These Silly Guys: What Makes Kazetsuyo A Very Special Anime | Cafe Talk

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!

kazetsuyo shoes.PNG


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?)

musa and shindo.png

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!)

kazetsuyo shindo fist.png

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.

kazetsuyo twins.png

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.

king and nico.jpg

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


nico grin.PNG

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.

yuki running.PNG

Kakeru Kurahara

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.

kakeru angry.PNG

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.

kakeru shouting.jpg

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.

reading manga together.PNG

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.

prince smile.jpg

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

Advertisements

Chasing You, Chasing Me: The Heart of Run with the Wind | OWLS “Masculinity”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s fourth monthly topic of 2019, “Masculinity,” I’ll actually be following up to my review of Run with the Wind, dedicating this entire post to highlight the key player on the Kansei Track Team, Haiji Kiyose (because, you know, he’s that great.) If you’d like a proper introduction to the series, you can check out my spoiler-free review right here!

Last month, we explored the meanings behind the terms “feminine” and “feminism.” This month, the OWLS bloggers will explore the concept of masculinity. We each have our own definition of what it means to be masculine and we will explore our definitions using “masculine” characters from various pop culture fandoms. We will discuss how these characters are “masculine” or show signs of a masculine persona. We will also share our personal stories about the amazing men that supported us in our lives, as well as share some of our experiences growing up as a man or knowing men who struggled with the masculine identity.

If you were hoping for a follow-up to my March “Feminine” post on the brave women of Space Battleship Yamato (this time examining the male leads), fear not! I’ve got a couple more Yamato-related posts loaded in the dock just itchin’ to be written. Thanks Lyn for another tricky and engaging prompt to write for!

haiji and king.PNG


A brief spoiler-free discussion on the male characters 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.

Welcome to the Kansei Track Team Aotake!

In case you need a refresher, Run with the Wind is about ten college guys who are roped into joining their university’s track team by Haiji Kiyose, their dorm’s lead resident assistant of sorts, and the antics that ensue with Haiji’s rigorous training regiment. What are they training for? Why, only one of the most prestigious university races in all of Japan: the Hakone Ekiden marathon.

We follow the majority of the story through Kakeru Kurahara, a college freshman who, after hitting a low point in his life and stealing food from a convenience store, is taken in by Haiji and the Aotake family. But while Kakeru’s hotheadedness and ex-track star status work well enough for him, aside from Haiji, the rest of the guys are complete novices.

Through hard work, butting heads, and lots and lots of running, each of the Kansei Track Team members eventually confront what running means to them as they aim for the top—the steepest mountains in the world. 

haiji headshot

What Does it Take to Break the Silence? – A look at Haiji Kiyose

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to share with you one of the most powerful quotes in the entire show and what prompted me to write a post solely about Haiji:

No one here is running half-assed. Why won’t you try to acknowledge that everyone’s trying their best? 

Is it because they’re slower than you? Is speed all that matters to you?

Then there’s no reason to run.

Ride a bullet train. 

Ride a plane. 

They’re faster.

WAKE UP, Kakeru.

It’s not enough to just chase speed. 

It’s . . . futile . . . 

— Haiji Kiyose to Kakeru Kurahara

I remember having to hit the pause button for just a second after hearing Toshiyuki Toyonaga (Haiji’s VA) plow through this painful line. To see someone so generally happy-go-lucky become so worked-up and defensive. What Haiji speaks, however, is the undeniable truth: there is no practical reason to run. Whether a car, a bike, or the city bus, all of these options are much quicker than running if speed is your only goal.

haiji angry.PNG

But it’s through this tunnel vision that Kakeru initially perceives the world. And this is also why Kakeru fails to get along with the other guys, especially Haiji. In this pinnacle moment though, the words finally cut through to him.

Haiji’s a tricky guy to pin down. He’s both kind and wicked, unreasonable and unreadable almost 100% of the time, much like a Magic 8-ball that never spits out what you want to hear and asks you to do the impossible when it feels like it. (Huh, do they still make those things?)

As such, he’s frustrating to get along with, and I think it’s largely because he doesn’t follow the “stereotype” for a masculine leader. Haiji’s strong, but more in an introverted, persevering way as opposed to your typical energetic and extroverted team captain. Behind the scenes, Haiji’s always calmly and collectively analyzing the shape of his men, both physically and emotionally. If something’s wrong with their bodies, he makes adjustments to their training and diet, simple as that. But when he notices that someone is anxious, depressed, or occupied with other thoughts, he doesn’t try to be overbearing and shoulder the heavy burden of “curing” their mental health. Instead . . .

Haiji sits down with them. He talks and offers what support he can, but most importantly, he’s just there for them when they need someone, and that speaks volumes about his character. I think it’s about time we start seeing male characters in sports anime break the silence on what it truly means to support others—because psychological support is just as important as physical ailment, and Haiji breaks away from the mold by finding the validity in simply “being there” for people when they are feeling down.

haiji and kakeru.PNG

To Haiji, dreams aren’t something to look down upon, even if they require the pursuers to look up towards something, in this case the pursuers being the Kansei Track Team and the dream being the Hakone Ekiden. Haiji also firmly believes in the collaborative benefits of teamwork—it’s either we’re all in, or we make changes such that everyone feels comfortable—and that’s a HUGE ideal not only for a “man” to stand up for, but for a man amongst other men.

Thankfully, the Aotake guys take Haiji’s wisdom to heart, culminating in many emotionally-driven, eye-opening experiences like the heart-to-heart with Kakeru quoted above. Haiji’s charisma fuels their motivational drive to improve themselves, and his dream of running in the Hakone Ekiden quickly becomes a goal within reach because of their combined efforts.

Of course, personal sacrifices of any kind must be made to achieve one’s goals. With the deterioration of his knee, Haiji walks (or runs, rather) on thin ice, risking permanently crippling his leg just so that he can discover his own reasons for running. And at last, he finds that in Kakeru, whom he decides to chase after as if every day were his last. Little does he know, Kakeru was chasing after him the entire time.

haiji on the bus.PNG

But when the day finally comes, all Haiji can do is break down in tears of bittersweet joy, sorrow, and satisfaction knowing that he gave it his absolute all to achieve his biggest dream in life—and with irreplaceable friends that mean far more than any mere medal or trophy. What effort Haiji gives is unbelievable, but what he gets back is even more amazing.

Looking back on this extraordinary journey, we see that Haiji Kiyose was the heart of Run with the Wind all along: a character so charismatic, wholesome, and inspiring that he was able to join the lives of ten men together just to create one precious, finite moment, then guide them back onto their own paths more motivated than ever before.

haiji seeing kakeru

Beyond Masculinity: Not as Tough as We Seem

There’s a preconceived notion that in adverse situations, men should just “tough it out” by themselves and wipe off the dirt. But that’s not what Run with the Wind tells us. Instead, it shows that as strong as men—as strong as people—try to be, we’re not all as tough as we seem. Together, however, we can inspire and push each other to accomplish everything that we couldn’t do alone, and that seemingly small sentiment echoes loudly and proudly in the hearts of Kazetsuyo‘s characters, one Haiji Kiyose leading this inspirational movement.

That’s right, men can be:

Sensitive to others’ feelings,

Responsive to the needs of a friend,

Doubtful of their own strengths, 

Dreamers who are still looking for reason, and 

Individuals that chase after others when they’re lost or confused. 

And when we finally decide to confront this reality—that we’re not only different, but also perhaps not all that “tough” as society makes us out to be—maybe then we can stop moving against our feelings and at last experience the joy and freedom of running with them. That’s just what Haiji did, and look at the lives he transformed—as well as the incredible breadth of emotions he made us feel. 

haiji ekiden.PNG

Tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that . . . What you need to do won’t ever change. Reality will always be there in front of you. So instead of running from it, why not try running with reality? — Haiji Kiyose


Afterword

I’ve gone on at length about this series now in TWO posts, and would you believe me if I said a THIRD was on the way!? I’d like to use what extra notes I took over the series to make one more post about Run with the Wind‘s other characters (cause you know, they all ROCK). If you’re interested in hearing more about the Aotake guys, then I’d be happy to deliver! As for this post, I’ve never done something this “preachy” before, haha, so I’d love to hear what you thought about it or the show in the comments.

Funny story, this was initially to be about ALL of the boys, but it ended up being way too long. So I cut it down to Haiji, Kakeru, and Prince, only to find myself writing well over 1,000 words on Haiji alone. That’s when I thought, “Hey, what’s wrong with a Haiji-exclusive post?” And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with a post all about this wonderful boy. So here it is, I hope you enjoyed it (as spoiler-free as I could make it)!

haiji and the dog.PNG

This concludes my April 13th entry in the OWLS “Masculinity” blog tour. The lovely and eloquent Irina (I Drink and Watch Anime) went right before me with a post on Natsume’s Book of Friends (imagine that!) that you can check out right here! Now, once again, look out for my good friend Crimson (Read at Night) with a post specifically about the construct of masculinity itself this coming Monday, April 15th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host