Hello, and welcome!
How often is it that you come across a group of anime characters and think, “Man, how cool would it be to hang out with them, even if just once?” For me, it’s not often. Aside from the fact that reality is reality and fiction is fiction, there’s almost always at least one reason for my hesitance, be it that they’re super eccentric (as anime characters tend to be) or I’d be way to awkward around them (which is likely more probable).
But in the case of Kazetsuyo‘s blend of accepting, humorous souls, I strongly believe I’d fit right in at Aotake—and you probably would too!
In fact, the more I thought about Run with the Wind or (also known by its shorthand, Kazetsuyo), I began to realize that beyond the uplifting story, well-paced plot, fantastic music, or wonderful animation, it was the characters that make Kazetsuyo so special.
Which brings us to now. This post collects my loose thoughts and musings over the characters of 2018’s Run with the Wind. These are bits and pieces that didn’t quite make it into either my review of the series or my April OWLS post, where I focused solely on Haiji Kiyose. Enjoy my ramblings and feel free to join the discussion in the comments!
Takashi “Shindo” Sugiyama & Musa Kamara
Empathy and Dedication
Shindo and Musa, an honor student and a foreigner, respectively, gain esteem through their open-mindedness and positivity. Even when times are rough, they stick it out and give 110—no, 120%—just to make sure the job gets done. To let others down is not, and will never be, an option for these two! In many ways, Musa is a guru for relationships and personal advice, often meeting behind the scenes with his teammates in the bath . . . with the lights off . . . (it’s a Musa thing, ok?)
Shindo, meanwhile, uses his overt social and business connections to help promote the team, be it creating a website or gathering sponsors. Though he may not completely know what Haiji is up to, he’s always open to new ideas. Special props to Shindo for his countless sacrifices and unwavering dedication. (If you’ve seen the final race, you’ll know what I mean!)
Joutarou “Jota” Kizuki & Joujiro “Joji” Kizuki
Searching for Passion
The twins, Jota and Joji, may seem like a couple of troublemakers, and while that assumption wouldn’t be entirely incorrect, it should be noted that they, too, are trying to find their calling in life. They follow Kakeru side by side (literally) in hopes that whatever makes him special will eventually rub off on them. With Jota specifically, we find that it’s ok to try something new and realize that it’s not for you—I totally get that feeling! Beyond the laughter and the trickery, Jota and Joji are goal-setters, and they’ll support the team all the way if it means surpassing the summit together.
Akihiro “Nico” Hirata & Youhei “King” Sakaguchi
Transformation and Improvement
Our two “parent” team members, aside from Haiji, would without a doubt be King and Nico-chan senpai. More mature beyond their years, these two veterans act as gatekeepers for experience. In a way, they are advisers for the team, aiding not necessarily through action, but by sharing words from the wise. Unlike the rest of the cast, Nico and King’s strength come from their failures in life; likewise, these pitfalls become their motivational springboards to improve and move on from the heavy weight of the past. They initially pose the biggest oppositional threat to Haiji’s plans, but they also arguably grow the most because of Haiji, too.
These two are also the ones tackling the most severe “real-world” issues: King has no luck job-hunting as a senior ready for life after graduation, and Nico’s health is in noticeable decline due to years of smoking. In an effort to turn their lives around, however, both take up running to get out of the rut they’ve been stuck in. Prospective jobs slowly start to take interest in King, and Nico is happy beyond words to finally remember what it feels like to be healthy again—to taste the rich tinge of iron in his mouth.
When I’m running . . . For just a moment, I feel perfectly clean. — Nico
Yukihiko “Yuki” Iwakura
Something to Chase After
Like Haiji, Yuki’s a bit of an enigma. He has clear likes, such as tastes in music or food, but unclear motivations for running (until the very end, that is). He’s reclusive, sharp-tongued, and values his own time above all else. Naturally, he causes a stir of conflict with Haiji’s seemingly pointless mission. But like the others, Yuki eventually concedes to running, which leads us through a night journey of sorts as he finds something to chase after. And also like everyone else, he finds that something in Kakeru.
Kakeru’s ability to instill passion in his teammates makes him an easy icon to latch on to, but Yuki likes to view him from afar. Goal-setting, hardworking, successful—in many ways, Kakeru represents everything that Yuki is unable to achieve. Rather than put him down however, this gives Yuki a person to strive to be like. Whether with friends or family, they both struggle with building personal connections. After uncovering this weakness of Kakeru’s by chance, Yuki realizes how alike they really are, and sets himself on running even if it just means buying more time to run after the person who inspires him most—the only one who makes him feel good about his own potential in life.
Talent and Understanding
Kakeru is quite the hot-headed youngster when we first meet him. He’s distant, unapproachable, and would much rather do his practice stretches by himself while Haiji talks to the team. He’s understandably realistic when admitting the slim odds of their success getting into the Ekiden, but flat-out pessimistic when laying down his true feelings about the Aotake residents’ athletic skills. We observe this most notably with how he’s willing to ask Prince, Aotake’s manga-reading laggard, to leave the team just so they have even the slightest chance of competing. (Yikes.) Not exactly a team player.
As much as you’d want to detest Kakeru in the beginning, I think we’ve all been in a similar situation where someone in the team imposes an impossibly large goal upon you all, and you just can’t help but want to admit that perhaps it’d be possible if we made some “cuts.” Despite being the most stratified from one another, however, Kakeru slowly realizes that being fast isn’t the only goal of running. For some, it can be a way to step out of one’s shell, and it is by getting on Prince’s level that the two go on to form one of the strongest connections in the entire series.
We watched Kakeru grow from a haughty teenager into a man who exudes genuine compassion and encouragement towards others, and his growth is equal parts satisfying and wholehearted. He finds that talent can get a person far in life, but it’s all pointless if you don’t have friends to share your gifts with. Finally, he learns how to smile around others and not let shadows from the past prevent happiness in the future.
Akane “Prince” Kashiwazaki
Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone
Straight up, the writing for Prince is incredible. It’s rare for an anime to express outward hatred for something as a theme, the “I hate running, but I would hate myself more if I didn’t do it” moment. Really, it’s a simple thought, but no one wants to address it, almost as if it’s taboo. Disliking something yet sticking with it for reasons other than enjoyment is a truth we don’t think much about. Were it not for Kakeru’s one-on-one aid, I don’t think either of them would’ve turned out as wholesome as they did. And it wasn’t a therapy session either; the two were just getting to know each other, even if it was in the mutual silence of reading manga together.
Accustomed to his quiet dorm room stacked floor-to-ceiling with manga, Prince is invited into an entirely different (albeit scary) world, and that changes him forever. He has no special talent, and that causes him to have no big aspirations in his life either. But Kakeru and Haiji—people perceived to be more special than himself—make an investment in Prince, and that changes Prince’s entire view on what it means to try new things. Similarly, by coming to understand what it feels like to sit at the bottom of the totem pole, Kakeru realizes that you don’t have to be the best or the brightest to excel in life—you just have to know you tried your hardest.
They practically live in entirely separate worlds, one full of accomplishment and recognition, the other lackadaisical and seemingly without purpose. But through their initial discourse, the two grow to respect one another’s differences, and that growth proves not only impactful but long-lasting and transformative, too.
Of all the amazing characters here, Prince’s path starts at the lowest of lows, yet soars as the highest of highs come the end of the journey. And it’s because he never gave up on trying to be not just a stronger runner, but a better human being. After living a secret life of immense self-loathing and anguish, Prince just wants to be happy with who he is, and I find that to be a perfectly admirable goal all on its own.
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. — Dr. Seuss
I could easily spend WEEKS writing over this cast, but I hope a short little write-up like this will suffice for now. Which of the boys is your personal favorite? Mine’s probably . . . Haiji . . . BUT, I also really love Nico-chan senpai and Shindo. And Yuki. AGH, I just can’t decide, they’re all so unique! So silly, yet so incredibly heartwarming. Also, they all use each other’s nicknames, which is not only funny but realistic given that most sports teams use abbreviations. I didn’t even realize it until writing this post, but I quite like that touch.
And this makes THREE back-to-back posts on Run with the Wind. Can ya tell it means a lot to me? Coincidences aside, it was fun getting to revisit the guys one last time. I think I’m finally ready to move on from Kazetsuyo, but I definitely won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. PLEASE feel free to share any thoughts you have on the series or the characters in the comments, as I really love reading what you guys have to say! Until next time, my friends!
– Takuto, your host