Watching Welcome to the Ballroom throughout its six month long, two cour run was one of the most disheartening experiences I’ve yet to endure in all of my years. I watched with dreadful attention as the industry titan, Production IG themselves, those who’ve defined high-quality TV animation even after relegating their most legendary among an already packed house of unrivaled talent into the realm of exclusively theatrical productions, as they brought to air a shounen manga adaptation in much the same vein as their previous successes with the genre, Haikyuu and Kuroko no Basuke, only now with the same CG extras and panning over stills ... which plague any other garbage studio as opposed to the ceaseless sakuga and lavish key animation which we’ve all come to know them for—and only them for. No matter how handsome, no matter how sharp the male designs; no matter how sexy, no matter how shapely the female designs; no matter how lively the color palette popped and setting design shined; no matter how elegant the soundscape nor how powerful the dialogue, the show as a whole simply could not contend with the gripping, inspiring, elating aura its predecessors captured their deservedly massive audiences with whilst being stained by such—not even poor—just lacking animation. Now, call me a wishful thinker, but they’re back. Production IG’s TV Animation Team is back in a big way with Run with the Wind.
Run with the Wind boasts such a splendidly rich animation production, it really reminds you just how impressive, how downright humbling this division of the studio is at its best of times. The character designs are as clean, sharp, and all-around attractive as those of Haikyuu and Welcome to the Ballroom, fit with a level of orate detail which was incessantly impressive to see in such fluid movement. The design-work of the main cast in particular, as well as the voice actors chosen to play them, clearly had a lot of thought put behind them, as you can see exactly why they dress the way they dress, walk the way they walk, accessorize the way they accessorize, and how such distinct appearances representing such well-realized personalities can really benefit the immersion of the work as a whole. And as the show progresses and you come to understand the characters more intimately, you’ll slowly start noticing more and more of those little details that had been there the entire time. It’s as brilliant as it is beautiful, and the background art never slacks either, as expected of the committed craftsmen and women of IG who would never sacrifice one facet of production on behalf of another’s quality—they just make it ALL that good. The astounding level of hand-drawn details, expertly mixed manual and digital shading, color variation and gradients, and well-researched setting references all work in tandem to build this gorgeous aesthetic of naturalistic beauty balanced with realistic subtlety.
On top of the impeccable visuals, the sound design is so nuanced and ever-present, when I noticed it I would become so absorbed and distracted as to miss entire lines of dialogue and have to rewind. And I can say without hesitation the soundtrack is an easy nine out of ten, as the composer was the same talent behind the monumentally epic, blood pumping score for Haikyuu, the emotionally gripping yet hyper-stylized Studio Trigger tracklist for Kiznaiver, and the music for Death Parade, which reached the heights of contemplative character dramaturgy and exciting psychological thrillers both. I simply cannot praise the production of Run with the Wind any more without it coming across as hyperbole, and as for the narrative which gave the beauty its heart and the solid writing which firmly held it all together, it was pretty damn good itself, even if not as breathtakingly perfect as the production values were. The main characters made up one of the most grounded ensemble casts in all of anime, easily competing with and outclassing legitimately good shows like Durarara, Hajime no Ippo, or Assassination Classroom, who’re all known for their ability to deftly juggle enormous casts whilst developing those within them. Unlike those aforementioned and most others which aren’t even half as good, Run with the Wind managed to not merely manage the large cast, but to actually mete out character development in a down-to-earth manner which didn’t challenge the realism of the story’s structure.
At no point in this show is there anything that could be described as an “arc.” Never does the narrative take a break for drama, nor does it ever feel like one character in particular is being too overbearing or stealing the spotlight, with any necessary character building sneaking its way into the narrative subtly. Such sensible pacing works wonders for any conflict too, since all confrontations are built up to naturally. Nothing ever comes out of nowhere and is usually born from within the main character, Kakeru, who you get to know well enough to both sympathize and empathize with the anxieties of. While it’s not hard for me to image someone having a problem with the blunt spright-man bringing all the conflict to the table being the main character himself, his deep-seated motivations are so well-written and intrinsic to his character which we’ve come to understand, I totally got where he was coming from whenever he blew his top. That said, this brand of discord is by no means unique to Kakeru. All the characters have insecurities and hangups which feel truly genuine. Most anime will have characters ranting and raving about a bunch of out-of-this-world garbage the viewer has no reason to care about, but Run with the Wind does nothing of the sort. The character Nico-chan (a play on the word “nicotine”) has difficulty running for his addiction to smoking and his unhealthy BMI. The character King has trouble being committed to the team because he has to find work to pay for college. The character Shindo has doubts about his involvement with the team because his girlfriend dumped him after feeling he had neglected her. All the characters are real, with real scripts, with real problems. It’s a seriously wonderful cast who brings the relatively straightforward story to life, and there were a number of times I had tears in my eyes watching them cross the finish line.
The final point I wanted to discuss before concluding is the villain, Sakaki. Sports anime, simply put, NEVER commit to real villains. They always pussyfoot around the issue with mutually understood competition wherein the opponents are never genuinely malicious and are only causing conflict for the sake of sportsmanship. The only time truly antagonist villains appear in sports anime is like Jabberwock from Kuroko no Basuke, or Bryan Hawk from Hajime no Ippo, or the Blue Mars from One Outs, or any other one-dimensional villains out there who are just evil assholes for the sake of being so. Out of all four thousand anime I’ve seen, I’ve yet to see a wholesale ill natured antagonists who truly wants to beat the protagonists solely out of hatred. Sakaki, the main villain in Run with the Wind, is the first character I’ve seen in a sports anime who truly earned the title of “villain.” His history with Kakeru makes for a heavy motivation for conflict, and his vindictive attitude comes across as being deserved, even if you take Kakeru’s side. Again, Kakeru may not always be righteous, so the idea he has some skeletons in his closet isn’t all that far fetched. As you learn more about their pasts, and you get both sides of the story, you’re naturally invested. It’s just another really, really good aspect of the show which I wanted to make a point wasn’t under-appreciated at all in my review since Run with the Wind is a fantastic show I highly recommend for what I hope are now obvious reasons, and that’s not even mentioning the fact this point is what begins to illuminate the refreshingly unexpected psychological core behind it all. As I’ve said no shortage of times, the main character Kakeru is a really flawed person. He’s impulsive, irritable, and outright violent, and it’s not even anyone’s fault, it’s just who he is. So, he runs. He literally and metaphorically runs away from his problems and is constantly accused of doing so by many characters in the show. As said problems continue to pile up despite his speed, he realizes the problems are within and running simply won’t escape them. When he finally stops and turns around to see all the people he’s hurt along the way, all the mistakes he’s made and regrets he has, and all the people still trying to support him in spite of all he’s done, he sits down and confronts reality in a poignantly human fashion, and it’s this emotional courage that frees his spirt, so to speak, so he can truly move forward and run with the wind.
Thank you for reading.
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Synonyms: Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuite Iru, Kazetsuyo
English: Run with the Wind
German: Run with the Wind
Spanish: Run with the Wind
French: Run with the Wind
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Oct 3, 2018 to Mar 27, 2019
Premiered: Fall 2018
Broadcast: Wednesdays at 01:29 (JST)
Producers: Movic, Nippon Television Network, TOHO animation, Toy's Factory, Cygames, Yomiuri Shimbun, MediaLink Entertainment Limited
Licensors: Sentai Filmworks
Studios: Production I.G
Theme: Adult CastAdult Cast
Duration: 23 min. per ep.
Rating: PG-13 - Teens 13 or older
Score: 8.391 (scored by 132829132,829 users)
1 indicates a weighted score.
2 based on the top anime page. Please note that 'Not yet aired' and 'R18+' titles are excluded.
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