Before reading this, you should already be familiar with the story of Yotoden. This is not a plot synopsis, as I am assuming that you already have basic knowledge of the series.
This is a text intensive, detailed write-up of all the intricacies that happened between Sakon and Ayame in the anime, containing, of course, many of my own interpretations. (The manga has more interactions between the two, but I like the anime version of the story better. =P) This is about the relationship between Sakon and Ayame, as well as their feelings toward each other. I will also briefly discuss their feelings toward other characters where they relate to the subject of “love.”
Chapter I: Break Out
Our story begins with the first meeting between Ayame, the Kasumi Ninja of Shinano, and Sakon, the Hyuga Ninja of Kaga. The year was 1580, the eighth year of Tensho.
Ayame had witnessed the destruction of her entire clan along with the death of her older brother, Shinnosuke, by the three-headed monster under the control of the Host of Oboro. As the sole survivor of the Kasumi clan, Ayame was entrusted with the task of protecting the clan’s magical kodachi that her father and brother had given their lives for. Shinnosuke’s final instructions were for Ayame to go to Hyuga and Hagakure-no-Sato and see to it that the three schools of Shadow Warriors combine strength for the purpose of eliminating evil. However, when Ayame reached Hyuga, she was only in time to find the ruins of another destroyed clan.
August of 1580. By this time, Ayame had adapted to a masculine identity and masculinized her name to Ayanosuke. This was probably due to a combination of her grief over the death of her older brother and a desire to be stronger in order to accomplish Shinnosuke’s dying wish. Male or female, she was nonetheless targeted and ambushed by the bandits of Nagabuse Mountain. However, the bandits were no match against Ayanosuke, and soon, their leader showed up in the form of a fine-looking, red haired, young man leaning nonchalantly against a tree. “Stop,” he ordered, “you are certainly not good enough to defeat this one.” Spitting out the blade of grass in between his lips, he declared, “I’ll do it.” And with these words, Sakon-sama made his first appearance. Sakon proceeded to challenge Ayanosuke, and in one exchange, he slashed her cloak into two pieces, revealing the beautiful woman that it concealed. A few swift exchanges followed, and the two quickly recognized that there was something extraordinary about each other and agreed to postpone the match (a match that they would never be able to finish ;_;). In the meanwhile, dark creatures under the command of the Oboro Ninja, Saegusa Jinnai, had soundlessly surrounded them...
After the interlude with Jinnai and Ryoan, the two would travel together towards Hagakure-no-Sato. In the evening, while resting next to the campfire, Ayanosuke asked Sakon how he had survived the destruction of Hyuga. Sakon did not answer right away; instead, he took one long (and I mean long), meaningful look at his traveling companion before posing the same question back at her. Ayanosuke had no ready answer either, but she knew that she wanted to slay the monster that destroyed Kasumi. “Vengeance?” Sakon replied, and then he questioned their power against a monster that had the ability to destroy their hometowns within one night. Frustrated, Ayanosuke demanded to know why then was Sakon going to Hagakure at all, to which Sakon vaguely answered, “Well, I wonder...” (My own interpretation is that Sakon was going to Hagakure because of Ayame. He had no desire for revenge, but somewhere during his first encounter with Ayame, the seed of what would eventually become love started to sprout inside of him. On his own, he would have been content with the carefree life of a wandering swordsman, but now that he had met Ayame, he wanted to help her and protect her, in his own subtle ways.)
Watching the interactions between Sakon and Ayame, I had made some interesting observations that I would like to discuss here. Whenever they fought together, Sakon was always concerned about Ayame’s safety; however, Ayame is highly skilled and can definitely take care of herself. I believe Sakon admired and loved her for her strength and passion, but at the same time, he always felt the desire to shield her from danger. Also, while everyone else referred to Ayame as Ayanosuke-dono or Ayanosuke-sama, Sakon just simply called her Ayanosuke, and later on Ayame (the only other person to use that name in the anime is her deceased brother). The most interesting observation is that even though Ayame had assumed a masculine role, she always walked behind Sakon. This, of course, could be partly explained by Sakon’s more senior status: most likely, Sakon was the older of the two, and very clearly, he was also the more experienced and skilled of the two. However, later in the anime, when we see Ayame with Ryoma, who is also in a senior position, she had no problem with rushing ahead of him. I could be reading too much into this, but this point becomes important when we consider Ayame’s attachment towards Kikyo.
And that brings us to Kikyo, Ryoma’s younger sister, a sweet, soft-spoken girl that fell in love with Ayanosuke, and I think on Ayanosuke’s part, if she did not love Kikyo, she at the very least grew very fond of her within a very short amount of time. So where does that leave poor Sakon-sama? Ok, allow me to attempt an explanation. First of all, I don’t think Ayame loved Sakon right from the start. She was too consumed with the desire to avenge her clan to allow such a distraction. If she felt anything for Sakon, she suppressed those feelings. Secondly, Ayame felt the need to stay in her masculine identity for as long as the task of eliminating evil remained unfinished. Sakon respected Ayame’s decision and never even hinted at his desire to see her return to being a woman until the very last bit of the series. However, I am sure they both implicitly understood that desire. Therefore, with Kikyo, Ayame could comfortably stay in her masculine role, and Kikyo’s warmth and acceptance made it very easy for Ayanosuke to open up. Unfortunately, poor Kikyo had very little time to spend with her Ayanosuke-sama before she died saving Ayanosuke’s life. In front of Kikyo’s grave, Ayanosuke made a promise to return and see her again once it was all over. It was the end of summer, 1580, the eighth year of Tensho.
(Unfinished... Still have OAV II & III as well as the movie to go through. I will try to finish this sometime soon. Bug me about it if my procrastination outlasts your patience. ^_^)