Ken ga Kimi was first announced in Dengeki Girl’s Style over a year ago, and I’ve been looking forward to it since then. It’s really worth the wait though, because Ken ga Kimi is truly a masterpiece. Everything about this game is beautiful.
Ken ga Kimi takes place in year 1634, the era when competition over the “Five Heavenly Swords” is admired as the true way of samurai. These five legendary swords have the power to destroy youkai, and the shogunate made an event for samurai to compete over them—the “Tournament of Sword Retrieval”. This year the tournament will be held in Edo, and the season has come. Those who are seeking for fame or fortune have come to gather in Edo.
It’s almost been a year since Tokugawa Tadanaga got isolated to Takasaki Castle in Kouzuke Province. A shinobi delivers a grim news to his loyal retainer, Asakura Nobumasa. Tadanaga has committed seppuku in the Daishinji Temple by the order of the shogunate, following the removal of his rank. Tadanaga’s son, Choushichirou, has been secured, and a horse has been sent to pick him up from a hidden village in Hida Province. It was Tadanaga’s wish for his son to be safe, and Asakura orders the shinobi to accomplish this task without fail. The shinobi also reports that the village is filled with people who are against Tokugawa Iemitsu’s anti-Christian policies, and they truly care about Choushichirou. The only issue is that the chief believes in the eerie Marebito religion, but they have no choice. It’s the only safe place for Choushichirou to stay in.
After sending the shinobi to prepare a horse to Hida Province, Asakura curses Iemitsu for everything that he’s done. When their father, Tokugawa Hidetada, fell into a critical condition, Iemitsu used the chance to ban Tadanaga from entering Edo. He also spread lies about Tadanaga’s “violence”, which ultimately led to the removal of Tadanaga’s rank. After losing his properties, Tadanaga was exiled to Kouzuke Province under the suspicion of contracting a strange disease. As if that wasn’t enough, he was forced to commit seppuku in the end. Asakura sees Iemitsu as an evil who has no rights to bear Aoi-no-Gomon—the crest of the Tokugawa Family. One day, he will receive divine punishment for his actions.
The third son of the second shogun, Tokugawa Tadanaga, has passed away at the age of 28.
The land of rising sun, Hinomoto.
It’s a country that has two very different worlds. The cycle of life and death keeps on turning in Utsushiyo (present world), and time flows eternally in Tokoyo (perpetual world). Humans, oni, and youkai are living in Utsushiyo, while Tokoyo is ruled by a god known as Marebito. People believed that the two worlds are connected by five paths to Yomi (underworld), but no one has been able to confirm if it’s true.
For a long time, the people in Utsushiyo believed in the protection of Marebito. They borrow Marebito’s power to avoid natural disasters, and they present sacrifices in return. In Utsushiyo, humans are the most dominant in terms of power. The oni clan’s appearance and way of living aren’t that much different from humans, but they lived in a land inherited from their ancestors and never left the area. Meanwhile, youkai lived in forests and mountains—even deeper than the oni clan’s land. These three races used to coexist in Hinomoto without interfering with each other.
However, a war broke out between humans and oni in 1231. It is known as “Jinki no Ran”, which literally means “the war between humans and oni”. The trigger was the great famine during the Kanki period. At first it was only a small dispute, but eventually it escalated into plundering. The dispute intensified into a large war that involved the whole country of Hinomoto. The king of the oni clan, Ura, fought humans in Kibi Province’s Kinojou Mountain until the very end, but “Jinki no Ran” was eventually won by humans. The oni clan was forced to abandon their swords, and the law of “sword hunt” was applied. Since then, the oni clan is no longer allowed to wield a sword.
Time passed, and the Sengoku period came to an end. Peace returned to land, and Hinomoto entered the Edo period. At the end of the war, human samurai gradually started throwing their swords away. One of the reasons was because the number of ronin greatly increased after the battle of Sekigahara. It was also influenced by the arrival of guns, which proved to be stronger than swords in terms of firepower. At that rate, the value of swords would decrease—along with the rank of samurai who wield them. Fearing that the country’s power would decline, the shogunate established the four social ranks of samurai, farmers, artisans, and merchants. By doing this, the shogunate managed to improve the value of the samurai rank and prevent people from abandoning their swords.
The third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, eventually started a competition in Edo Castle. It is known as the “Tournament of Sword Retrieval”, which is held every year in spring. That’s where skillful samurai gather and compete to be the strongest. The winner will have their wish granted as the reward. A good job is guaranteed along with money, title, and anything they ask for. Following the very first tournament, people began holding similar competitions in other provinces. However, the tournament in Edo remains special. It’s held in front of the shogun himself, and the winners will receive a suitable reward—one of the Five Heavenly Swords. The winners are granted the title of “ichibangatana / 一番刀 / The Best Sword”, and the ichibangatana who obtain one of the five swords will receive the power to destroy youkai.
The Five Heavenly Swords are as follows:
Those who gain the title of Ichibangatana will be given a chance to obtain one of them. That being said, it’s nothing more than a chance. They don’t get to choose the swords. The swords choose their owners. Those who are chosen will receive the power to seal youkai, known as “kamioroshi / 神降ろし”. As the name says, the power summons a god to come down and possess the sword. It’s a true miracle that can only be brought by the owners of the five swords.
In the gallant days of Edo, emerging victorious in the tournament is believed to be the true bushido of Hinomoto. Those who are aiming to get the five swords. Those who lost their way in the path of sword. Those who stain their swords with revenge. A lot of different thoughts are gathered and weaved into one, as the story of bushido and competition over the five swords begins to unravel.
March 1, 1634. Noon.
Tsuzuramaru is walking through a path, muttering about how hungry he is. He feels like he can no longer move. He completely ran out of money in the middle of his journey, and now he doesn’t know what to do. At this rate, he might die of hunger before he can join the tournament. Just then he spots a Jizo statue, along with some dango as the offering. After making sure that no one is around, he apologizes to the Jizo statue and eats the dango. Σ(ﾟーﾟ；) This instantly brings him (and his stomach) back to life, but soon an old lady notices that he’s eating the offering. She starts attacking him with a scythe out of rage, and he’s forced to flee after desperately apologizing to her. However, the dango was actually put there by her husband… two days ago. She won’t be responsible even if he gets a stomachache LOL.
Meanwhile, Tsuzuramaru feels bad—both for the Jizo statue and the old lady. The dango saved him from hunger though, and he starts thinking about what he should do. First, he needs to make money. Once he reaches Edo, he will have to take any job he can find. He needs to win the tournament no matter what, in order to obtain the book of Tamiya-ryuu. When his black wood pigeon, Hayato, comes flying to him, Tsuzuramaru says they’ll reach the gorgeous city of Edo soon. There must be a lot of strong people there, and he’s looking forward to it… but first, he’ll have to work and make money.
In Edo, Kamuro is sighing about how peaceful it is. Kei doesn’t think peace is a bad thing, but Kamuro says he’s bored with their regular patrols. He wants to do something big by arresting someone. Kei points out that patrolling is an important task though, and Kamuro says he knows that—he just wants to dream. Just then they hear a scream, and they immediately rush towards the source. In front of a row house, a loan shark is dragging a girl named Sato by force. Her father, Saburouza, begs for the loan shark to stop, but his plea is in vain since they’ve made this agreement right from the start. As the loan shark takes Sato away, Saburouza apologizes to her daughter in tears.
When Kei and Kamuro arrive, Sato apologizes for the commotion—saying that she has to leave home to work. Since Kei demands an explanation, the loan shark then shows a certificate of debt. It serves as the proof that Saburouza borrowed 10 ryou from him, which is a very large amount at the time. He couldn’t pay back his debt in time, so the loan shark is taking his daughter as the payment. Saburouza sobs as he apologizes to Kei, explaining that he did it to buy gokenin stock. Unfortunately, his debt grew bigger and bigger over time. The tuition and fee for his private school isn’t enough to pay it back. Kei finds this really stupid, and he angrily tells Saburouza that all of this happened because he wanted to buy the status of a warrior. If he wants the position so badly, he should do it fair and square by competing in the upcoming tournament. Sadly, Saburouza can only apologize and cry as Sato gets taken away.
However, Kei suddenly stops the loan shark. When the loan shark replies that he’s not doing any dirty business, Kei says he knows that. He only wants to ask if the loan shark is willing to wait for a month, and he promises to take responsibility by paying off the debt. The loan shark agrees out of consideration for Kei, but he makes it clear that he’ll only wait for a month. They have to prepare the money before then. After the loan shark leaves, Saburouza and Sato thank Kei for helping them. Kei only tells Saburouza to use his time to work though, because they only have one month… and it’s definitely not enough. He also tells Kamuro to get Saburouza and Sato to make lanterns for the Five Swords Festival, since they can do that at home. Since the school fee alone won’t be enough, this serves as an extra job for Saburouza when he doesn’t have any classes to teach. Of course the lanterns won’t bring 10 ryou either, so Kei is going to look for another job. Kamuro asks him not to do anything dangerous, but Kei says he’ll be fine. There’s no way he’d mess up. Kamuro knows Kei will do something reckless though, so he can’t help but feel worried.
From there, Kei runs into a samurai named Kinshirou in town. Kinshirou notices that he looks down, and Kei asks if there are any jobs that can pay him within a month. After thinking for a while, Kinshirou replies that he can introduce Kei to a recruiter in Yoshiwara… but the jobs there are all dangerous. He actually doesn’t want Kei to do it, but he has no choice since Kei keeps insisting. He knows Kei wouldn’t listen anyway, but similarly to Kamuro, he also tells Kei not to be reckless.
Meanwhile, Kuroba Saneaki is praying in his hut. He doesn’t respond when Habakitsuki laughs and says that he’s always chanting “weird poems”, until she asks him to swing his sword. He’s a samurai, so she’s asking him to act like one. Saneaki answers that he already said this over and over again, but he’s going to find the land of end (as in the final resting place for himself) in Tohoku. His next sword-related job will be the last, and he tells Habakitsuki to leave if she understands. However, Habakitsuki is surprised and asks if Saneaki is going to quit being a samurai. She thinks it’s a real waste, but he coldly says it’s none of her business.
Since Habakitsuki wants to know more about his last sword-related job, Saneaki explains that he’s going to guard Tokugawa’s wedding parade from Edo to Sunpu. She asks why he’s going to Sunpu again, and he answers that it’s because he wants to pray there. After that, he’s going to travel to Tohoku—searching for the land of end. That’s why it’ll be his last time holding his sword, Magoroku Kanemoto. Habakitsuki protests since she possessed the sword hoping to drink some good blood, but Saneaki doesn’t care. She’s a sword youkai, so she should go possess another samurai. Next month, the tournament will be held in Edo. There should be a lot of samurai for her to choose from. Habakitsuki says she wants to stay with him, but Saneaki makes it clear that he won’t cut people down anymore.
However, Habakitsuki still has some hope in the wedding parade. If the parade gets attacked along the way, Saneaki will have to cut down the enemies… or else he will fail at doing his job. He slaps her hands away and tells her not to touch him though, so she sulks and tells him to spend the rest of his life praying if blood scares him that much. Then she calls him weak and disappears. Ignoring Habakitsuki, Saneaki simply notes that Sunpu is a dreadful land. It’s the place where he killed an innocent person for the first time. He thought he’d never see it again, but if he’s going to step into Sunpu one more time… he swears that he’ll never kill an innocent person ever again.
In Edo Castle, Honami Kouetsu reports that he’s done sharpening Juzumaru. He then hands the sword to Yagyuu Munenori, who’s clearly pleased with his work. Juzumaru’s base steel looks beautifully clear, and Munenori admires the radiance of the Heavenly Sword. Kouetsu actually wants to sharpen their “young master”‘s sword as well, but they can hear Yagyuu Juubei Mitsuyoshi searching for him outside—which means he’s not available. Munenori thanks Kouetsu for the good work and dismisses him for today.
After a while, Mitsuyoshi runs into Matsudaira Tatsukage—who’s visibly not happy about all the racket he makes. Mitsuyoshi apologizes and explains that it’s almost time for the horse-riding lesson, but their “young master” is nowhere to be seen. This isn’t the first time he does this either, but Tatsukage only tells Mitsuyoshi to ignore him for now. They have something more important to talk about. Tatsukage asks if the wedding parade is progressing, and Mitsuyoshi answers that it is. Hanzou is already preparing for the departure. However, Tatsukage isn’t concerned about that. What he wants to know is if they have found the most important thing for the wedding parade—the fake bride.
Sadly, Mitsuyoshi admits that he hasn’t found one. Today, he’s going to send the Iga clan to look around the town again. Tatsukage states that they don’t have much time, and they need to find a girl who looks identical to the princess as quickly as possible. This is their top priority. On the day of the departure, they are going to switch the fake bride’s dagger with Juzumaru. Tatsukage also wants Mitsuyoshi to tell “that fool” that no matter what may happen to the fake bride, they have to protect Juzumaru at all costs. When Tatsukage asks where “that fool” is, Mitsuyoshi says their shinobi saw him around the shrine. Tatsukage sighs and orders Mitsuyoshi to bring him back immediately.
Meanwhile, Enishi is snoring at the shrine. A boy mentions that he reeks of alcohol, but his mother quickly tells him not to look. Another passerby shakes his head saying the cherry blossoms haven’t even bloomed, and yet this good-for-nothing samurai is getting drunk at noon… though he seems to be carrying a good sword. Enishi, however, keeps on snoring and mumbling about a princess—asking her to fly into his arms. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ He only wakes up when a roundsman comes and drags him out of his dream, asking if he saw a sword-wielding oni around the area. Last night, an oni with a short sword was also sighted in town. By the law of sword hunt, it’s illegal for the oni clan to wield a sword. A death penalty will also be given to those who protect them. Since Enishi is parroting his word with a confused look, the roundsman quickly runs out of patience and ditches him. Enishi only whines about how the roundsman disturbed his sleep, and then he goes back to resume his nap.
In a dark, run-down hut, a session if illegal Han-Chou gambling is taking place. As the oni dealer shakes the dice, a ronin places his bet on “chou / even”. On the other hand, Sagihara Sakyou and a townsman set all of their money on “han / odd”. The ronin laughs saying they’re both going all out, but this is illegal gambling after all. They need that much courage just to join in. The dealer also laughs as he reveals the numbers on the dice, which turn out to be 2 and 6. The result is 8, and the ronin wins since it’s an even number. The townsman can’t believe they got six evens in a row, but the dealer only tells them to leave. They have no more money left. Even if it’s illegal gambling, he won’t do something as cruel as stripping them down to the clothes. However, Sakyou says he’s not done yet. He asks them to continue, and he’ll place his sword for the bet.
Since a warrior’s soul lies within his sword, the ronin knows Sakyou must have a good reason for doing this. As soon as the dealer shakes the dice, Sakyou swiftly hurls a spinning top at them—cracking them open. The ronin angrily points out that he broke the dice, but Sakyou smiles saying it’s only obvious. He did that on purpose after all. Just as he suspected, the dice are filled with sinkers on the inside. If they’re shaken and thrown, the result will always be even. In other words, the dealer and the ronin are working together to cheat and extort money from them.
Enraged, the ronin gets up and attacks Sakyou—who slashes back before he knew it. Sakyou says he’s not interested in taking the ronin’s life though, since he only wants to see what the ronin is hiding inside his sleeves. At the same time, several dice are falling out of the ronin’s torn sleeves. The ones are hollow, and they will always show an odd number if shaken. Putting the revelation aside, Sakyou suddenly grabs the dealer and asks if he knows Zantetsu from Oumi Mountain. The man has been released from his exile recently. The dealer claims that he doesn’t recognize the name, but Sakyou forces him to spill everything he knows.
The dealer once again replies that he doesn’t know, so Sakyou concludes that he doesn’t need the dealer any further. He calmly takes out his sword and slashes the dealer, sending blood to spurt out and fly onto your PC screen. (⊙ω⊙✿) As the dealer screams in pain, the ronin runs away in fear. Sakyou’s clothes and face are stained by blood, but he only smiles and asks if the dealer feels like speaking up now. At first the dealer says that he doesn’t know Zantetsu, but he gets extremely terrified when Sakyou’s expression turns serious… so he quickly adds that he knows Zantetsu’s friend. The name is Shiguragi and he can be found in Mount Hakone, but that’s all the dealer knows. He begs Sakyou to spare his life, and Sakyou is about to ask further when they hear the roundsmen coming. They received a report of illegal gambling in this area, so Sakyou is forced to flee with the townsman.
When they reach the woods, Sakyou stops and calls the townsman—who’s obviously terrified of him. He manages to secure the townsman’s money that got taken away during the gambling session, so now he’s giving it back along with some extra. In return, he asks the townsman to turn a blind eye about what just happened tonight. The townsman nervously says it’s only obvious, promising that he won’t say anything to anyone. After the townsman
runs away leaves, Sakyou notes that the oni dealer got away. He won’t live long with that wound, but he did leave an important clue—Shiguragi from Mount Hakone. There’s also a rumor about bandit attacks in that area, so Sakyou decides to look further into this issue.
Deep in Mount Takao, Suzukake is training with his sword. When the Kodama (spirits of trees) comment that he looks happy, he tells them that his training period is finally over. They’re all happy for him, and he thanks them for teaching him a lot of things. Soon after, Karura comes to say that it’s finally the night of Suzukake’s departure. Suzukake nods and thanks Karura for everything. Thanks to everyone in Mount Takao, he learned how to use a sword and gained a lot of knowledge about medicinal herbs. He feels grateful to them for raising him, even though he’s not a youkai like them. When Suzukake asks them to thank Nurarihyon for him, the Kodama say Nurarihyon will cry if he hears that.
Karura replies that Suzukake finished his training with his own power, since they only taught him about how to survive in the mountains as a human. However, they have nothing left to teach… and so Karura is sending him off to Edo. There, he can search for what he wants to do in life. Suzukake wonders what kind of place Edo is, but he’s excited to train with human friends. Karura also tells Suzukake that the Tournament of Sword Retrieval will be held in Edo Castle next month. The tournament can give him some money, so he should take a look if he feels like it.
Just then Suzukake’s friends, Madara and Hachimoku, come to see him off. They’re worried to let him go alone, and also sad for parting with him. Suzukake feels the same way, but he wants to try out everything they’ve taught him so far. He wants to do his best all by himself, so they have no choice but to support his choice. His dreams will expand with this journey, and he happily says goodbye to them before departing. He won’t be able to see them for a while, but he asks them to take care. Karura says that Mount Takao is Suzukake’s hometown, so he can always come back if things get too painful or confusing for him. Before leaving, Suzukake asks if he can hug Karura for one last time. The hug gives Suzukake the power to do his best, and so he sets off on his journey.
Right after Suzukake left, Madara and Hachimoku ask Karura if they can follow him. They promise that they won’t disturb him, and they won’t show themselves unless it’s an emergency. They’re just worried because Suzukake isn’t used to humans, and they’ll make sure to turn into their human forms in town. Knowing they’ll still go even if he says no, Karura gives them the permission to follow Suzukake—asking them to protect him when the time comes. After thanking Karura, both of them rush off to chase after Suzukake. As he looks up at the night sky, Karura notes that the tournament is going to begin soon after Suzukake leaves Mount Takao. After 18 years, the destiny of the Five Heavenly Swords finally comes into motion… Maybe it’s really impossible to escape heaven’s will.
The moon is shining in the clear night sky.
It was the day before a girl’s destiny reaches a big turning point.
Since Ken ga Kimi is split into two arcs, I’ll be starting with the first arc—the journey through Tokaido. It’s basically the common route of the game, but it contains individual events as well. As for play order:
Kei → Sakyou → Saneaki → Enishi → Suzukake → Tsuzuramaru
I highly recommend this play order too, since you gradually get involved with the main plot that way. You can switch Kei and Sakyou around though, it doesn’t really matter.