Does honor and duty leave any room for love?
Story/Art: Taeko Watanabe
Translation/Adaptation: Mai Ihara
What They Say
After Hijikata grows suspicious of Soji’s feelings about Sei, he reassigns Sei to the third troop under Saito’s command. Soji, puzzled by his own recent irrational behavior toward Sei, attempts to distance himself from her. Sei, in turn, interprets this as Soji’s realization of her feelings for him and decides that she can no longer serve as a bushi alongside him. She goes to visit Suigetsuni, a nun who knew Sei in her former life as a girl, to discuss renouncing the world and entering the convent!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The slow, torturous wait for each volume of Kaze Hikaru is bittersweet. Viz is kind enough to continue to release this series, but only at a single volume a year rate. The end result is a struggle to remember the details of what happened in the previous volume. Luckily, each book has a summary of past events and important characters, but it still hurts because I really do like this series a lot.
In the last volume Sei went undercover as a woman in order to find an assassin. The girl-pretending-to-be-a-man, pretending-to-be-a-woman bit seems to date back into antiquity, but Kaze Hikaru pulled it off well. In this volume we deal with the aftermath of the mission, and Hijikata is not pleased with Okita’s behavior. Okita had run off to protect Sei, rather than trust her and Saito to do the job. So after a thorough beat down by Hijikata, Okita takes out all his pent up discomfort on Sei and tells her to basically get lost.
This is where I started getting annoyed with the volume. Sei takes the dismissal and rejection hard, hard enough that she starts to question why she’s in the shinsengumi to begin with. Her crisis of honor and duty versus emotions is dismissed mostly as some fallacy of being a woman. Sato, Sei’s false lover, berates Okita for not knowing a woman’s heart. What. In western literature we have plenty of examples of love being the most noble of pursuit, leading to never ending stupidity and drama. Here it’s as if a man would never do something so stupid as kill a bunch of people just to be with the one he loved! Oh wait…
Sei runs off to a nunnery in the mountains to renounce the world of the living. While there she comes to grips with her crisis of conscious, with the help of a woman who is probably the last person on earth who knew her during her previous life. Suigetsu seems to be a pure, selfless individual who is perfectly suited to helping the sick, but even she is far from innocent in her intentions. (I might spy a bit of foreshadowing, but I’ll keep my history notes to myself.) Suigetsu’s story helps Sei to put her own life in perspective, and she returns home on her own.
We get to watch Okita nearly loose his mind with worry as he wonders if Sei has truly abandoned the life of a bushi. If she doesn’t come back on time she would be declared a deserter and one of the shinsengumi would have to hunt her down and take her life. Okita’s conflicted emotions make him a bit high strung, and the troops wonder if being closer to Sei will fix the problem, or if distance will. Okita is at the point where he’s realizing what his own feelings are.
Thankfully the forced drama ends at the closing of the volume, which makes for a nice contained story arc. Sei knows the rules, and makes her return in plenty of time to not to worry the higher-ups. Maybe now these two can find a new balance with their emotions so that the tension won’t be so high. Time is marching on, and already three years have passed in the story since it began. Going by history, there isn’t much time left to tell Sei and Okita’s story. Although with twelve more volumes to catch up to Japan, we could be following this story for many years to come.
It’s not the strongest volume of Kaze Hikaru, but it gets the job done. It’s nice to finally see Okita admitting to himself, even a little, that he has feelings for Sei, even if he has a terrible way of hiding them. Sei comes out the other side of her emotional crisis with renewed enthusiasm and confidence, which is something she’ll need in the times to come. Now we’re back to the waiting game, and I’ll use this moment to remind interested readers that the first few volumes of this series are available digitally as well, if you want to check it out. Although, the lack of movement from Viz on putting up more volumes isn’t making it easy for this wonderful series to pick up new readers.
Content Grade: B –
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: August 6th, 2013