Kaze Hikaru, Vol. 21

Kaze Hikaru Volume 21 by Taeko Watanabe

Kaze Hikaru is one of those titles that makes me feel happier just because it exists. The new volumes come out very slowly now, so when one appears it is always a good excuse to celebrate! This volume was particularly rewarding for any long-time reader of the series, as Sei and Soji begin to acknowledge their feelings about each other although they remain very much constrained by Sei’s disguise as a male Shinsengumi recruit and the customs of the times.

In the aftermath of Sei’s mission, it is announced that she’s going to be reassigned to Saito’s troop. Soji decides to create more distance between him and his young protegee by telling her that he requested the transfer and abruptly ordering her to leave him alone, saying “I got sick of your chasing me around like a girl.” Sei assumes that Soji thinks her feelings are burdensome and decides to run away. She leaves, fortunately during her rest period so she won’t be executed for desertion. Soji is relaxing, assuming that he’s fixed everything but he’s alarmed when Saito informs him that he’s in love with Sei.

Sei travels to a nunnery where she’s taken refuge before, learning about village healing from the head nun Suigetsuni. Sei has decided to sever the ties to her old life and join a nunnery, because it is the only way to sever her ties with her previous life. Soji becomes more and more worried as he realizes that no one knows where Sei is, and with his position in the Shinsengumi he can do nothing but sit, wait, and be forced to execute her for desertion if she doesn’t come back. The parallel stories shifting back and forth between the couple were particularly effective in this volume, as Soji’s growing concern forces him to confront his own feelings about Sei, and Sei grapples with her thoughts about healing and death as she learns more about Suigetsuni’s life story.

Watanabe is a master at spinning out a story, as 21 volumes into Kaze Hikaru, I’m in no hurry to see it wrapped up. Even though so much of this manga revolves around the characters being unable to express their emotions to each other, it is easy to see just how much Sei and Soji have changed each other through their unconventional friendship. As always, the author notes manage to distill an incredible amount of research into a few pages focusing on an element from the historical setting of the manga. This volume focuses on clothing and her reasons for depicting the Shinsengumi a certain way. If you aren’t reading this manga yet, give it a try! This is such a thoughtful, well-executed historical series that really stands out as having much more substance than most shoujo manga.

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