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!

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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?)

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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)!

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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

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. 

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“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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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!”

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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.

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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

My Top 10 Favorite Anime of 2018!

Hello!

Happy Friday evening everyone. I’m back with more 2018 clean-up, and although several weeks overdue, I wanted to give each of the Fall 2018 anime a couple more weeks to see how some of them further progressed.

And boy was I glad I did that!

There was a lot in 2018 that I didn’t get around to watching: Violet Evergarden, Laid-Back Camp, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Megalo Box, Wotakoi, Planet With, Bloom into You, and the rest of Revue Starlight to name a few. But while much went unwatched for me, I did manage to watch a small handful of shows each season to compile a list such as this.

Anyway, enough stalling. As the title of this post indicated, listed below are my top 10 favorite anime of 2018!


NUMBER TEN:

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Angels of Death

Despite the incredible flack it got for drawing out the climax another four episodes (only to end in more controversy), the multi-interpretive ending of Angels of Death is actually one of my favorite aspects about it. The impossibly large setting with countless floors of traps and mazes reminded me of my first experience in Danganronpa‘s Hopes Peak High (which simultaneously frightened and amazed me), and for that matter, the mystery elements of the plot were surprisingly entertaining.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t so edgy about death and better incorporated the floor boss villains into the narrative rather than just treating them as sadistic criminals. But alas, for an anime based off an old JRPG horror fave, I’d say Angels of Death was a worthwhile investment.

NUMBER NINE:

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DAKAICHI -I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year-

I know, I know, it’s SMUT. If there was an award for guilty pleasure anime of the year, DAKAICHI would’ve taken it hands-down. I’m actually somewhat embarrassed to put this BL rom-com on the list, but hey, I should give credit where it’s due, right? And I really did love this silly little anime about much-beloved, A-list Japanese actor Takato Saijou boldly pursuing the love for the first time in his life. Cute characters, nice animation, yup, not much else to say here!

NUMBER EIGHT:

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Free! – Dive to the Future

Oh geez, one title full of bishounens after another—Who wrote this list?? Wait, I can explain!! I’ve loved Free! ever since it started airing back in the summer of 2013, and even if they decide to draw out the franchise (and unnecessarily so) for five more years after this, I’ll still love Free!. While this season’s additions of Ikuya and Hiyori brought all kinds of ~meh~ drama into the water, it was nice to still be able to follow these guys in college (cause, ya know, I’m also in college now).

Plus, Rei as Iwatobi’s captain, YASSSS! Since it just kind of “ends” after one of the meets, I’m looking forward to the film to hopefully bring resolution to Haru’s newest rivalry.

NUMBER SEVEN:

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Steins;Gate 0

In case you didn’t know, Steins;Gate was my favorite anime of all time for several years in the running. It has one of the best endings of all time, and even though many didn’t care for the film, it only added to my love of this title. When it was announced that we’d FINALLY be receiving an adaptation of the story’s “lost timeline,” the game known as Steins;Gate 0, I was positively thrilled. And for the first six, heck, even 12 episodes, it didn’t disappoint. But there was one episode, episode 18 to be exact, that really ruined the entire show for me. To quote ANN on the matter, “I’ve never been so frustrated and disappointed by an episode of Steins;Gate.”

Now, I’m a firm believer in how one episode cannot ruin an entire series, but when it needed to be strongest—to execute its immense build-up of time-altering tension and deliver shocking plot twists one after another—Steins;Gate 0 absolutely dropped the ball. It’s odd, considering that with every single episode after that, the show only goes up until its thrilling, chilling ending. But man, how tragic it is for the great Steins;Gate to fall flat due to an issue with unusually lazy directing, animating, and adapting.

NUMBER SIX:

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Tsurune: Kazemai High School Archery Club

I’m really, really glad that KyoAni has given this series everything it’s got to make it stand out on its own as a fantastic high school sports drama. We’ve seen the studio churn out somewhat lukewarm stories in the past (Beyond the Boundary and Myriad Colors Phantom World as the most infamous ones), and I was definitely afraid of the same happening to Tsurune just because they marketed the series with some cute archery danshi.

With only one episode left to air, I couldn’t have been more wrong—Tsurune is beautiful. Its animation is top-tier, its music is fantastically gorgeous, its direction is powerful, and its characters are more soulful than any of us expected them to be. Can’t wait to see how this wonderful little show ends!

NUMBER FIVE:

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Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Given that I only just watched this series a week ago, talk about a last-minute pull! I may have covered Bunny Girl Senpai in my latest OWLS post, but all I was able to do was barely skim the surface of its first three episodes. In actuality, the entire series and all of its self-contained story arcs are layered with the same character complexity as its brilliant intro arc, and I highly recommend checking out the series beyond those three episodes if you get the chance.

But yeah, as everyone’s been saying, it’s like Bakemonogatari for dummies, but in many ways better. The stories are easy accessible (compared to the madness of the massive Monogatari franchise) and the comedy is always on-point—what more could you ask for? Most surprisingly-enjoyable series of the year: Bunny Girl Senpai.

NUMBER FOUR:

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SSSS.GRIDMAN

Of all the shows on this list, Gridman became the one that I looked forward to each week the most. Although initially turned off by the ugly color palette and clunky CGI kaiju fights, by episode four or so I quickly became ADDICTED to the Gridman aesthetic Trigger creates. If there’s one word to sum up this show, it is “atmospheric.” Shiro Sagisu’s musical score not only plays off both the retro nature of a giant robot anime and the epic, not-of-this-world scenario, but also the subtle, somber, and hauntingly atmospheric moments that require solo piano or mere silence alone. I really appreciate how involved the main trio of high school kids are with the plot—no one is forgotten about, including the lesser of the leads.

To top it all off, we got Akane Shinjo, one of my favorite female characters of 2018! Between the high intensity kaiju fights and the mysterious nature of this very world, SSSS.GRIDMAN knew exactly what kind of story it wanted to be—and it never held back. 

NUMBER THREE:

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Devilman: Crybaby 

Since I’ve already talked at length about this wild series in my review way back in February, I’ll keep my reasoning for its top-three spot concise: Crybaby is epic. It is ruthless to its cast and unyielding to the audience. Gory, over-the-top, and emotionally devastating until the very end, there’s rarely a moment to breath. Crybaby also became my entry point into the Devilman franchise, as it did for many others. And like the Yuri!!! On ICE and Banana Fish epidemics, there was—and still is—no end to the amount of Devilman: Crybaby artwork floating around on Twitter. That pleases me immensely.

Crybaby is going to be on a lot of top-10 lists and for good reasons. If you’re willing to stomach the copious amounts of gore and nudity, you should, without doubt, check out this series—it’s an absolute heartbreaker, and often those are the best kinds of anime.

NUMBER TWO:

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Run With the Wind

I really, really, really, really wanted to put Run With the Wind in the #1 spot, but for the obvious reason of “it hasn’t finished airing yet,” I couldn’t cheat out the true number one when anything could still happen in the second cour of this amazingly fun and relatable sports anime. Like Welcome to the Ballroom, Production I.G has teamed up with musician Yuki Hayashi to create a well-animated, motivational story featuring a sport. This time, it’s cross country running, and since my sister ran it all throughout high school, I kinda know what’s up.

Simply, I enjoy Run With the Wind because it doesn’t try too hard to make me smile, laugh, angry, heartfelt, or inspired. The ten boys of the Kansei University track team are full of spirit, heart, and their own motives in life. As they each struggle with the daunting goal of running in the great Hakone Ekiden, we quickly find that to say something is vastly different than actually doing that thing. No matter what it is, you have to work for it, and you will encounter roadblocks along the way that must eventually be dealt with if you wish to do whatever it is you’re trying so hard at.

We all get frustrated, jealous, and mad at ourselves and others, but at the same time, we also feel triumphant, proud, and happy when things turn out as we want them to. For an anime about something as seemingly simple as running to make me feel all these emotions and more, I can only hope that Run With the Wind sticks with its greatest strength—its heart—until the very end.

Honorable Mentions:

Violet Evergarden

Because I DON’T HAVE NETFLIX UGH I have yet to actually watch this Evergarden. But if I did, you can bet that it’d be on this list.

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

Like some of the others here in this section, I’m only halfway done with Revue Starlight (love it BTW), so I didn’t want to put an anime on this list in which I’ve only seen six episodes of. Makes sense, right?

A Certain Magical Index III

While I was initially STOKED to get more Index, this third season has left me quite, err, confused. Like, Index isn’t known for connecting its arcs together as smoothly as most others, and the burn of abruptly dropping one story arc and diving straight into another really hurts the enjoyment factor. Fellow blogger Karandi even voiced her frustrations with the story so far and has stepped away from this third season, and I totally understand why. I want to like Index III, but is that the mentality I should be having with any anime—or anything for that matter?

Sword Art Online: Alicization

In case you don’t follow my Twitter adventures, I’ve actually been trying to read the Alicization light novels PRIOR to watching the anime so that I can compare/enjoy both mediums. This newest arc covers a whopping ten volumes, from 9 to 18, and I just finished 13 today. This means that in about a month or two, the anime will be caught up to where I’m currently at. Given how volume 15 just released in English, I’m fighting a losing battle, I know, but that’ll make watching all 50-some episodes of Alicization when I’m done reading that much greater of a reward. Of the six episodes I’ve seen thus far, it’s safe to say that had I watched more, SAO: Alicization would’ve made a spot on the list easily.

Attack on Titan Season 3 & My Hero Academia 3rd Season

A LOT of people have taken these two powerhouse third seasons out of their top-10 lists, and it makes sense: they would utterly DOMINATE otherwise. So, I shoved them here with the absolute recommendation to #GetOnThisShitASAP if you’ve been living under a rock. If you were wondering, however, I really did enjoy the new reveals and further characterization/world-building in AoT, and MHA continues to be the epitome of a well-done anime. Looking forward to more of both!

AND FINALLY, NUMBER ONE:

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A Place Further Than the Universe

It’s rare for me to switch up my simulcast schedule and jump on a series mid-season. Seriously, it never happens. But once I saw that 2-minute clip of the YoriMoi girls running throughout the city (for unknown reasons at the time), it instantly dawned on me that I’d be missing out on something truly remarkable if I were to pass up this unsuspecting slice-of-life/drama series. Just, man, everything about this series is perfect. Utterly incredible and enjoyable from beginning to end.

I also find it rare for a series to inspire me as much as this. A couple years back it was Yuri!!! On ICE, and in 2017 it was Welcome to the Ballroom. I could argue and say that Run With the Wind would be the next natural candidate, but YoriMoi was able to make me think about things in a way that none of these other wonderful titles could. What does it mean to try? What does it mean to fail? What does it mean to do both, repeatedly, yet keep on going until you make it to the other side of the world and leave everyone else in shock? What does it feel like to leave it all behind? And what does it feel like to find suddenly what you’ve been searching for all your life? 

The reason I never properly reviewed A Place Further Than the Universe was because, at the time I finished the show, I couldn’t. I was pretty much speechless, cathartic, and cleansed. Even now, I still don’t know how to put my thoughts for it in words. At the time of finishing, I wanted to leave parts of my own life behind, in fact, and that caused me to briefly leave blogging until I was ready to reopen the cafe. In the short time ToriMoi was actively was in my life, it changed everything—or rather, it paved the way for me to make my own changes for once: to chase after my own desires, throw caution to the wind, and try something new.

And all this and more is why A Place Further Than the Universe is my irrefutable pick for anime of the year.

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Thanks 2018 for all the great anime!

That’s all I got! What did you think of my top ten anime of 2018? Were some of my picks predictable or even cliche? Probably, haha, but you can’t deny what’s good when it comes for you, am I right? I’ve been doing my best to stay on top of your guys’ top-10 posts, but in case I missed yours, you’re more than welcome to leave a link down in the comments for me to read! I’ll soon be posting a 2018 “watch log” post of sorts detailing everything I watched in 2018 aside from seasonal stuff, so stay tuned for that. Thanks 2018 for all the great anime, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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