In which I examine all the clues Falcom has dropped concerning Shizuna and why she’s Someone Worth Watching.
Evidence from Reverie
Our first introduction to Shizuna came in a last-minute cameo in Reverie, where she shows up in the very last Episode at the end of Rean’s segment in a most dramatic manner. Already it’s worth noting that of all the things Falcom could foreshadow for Kuro, Shizuna is one of the things they picked. There’s a lot to unpack in her short appearance, some of it outside the scope of this topic. I’ll just say that I strongly suspect that her Black God One Blade style is one of those that Yun Ka-fai synthesized into his Eight Leaves One Blade, hence the similarities.
For purposes of this topic, Beyond the Beginning established two things about Shizuna: She’s referred to as ‘Princess’ (姫) and her sword is something special. Rean refers to it as a work of art and thinks it’s certainly a ‘treasured sword’ which is exactly how famous weapons like Victor’s Galland-Sharl and Aurelia’s Arcadia are referred to. In other words, her sword is Important.
Evidence from Kuro
Once Shizuna properly appears in Kuro, Arioch and Bergard both refer to Shizuna with the longer title of ‘Silver Princess’ (白銀の姫), which reinforces that the Ikaruga rank and file mean it literally when they call her by a noble title.
Ever since FC, we’ve been aware that there’s an eastern part of Zemuria that’s inspired by Asian cultures in the same way that western Zemuria has its analogues to Prussia/Germany (Erebonia) and France (Calvard). We’ve known for almost as long that something has been driving a wave of migration westward and that it’s led to internal unrest in Calvard. Cold Steel added the detail that something is causing the septium veins to deplete and the land to turn to desert. Finally with Kuro, we learn that until about S.1078, most of the east was ruled by the Holy Empire of Isuka (イスカ神聖皇国) until it collapsed suddenly.
Now, something very interesting happens in the Ikaruga route in Chapter 5. Shizuna and Kurogane have a little side conversation during the encounter with Heiyue where the very first named mention of Isuka appears. They recognize Cao Lee (and by extension all of the Not-Chinese characters) as belonging to one of the nine clans within the Navagraha. Finale reveals that they were nine groups that protected the Emperor and by implication they represented nine ethnic subdivisions within the Empire. Shizuna also recognizes Arioch as a survivor of a different clan, the Ragou (or Rahu). In other words, Shizuna is familiar with the internal makeup of an empire that ceased to exist more than a century before she was born.
In Finale, she shows more familiarity with Isuka, knowing how large its capital city was in comparison to Edith. While that tidbit is something she might know from living in the east, it’s still an interesting detail that we learn more about Isuka from her than we do from every other source in the game and most of what we learn from Arioch and Dingo, we can hear from Shizuna first.
Another point that’s of some interest is that while Ikaruga is referred to as a jaeger group by westerners, they call themselves samurai (侍衆). This is noteworthy because a samurai is by definition a warrior who serves a master. If Falcom had wanted to pick a Japanese term equivalent to jaeger as it’s used in the series, they could have used rounin, which would imply masterless samurai who sometimes worked as mercenaries. Instead, Falcom very specifically used a term that places them within a socio-political framework.
One other thing of interest is the name of the fallen empire, Isuka. While we don’t have an official romanization yet and other people have used Iska or Isca, I prefer reading it as a direct Japanese word, because like Ikaruga it’s the name of a bird. Specifically it refers to the red crossbill, a bird that has some religious associations in Europe that would fit as the namesake of a ‘holy empire’. Ikaruga itself is named for the Japanese grosbeak. I think this similarity of origins is significant.
Now, onto Shizuna’s S-Craft Ougi – Reigetsu Issen (皇技・零月一閃). Hers has a prefix like a number of them do and while they don’t always have deep meanings, hers is interesting because it’s prefix is Imperial Skill, the same term used for Isuka and in the real world, for the Japanese imperial house. It’s also the exact term that Arioch uses to describe the emperor that his clan once served.
One more point about her sword, her Connection Event reveals that she takes extremely good care of it and collects fragments of metal from the weapons and armor of strong opponents to repair its scabbard when it’s damaged. She claims (but may just be messing with Van) that this suppresses the otherworldly energy that the blade is constantly emitting. Perhaps she’s joking, but it’s an interesting point to remember since in the immediately prior Chapter we learned about an extremely dangerous sword that once belonged to the royal family of Calvard.
Lastly and this isn’t a direct bit of evidence on its own but a reflection of how Falcom likes slipping in pop culture references, in the series Cross Ange the title character’s full name is Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi, princess of the Holy Empire of Misurugi. I think by this point you can see where this is going…
My call is that Shizuna is a descendant of the old imperial line of Isuka, which is why she’s known as the Silver Princess. Ikaruga is named that as an acknowledgement of the symbolism of Isuka’s name. All the little references to Imperial This and Imperial That from Shizuna and her knowledge of the makeup of the empire are because if it were still around she would be its royalty. Ikaruga call themselves samurai because they are serving a master and are still loyal to the ideals of the empire but are forced to take unusual measures to accomplish their aims. And I think that Shizuna’s sword has been built up but deliberately kept mysterious to the player because it is the Zemurian equivalent to Ame-no-Murakumo and could be recognized as such; for all I know that could even be its actual name. As for what it all means? I’m as certain as can be right now that the arc after Calvard will take us to the east and involve Isuka’s collapse as a major background element (I suspect the Sept-Terrion of Water will be involved) and introducing Shizuna now is Falcom’s way of getting things started. As for what her and Ikaruga’s goals are, we’ll just have to Play And Find Out.