Over the course of the series we learn a lot about the women in the Flower Division, but what of their captain? He’s rarely seen in mainstream marketing material, his spoken lines in the games are few and far between outside of enthusiastic battle cries, and yet somehow he is still the magical glue that holds the first two games and everything that came from them together.
To an extent he fills a common adventure game role: He’s you, me, or whoever else is holding the controller. But while that’s true Sakura Wars then takes a step away from the usual follow-up non-traits: The ones that would dictate he’d be a more successful self-insert if he was treated as a faceless shape for the Flower Division to interact with, the bare minimum amount of person required to exist so you – the player – can believe you’re a physical presence in this world. That’s not how it works here. Ichiro Ogami is a man in his own right, with his own career, ambitions, and a distinctive personality. He shows genuine pleasure in the ticket clipping side of his dual-sided job, quiet pride when watching the group perform from the side of the stage, and bravery in the face of impossible odds. He personally takes pride in his efforts and career, and isn’t shy about voicing his opinions on teamwork when Sakura and Sumire bicker with each other to the point of a slap fight (which Ogami humorously ends up on the receiving end of) near the beginning of the first game.
Even so, there are times when the script looks like it might be unthinkingly reverting to type: In battle Ogami is strong, brave, and wields not one but two katanas, the sword favoured by nerds across the globe. He is always the one making the big decisions, and when he says they’re moving out, there is no question that everyone is moving out. And then, a mere three chapters into the first game, a small child is seen on the battlefield and the only option Ogami has during a lightning-fast LIPS sequence is to put himself between them and the thoroughly evil individual standing a short distance away (you can technically choose to do nothing too… you monster). Ogami ends up seriously injured – out of action injured – as a result and you are taught an important lesson: He’s in charge and he’s a fighter, but he isn’t an invincible avatar of manly wish fulfilment. This happens again and again throughout both games, the times when Ogami gets beaten up or harmed a sort of visual code for how serious things currently are.
Crucially this is never portrayed either as a lack of strength on his part, nor something for his masculine self to brush off or overcome. He – the man who should be our fearless ego-stroking self-insert – will admit when he’s afraid, and is perfectly prepared hold a ring of flowers made by a twelve year old girl in his hands and shout into the rain about protecting the people he cares about. Ogami will pray – at a shrine or in a church – with sincerity (I suppose it would be downright stupid of a man whose job involves fighting demons and can only pilot his koubu thanks to immense spiritual power… oh, and who in the first game literally met an archangel – to not do so). He doesn’t fight to conquer Japan’s enemies or because he’s ordered to, he does it because he wants to protect happiness, those he loves, and peace – and those are words straight out of his own mouth.
So he’s capable, silly, serious, and very serious about protecting people. But again to not be any of those things for a minute or a moment is never painted as a slip up on his or your part (a vital quality in a game where players are frequently presented with multiple choice responses): He’ll hug pretty much anyone if he thinks they need it, participate in any game he’s roped in to even if he’s going to lose (and he will if I’m playing) whether that’s a card game or a pillow fight, and while he isn’t exactly pleased to see a stack of theatre paperwork he doesn’t consider himself above doing it, or above rolling up his sleeves in general. Ogami will at times enthusiastically initiate the traditional “Victory pose” post-battle sequence or hold someone’s hand just to make them feel better. There is give and take here – acting like a stuffy military boss trying to “optimise” his team all the time is not helpful, and neither is constantly behaving like an over-emotional idiot who will always be nice no matter what either. He’ll break rules for his friends when it’s the right thing to do regardless of his professional obligations, fist-fighting the Kanzaki family guards to reach Sumire before she agrees to an arranged marriage she doesn’t really want to take part in (it’s for the theatre’s sake) and destroying powerful sacred treasures for Sakura’s sake rather than see her suffer through the emotional turmoil of knowing she could protect everyone if she used them – as her father did before her – but it would cost her life to do so.
So, who is Ogami? He’s Sakura Wars personified. He’s a fearless and highly skilled warrior who sometimes gets scared and considers time away from battle training and the emotional state of those around him incredibly important, without either side of him ever contradicting the other. He truly believes in the power of love, friendship, and cooperation, and believes in it without shame or reservation even in situations where doing so isn’t going to win him a fight. He’s not us, but maybe he’s who we’d like to be.
🌸Sakura Wars 1 and 2
🌸Fan Discs and related frippery
Sakura Wars Hanagumi Tsushin (Saturn)
Sakura Wars Steam Radio Show (Saturn)
Teigeki Graph in Sakura Wars (Saturn)
Sakura Wars Denmaku Club 1 & 2 (Windows)
Ogami Ichiro Funtouki (Dreamcast)
Sakura Wars Online (Dreamcast)
Sakura Wars Kinematron Hanagumi Mail (Dreamcast)
[I know I say this a lot but now more than ever this is true: This Sakura Wars Corner would not exist in any shape or form without the support I receive from the kind people who have donated/subscribed to my Ko-fi. Thank you everyone!]