Kaede (楓, Kaede which means "maple") is a character who is considered to be the main protagonist of the Last Blade series.
He is symbolized by falling maple leaves (he also has a golden stylized maple leaf on the back of his vest) and his official slogan is "Shining Soul": 時代を継ぐ少年 (Jidai wo Tsugu Shōnen, lit. Boy who Inherits the Age).
In the character popularity poll on Neo Geo Freak's website, his awakened state was voted as the ninth favorite character with a total of 1,028 votes. In the same poll, his normal form occupied the fourteenth spot with 896 votes.
He is voiced by Kōji Suidzu.
He was the son of a warrior named Gaisei. Gaisei was a master swordsman who trained him with two other orphans, Moriya Minakata and Yuki. As he grew, he became an avid swordsman and powerful warrior. One day, when he was twelve, he and Yuki returned from an errand to discover their master slain and Moriya standing over his corpse. Enraged, Kaede physically attacked him for the (presumed) killing of their master. Moriya withstood the attack and left in silence.
Shortly thereafter, Kaede and Yuki depart their foster home to avenge the death of their master and confront the killer. Five years on their quest, he still searches for Moriya. He eventually discovers that the real killer of his master was one of the four guardians of hell, Shinnosuke Kagami. He engages him, but the guardian's superior skill quickly overpowers him. However, it is revealed that Kaede possesses the power of the legendary dragon Seiryū, one of the Four Sacred Beasts of Chinese mythology. He can transform with the beast's power, changing various physical aspects and giving him additional power. With his transformation into “awakened Kaede” (覚醒楓, Kakusei Kaede), he defeats Kagami.
After honing his skills and learning to control the power of the Seiryū to a greater extent, Kaede and Yuki set off for Okina in order to find more information. When they arrive, they discover that the “Sealing Rite” needs to be performed, for a great evil threatens the world. This rite is to be performed by a special maiden, but a warrior named the “Messenger From Afar” seeks to assassinate her and prevent her from performing it. Kaede sets out to protect the maiden and to allow her to accomplish her mission.
Kaede is humble and polite for his age, modest about his accomplishments and careful about how he perceives himself to others. At first, he is reluctant to release Seiryū's power, afraid of the possibility of letting his other half becoming dominate and subsequently berserk with power. He has mixed impressions for Moriya as he respects his brother but is also a little envious of his freedom from the Four Sacred Beasts.
As Awakened Kaede, he is transformed into a cocky and brash warrior with a more rough way of speaking compared to his prior soft voice, a trait that slowly but subtly mellows as the series progresses. By Last Blade 2, Kaede establishes complete control over his awakening and uses Seiryū's power more effectively.
In his normal form, Kaede uses the Japanese pronoun "boku" to refer to himself; when awakened, he refers to himself with "ore" instead.
- Awaken - The state when Kaede gives in to Seiryū's influence is called "Awakening". When Awakened, Kaede's hair turns blonde, and his eyes turn red. He becomes less gentle and more impulsive, but still retains his sense of good and justice. In this form, Kaede has greater control over his electric powers, which were granted by Seiryū.
- Energy Projectile - Kaede can fire a projectile of energy while not in awakened form, either along the ground (in the first game) or through the air at a low altitude (subsequent games onward).
- Electrokinesis - Kaede can control electricity.
- Electric Projectile - Kaede can fire a projectile of electric energy through the ground.
- Lightning - Kaede can summon lightning from the sky and from the ground up.
- Lightning Dragon - Kaede can summon powerful lightning bolts that take the form of serpentine dragons. These dragon-like lightning bolts can only be summoned with effort, and may cause severe damage to his opponents.
- Electric Attacks - As awakened Kaede, he can infuse his attacks with electric energy. This may be done on his sword or on his hand.
His "Kasshin Ittō" style is based on the "Kamiya Kasshin" style found in the Rurouni Kenshin manga, which serves as a basis for much of the The Last Blade series. As the name suggests, the style is meant to tame Kaede's temptations to depend on Seiryū. Throughout the series, he attempts to carefully control Seiryū enough to simply increase his natural skill and power slightly.
Much like traditional sword styles and like the Kasshin style itself, normal Kaede's sword strikes are frequently two-handed (as well as holding his sword in both hands in his idle stance), and his special moves all have the "Ittō" (One Blade) naming before them. His moves mostly have a wind motif about them due to his katana's name (such as Hayate/Squall, Kūga/Air Fang, Ara Uchi/Tempest Conquer and for his awakened form, Oite/Tailwind).
While when awakened, his skill increases by quite a bit as he swings his blade on the same line and manner as his normal form, only one-handed (even in his idle stance). All his special moves instead have the "Shinmei" (晨明, Early Glow) naming before them, and all involve radical control over lightning, as well as gaining/making a few new techniques of his own and adding a personal spice to them (due to the radical change in personality Kaede has in his awakened form). Though both forms' DM's have the "Kasshin" naming before them; his awakened form in the second game as a nod to this during his strongest SDM yells out "Kasshin Saishū Ōgi!" (Lively Heart Final Secret Skill!) upon connecting; normal Kaede is even able to channel a portion of Seiryū's power, suggesting that Gaisei taught him to also hone such energy as a last resort.
In terms of gameplay, the style is meant to be a good balance for players with no real strengths or weaknesses, being a standard "shoto-clone" with a standard set of projectile, anti-air and expansion special moves. In the first game, Awakened Kaede as a transformation slightly altered his gameplay, as the form was noticeably stronger while gradually drained his lifebar while in use. The second game improved most characters to be about as good as Awakened Kaede, so that he is in this form from the start and permanently. Almost as if to illustrate this, normal Kaede is still in the game as a secret character, and is generally rated as one of the least capable characters in The Last Blade 2 (along with Yuki, who was even downgraded, possibly also for story reasons).
- The Last Blade
- The Last Blade 2 - Awakened form, original form hidden
- The Last Blade - Beyond the Destiny
- The King of Fighters 2000 - As a Striker for Ryo (Awakened form, a nod to Ryo's nickname)
- Neo Geo Battle Coliseum - Awakened form
- The King of Fighters '94: Rebout - background cameo in the Japan Team and Art of Fighting Team stages
- Days of Memories (ninth title) - in-text cameo
- KOF: Maximum Impact 2 - Rock Howard's Normal outfit G (Awakened Form)
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves - background cameo in Hokutomaru's stage
Gekka no Kenshi Drama CD
Although frequently mentioned, Kaede plays only a minor character in the Drama CD, appearing only in Yuki's dreams, a flashback and in a miscellaneous scene. The original character, Hojo Souma, conjures an illusion to disguise himself as Kaede causing Yuki to mistake him for the real one.