Manga-ka: Taeko Watanabe
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: June 2006
Synopsis: “Sei devotes herself to becoming an ideal bushi, or warrior, and accompanies the Mibu-Roshi to Osaka. There, she finds the man responsible for killing her father and brother. Desperate to avenge her family, Sei uncovers his hideout with the help of a friend, but they are soon discovered and her companion is slain. Is Sei ready for the hardships of the Mibu-Roshi? Or should she return home to lead the life of a normal girl?”
The first chapter of this book cracked me up, sharing with readers an honest peek into the mind of Sei, living a life among men who are anything but as refined as she had envisioned. Smelly, rude and perverse, she sees the honest side of men and has no plans to be a part of it. When her plan to rise to the ranks of ‘a real man’ is taken into the hands of the boisterous Serizawa, Sei is suddenly whisked away to find her masculinity in a misinterpreted manner.
From the pan and into the fire, coincidental confrontations see Sei faced with the opportunity for the vengeance she so desperately seeks. But is the true nature of the Bushi truly to take the life of another so easily? Her beliefs in strength, justice and conviction are all tested and explored when her sword meets the neck of a man responsible for the death of family. Recurring characters remain at her side, with some distinctly more surprising than others. The understanding and protection those around her offer is sweet and heart-warming to a point, though when added to her already occasionally wishy-washy disposition, it makes the believability of her situation a little hard to accept in more than one situation.
Still, everyone works together to make a small but easily followed cast of characters (impressive artistically since they all dress similar with the same coloured hair) who’ve all managed to engrain themselves so strongly in my mind that I’m eagerly anticipating the story’s evolution from all their angles, from the laidback Saito to the lecherous and loud, Seizawa.
I did enjoy a moment in this book where Sei is able to come relatively clean to a woman with a connection to her past who easily deduces her secret. As supportive as Okita is to her, it’s a relief to see Sei able to have a fellow female to speak with plus it allows another brief look back at Sei’s relationship with her brother. I’m sure having a woman in the series being there for Sei will prove very helpful later on as well.
The author’s notes at the end of the book are well worth a read, amusingly exploring the steps taken to see Kaze Hikaru‘s creation. The semi-woeful tales of her driven study in plans to pursue the creation of such a historically based piece of work is well received in context of how successfully these aspects of the story are handled. You really feel like you’re reading a story of the era and so much of the book’s strength lies in that. Hard work well paid off, Taeko Watanabe!
Though only two volumes in, I continue to thoroughly enjoy these early portions of Kaze Hikaru. The shoujo elements of the story are set clear to gear themselves in motion but remain well balanced with a story that’s otherwise well tainted in suspenseful emotion and bloody battles. With the chance for vengeance coming so surprisingly soon in the plot, I still greatly look forward to seeing Sei’s search for the truth continue and just how far down a dark path it could potentially take her.