Kaze Hikaru Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 8.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1-4215-0189-9
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Kaze Hikaru Vol. #01

By Matthew Alexander     April 22, 2006
Release Date: January 03, 2006

Kaze Hikaru Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Taeko Watanabe
Translated by:Mai Ihara
Adapted by:

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!

Into this fierce milieu steps Kamiya Seizaburo, a young would-be warrior who, though lacking in combat experience, possesses a fiery enthusiasm to both aid the Mibu-Roshi in their mission and to avenge his wrongfully murdered family. One of the Mibu-Roshi's most gifted (and immature) swordsmen, the legendary Okita Soji, agrees to take Seizaburo under his wing. What no one suspects, least of all Soji, is that Seizaburo is actually a girl named Tominaga Sei in disguise!

The Review
The front cover of Kaze Hikaru shows both Kamiya and Okita standing back to back in front of a blooming cherry tree wearing their Shinsengumi uniforms. There is good use of color throughout the picture giving it an almost subdued look. The back cover has a story synopsis and another smaller picture of Kamiya and Okita. Although the printing is clean, the solid blacks look a little faded, almost like there wasn't enough ink used. I was a bit unhappy with the treatment of the first eight pages of the story, where they were originally in color but Viz marketed this title at $8.99 and did away with the color prints. I think a lot of fans would prefer to pay a dollar or two more for the colored version.

Extras consist of a note from the author describing why she decided to write a historical manga and a page that explains some of the historical terms used in the story. There is also a five page preview of the Kamikaze Girls novel.

The character design for Kaze Hikaru is well done and the artist did an admirable job of creating Kamiya, who is believable as either a cute young man or girl. The story doesn't have much in the way of backgrounds but the artwork is pretty good. The artist switches back and forth between serious and comical facial designs quite a bit but it works well with the large amount of comedy in this story. I especially enjoyed the way the shadows are used on and around the characters during serious scenes, which helped increase the drama of the particular situations.

The translation is free of grammatical error, retains honorifics and reads well. One exception is that it becomes a little difficult to follow some of the conversations when characters switch back and forth between using family and given names. An extra character page would have gone a long way to clean up the confusion. The SFX was translated and overlain.

Contents: (Oh yes, there may be spoilers)
Kaze Hikaru is a historical story set in the same time frame as Rurouni Kenshin, only told from the side of the Shinsengumi or 'Wolves of Mibu'. In fact, Kaze Hikaru shares the same main characters of the Shinsengumi as Peacemaker Kurogane. The twist in this story is that the protagonist samurai-in-training is a fifteen year old girl named Tominaga Sei. Sei grew up with her father and spent much of her time practicing kendo with her older brother. So when her brother and father are brutally slain in front of her, she decides to join the Shinsengumi so she can become a samurai and avenge her family. The only way to accomplish this though is to shave the top of her head, dress as a boy and take the name Kamiya Seizaburo allowing her to pass herself off as the son of a samurai in hopes of being accepted by the Shinsengumi.

Through shear willpower and perseverance, Kamiya is able to make her way into the ranks of the Shinsengumi. Once inside, what she believed to be hallowed halls, she discovers life as a Mibu Wolf is less honorable than she expected. Some of her elders are drunks, some are lazy, Vice-Captain Hijikata is a slave driver, and a fair number of members think she makes a very cute man who they would like to get to know better. Luckily for Kamiya though, the one man she looks up to, Okita, is the one who knows her secret. On the occasions when she thinks she might break down and run away, Okita is there to step in and give her the few extra words of comfort she needs to continue.

After awhile, Kamiya finally receives an official uniform and begins to accompany the others on patrols around town. Although their job is to keep the peace, Kamiya quickly learns that the villagers of Kyoto have a less than favorable opinion of the Shinsengumi. She learns that part of the reason for this is the groups' lack of funds, causing them to stretch their food supply to get by. It does not help that Captain Kondo spends most of his time drinking at inns and bullying the innkeepers into donating their sake to the Shinsengumi in exchange for protection. Kamiya finds the whole situation deplorable and once again questions her decision to join the Mibu Wolves.

After a rocky beginning as one of the Shinsengumi, Kamiya swears she will stay true to her promise to avenge her family but it looks like she's going to have to open herself up and learn from new experiences if she's going to grow as a person. Can Kamiya keep her gender secret from the other members of the Shinsengumi? Will she be able to increase her skills as a bushi and find the man responsible for killing her family?

Kaze Hikaru is an interesting take on a samurai story and one I found to be an enjoyable read. Sei, or under her disguise name Kamiya, is a teenage girl who desires nothing more in life than to become a true samurai, live an honorable life and take revenge on her families murderer. A story of someone having an urge to become stronger and revenge a wrong is nothing new, but I did like the use of a historical setting and the theme of a woman in a man's world. A lighter side to this serious story is successfully maintained through the challenges Kamiya faces in keeping the other members of the Shinsengumi from discovering she is really a girl disguised as a boy.

Kamiya also has an infatuation for Okita that grows throughout the story. This figures to be a prominent romance for this story but Okita acts like he may not be the kind of guy that appreciates advances by the opposite sex. I'm looking forward to seeing how long Kamiya can keep the secret that she's really a girl and learning which way Okita is going to swing when it comes to a love interest.

I can recommend this story to anyone that enjoys historical or comedic stories with a female protagonist.


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