[Review] The Samurai of SAC: Naoe Kanetsugu (Budding Hearts)

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The route picks up from when the MC arrives at Echigo and Kanetsugu catches her just as she has woken up the morning after. It then follows Kanetsugu as he struggles between his desire to do all he can for his lord, Kenshin, and the people of Echigo, and his lack of confidence in his ability to do so. The MC is a faithful friend throughout his journey as a leader, even as they begin to develop romantic feelings for each other.

I really appreciated (this) context that the route provided, especially after reading Mitsuhide’s. I also love how they (especially the MC!!!) didn’t start off all lovestruck and ‘offer-my-life-for-you’.

It’s also great how Kanetsugu’s so talkative in this route; versus how he was in Kenshin’s, for example. It helps paint a clearer — and definitely more attractive and endearing — picture of him (especially for me, who found him quite the opposite of interesting or attractive as a minor character in the other routes … he looks like an old man when he’s not smiling #sorrynotsorry 😆), but it does take a bit of getting used to, hahaha.

I also really, REALLY love the trust, respect, and partnership between him and the MC. They are always doing stuff together (mostly because Kanetsugu kept finding ways to spend time with the MC, haha) and asking each other for their opinions or advice. They make each other feel so calm and secure.

What I think …

The MC here seems refreshingly capable. She was sassy and brave in the other routes, but somehow, (because?) she’s in this route — of this man who didn’t start out as a daimyo, who was as perfectly comfortable working in a field as the MC was, who was so far from being the larger-than-life figure the other lords were — she seemed to be his equal in a way that she couldn’t be in any of the routes so far. She was no weak-in-the-knees damsel-in-distress who was so awed by working in a castle and mingling with nobility, nor was she so clueless or naive. She had to be that kind of girl to be with Kanetsugu. That kind of girl to believe in him, enough for the both of them. That kind of girl to bring out Kanetsugu’s inner strength. This calls to mind Ieyasu and his route, but — somehow — Kanetsugu and his route have a very different feel. Maybe because Ieyasu gives off a ‘vulnerable little kid’ vibe, or that he and the MC seemed too much like teenagers in love for the first time, while Kanetsugu definitely seems older (by hair color alone #sorrynotsorry 😅).

I totally LOVE how the romancing is reversed in one scene. (The MC is the one who touches Kanetsugu.) The kind of strength the MC has in this route is the perfect foil for gentle, self-effacing Kanetsugu.

I also really love (OK, I’m starting to sound really, annoyingly repetitive, even to myself, haha) all the SAC supporting cast. The relationships among the different characters, as well as the cameos they make in each other’s routes, are sometimes the only saving grace in the duller or sillier routes in the series. (There really is nothing like all-black armor, and every time Date Masamune appeared in this route wearing his had me clutching my pillow like my life depended on it! 😍) The natural and genuine friendship between the MC, Kanetsugu, and Mitsunari helped the plot move along and gave the route heart. Also, it is only here and now that I came to appreciate Kenshin — as matchmaker, at that. And let’s not forget about this big, clumsy, lumbering, loyal kid-of-a-man!

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Maeda Keiji, Sakura Amidst Chaos ©Voltage, Inc.

Even though there is none of the typical push-and-pull present in most romances, the natural and well-paced way theirs developed, as well as the depth, strength, and clarity of their feelings for each other, created all the feels necessary to make this route great.

And Kanetsugu’s has to be the sweetest, most romantic, and least impulsive proposal among all the routes so far! Both he and the MC are straightforward, without any of the sometimes exaggerated coyness in many Voltage routes. [Click here for a short MV of the proposal. SPOILER alert.]

As with Ieyasu’s route, I was greatly and pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed this route so much. I did not like both characters initially, but they turned out to be way better than others I had (initially) looked forward to.

Kanetsugu is the quiet, dependable type. Careful and timid, but fierce and committed when it comes to the people and things he cares about. This cannot be seen any more clearly than in one of the final scenes, when he comes to the MC’s (and others’) rescue. It was such a dramatic, moving, and heartfelt scene that, for me, was made all the more poignant and believable because it involved such a ‘guy next door’. (It’s so easy to imagine that Kanetsugu is actually someone you know in real life!)

Overall, I found this route delightfully well written — from the flow of the story to the dialogue. Kanetsugu and the MC’s pairing also seems more realistic (IMHO, at least) than others, since he was only second-in-command when it started. There were also lots of little details that jacked up the feels! Small (and completely innocent) movements such as a sigh beside an ear, for example. And. Seriously. This is the most naturally-developed romance among all the routes released so far, with the least ridiculous/ridiculously head-over-heels MC (who will throw herself off a cliff for her lord who is so far above her or something like that). The story is so well paced and nothing’s over the top at all IMHO, and with none of the bothersome plot holes in Kenshin’s route, as far as I can see. And unlike Mitsuhide’s route (which was promoted and released at the same time), I didn’t even notice (much less minded) at all that it was so short. It was so well worth what I paid for it!

Oh! And …

  • To get the HAPPY ENDING, choices that show the MC being strong and boosting Kanetsugu’s confidence are key.
  • The ‘And Then’ epilogue did, indeed, have me smiling in happiness for them from beginning to end! *sigh* Their wedding night is as sweet, romantic, gentle, and understated (and possibly underrated as well) as Kanetsugu’s proposal and Kanetsugu himself. 😙
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3 thoughts on “[Review] The Samurai of SAC: Naoe Kanetsugu (Budding Hearts)

  1. “Both he and the MC are straightforward, without any of the sometimes exaggerated coyness in many Voltage routes” So it sounds like the two actually talk things out and work together from your review. I really like that and I wish that was more prevalent in otoge. And that blushy cg is sooooo tempting! *Adds to ever growing list

    Liked by 1 person

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