Cover of the twentieth Japanese volume of Kaze Hikaru, published by Shogakukan on June 26, 2006
|Written by||Taeko Watanabe|
|Original run||1997 – ongoing|
Kaze Hikaru (Japanese: 風光る?, lit. "Shining Wind") is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Taeko Watanabe. Set in the bakumatsu period, the series follows Tominaga Sei, a young girl who poses as a boy named Kamiya Seizaburo so she can join the Mibu-Roshi (Special Police; later known as the Shinsengumi). She befriends her sensei, Okita Sōji, who discovers her secret.
The series has been published in Japan by Shogakukan since 1997. In North America, the manga is published by Viz Media in its Shojo Beat magazine from July 2005 to September 2006. The series received the Shogakukan Manga Award for the shōjo demographic in 2003. It has been well received by manga critics, who praised its historical background, art and characters. It has sold 6 million copies and has been named among the best-selling weekly manga several times.
Kaze Hikaru takes place in the 1860s—in the Japanese historical period known as bakumatsu—and revolves around a girl named Tominaga Sei who joins the Mibu-Roshi (Special Police; later known as the Shinsengumi). She disguises herself as a boy by shaving her hair and joins the group using the name Kamiya Seizaburo (神谷清三郎 Kamiya Seizaburō?). Her primary goal is to seek revenge against the Chōshū clan, who are responsible for the murder of her brother and father. Over the course of the series, Sei realizes that she has found a new family within the Shinsengumi troupe.
- Tominaga Sei (富永 セイ?)
Sei poses as a boy named Kamiya Seizaburo and joins the Mibu-Roshi (later renamed Shinsengumi) to avenge the deaths of her father and older brother by the Chōshū clan. Her true sex is discovered by Okita, who promises to keep it a secret, and she eventually develops feelings for him. She intended to leaving the Shinsengumi after fulfilling her revenge, but she decides to stay with the group when she realizes what it means to be a follower of the Bushidō code; to having something to protect at all costs. She says the main reason of staying with the Shinsengumi and remaining on the path of a samurai is because she would rather fight by Okita's side than stay at home praying for his safety. Sei's motivation to protect Okita becomes a powerful force during the Ikedaya Affair, when she turns into a formidable warrior after Okita is downed in battle. Because of Kamiya's looks, 'he' is later sent to work as a spy for the Shinengumi (vol 21).
- Okita Sōji (沖田 総司?)
A genius swordsman and officer of the Shinsengumi. He has strong bonds with Kondō—who raised Okita from the age of nine after Okita's mother and siblings could no longer afford to care for him, and Hijikata—whom he loves and respects like a brother. He is the first person to discover Sei's true sex and he is her main confidant on matters relating to it. He had wanted her to go back to a normal girl's life after she had gotten her revenge because of the brutality of the life of a samurai. After the Ikedaya Affair, he admits he has affections for Sei as if she were his own kin. Over a year after those events he realizes he is in love with her. When he was 17, a woman he rejected attempted suicide in front of him and Okita came to the conclusion that falling in love was not worth such pain, and he has kept his distance from women ever since. Another hindrance to romance is that he has dedicated his life to the path of the samurai and has vowed to himself that he will never marry. The character is based on the historical figure of Okita Sōji.
- Hijikata Toshizō (土方 歳三?)
The Shinsengumi's vice-commander, who is known to many as a cruel and strict taskmaster with a high standard of morals. However, that is a facade; Toshizō has to be the devil's advocate because of his best friend Kondō Isami's inability to mete out discipline. Therefore, Hijikata plays the "bad guy" to maintain order. Hijikata's softer side is his love of poetry, which is evident in a book filled with his haiku. He is incredibly self-conscious about his poetry and he initially tried to hide it from everyone. Despite his harsh personality, he is actually shy and cares deeply for the people around him. Hijikata often argues with Sei; Okita has said that Hijikata and Sei have similar personalities when they are angry—something that neither of them are willing to acknowledge. Sei often refers to Hijikata as the Oni vice commander. The character is based on the historical figure of Hijikata Toshizō.
- Kondō Isami (近藤 勇?)
The leader of the Shinsengumi. He is a kind, gentle man who cares about every member of the Shinsengumi. He is a natural leader and is devoted to his cause. However, because of his kindheartedness, he is not particularly suited to discipline, which Hijitaka often dispenses in his place.Kondō's mother died when he was young and he was raised by his father and brothers. Kondō was adopted into another family at the age of 16. Kondō met Okita when Okita was sent to live in his household at the age of 9, when his family could no longer care for him. Kondō recognized and understood the young boy's discomfort and insecurity at living with a new family and welcomed him warmly. He served as Okita's mentor, older brother and at times took the role of father as Okita grew up. Okita is grateful to him and is extremely loyal to the point of vowing that he would commit seppuku should Kondō die. Kondō is fond of Kamiya (Sei) and recognizes her great ability as a member of the Shinsengumi. The character is based on the historical figure of Kondō Isami.
- Saitō Hajime (斎藤 一?)
Saitō is level-headed and mature; his combat skills rival those of Okita. He sometimes serves as a spy or scout, gathering information for the Shinsengumi. Since he has an uncanny resemblance to Sei's deceased brother, she sometimes addresses him as "aniue"—a respectful term for older brother. Coincidentally, Saitō trained alongside and became friends with Sai's brother during their apprenticeship days. He quickly grows fond of Sei and becomes a silent protector to her; willing to listen to her worries or to console her, and often watches out for her in case she runs into trouble. Saito's personality appears to others as laconic, bland and very serious but he has a dry sense of humor that tends to come out around Okita. Saitō also has a more hysterical side that appears when regarding his relationship with Sei. Although he is unsure of Sei's sex, he eventually realizes he is in love with her, which greatly confuses him. The character is based on the historical figure of Saitō Hajime.
Kaze Hikaru, written and illustrated by Taeko Watanabe, had it's first chapter published in Betsucomi in 1997, and was serialized there from 1997 to 2002. It moved to Flowers in 2002 and has been serialized since then. The first tankōbon (collected volume) was released by Shogakukan on October 25, 1997, and the latest volume—the 36th—was published on October 24, 2014. Shogakukan started publishing the series in bunkoban format on November 15, 2007, and it lasted twelve volumes—the last of which was published on September 15, 2011. To accompany the manga series, Shogakukan published a guidebook titled Titled Kaze Hikaru: Kyōto (風光る京都?) on December 12, 2001, and an artbook titled Kaze Hikaru Gashū: Hanagatari (風光る画集 花がたり?) on March 26, 2008, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the series.
In North America, Viz Media acquired the series rights and published the manga in its female-targeted magazine Shojo Beat, from the first issue in July 2005 until September 2006. Later, it was published in the tankōbon format; the first issue was released on January 3, 2006, and the latest—the 22nd—was released on August 5, 2014. Viz Media also published a digital version of the manga, starting from June 18, 2013. On August 5, 2014, the 22nd volume was released. The manga has also been licensed in Indonesia by Elex Media Komputindo, in South Korea by Haksan Culture Company, in Taiwan by Chingwin Publishing Group, and in Vietnam by NXB Trẻ.
In 2003, Kaze Hikaru won the Shogakukan Manga Award for best shōjo manga title of the year. Individual volumes of Kaze Hikaru have been ranked in listings of best-selling manga of the week in Japan; the entire series has sold over 6 million copies in Japan after the release of the 35th volume in March 2014.
Writing for Manga Life, Ryan Lewis described Kaze Hikaru as "a unique title", praising its "engaging" story, plot and characters. Comics Village's Lori Henderson described the manga as "an enjoyable read", and said it is interesting because it shows the history and culture during the Shogunate. It was elected one of the "Most Underrated" manga along with Maoh: Juvenile Remix and Saturn Apartments; Eva Volin stated that despite the necessity for the reader to know something about that period of Japanese history, the reader will "fall in love" with the characters "as they deal with the fall of the samurai way and the rise of modern warfare". Pop Culture Shock's reviewer Katherine Dacey described Kaze Hikaru as "an action-filled drama in the vein of The Rose of Versailles or They Were Eleven", and she praised the political nature of the series because Watanabe discusses the gender constraints in Japan. Reviewing the ninth volume, Isaac Hale, also from Pop Culture Shock, commended the series for keeping the same humor that it had at the beginning. Hale said the art was a "high point" of the manga; he described the character designs as "attractive and unique" but he criticized the main character's gender indecision. Matthew Alexander from Mania.com appreciated the story's historical setting and the theme of "a woman in a man's world."
According to Anime News Network's Rebecca Silverman, one of the strengths of Kaze Hikaru is "the meticulous research and fidelity to history that Taeko Watanabe maintains". Silverman praised the manga for being "[r]ich with detail but never overwhelming and full of likeable (and hateable) characters", and said that "this is shoujo that goes just a bit beyond the norm to bring us a story that we can really sink our teeth into". Holly Ellingwood from Active Anime compared the manga to Rurouni Kenshin and Peacemaker Kurogane, and lauded the series for showing the reader the reality of that historical period. Leroy Douresseaux from Comic Book Bin described it as "James Clavell meets Colleen McCullough", and praised Watanabe's artwork, which he said creates "expressive characters and Oscar-worthy costume design". Douresseaux also said the faces of Watanabe's characters "are so captivating that they have a hypnotic effect on the reader", and that it is impossible to not love them.
Sheena McNeil of Sequential Tart called Kaze Hikaru a "fantastic read for any genre", praising its strong female lead, romance, art and comedy. Later, it compared Kaze Hikaru with a novel, and praised the fact that each character has an important role in the series. In a review of Volume 12, Patti Martinson criticized the series for being "soap opera-ish", but said she was still enjoying the characters and the plot. Two volumes later, Holly von Winckel criticized the manga's male characters for looking like women and for its unevenly distributed dialogue balloons. Marissa Sammy said the 15th volume was "far richer in plot and appeal" than earlier volumes. Wolfen Moondaughter said that when reading the 18th volume she felt she was reading three tankōbon, and that there was "a lot packed into this manga".
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- Kaze Hikaru on Shojo Beat site (archived)