Kaze Hikaru Volume 14 cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.
Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
The 1860s is not just the dawning of a new era, but it is also a time of violent social upheaval. Samurai from all walks of life travel to Kyoto in hopes of joining the Shinsengumi, a band of warriors dedicated to the Shogunate system. This is time when Tominaga Sei disguises herself as a boy to avenge her Bakufu bushi (samurai) father and brothers. She takes the name “Kamiya Seizaburo” and joins the Shinsengumi. Aspiring to be a true bushi, Kamiya trains under Okita Soji, the young man she loves and the only person in the Shinsengumi who knows Kamiya’s true identity.
In Kaze Hikaru, Vol. 14, Shinsengumi Vice-Captain Hijikata Toshizo, councilor Ito Kashitaro, and assistant vice captain Saito Hajime travel to Edo on a recruiting mission. Hijikata must bear the sexual advances of the randy Ito, who is something of a libertine, while the taciturn Saito suffers through it all. When the trio returns with 52 new men, one of them, a teenager named Nakamura Goro, is convinced that Sei/Kamiya is a girl the moment he first sees her. Now, he’s determined to uncover her secret so that he can have her as a woman.
THE LOWDOWN: One of the better volumes in a series that is consistently outstanding, the 14th volume of Kaze Hikaru is a celebration of the series’ characters. Creator Taeko Watanabe creates moments in the narrative that allow certain character to shine; in ways both subtle and illuminating, these characters reveal the core of themselves, sometimes personal, sometimes professional, and sometimes both. For instance, Ito’s shameless lusting after men he finds beautiful is itself a beautiful thing, as Watanabe reveals Ito as a sly and playful tomcat through the art’s silky inking and supple line work.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: This volume of Kaze Hikaru is an excellent entry point for new readers.