Kaze Hikaru 3-5 by Taeko Watanabe: A-

kaze3Tominaga Sei, a teenaged girl who has assumed the male identity of Kamiya Seizaburo in order to join the Mibu-Roshi and avenge the deaths of her brother and father, has achieved her revenge. As volume three begins, her mentor and unrequited love, Okita Soji, is urging her to leave because she has accomplished her task, but Sei doesn’t want to go and demands acceptance as a man. They engage in a wager in which Okita agrees that she can stay if she manages to score one hit on him. The way she manages to do this is rather underhanded, and I can’t cheer her methods, but I do like that Sei chooses a life of honing her skills in order to be able to protect the one she loves rather than returning to her original gender, even if it would mean a better chance at living a romantic life with him.

After this entertaining but uneventful start, I was unprepared for the utter awesome that comes next. It begins when Serizawa, a drunken hothead who nonetheless deserves much of the credit for the Mibu-Roshi’s existence, is visited by the beautiful wife of a merchant to whom he is indebted. He’s enchanted by her loveliness and is initially content to just moon about over her. When Sei finds out that the woman is actually not the wife but a mistress, and therefore available, she thinks she’s doing the right thing when she encourages Serizawa to go for it. Of course, his behavior only worsens from that kaze4point on, further sullying his reputation with the public. These events coincide with the Mibu-Roshi earning the name Shinsengumi (for their bravery during a coup attempt) and an order from on high to rid the group of troublesome elements.

Matters come to a head in volume four. If I had been a better student of this period of Japanese history, instead of barely able to grasp the political maneuverings, I would’ve known what was going to happen, but in this case I can firmly attest that ignorance is bliss! With this storyline, Kaze Hikaru shows its real power to be dramatic, moving, and brutal, and has seriously hooked me for the long haul. The recurring theme of the series seems to be “Sei gets more than she bargained for,” and that idea is front and center here as she has serious problems with the way discipline is being carried out, though she comes to see the necessity for these new rules—and enforces them—after a condemned man, to whom she was inclined to show mercy, kills another during his escape attempt.

After the dark days in volume four, the story shifts into more lighthearted territory, featuring chapters that reveal more about some other Shinsengumi members. Despite encountering certain grim truths—and unpleasant revelations upon the nature of men—Sei kaze5manages to remain her optmistic self, a quality which prompts the laconic Saito Hajime to develop feelings for her. He fights his attraction, which could not be more unrequited, as Sei continually confuses him with her older brother, whom he apparently resembles greatly. This is a recurring thread throughout volume five, which also features tales about the captain, Kondo Isami, who the men think has been going out whoring; details about Okita’s past; a woman seeking revenge against vice-captain Hijikata for the death of her brother; Sei trying to learn a new sword technique that’s too advanced for her; and the appearance of a man who proclaims his love for Hijikata before promptly absconding with his valuable katana.

All in all, this was an excellent trio of volumes to read together, as they exemplify all the things that Kaze Hikaru does well. The balance between human interest stories and historical drama is well-maintained, aided by beautiful art and likeable characters. If I could be said to have a problem with the series, it would be that Sei frequently raises objections to matters decided upon by the leaders and has to be shown by Okita how she is wrong. He almost always manages to do this without being patronizing, but I’d like to see her grow into a more hardened warrior. Now that I’ve seen the darkness of which the series is capable, this seems at least somewhat possible.

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  1. i have to agree with you. these were really the volumes where i got sucked into the series aswell. i find that some of the more recent volumes haven’t been as engaging, but hopefully 14 & 15 will rebound. it’s still good, but not as good. however, it’s nice to see someone else likes this series as well. good review.

    • Thanks for both the compliment and the comment!

      That’s too bad about recent volumes not being as good. I just got volume 15 as a review copy for Manga Recon, so I’m going to be speeding up my consumption of the earlier volumes to try to catch up in a timely fashion. I was looking forward to more awesomeness. 🙂


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