1887, at a remote, elite boarding school in France: Serge Battour returns after his graduation, and remembers the days of his youth...
1880, at the same school: Son of a viscount and a Roma prostitute (both deceased), Serge is intelligent, sweet, talented, and alienated by his family due to his heritage. Upon being sent to his new school, he rooms with Gilbert Cocteau, a gorgeous loner of a boy who sells his body for reasons unknown. Serge's attempts to reach out to Gilbert fail spectacularly, and yet there is something in both of them that attracts them to each other.
I thought this to be a beautiful yaoi in my own personal opinion. I was completely engrossed with the character Gilbert and I would love to read the manga if I could find it. The story was very interesting - hence my wanting to read the manga - and I love the time period it's set in. I've read plenty of novels set during the same time though usually in other parts of the world. Certain aspects remind me of a few of those novels in particular. It is a bit melodramatic but if you can watch a soap opera without screaming in agony you
should be fine. I thought the romance was beautiful and even the art for it's time. The relationship between Serge and Gilbert was the most interesting to me - especially on Serge's side. I can't really put into words why I liked this one so much. It has to be Gilbert but then I think - no it's Serge. So I can't quite place it. However, if you like sad things, melodrama, nostalgic feelings or tragic characters you'll probably like this anime.
Anime like Kaze to Ki no Uta are hard to quantify. Like so many short OVAs and series, the KazeKi anime is a compressed version of a small part of a much longer manga series. That said, as someone who has seen this OVA both with no knowledge of the manga and after having "read" (in the sense of looking at the pictures, anyway) all of it, I find it a wonderful work to be a wonderful work no matter how familiar you are with it.
Kaze to Ki no Uta is an epic boys' love tragedy oftentimes labeled as the first boy's love manga --
this is untrue, although KazeKi's mangaka also wrote the real first BL manga, a oneshot called "In the Sunroom". It was, however, the first to contain explicit sexual content, including rape, pedophilia, and incest (oftentimes all at once), although all of this is treated with care in the manga and doesn't come up all that much in the manga. But historical significance aside, this is the story of one Serge Battour, the kind and talented son of a French viscount and a gypsy prostitute, and one Gilbert Cocteau, a gorgeous boy selling his body for reasons unknown. The anime covers several volume of the manga, starting when Serge and Gilbert become roommates at the elite boarding school Lacombrade Academy and following them as they initially clash and slowly begin to understand each other. Their problems are many -- Serge, due to his mixed-race heritage, is bullied by his classmates; Gilbert's promiscuity often gets him into dangerous situations; while Serge intends to make friends with Gilbert, Gilbert refuses... it's a story with all the beginnings of an amazing romantic tragedy, and while the anime doesn't come close to finishing the story, it's a great overview of the full tale.
But the biggest draw of Kaze to Ki no Uta is not its significance or plot, but its characters. There's a delicious variety of personalities, including not only the leads but the supporting cast. Serge and Gilbert have an amazing dynamic all throughout the story; Serge is absolutely adorable and easy to cheer for from beginning to end, and Gilbert's remarkable combination of frigid and manipulative is a powerful contrast. While side characters don't have time to get their chances to shine, even their minimally-developed personalities are great fun -- the religious rule-bearer Karl, the playfully rebellious Pascal, the strong-willed and elegant Rosemarine... KazeKi has a very likable supporting cast.
While the style of this OVA doesn't come close to the beauty of the manga's art and atmosphere, it's quite a good representation. The music is more or less unobtrusive, but beautiful when one takes the time to listen to it. It's a very classic style, full of piano, violin, and the like; elegant and pretty and very much appropriate to the content of the anime. While mangaka Keiko Takemiya's soft and elegant art style has been greatly simplified (very much for the worse) in order to be animated, character designs are as a whole faithful to the original. Effeminate boys run rampant and every character, from main to background, is always on-model. The background art is similarly detailed and attractive, using the historic setting to further create a distinct atmosphere.
The Kaze to Ki no Uta OVA is a fantastic introduction to an even more fantastic manga; everybody I know that has watched it has gone on to read the manga and become a fan. Even this small bit of the story is intriguing, emotional, and beautiful and downright lovely to watch. While this title may not often catch the eye of anyone except boy's love fans looking through the history of the genre, the fact is that not only is Kaze to Ki no Uta -- manga and anime -- one of the greatest boy's love titles out there but one of the greatest shoujo titles and tragic manga. Those who can't stand their anime to be slow, character-driven, and dramatic should look elsewhere, but for fans of gorgeously painful romances, deep shoujo, and unique and significant anime, Kaze to Ki no Uta is the perfect series. Honestly, the only shortcoming of the anime is it's length.
Let's just cut to the chase; the answer is yes, this anime does depict romantic relationships between people of the same sex. I'd choose to describe the more sensual scenes as highly palatable and sometimes even intensely beautiful, but if you're unable to handle a story of such nature, then read no further.
Basically, this anime uses a prestigious French school as its setting where our protagonist, the virtuous and talented Serge, meets his new room-mate and polar opposite in the manipulative Gilbert who uses his body to gain various favors from other men. Unlike some other anime of the same genre I know of, the
story takes place in a world with enough regard for realism to avoid an ideal depiction of same-sex relationships and instead aims to depict some of the obvious cons; the most prominent one being the lack of consent the ones involved might face in their environments. Make no mistake though, plenty of scenes are reserved for the sometimes unnerving worship of the male body and intense homoerotic events that I fear might ruin a lot of the appeal for viewers not looking for such things.
Furthermore, the characterization stands fairly well for an OVA of merely an hour with reasonable amounts of development and a good foundation for occasional melodrama. Unfortunately, the anime is based on a manga of 17 volumes and lacks the time to include proper explanations for some bizarre plot points revealed later on which causes some confusion. This is not the major issue though as the narrative as a whole eventually ends up in a pit of glorified masochism only to wrap things up in a beautiful, intense and somehow redeeming scene with enough sense to rely on sensuality rather than sexuality.
In the end this is a fairly decent watch, with fairly standardized technical merits. The soundtrack is the most impressive part of the OVA, but the animation remains somewhat mediocre despite certain moments of beauty and great character designs. It suffers from the same problems shared by a lot of shounen-ai (it would seem) such as glorifying certain themes like masochism which are made all the more disturbing by the youth of the characters but is undoubtedly very palatable in its depiction. Despite the mediocre score, I was somewhat impressed by this title and will consider giving more titles within the same genre a chance; romanticized adolescent melodrama has its perks as long as it doesn’t drag I guess.
As someone who has seen and read only a little yaoi (not counting dojinshi, that is) I was surprised at the depth this show offered.
I found this through a Youtube video debating yaoi which described this OVA as one of the best 'gay anime' of all time. After being the victim of a few disappointing anime like Koisuru Boukun and Citrus, I was waiting for another disappointment-- after all, most LGBTQ+ representation in anime and manga is notoriously poor as even I can tell, being a straight person myself.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. Even for an OVA that's just an hour long, they
manage to encompass a heartwrenching story of two boys in a homophobic climate, one of whom is 'straightlaced' and the other is abused and broken. The writer manages to create realistic plot points that flow and reveal new aspects of the characters while exposing the tragic reality of the boys' lives.
While this may be an old work, I have to say that the art is still very beautiful. I can't say that it's realistic or anything of the sort, but it's well-done in a way that surpasses the technological innovations that lead to better animation today. It's just a classic style that takes your breath away every time.
The voice actors all did a very good job, especially Gilbert's. The piano pieces Serge played were also very beautiful, and all the other background music was breathtaking. Even with the heavy subject matter and the dread surrounding the premise of the story, the animation and music combined made it seem like a fairy tale, albeit quite the twisted one.
I also think the characters were the main highlight of this piece. Without fetishizing sexual assault, the author manages to create a work of art that is Gilbert. He is twisted, broken, pained, and doesn't know what the point of his life is. He's not the nicest person, and the things he does don't always make sense, but they're not supposed to. From what I can tell, he only craves to feel something, and if that something is pain, so be it. He's only human, and I enjoy that about well written characters. As for Serge, he's the honest, rule-following soul that every parent wants-- but when he interacts with 'depravity' and Gilbert's brokenness, we see another aspect of his character that really makes him more three dimensional instead of just being the 'good kid'.
All in all, I found this to be very poetic and beautiful out of what I have seen, despite being somewhat of a dark and startling story. Don't be fooled-- this isn't your typical feel-good romance or a yaoi with 'fun' sexual assault that's just supposed to be 'rough and sexy'. This anime is supposed to make you feel disgusted and angry and mad and unsettled. It's just the kind of show it is. It doesn't sugar coat anything-- the homophobia, the bullying, the rape, the pedophilia-- it's all there, and nothing is hidden. And that's what I love about it-- the unapologetic honesty.
I would recommend this if you: like honest/gritty shows, like watching anime about real issues, don't mind/can stomach rape/incestyish stuff/pedophilia, would not mind watching a 'gay' anime, would like a realistic representation of gay people instead of the classic heteronormative yaoi, like 1800's AUs, like the idea of children 'falling in love'
I would NOT recommend this if you: do not want to watch a 'gay' anime, like sugarcoated things, can't stand violence/depravity, don't understand/don't want to understand masochism/sadism, can't stomach rape/pedophilia