Run with the Wind: Wholesome, Heartfelt, & Inspiring Every Step of the Race | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 23-episode fall 2018 anime “Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Kazetsuyo)” or “Run with the Wind,” animated by Production I.G, directed by Kazuya Nomura, and based on the novel of the same name by Shion Miura. 

kazetsuyo line up


“Hey, Do You Like Running?”

Kakeru Kurahara has hit a low point in his life. Once a former elite runner at high school, the young college freshman finds himself alone, lost, and starving. While being chased for stealing food one night, he runs by Kansei University student Haiji Kiyose. Haiji  saves Kakeru and persuades him to live in the old dilapidated “Chikuseisou,” or more fondly “Aotake,” apartment building.

Unbeknownst to the other Aotake residents, Haiji’s spent the last four years of his college career carefully crafting and assembling the “perfect” team so that they can all enter the Hakone Ekiden Marathon, one of the most prominent and prestigious university races in the nation. Kakeru just so happens to be his number ten. Now realizing that they were all deceived, the guys are understandably left speechless with confusion and rage. But even more shocking is when Kakeru quickly finds out that aside from Haiji and himself, all of his new roommates are complete novices.

An air of reluctance hangs over Aotake for a while, but eventually everybody comes around (some definitely more optimistic than others). Slowly but surely, this oddball mash-up of personalities matures into a humble and inspirational group worthy of the name “Kansei University Track Team.” They train hard and work tirelessly to reconfigure their individual lifestyles, and as the fated day of the Hakone Ekiden draws nearer, the boys hope to answer the question lying at the bottom of each of their hearts: What does running mean to me?

kazetsuyo face off.png

As one can imagine, getting the entire crew on board with Haiji’s wish isn’t as simple as just “learning how to run.” These guys have their own troubles to worry about, be it job hunting, maintaining a social life, or figuring out what to do after college. But oh man, the dude doesn’t back down! (Haiji’s a terrible person, yet it’s actually hilarious and kinda charming??) I had so much fun looking forward to each week’s episode and seeing what new evil thing Haiji would cook up to torture the guys.

But through their communal living experience and Haiji’s agenda—which includes torturous practices, rigorous diet reconstructing, bath house relaxation, and endless hours of running—the lives of ten young men slowly intertwine as they bond together.

kazetsuyo family.jpg

Realism, Recourse, and Reinvention

As a sports anime, Run with the Wind breaks away from the pack by building a story around a group of guys who, for the most part, have no interest in the titular sport. Some even detest running, and the tensions formed through these clashing viewpoints and personalities result in quite the compelling drama. Add in individual character motives grounded in realism and you’ve got the perfect formula for a story with even more motivational pathos than your average Joe sports anime (and one that’s five times better, might I add).

At first, each of Kazetsuyo boys takes running at their own pace, the fast ones (namely Kakeru) leaving the slackers (like Prince) in the dust. While the more resilient guys use the sport as a means to confront personal troubles, others take running as a chance for reinvention—an opportunity to better one’s physical and psychological health. One guy, Nico-chan, takes a complete 360 and decides to both quit smoking and lose weight! Another guy, Prince, surrenders to running not because he likes it, but because he’d detest himself even more if he didn’t get out and try it. That’s some powerful writing, and I’m barely scraping the top of the iceberg here.

Anime has gotten a mixed rep for how it handles issues like weight loss and self-worth. In most sports anime, our cast is already pretty fit and motivated; perhaps the leads are just searching for how to take down their foes and rivals and rise to the top. But for every single one of the Kazetsuyo boys, they themselves are their own enemy. We have characters screaming how much they HATE running, not love it. How much they HATE themselves for the way they are, not celebrating the things they are good at.

kazetsuyo defense.jpg

And that’s why these ten men need each other—to acknowledge and accept one another’s flaws and say “Hey, let’s work on improving that together.” Kazetsuyo is FULL of these kinds of raw emotional moments, and you can bet these were the ones that made me tear up most while watching. I don’t think the anime community has realized how truly important it is to have a show like Run with the Wind representing the sports genre.


I’m not sure if these people are my friends or not, but at the very least, they recognize me, my ideas, and my worth. Among them, there is no high or low level. The only thing that matters is who we are! — Kashiwazaki Akane AKA Prince


Celebrate the victories, but never forget the losses. As I’m sure anyone else who watched the series figured out, Run with the Wind was never about winning. Rather, it was about finding purpose in the things you do, and moving forward only when you’re 100% ready. It’s a story about us, the norm, not the exception.

kazetsuyo prince.jpg

My NEW Favorite Production I.G Sports Anime

Production I.G has this thing with their sports anime where they like to reuse some of the same exact scenes ad nauseam for emotional impact and thematic consistency (love ’em both, but see Haikyuu!! and Welcome to the Ballroom). For Run with the Wind, it was the first episode’s “Do you like running?” bike scene, and thankfully they stopped shoving it in our faces around the second half to replace it with symbolic animation of Haiji chasing a glowing Kakeru.

Not only was I glad they made this switch, but it established a powerful positioning of characters and a nice check for how they evolve over the series. In their minds, Kakeru and Haiji were constantly chasing after one another, and the spatial light show really shines as an iconic duality unique only to this series.

kazetsuyo kakeru glowing.jpg

Speaking of beautiful directing, Run with the Wind features stunning landscape shots, whether a chill rainy morning in the park, the blazing sunset against the Hakone mountains, or a quiet night in the city under a blanket of stars. Particularly, the emphasis on changing seasons creates such a mood fit for the show. The scenic framing leaves you stunned speechless, and as our all-star team stands side-by-side gazing out at the countryside view, you’re left not with words, but with feelings. Inspiration. Passion. A breath of fresh air. Nature. Life. Taking it all in, and letting it all out.

kazetsuyo sillhouette

The track races are also animated with intense energy and vigorous movement. Production I.G pours a lot of time crafting its breathtaking still-frames, but you can tell the animation budget was reserved for the Ekiden race itself, which encompasses the entire finale, a mammoth five episodes of constant motion.

Subtle shifts in character postures and habits (like Prince’s god-awful running form, Nico-chan’s thinner body, and the way Kakeru slowly moves closer to his teammates during practice and starts to crack a confident smile here and there) also lend themselves as a great source of characterization, to which I.G delivers without fail. Best of all, the animation syncs astonishingly well with the real force driving this show: the beat of Yuki Hayashi’s soundtrack.

kazetsuyo sunset.png

Chill Vibes, Heart-Pounding Winds

I’m honestly not sure what more I can say about Yuki Hayashi at this point. You’d all probably know that he’s my favorite composer for anime. The entire soundtrack Hayashi has put together for Kazetsuyo is by far one of his most emotionally resonant ones. His slow piano tracks transcend into harmonious ballads once you add in the glorious vocals and his signature soaring string melodies. It’s lengthy and intense build-up, but oh-so satisfying pay-off each and every time, much like the story itself.

For more subtle moments, Hayashi sticks to playful jazz-like guitar plucking and simple percussion for accompaniment. I have a playlist on my iPhone labeled “Vibes” (no joke), and literally half the OST is on it to inspire me when I need it.

Above all, the main theme of the series is by far the most positively-charged anthem I’ve ever heard in an anime—and it kicks in RIGHT when it needs to every single time. Even now, just listening to that piece brings happy tears to my eyes as I remember the spirited efforts of this underdog team, the trials and tribulations they had to overcome to get as far as they did. Through his ascending melodic lines, Hayashi is able to paint the picture of a runner on a dewy, drizzly spring morning, the sun just barely peaking through the city skyscrapers . . . Clearly, he was meant to write the music for this series, and I know only he could’ve made each uplifting moment so raw and powerful.

kazetsuyo cheering

And if you didn’t think it could get any better, Run with the Wind was BLESSED with four equally exciting and motivational OP and ED themes! Fan-favorite UNISON SQUARE GARDEN starts us off on a high note, while Q-MHz feat. Mitsuhiro Hidaka (aka SKY-HI) follows it with a pumped-up OP worthy of the show’s second half.

The real gems here, however, are Taichi Mukai’s ED themes. “Reset,” the first (and my fave of them all) focuses on Haiji and really suits the tranquility of a misty morning run. And whereas the first is all about the individual spirit, “Michi,” the second, ties the entire series together with feelings of celebration, family, and at last, freedom.

(Special shoutout to Toshiyuki Toyonaga who makes Haiji’s lines flow out so naturally. It was dialogue unlike anything I’ve ever heard from observing a Japanese dub, and Toyonaga is just, AGH, so perfect!)

kazetsuyo michi.png

Against the Flow

Run with the Wind could have been a very simple anime. It could have just been a fun comedy shounen series with sports as the subject and winning as the goal. But it didn’t do that—it became something so, so much more. Drama anime usually revolve around unique circumstances, over-the-top twists, and a focus on “How shocking” as opposed to “How painfully relatable.” And yet here we are with a sports drama series that excels at everything it sets out to do and then some with delicacy and honesty. Every single leg of this well-written, 23-episode-long circuit remains simultaneously down-to-earth and extraordinarily heartfelt.

This anime is so much more than a simple sports comedy series. It’s the greatest feel-good story I have become this fond of in quite some time, and rooting for these goofy guys for over half a year was easily one of the greatest pastimes I could ask for. I fell completely in love with the cast and the music, plus it’s incredibly well-written and well-paced. For comparison, while I fell head-over-heels for the Haikyuu!! cast, I felt for the Kazetsuyo characters.

Every step of this journey felt sincere and wholesome, and I absolutely enjoyed laughing with the Aotake guys just as much as I did crying with them. Whether you’re a fan of sports anime or not, a genuinely passionate and realistic series like Run with the Wind isn’t the kind that comes often—so don’t miss it. Otherwise, you’ll be sleeping on what is perhaps one of the best anime to come out in years.

In Kazetsuyo, complex feelings and conflicting agendas clash both on the track and off it. We learn that not everyone will want to support your endeavors in life—some individuals would dare to directly oppose you, in fact. But sometimes, in the long-winded process of finding ourselves, we have to go against the flow to truly run freely with the wind. Just like the Kansei Track Team, we have to be willing to shout “We are here. We are running. And we are aiming for the top no matter what you do or say about it!”

kazetsuyo mountains.jpg

The mountains of Hakone are . . . the steepest in the world! — Haiji Kiyose (The Kansei Track Team Motto)


Afterword

For one of the most painfully realistic yet wholesome anime I’ve ever seen, Run with the Wind is without a doubt worthy of the house “Caffe Mocha” title. Winning a solid 10/10 from me (as well as my heart), I’m happy and proud to honor Run with the Wind as one of my favorite anime of all time. Every chord it struck resonated with me so hard, and the ending is just made me melt with happiness.

That said, I don’t believe the series is perfect; I mean, anything could use some sort of improvement. But the point I wanted to make with this post was that none of the faults bothered me enough to seriously stick out. Heck, I would’ve loved to learn more about the other guys besides Haiji and Kakeru (like Yuki, or Musa), but I simply can’t complain with what we got. Watching Kakeru grow from an angsty, easily set-off teenage firecracker into a helpful and considerate team player was really something special.

Man, I enjoyed this emotionally-charged journey so much! I’m really going to miss these idiots. I’ll miss Aotake. So much character, so much heart.

kazetsuyo running away

Whew, this review has turned into me gushing over Kazetsuyo for 2,000+ words, but I guess it can’t be helped, hahaha! What did you think of Run with the Wind? Did it grab at your heartstrings as much as it did me, or did you find other areas of the series to be critical of? I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts, so please, share to your hearts content! That’ll be it for me, but before I leave, tell me . . .

“The mountains of Hakone are?”

– Takuto

Advertisements

What I’ll Be Watching This Fall 2018 Simulcast Season!

Greetings all! With the first days of October under our belt, fall is officially here!

I realize I never did one of those Summer 2018 recaps . . . I’ll get around to it once I actually finish them . . . maybe. Anyway, I’m super pumped for this fall season. Couple of  long-awaited “season threes” to go around, plus some neat new stuff from KyoAni, Production I.G, and even Trigger. Let’s see what I’ll be watching this fall 2018 simulcast season!

Related image

Banana Fish

First for returning shows of the summer season is everyone’s favorite Yuri!!! On ICE-meets-gang-warfare-and-mafia-conspiracies smash hit shoujo BL series (you’re tackling a lot of ground there, BF). Banana Fish had me at the beginning, but admittedly not as much now. I think it’s become one of those things where the show’s visual aesthetic (the 1980s art style with Mappa’s lightly drawn character designs and the intricate backgrounds) is better than the actual plot. Every single episode ends with a cliffhanger, so that’s definitely a factor that keeps drawing me back, but the characters are the best part of this beloved title for sure. I have a feeling that Ash Lynx’s path will start to grow plenty darker, and as his mental state teeters on the edge of becoming a real beast, I do hope Eiji will be there to keep him from committing an irreversible sin.

Image result for attack on titan season 3 1080p

Attack on Titan Season 3

Wow, wow, wow, where to begin with this one? The second of two returning summer titles, AoT 3 certainly put the franchise back on the map. Things are getting revealed, characters from the shadows are making their move, and Eren is growing more and more into an understandable character at the behest of Levi and Historia’s suffering (and their eventually overcoming the demons from their pasts). People and themes are starting to better connect, and as humanity careens on the its own self-destruction, everything is coming to light. It’s incredible how this franchise can transition from straight shounen action in the first season to this horror, murder mystery that is the second, and now a political drama AND STILL maintain my interest and fascination with the world and its characters. Each season has its own unique tone (the second still being my favorite, as unpopular as my opinion is), yet they are all equally–and unmistakably–Attack on Titan. I’m ALWAYS looking forward to more, and I hear the next developments are particularly epic.

Image result for radiant anime

Radiant

Now to the new stuff . . . I know literally nothing about this series. I guess it’s based on a French shounen manga, which is cool. But the main reason I’ll be trying to follow it is because Lerche is behind the project, and y’all know I love that studio. Not sure if I’ll end up following it, but I put it here anyway just to try out the waters.

Image result for tsurune anime

Tsurune (Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu)

Aww yeah, now THIS one I’m excited for. It’s #archeryboys, and I can’t wait for Kyoto Animation to bring this school sports/drama series to life! I love the soft green, brown, and white color palette the advertising department has been working with. Having thoroughly enjoyed Free! and virtually everything else that KyoAni has produced in the past, I’m absolutely ready to cheer on this high school archery club as they aim for the prefectural tournament.

Image result for 風 が 強く 吹い て いる

Run with the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru)

More sports drama, woohoo! Other than the fact that this is animated by Production I.G (who brought us Haikyuu!! and, more importantly to me, Welcome to the Ballroom), I don’t know much about this series. The characters look cool, but apparently they’re all just a bunch of university novices trying to run in the some big famous marathon in Japan. WAIT, is that UNISON SQUARE GARDEN doin’ the OP? Strap me along for the ride, cause I’m sure it’ll be a fun one!

Related image

SSSS.GRIDMAN

Hahaha, another one that I know nothing about. But it’s GRIDMAN—IT’S HYPE, RIGHT!?! I guess this one already has mixed reviews since the first episode came out, but regardless of whether they’re “good” or not, I support Trigger’s original projects 100%. Kiznaiver was alright. Darling in the Franxx wasn’t so hot. So let’s wait and see how Gridman turns out and hopefully this sci-fi mecha series will win more hearts than turn minds away. Oh and did you guys hear Funimation’s dub trailer yet? Greg Ayres, Lindsay Seidel, AND Barry Yandell on board? HECK yeah, sign me up!

Related image

Sword Art Online: Alicization (Season III)

Get the hate out of your system. All of it. Keep going, I’ll wait.

Is it gone yet? Alrighty, it’s SAO S3, and I’m hella pumped. The past couple weeks I’ve been catching up on the light novels in anticipation for what is supposedly the franchise’s best arc yet–and trust me, I believe it. In 2015 I read books 1-4, or what we know as the first season’s Aincrad and Fairy Dance arcs; in 2016 I read 5, the first half of Phantom Bullet; and just recently, I picked up books 6-14 minus 8 (yes, that is a lot of books and money). Whenever I have free time between classes and studies, I’d immerse myself in Reki Kawahara’s virtual worlds, enjoying every second of leisurely reading. I first read 9 to get a preview into this next arc, then went back to 6 to truly finish Phantom Bullet, and lastly took an emotional pit-stop at 7’s Mother’s Rosario to bridge the storytelling gap. With practically all of SAO in both anime and novel form under my belt (save for the Ordinal Scale film), I’m excited to venture on with my homework in volumes 10-14, as well as follow the anime side-by-side. The promos seem promising and the advertised character designs are simply beautiful. In other words, Alicization, here I come!

index iii.PNG

A Certain Magical Index III

And last but not least, my most anticipated title in the line-up is the loooooong-awaited continuation of one of the big franchises that pushed my journey along as a young anime fan, arguably becoming my favorite series for the longest time. FINALLY, we’ve got the third season of Index, and although it’s not Railgun (the true best), I’ve been waiting to find out what happened after the climactic events of the second season since what, like 2013—has it really been that long!? Anyway, I don’t have much else to say other than I’m absolutely, positively thrilled to be back in Academy City, a place where science and magic clash, and there’s never a dull moment!


That’s all for what I plan to be following! What about you? Will we be watching some of the same shows together, or do you have your eyes set on something else this fall 2018 season? I’d love to hear your line-up, as there’s a bunch of good stuff to look forward to! Let me know in the comments, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host