Kaze Hikaru Vol. #13 (Mania.com)

By:Erin Jones
Review Date: Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Some very good character development along with some very bland character back story makes for a middling, but promising, volume.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Taeko Watanabe
Translation: Mai Ihara
Adaptation: Mai Ihara

What They Say
In the year 1863, a time fraught with violent social upheaval, samurai of all walks of life flock to Kyoto in the hope of joining the Mibu-Roshi--a band of warriors united around their undying loyalty to the Shogunate system. In time, this group would become one of the greatest (and most famous) movements in Japanese history...the Shinsengumi!

When Okita is sent on a recruiting trip to Edo, Kamiya must learn to fend for herself in his absence. In her loneliness, she is befriended by the plump Miki, who struggles with insecurity due to his brother's constant criticism. Amidst their bonding, Miki begins to develop feelings for Kamiya, and a drunken night turns to near disaster!

The Review!

The Shinsengumi have left behind their former quarters in Rakusei, and moved into a far-larger and more populous area in Rokujo.  Though Sei is more concerned with sleeping arrangements and making nice with the locals, the higher-ups are much more aware that some people in the town don't want them there.  Sei's innocence about the whole thing is both a bit trying and rather cute, especially when several of the town girls develop crushes on her.  Once the living arrangements are sorted out (which is a nice diversion from some of the heavier relationship and historical drama), the focus turns back to her problems with Okita.  He's being sent to Edo to gather more recruits, and this means both more responsibility for Sei in terms of taking care of the troops and her own secret.  Okita doesn't actually leave in this volume, but his harsher treatment of Sei as he attempts to get her ready for his departure still does a lot to evolve her character.
Okita's cold demeanor also causes Sei to seek out support from some of the other members of the Shinsengumi, primarily Miki.  They bond over the fact that the person they most want approval from pushes them away, and Sei promises Miki that the two of them will support each other.  Miki's one of my least favorite characters, so I didn't find his back story or his struggles to be compelling at all.  Fortunately for me, and others who feel that way, their friendship doesn't seem like it will be continuing on to the next volume--and not only does that help minimize Miki time, it also means Sei is trying to truly stand on her own at the end of the volume.  
In Summary: 
There's both good and bad to be found in this installment of Kaze Hikaru, and there also isn't much to be terribly excited about in terms of the historical plot.  The move from Rakusei to Honganji offers the chance for some further political developments and plottings, but there isn't enough time to get far beyond the initial "settling-in" period.  The time spent on Miki's background is neither serious enough to be dramatic nor funny enough to be comedic, and it's easily the low point of the volume.  Thankfully, the focus of much of the plot is on Sei's continued growth.  Her crutch, Okita, is forcibly kicked out from under her, and her struggles to prove herself capable are simultaneously sympathetic and deserved.  Those expecting a complete turn-around of the character will be disappointed, because there isn't enough time in this volume to accomplish that, and the relationship between Sei and Okita is too developed for him to simply abandon her.  Sei's developing independence is still something to look forward to, though, in the next volumes, as long as the creator continues down this road.

Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translation Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 8.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 978-1421524160
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Kaze Hikaru