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Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru Anime Cover

Score: 8.50/10

Synopsis

Former ace runner of Sendai Josei High School, Kakeru Kurahara is chased away from a convenience store for shoplifting. Shaking off his pursuer, he runs into Haiji Kiyose, another student from his university. Haiji is impressed by Kakeru's agility and persuades him to live in Chikusei-sou, the run-down apartment where Haiji resides along with eight other students. Having lost his entire apartment deposit at a mahjong parlor, Kakeru accepts the offer reluctantly. However, Haiji reveals a secret during Kakeru's welcoming party: the apartment is actually the dormitory of the Kansei University Track Club. He unveils his ultimate goal of participating in the Hakone Ekiden—one of the most prominent university marathon relay races in Japan. Unfortunately, all the residents apart from Haiji and Kakeru are complete running novices. Worse still, none of the inhabitants are even remotely interested in being involved with Haiji's ridiculous plan! With only months before the deadline, will the fourth-year student be able to convince them otherwise and realize his elusive dream of running in the Hakone Ekiden? [Written by MAL Rewrite]

Anyone who has ever run knows that it sucks. Why waterboarding is a thing when treadmills exist is a complete mystery to me. I guess even the KGB had its limit on how fucked up their torture methods were. Anyhoo, Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru — Run with the Wind — is a story about people who are literally the epitome of masochism and, as weird as it may sound, actually enjoy running. I was expecting a psychological series going in depth with this pain = pleasure thing, but turns out our series relies on fujobaiting instead.

It should be warned already on the title page that every factor from story progression, seiyuu choices, male casting and slice of life-like approach yells out one thing loud and clear: homo undertones. While great many sports series have chosen this approach (Haikyuu, Kuroko, Wind Up, Free — just to name a few), Kaze ga has very little charm outside its naked ecchi boys / manservice factors. Just to specify to what extent this exist and why it is a problem: there are 4 scenes of our young boys being naked already shown in the first episode before we even know their names. I don’t mind male ecchi or bros bathing together washing each others dicks when it is manly and #no_homo, but when it becomes the first thing that stands out in a sports series that was told be filled with drama and comedy, and executed with cute boys who don’t, in any way, act like genuine humans, we are off to a terrible start.

The selling point of sports series tends to be their cast for their stories can never truly work if the person(s) going thru the story are not worth of being followed. Kaze ga’s cast and approach I’d like to describe with a short meme: y Tho? Our “club” of 10 boys are, outside few expectations, the exact same people. They have nearly invisible personalities, all they have are things that are common between all of them for there aren’t such things that would separate them from each others — outside their outlooks. And even this isn’t entirely true since there are even twins among them. As a whole, the cast is fake and empty to a point that I wonder if this is what feminists see when watching CGDCT or ecchi anime. The cast doesn’t have much appeal to me. I couldn’t find any way to care about any of them. They have nothing that would make relate to them, they offer no entertaining personality traits, their behavior is dull and mainly reminds me of cardboard. None of them have any interesting past stories or current stories. None of them even says anything mildly interesting at any point during the run. The more they talked the more I came to go meh over them. How awfully boring must ones life be to hang out with any of them? A question I found myself asking several times.

Outside episode 16, the sports side is an absolute joke. Even tho I don’t like running myself, I have seen series that focus on running and track&field and which I have liked. Kaze ga’s take on this torture method is exactly as dull as the sports itself. Nothing stands out, nothing feels meaningful, there aren’t even any fitting/atmospheric or agro songs used that could make these scenes better. Instead, same few songs are repeated over and over and none of them is very fitting. So often, there plays some supposedly emotional song whilst our cast members run and sweat, followed, for example, by a scene where they get scolded for being too slow. What the series is trying to deliver here never reached my end. And typically, these running scenes are very short and made in the exact same manner, only thing that differs is the aftermath. Watching the execution here feels like repeatedly hitting ones head in the wall with a force so light that you barely even feel the effect, but still know it is happening. There are even sports series centering around baseball and fighting sports which field work (AKA running) is more noteworthy than anything Kaze ga achieved. The best characters here are these one-dimensional ‘evil’ buttholes who just come around to mock our sports team for being a disgrace towards track’n field. Why? Because their phrases are truthful remarks. Especially towards the end, the melodrama Kaze ga mixes together with sports is nothing less than a disgrace towards all athletes.

In terms of actual story, one of the driving motions here are our boys interest to girls.. Literally “lets run for the are girls.. on the other side of the road.” I am not sure who the writer is trying to fool with this since they only introduce one slightly relevant female cast member and she is more obviously filler than any other character. Also, she falls under the trope “every food she prepares turns poison” because apparently it is funny when women can’t cook. She is totally adorable regardless. Yet it feels so unnecessary to insert such things here yet not deal with them accordingly. The outcome is just idiotic. The events itself are rather formulaic. Male x male interactions in fujobait manner, bathing together naked, and running. Some pseudo-psychological things going on since, apparently, running (for our mc) is the same as running away from problems, and the main dude seems to have some. Even so, there is no clear reason for the series to exist, story-wise. It’s clear from early on that the mc’s “insecurities” are just bullshit used as an excuse to work as some sort of ongoing cliffhanger to make people interested in what type of “mysterious” reasons he has for being such an angsty loner. Other sides of the “drama” are practically sitcom-tier since the cast acts like a bunch of drama queens instead of there being any “real” drama going on. Sometimes randomly asspulled and beyond fake event occurs, such as one character suddenly losing a consciousness at the end of an episode just to create a cliffhanger worth of 3 pennies. To talk more about these cliffhangers, they are used to some extent and every time they match the definition of “horse shit”. False tension and not much more.

The production, outside the incredibly bland character models (their bodies look like spaghetti and have even weirder necks than people in Ballroom e (not exaggerating — same studio, also) — and worth-of-nothing sports scenes, is one more thing that is not making this thing any better. The naked men bathing -scenes seem to be the ones that have gone thru the most planning. Comedy moments are over-simplified to a point that it looks just cheap and it is practically the exact same execution every single time. Dude’s doing 2 frame shaking when being cornered. Otherwise the series screams it is made by Production I.G with their modern standards (which have been going down and down rather consistently for years if someone hasn’t noticed). The pacing is simply too slow during any part that is not related to running and too fast with anything that is. Obviously, because they wanted to save money when animating running masses. CGI is being used during track events and it’s like 3fps when out zoomed. Often, people who run look like they are floating over the track rather than touching the ground with their feet. Looks so incredibly lame. Not that it couldn’t be forgiven if there were some actually good things going on. Pros that out weighted the cons. To me, even the smallest of problems stood out for I couldn’t achieve any level of immersion with the series, rather saw it as nothing but a soulless product.

All the criticism aside, I did quite enjoy moments around Akane “Prince” Kashiwazaki, who is the polar opposite of everyone else. Seems to hate running and is in really bad shape. His running form is so awkward and wrong that I managed to laugh at it few times, mainly reminding me of zombie movements from Resident Evil games. Even his posture while standing is advanced scoliosis, so I guess kudos for creating a dude like him. Other thing I have to drop here is the ending of episode 19 which was simply hilarious. If only there had been other good things I could praise than the rare few.

Watching Welcome to the Ballroom throughout it’s six month long two cour run was one of the most disheartening experiences I’ve yet to endure in all of my years. I watched as the industry titan Production I.G. themselves, those who’ve defined high-quality TV animation with the sports shows Kuroko no Basket and especially Haikyuu!, as they aired a similarly structured sports anime that panned over still frames and used basically constructed CG character models for background athletes like you’d expect from any other garbage studio. No matter how attractive and sharp the male designs were and no matter how shapely and sexy the female designs were, no matter how lively the color palette popped and setting design shined, no matter how elegant the soundtrack nor how powerful the dialogue, the show simply could not inspire, grip, or elate it’s audience in the same fashion it’s predecessors could for the stain that was it’s poor quality of animation. Call me a wishful thinker, but they’re back. Production I.G. is back in a big way with Run with the Wind. Run with the Wind boasts such a splendidly lavish animation production which reminds you just how impressive this studio is at it’s best of times. The character designs are as clean, sharp, and attractive as those of Haikyuu and Welcome to the Ballroom, and they’re animated with a level of ornate detail which was incessantly impressive. The character designs of the main cast, as well as the voice actors chosen to play them, clearly had a lot of thinking behind them for you can see exactly why they dress the way they dress, why they walk the way they walk, why they accessorize they way they accessorize, and any other aspects of personality appearance you’d expect to notice on human beings in real life, and as you learn more about them as the show progresses you’ll slowly start noticing more and more of those little details that had been there the entire time. It’s amazing, and with the animation production and art design put aside, I’m just going to say it, Run with the Wind has hand-drawn backgrounds with Kyoto Animation’s level of detail, color design, researched setting references, perfect balance of finesse and flair, naturalistic beauty yet realistic subtlety, and general quality. I would go back through the episodes and take screenshots of the gorgeous backgrounds to add to my desktop’s background reel, because I felt it would be legitimately wasteful to let such beautiful pieces of artwork go unappreciated. On top of the impeccable visuals, the sound design and music stand just as tall and proud. The sound design is so detailed, nuanced, and ever-present, when I notice it I become so absorbed and distracted as to miss entire lines of dialogue and have to rewind. The soundtrack is an easy nine out of ten, and I can say that without hesitation. The composer did the monumentally epic and blood pumping OST for Haikyuu, the emotionally gripping and stylized Studio Trigger OST for Kiznaiver, and the OST for Death Parade which reached the heights of both contemplative character pieces and exciting psychological thriller pieces. I simply cannot praise the production of Run with the Wind any more without it coming across as hyperbole. It’s truly amazing. As for the narrative and writing itself, while not being as breathtakingly perfect as the production, is still pretty damn good in it’s own right. The main cast of characters is one of the most realistic ensembles in all of anime, easily competing with shows like Durarara, Hajjime no Ippo, and Assassination Classroom who’re known for their enormous yet somehow well developed ensemble casts. Not to put them down, for those examples are all quite good shows, but unlike those shows Run with the Wind manages to mete out character development in a realistic, grounded, subtle, and emotionally resonant manner. At no point in the show is there anything that could be described as an “arc.” Never does the narrative take a break for drama, nor does it ever feel like one character in particular is being too overbearing or stealing the spotlight. The story sets itself up and goes, with any necessary character development or exploration sneaking it’s way into the narrative naturally and in a very down to earth fashion. This sensible pacing also works wonders for the dramatic conflict in the story because you can really see the build up to all the happenings. Nothing ever comes out of nowhere and is usually spawned from within the main character, Kakeru, who you know well enough to both sympathize and empathize with. One thing I could very well see people having a problem with is the straight-man who brings all the character conflict to the table is Kakeru himself. I certainly didn’t have a problem with it because, again, his motivations are so well written and deep-seated within his character I totally get where he’s coming from, but for someone who doesn’t get it, I can see how the main character being the vehicle for ALL the conflict in the show could annoy some people, so fair warning. I mean, it’s not just Kakeru, really. All the characters have insecurities and hangups which are so real and feel truly genuine. Most anime will have characters ranting and raving about a bunch of out-of-this-world garbage the viewer has no reason to care about, but Run with the Wind does nothing of the sort. The character Nico-chan (a play on the word “nicotine”) has difficulty running for his addiction to smoking and his unhealthy BMI. The character King has trouble being committed to the team because he has to find work to pay for college. The character Shindo has doubts about his involvement with the team because his girlfriend dumped him after feeling he had neglected her. All the characters are real, with real scripts, with real problems. It’s a seriously wonderful cast who brings the relatively straightforward story to life, and there were a number of times I had tears in my eyes watching them cross the finish line. The final point I wanted to discuss before concluding is the villains. Sports anime, simply put, NEVER have committed villains. Seriously, just take a second and think about it. It’s ALL mutually understood competition wherein the opponents are never genuinely malicious and are only causing conflict for the sake of sportsmanship. The only time truly antagonist villains appear in sports anime is like Jabberwock from Kuroko no Basket, or Bryan Hawk from Hajime no Ippo, or the Blue Mars from One Outs, or any other one dimensional evil-for-the-sake-of-evil villains out there. Out of all the three thousand plus anime I’ve seen, I’ve yet to see a wholesale ill natured antagonists who truly wants to beat the protagonists solely out of hatred. Sakaki, the main villain in Run with the Wind, is the first character I’ve seen in a sports anime who truly earned the title of “villain.” His history with Kakeru makes for a heavy motivation for conflict, and his vindictive attitude comes across as being deserved. Again, Kakeru is a realistic flawed character, so the idea he has some skeletons in his closet isn’t all that far fetched. As you learn more about their pasts, and you get both sides of the story, you’re naturally emotionally invested. It’s just another really, really good aspect of the show which I wanted to make a point wasn’t under appreciated at all in my review. Run with the Wind is a great show I highly recommend for everything I’ve mentioned and more I’ve probably overlooked, but it also has a really resonant psychological core to it, at least for me, and I thought it nice to see such a moving and powerful message portrayed from an otherwise unassuming sports anime. As I’ve said no shortage of times, the main character Kakeru is a really flawed person. He’s impulsive, irritable, and outright violent, and it’s not even anyone’s fault. It’s just who he is, thus he runs. He literally and metaphorically runs away from his problems and is constantly accused of doing so by many characters in the show. As said problems continue to pile up despite his speed, he realizes the problems are within and running simply won’t escape them. When he finally stops and turns around to see all the people he’s hurt along the way, all the mistakes he’s made and regrets he has, and all the people still trying to support him in spite of all this, he really sits down and confronts reality in a poignantly human fashion, and it’s this emotional courage that frees his spirt, so to speak, so he can truly move forward and run with the wind.

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