Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hinata no Ookami volume 2 review

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Hinata no Ookami, vol. 2, by Misaki Saitoh. Grade: B+

There's really not a whole lot of point in writing a blow-by-blow summary of this volume, since most of it is just dialog. The shogunate had ordered the ryonin back to Edo soon after they got to Kyoto, and a few of them rebelled against this willy-nilly pushing them around. Kiyokawa's plan to use the men to protect the Emperor rubbed Kondo and Hijikata the wrong way, and Kondo's men staked out around an inn in Mibu (earning them the nickname of "Wolves of Mibu") in preparation for assassinating Kiyokawa. The attempt is tharted by one of Kiyokawa's guards, Yamanami, while Kiyokawa himself runs off to check out a new udon shop for dinner. Kondo decides to let Kiyokawa live, but it's the decision of Kondo and Serizawa to form the proto-Shinsengumi as a kind of police force for the Shogunate, and not Kiyokawa's as mentioned in the wiki article). The next problem is one of raising money.

(Keisuke Yamanami demonstrates his skills against Souji Okita, one of Hijikata's friends.)

Serizawa is one of the stronger leaders, but he's also violent and a drunkard. He shakes down a merchant for 100 gold coins, and gives half to Hijikata to have new uniforms made up for the men. The rest he spends on drink and women. Historically, the Shinsengumi have been famous for being made up of well-dressed, good-looking young men. Their uniforms, which Hijikata is tasked with, consisted of a light blue haori (jacket) over a hakama (baggy trousers) and kimono shirt. The sleeves of the jacket had white triangles representing a mountain range. Serizawa dictated the designs, and Hijikata supposedly was unhappy with how gaudy it looked.

(Souji is impressed by the anime-like drawings of Hajime Saito, the resident artist.)

One day, the mistress of one of the inns sends one of her women to the dojo that the "men of Mibu" are practicing at, to get some money that Serizawa owes them. Serizawa sees her and runs off, so she vows to stay at the dojo until she gets paid. That night, while Hijikata and Genzaburo Inoue are out on patrol, they're attacked by four strangers, presumably members of the Loyalists. Hijikata kills one of them, and the others escape. Hijikata goes into shock on having killed someone for the first time, and is just standing around when the rest of his group comes up to help him. At the same time, Serizawa returns to the dojo and decides to sexually assault the woman, saying that the owner of the inn should have known better than to send one lone woman after him. The woman staggers back to the inn, passing by the blood-spattered Hijikata. Hijikata confronts Serizawa, who simply replies that killing men feels a lot like having sex. Later, Kondo and Hijikata decide that something has to be done about Serizawa. Then, the next day in the Loyalists' camp, the leaders decide that before they can get revenge on the proto-Shinsengumi for killing one of their men they have to get more information on them, first. Then, during a recruiting sword demonstration, two of the Loyalist spies perform well enough at kendo to attract Kondo's attention.

(Hijikata's first kill.)

Comments: The story continues to follow along the main historial points of the Shinsengumi, although romanticized to some extent. Since Kondo and Yoshio Tonouchi will assassinate Serizawa, and Kondo later kills Tonouchi, the tension revolves not so much around how the storyline will unfold as it does about how everyone will get into conflicts with each other first. Again, Hinata is recommended to fans of Japanese history.

(Hijikata reacts to having made his first kill. Souji and Kondo make plans.)

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