I love that not many people talk about is the option to either tell Azami’s grandfather if he was a good or bad person for telling this lie. Despite Azami being around to hear Seijuro, no option here will make you lose affection with her. It’s one of few times where Sakura Wars presents the player to a situation where there is no wrong choice, only expressing how you really feel.

The only part of her story that disappoints me is that her grandfather really did turn out to be a ninja which kind of spits in the face of the previous scenes, but I’m willing to forgive it because Azami made a cute face!

When the game finally came out in English I did another playthrough for Azami’s ending in order to experience it in a language I understood, and I loved it just as much, if not more, than I did the first time. Thank you Sega for finally bringing more Sakura Wars to the west.

Her relationship with Seijuro I also felt was done a lot better than relationships with child characters in the previous games. In the previous games relationships with characters like Iris were done so overtly romantically, which feels very uncomfortable. However Azami’s scenes in Shin Sakura Wars feel more platonic than both the other girls in the game and the previous child characters. Even the private time between Seijuro and Azami in her room ends with feeding her food as opposed to someone like Sakura’s which ends in a near-kiss.

Azami is my precious daughter and easily my favorite character not just in Sakura Wars, but in all media. I hope to see more of her in the future. However even if the franchise moved on I would be okay with that. I loved Sakura Wars before her and I’ll continue to love the franchise after she is gone, so long as this series lives I’ll keep loving it, watching new and old fans fall in love with it and its characters just as I did.

Link to purchase Pin’s Sakura Wars Serenade Fanzine

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