Manga-ka: Taeko Watanabe
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2013
Synopsis: “After Hijikata grows suspicious of Soji’s feelings about Sei, he reassigns Sei to the third troop under Saito’s command. Soji, puzzled by his own recent irrational behavior toward Sei, attempts to distance himself from her. Sei, in turn, interprets this as Soji’s realization of her feelings for him and decides that she can no longer serve as a bushi alongside him. She goes to visit Suigetsuni, a nun who knew Sei in her former life as a girl, to discuss renouncing the world and entering the convent!”
Waiting a year for any new volume of a series is painful, but when it’s one as charming as Kaze Hikaru it’s all the more sad. At least it’s a credit to the series that even a twelve month wait is little match for the memorable nature of these characters. They feel as familiar now as they did the last time a new book came out. Sometimes, though, things can feel a bit too familiar and while the turmoil of Kamiya/Sei’s love and Soshi’s naivety continues to be the series’ driving force, there is such thing as having too much of a good thing.
Soshi continues to struggle with his feelings for Kamiya. If Soshi wasn’t already a character unconventional in the way he views and deals with almost everything, this would be far more frustrating by now. Coupled with a lifestyle that leaves little interaction with women, and needing to treat and train with Kamiya as if they were a fellow man, it doesn’t feel so odd that at twenty-one volumes he still hasn’t figured out how he actually feels. But he’s not without acknowledgement of his favouritism towards her, nor the strain it puts on their role as bushi. Because of this he’s now doing what he thinks is best – pushing her away, which he does in a particularly memorable scene in front of their Captain that was definitely painful for all involved.
For Kamiya, this is a major blow. She’s recently started to realize a lot of things; the most important of which is that she’s remaining as a bushi in order to stay close to Soshi, more than to uphold the honour of the position. This leads to a lot of much needed, and interesting, introspection as to what it means for not only where she stands now, but also what it says of the deeds she’s already committed. She travels to see an old friend with the intent to stay and leave the bushi life behind her.
The bulk of the volume is this continued dance. Soshi debates, questions and panics over feelings he can’t quite pinpoint, while Kamiya struggles to reconcile what her own feelings mean for the life she’s been leading. Will Soshi go after Kamiya? Will Kamiya return to Soshi? Rinse and repeat. As lovable as these characters are, this dance gets a little old.
One fun continued stand-out is Saito. He’s been a close friend and confident to both Kamiya and Soshi, while also suffering from his own naiveté. He still believes that Kamiya is a boy and is very good at convincing himself that any sign to the contrary merely jives with the lies he’s been told. Still, his honesty and forward nature is refreshing. While his role as both spy and friend lends itself to his introverted nature, he has his own agenda and is open about it. In this volume, Saito tells Soshi that he’s in love with Kamiya. On top of that, he revels in the shock and confusion this causes Soshi because he knows his friend that well. While earlier we would’ve thought Saito the type to do this to further Soshi and Kamiya’s relationship, now it’s clear he wants Kamiya for himself and he’s just as tired seeing the same dance again and again as we are.
New volumes of Kaze Hikaru are a yearly treat but sometimes it’s hard to be as excited when you wait so long for a volume that doesn’t carry you forward. By the end of volume twenty-one, it doesn’t feel like we’re in a situation very different from before. While this would be fine in a series that was coming out at a regular pace, with this long a wait and the ever-looming fear that Viz Media will pull the plug, it’d feel better having a volume that progresses the plot instead of just wallowing around in what we already have. It’s as sweet, charming and beautifully drawn as ever, but with the finish line still such a ways away, it’ll need more than the same old to carry us to it.
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Book purchased from Strange Adventures