KAZE HIKARU (Shining Wind)
WATANABE Taeko (渡辺多恵子)
28 30 volumes (it was at its vol 28 at the time of writing this review in summer 2010 ^^….)
I know I know….. There are already zillions of blogs and forums talking about Kaze Hikaru! But it is a crime for me not to talk about this manga here, simply by the fact that I am a HUGE fan of Watanabe sensei!
If you were brought in here (if anyone’s reading) because of Kaze Hikaru – chances are, you probably have already started reading KH and wants to find out more about it : )
Well, if you are currently on the first few volumes of KH, then yes, still a long way to go since KH is now at its 28th volume and is still ongoing. But pleeeeeease, by no mean making a conclusion of KH just based on those first few volumes.
Though what others may perceive as a slow pace, the flow of Watanabe’s stories is traditionally steady and unhurried (just like that in “Hajime-chan ga Ichiban!” ). KH’s stately pace helped, to engage me in seeing (and “feeling”) her characters being built up gradually. It’s like growing up with her characters together, and you have bonded slowly with each of the characters (incl. those of minor roles) all those whiles, such that at some point, you’d also feel the happiness, heartbreaks, and other emotions as these characters do in the story.
One thing i found unique about KH (and probably the reason why I fell in love with it), is that I felt as if I was watching a Japanese historical live-action drama, rather than just reading a graphic novel. Again, I am sure this is anything to do with Watanabe sensei’s amazing art skills (and experiences!) in involving her readers in the story.
Watanabe’s art is clean, simple and crisp. So instead of asking the reader to concentrate purely on the story plots, her art encourages the reader to focus more easily on any small details, such as the body “movements”, some tiny changes in facial expressions, or some sudden changes in the surrounding atmosphere as the attackers suddenly kicks in….. After all, this is a story about bushi (samurai); when it to sword fights, any small movement counts!
Speaking of Watanabe’s artwork, did anyone notice the pattern of KH covers? Beautifully done! But I really can’t help saying this: If we go by the seasonal cycle on the covers, KH would be 7 years in rowing by now…. but 28 volumes on, and KH is still in year of 1866! (Btw, I am seriously not complaining abt anything here ok? : )
I have not followed any Japanese history and knew nothing about Shinsengumi prior to KH. But I am convinced that it’s fairly “safe” to follow KH as a “quick and short” guide to the Shinsengumi history, judging by Watanabe sensei’s vast research and preparation for this work. Her amazing attention to details was reflected in the drawings, from her careful selection of hairstyles/ dress codes to the use of any daily necessities, such as candles and lanterns…
Her freetalks, in her humorous and sometimes sarcastic way, at the end of each volumes is just as fascinating (and educating!); it’s like reading another side story of KH, which i am always looking forward to reading by the end of each volume! Another good reason why to buy the original manga book and not just downloading/ file sharing chapters online – you won’t get to see this treasure bonus : )
In short, I’d say this manga series is AWESOME, and you won’t regret spending time reading it. It’s currently on volume 28 and story is still going strong!
My (irresponsible) prediction of KH:
I somehow sense that the series is slowing closing to its end….
I doubt this series will conclude at the fall of Shinsengumi (i.e. the death of Kondo, Okita, et.al…) which is still a long way to go (unless Watanabe sensei suddenly hurries the pace of KH that is unlikely, I hope). On the other hand, if it ends at around the time after Ito Kashitaro’s death, that’d probably leads up to ~volume 32…. KH is on chapter 151 now, which is roughly volume 29/ 30? So that’d give us another 10ish chapters to go? Timeline wise, that’d be mid 2011 in terms of the completion of the series. Sounds fair?
But I wish i am wrong, since I would love to see how Watanabe sensei handles the conclusion – it’s no doubt going to be a tragic story for Okita and Sei if it goes by the history (i.e. Okita’s death)… but in what way would this be concluded? This is going to be challenge for sensei and I am definitely very looking forward to reading it! : )