By Leroy Douresseaux
May 8, 2008 - 11:21
|Thanks to barnesandnoble.com for the images.|
Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
Kaze Hikaru (which is set in Japan, early 1860’s) stars a girl named Tominaga Sei who disguises herself as a boy to avenge her father and brothers. She takes the name Kamiya Seizaburo and joins the Shinsengumi, a band or warriors formed to protect the Shogun. Aspiring to be a true bushi (samurai), she trains under Okita Soji. Okita is the only person in the Shinsengumi who knows Kamiya’s true identity, and Kamiya/Sei is in love with Okita.
In Kaze Hikaru, Vol. 9, Kamiya/Sei finds herself reassigned as a “kosho,” basically an errand boy, in the service of the gentle, sweet-natured Shinsengumi vice captain, Yamanami Keisuke, which will also separate Kamiya from Okita. Some of the other men in the troop, believing that Kamiya is a man, think that Kamiya and Okita are homosexual lovers, and they’re all in love with Kamiya, too. Seeing Okita’s separation from Kamiya’s as an opportunity, the men decide to duel for Kamiya’s hand. Meanwhile, a sex scandal threatens the Shinsengumi.
THE LOWDOWN: I laughed the first time I saw romance novels being sold as “historical fiction” rather than romance novels. Then, I read some and realized that although the historical fiction novel prominently features romantic love, this sub-genre is about period novels – the book equivalent of a cinematic costume drama. As interesting as the love stories in historical fiction are, equally as fascinating is the attention to period detail in capturing the socio-political-economic environment of a particular time and place.
That’s Kaze Hikaru. It’s historical fiction, and perhaps the most important things about historical fiction are engaging, winning characters and attention to historical detail. Kaze Hikaru, which is like James Clavell meets Colleen McCullough, gets it right. Manga-ka Taeko Watanabe also uses her delicate line work to create such expressive characters and Oscar-worthy costume design. The soft, smooth, round faces of her characters are so captivating that they have a hypnotic effect on the reader. You can’t help but love Sei/Kamiya and her friends.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Like many titles under VIZ Media’s “Shojo Beat” label, Kaze Hikaru is not just about being “girls’ comics” or “romance,” but are also about being high-quality dramatic story telling. So for those who love drama, here, it is.