KAZE HIKARU (VOL. 4)

Posted On March - 17 - 2007
  PUBLISHED BY:   VIZ MEDIA
  ART/AUTHOR:   HIROMU ARAKAWA  
  FORMAT/COLOR:   JAPANESE FORMAT / BW
  PAGES:   190
  RATED:   T+
  RELEASE DATE:   02/06/2007
  REVIEW DATE:   03/18/2007
  REVIEWED BY:   HOLLY ELLINGWOOD


SERIES SYNOPSIS:
In an era of violent social upheaval, a young girl named Tominaga Sei, hoping to avenge her wrongfully murdered father and brother, disguises herself as a man, takes the name Kamiya Seizaburo, and joins the Mibu-Roshi, soon to be known as the Shinsengumi – an elite corps of swordsmen who risk their lives to defend Japan’s shogunate system. Will she be able to become a warrior and keep her secret intact?

REVIEW:
Kaze Hikaru is a romantic historical drama with a touch of comedy, set in the time around Rurouni Kenshin and it shares similar aspects to that manga series as well as Peacemaker Kurogane. Both involve difficult decisions to protect the ones they love, deadly politics and deadlier sword battles set during the mid-late eighteen hundreds in Japan. This manga series does a good job of showing the reader the harsh realities of life in that time period through the eyes of the main character, a girl trying to strengthen herself in order to find and kill the men who murdered her family.

She joins the Shinsengumi to trod the path of the way of the warrior and to revenge, but the way of Bushido is a hard role and the obligations of a Bushi is a difficult road for a girl, even one striving to avenge her family. Kamiya is no hardened and bitter individual, but a young woman facing impossible but necessary choices.

This volume has some hard lessons for her as she deals with the order to execute their Captain Serizawa, and it’s the fellow Bushi who knows and protects her secret, Okita, who is ordered to do the deed. The order of a superior is absolute for a Bushi’s orders must be done without mercy or hesitation, yet Sei’s heart breaks a little as her innocence falls away. Later when one of their own is condemned to die, she must face another harsh lesson about honor, duty and obligation. Despite the many grim circumstances in this series, there are lighter, even comedic times, such as when everyone at the Shinsengumi believes Okita is in love with a married woman and Sei is forced to try to repress her feelings of explosive jealousy – with little success. Later however, the series turns again to the dramatic focus of the story as the Shinsengumi deal with a rebel uprising and Kamiya meets a dangerous man named Kagora.

This is quite an involving series. It has touches of romance and comedy but at the heart is one girl’s soul bearing the tide of change in a harsh world where justice can often only be found at the tip of sword, if even then. It is Kamiya’s innocence and purity yet determination that allow the reader to enter the world and view it with a greater emotional depth and sense of the fragility of life during that era. The art style is nicely clean, giving clear action sequences and room for reflection during the more quiet and introspective moments.

IN SUMMARY:
Kaze Hikaru is an involving samurai drama set in the 1860s in Japan, when the Shogunate was striving to form a governing body while rebels seek to return Japan to a feudal warring state. This pivotal time in history is shown to the reader through the eyes of the main character, a sympathetic and courageous girl risking her very soul in order to fulfill her obligations to her dead family and avenge them. She has sacrificed her womanhood to disguise herself as a man and take up the sword but at what ultimate cost to her? It is an emotionally captivating manga series.

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