Former ace runner of Sendai Josei High School, Kakeru Kurahara is chased away from a convenience store for shoplifting. Shaking off his pursuer, he runs into Haiji Kiyose, another student from his university. Haiji is impressed by Kakeru's agility and persuades him to live in Chikusei-sou, the run-down apartment where Haiji resides along with eight other students. Having lost his entire apartment deposit at a mahjong parlor, Kakeru accepts the offer reluctantly.
However, Haiji reveals a secret during Kakeru's welcoming party: the apartment is actually the dormitory of the Kansei University Track Club. He unveils his ultimate goal of participating in the Hakone Ekiden—one of the most prominent university marathon relay races in Japan. Unfortunately, all the residents apart from Haiji and Kakeru are complete running novices. Worse still, none of the inhabitants are even remotely interested in being involved with Haiji's ridiculous plan! With only months before the deadline, will the fourth-year student be able to convince them otherwise and realize his elusive dream of running in the Hakone Ekiden?
Watching Welcome to the Ballroom throughout it’s 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 as the industry titan Production I.G. themselves, those who’ve defined high-quality TV animation with the sports shows Kuroko no Basket and especially Haikyuu!, as they aired a similarly structured sports anime that panned over still frames and used basically constructed CG character models for background athletes like you’d expect from any other garbage studio. No matter how attractive and sharp the male designs were and no matter how shapely and sexy the female designs
were, no matter how lively the color palette popped and setting design shined, no matter how elegant the soundtrack nor how powerful the dialogue, the show simply could not inspire, grip, or elate it’s audience in the same fashion it’s predecessors could for the stain that was it’s poor quality of animation. Call me a wishful thinker, but they’re back. Production I.G. is back in a big way with Run with the Wind.
Run with the Wind boasts such a splendidly lavish animation production which reminds you just how impressive this studio is at it’s best of times. The character designs are as clean, sharp, and attractive as those of Haikyuu and Welcome to the Ballroom, and they’re animated with a level of ornate detail which was incessantly impressive. The character designs of the main cast, as well as the voice actors chosen to play them, clearly had a lot of thinking behind them for you can see exactly why they dress the way they dress, why they walk the way they walk, why they accessorize they way they accessorize, and any other aspects of personality appearance you’d expect to notice on human beings in real life, and as you learn more about them as the show progresses you’ll slowly start noticing more and more of those little details that had been there the entire time. It’s amazing, and with the animation production and art design put aside, I’m just going to say it, Run with the Wind has hand-drawn backgrounds with Kyoto Animation’s level of detail, color design, researched setting references, perfect balance of finesse and flair, naturalistic beauty yet realistic subtlety, and general quality. I would go back through the episodes and take screenshots of the gorgeous backgrounds to add to my desktop’s background reel, because I felt it would be legitimately wasteful to let such beautiful pieces of artwork go unappreciated. On top of the impeccable visuals, the sound design and music stand just as tall and proud. The sound design is so detailed, nuanced, and ever-present, that when I notice it I become so absorbed and distracted as to miss entire lines of dialogue and have to rewind. The soundtrack is an easy nine out of ten, and I can say that without hesitation. The composer did the monumentally epic and blood pumping OST for Haikyuu, the emotionally gripping and stylized Studio Trigger OST for Kiznaiver, and the OST for Death Parade which reached the heights of both contemplative character pieces and exciting psychological thriller pieces. I simply cannot praise the production of Run with the Wind any more without it coming across as hyperbole. It’s truly amazing.
As for the narrative and writing itself, while not being as breathtakingly perfect as the production, is still pretty damn good in it’s own right. The main cast of characters is one of the most realistic ensembles in all of anime, easily competing with shows like Durarara, Hajjime no Ippo, and Assassination Classroom who’re known for their enormous yet somehow well developed ensemble casts. Not to put them down, for those examples are all quite good shows, but unlike those shows Run with the Wind manages to mete out character development in a realistic, grounded, subtle, and emotionally resonant manner. At no point in the 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. The story sets itself up and goes, with any necessary character development or exploration sneaking it’s way into the narrative naturally and in a very down to earth fashion. This sensible pacing also works wonders for the dramatic conflict in the story because you can really see the build up to all the happenings. Nothing ever comes out of nowhere and is usually spawned from within the main character, Kakeru, who you know well enough to both sympathize and empathize with. One thing I could very well see people having a problem with is the straight-man who brings all the character conflict to the table…is Kakeru himself. I certainly didn’t have a problem with it because, again, his motivations are so well written and deep-seated within his character that I totally get where he’s coming from, but for someone who doesn’t get it, I can see how the main character being the vehicle for ALL the conflict in the show could annoy some people, so fair warning. I mean, it’s not just Kakeru, really. All the characters have insecurities and hangups which are so real and 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 that 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 villains. Sports anime, simply put, NEVER have committed villains. Seriously, just take a second and think about it. It’s ALL 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 Basket, or Bryan Hawk from Hajime no Ippo, or the Blue Mars from One Outs, or any other two dimensional evil-for-the-sake-of-evil villains out there. Out of all the three thousand plus 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. Again, Kakeru is a realistic flawed character, 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 emotionally 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.
Run with the Wind is a great show I highly recommend for everything I’ve mentioned and more I’ve probably overlooked, but it also has a really resonant psychological core to it, at least for me, and I thought it nice to see such a moving and powerful message portrayed from an otherwise unassuming sports anime. 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, thus 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 this, he really 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.
Production I.G is back with another excellent drama series that centers around the sport of running. It is highly character-driven and features one of the best group of characters for a sports shonen. Run with the Wind’s main duo each ran away from the sport in the past when their own passion for running was broken by the cruelty of their strict coaches. Running became a burden to them, and a signal of their own inadequacy—Haiji Kiyose through disappointing his father, and Kakeru Kurahara through lashing out at his coach, and thus ensuring his whole team suffered.
When your choices are victory or shame, it
can be hard to take pride in your running. For Haiji, learning to find motivation outside of personal glory was forced upon him when he was crippled through injury, ensuring he’d never triumph alone. Instead, he embraced running as a group effort and made his great strength into his ability to connect with and inspire all of his teammates. Though the concept of running a grueling ten-part relay seemed crazy to his reluctant dorm, he took the time to reach out to all of them, and help them find something worth running for while helping them with their personal issues in life. He was selfish and stubborn in the way he went about doing so, but he wouldn’t have done any of it if he didn’t genuinely believe in his team. One thing you can’t take away from Haiji is he is a great motivator, the type you need, and a caring person. He’s helped changed his friend's lives for the better.
The inspiration to run takes a variety of forms for the characters. Though it’s thrilling as a sports narrative, the story’s main appeal is how well it illustrates the lives and feelings of its runners from the start, and how convincingly it draws them together into a group with both strong individual motivations and mutual trust. Prince finds the courage to run from his manga heroes, while Nico discovers that running brings him mental clarity. Musa and Takashi find friends and a source of pride, while King rediscovers the confidence that perpetual job interviews stole from him. Run with the Wind’s most central character conflict is Kakeru learning to rise above the trauma of the past, and see running not as a burden or source of shame, but an activity that actually brings people together. And as you’d expect, many of the show’s most rewarding moments come not when these characters simply win, but when they learn to better trust each other.
There are two things Run with the Wind does exceptionally well: its ability to convey the pace and tone of college dorm life, and having the incredible gift for sculpting sympathetic characters and rich, bitter relationships. Each character has their own stories to tell, much of this show’s characterization comes through in its brilliantly observed incidental moments, as Haiji and the rest bicker about classes, divvy up chores, and generally live their college lives. Though I wouldn’t call Run with the Wind a slice of life by no means, it’s able to capture a lived experience and sense of mutual friendship with a grace characteristic of the best of them. With a ten-person team, it’d be easy for half of the cast to get lost in the crowd, but each of them is given plentiful time to express themselves, find their own relationship with running, and ultimately contribute to a greater, loving team. Every member brings something unique and worthwhile to the team, making its insistence that running is a team effort feel utterly convincing.
There are fantastic character chemistry and dynamics along with great sly, subtle humor but doesn’t rely on them alone. It is also slowly developing its overarching conflict alongside its cast. From the start it is clear that the challenges that await the club are immense, the relay race they intend to participate is an exceedingly competitive affair. But far from the usual framing of these sorts of zero to hero stories, the narrative is much more concerned with the outcomes and beliefs of its cast than the prospect of merely winning. The end goal offers a reason for these people to improve rather than just harping on the importance of victory, and the narrative is much more concerned with presenting their setbacks and growth than anything else. Run with the Wind's portrayal of these characters comes across as naturalistic, humanizing, and occasionally hilarious, the strength of its source material combining with a great adaptation.
Production I.G did an amazing job all around the board. Run with the Wind’s character designs goes for the realistic body size/proportions but isn’t afraid to bend and flex from that for the sake of expression and interesting visuals. Body language conveys much of the characters’ personalities. Each one has a distinctive design and face, and fluid animation brings out their individual quirks and flaws. The color palette is well balanced that has a very wide range for the various type of moods. Backgrounds are well detailed, stellar scenery and good use of depicting the change of weather for each of the four seasons. The running scenes are animated superbly and mix well with the sound effects and exceptional and well-timed soundtrack. Without background music, the show emphasizes the rhythm of the characters breathing and measured footfalls. Facial expressions, movement of the body, arms, legs, correct body posture and hair swaying back and forth are all down with attention to detail, even the perspiration of the runners. A setback was definitely its usage of CG, which was mainly used for some of the background runners or crowds of people.
Voice actors are perfect matches to their character and lots of credit to them, they absolutely nailed their roles, made conversations feel like the type that any normal person would have with their friends, having the ability to go through a wide range of tones and emotion. They treated the characters with care and brought them to life. Being able to pass off the banter as genuine as these voice actors did only go to show their expertise. The soundtrack is gorgeous, a matter of fact, it’s a masterpiece and definitely a one to own. Once again, the music is all timed-well hitting all the emotional moments on cue, it just invokes a lot of feelings on its own and when you add it alongside the story being told visually, you’re getting poetry in motion on your screen. A mesmerizing mix of synth-pop and orchestra goes to show just how Yuki Hayashi is one of the most promising composers in the industry right now, he’s already amongst the best. The OP’s and ED’s are all excellent with "Reset" by Taichi Mukai being a favorite.
In this show, what is valued is human interaction; connecting with those around you in a deeper, richer level without wanting anything from them. It's about falling in love and re-connecting with something that materialism can't give you. And strangely enough, is about selflessness and community through introspection. Run with the Wind masterfully weaves all these concepts into a beautiful story that touches your heart from the start. Life, like running, is not all about time but about our experiences along the way. Your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are brief moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can't. But then you find your inner strength and realize you're capable of so much more than you thought. What Run with the Wind has taught me, perhaps more than anything else, that there's no reason to fear starting lines or other new beginnings.
Is it just me or does it seem like we don’t get enough literature anime adaptations these days? Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (also known as Run With the Wind) is an actual book adaptation and features competitive running as part of its plot. Like most competitive sports, the show delivers storytelling to feature the journey of characters to accomplish their goals. Thankfully, this show delivers a promise that won’t leave you disappointed.
To check off the bucket list, you should probably ask yourself if you enjoy a story driven by drama with sports elements. Because make no mistake, this anime contains a great deal of realism
while selling drama at every chance it gets. It will try to evoke emotions out of the viewers and between the storytelling, you’ll experience a story with its insightful character cast.
Meet Kakeru Kurahara, the 1st year former elite runner at Kansei University. The first episode shows his daredevil actions as he is caught stealing. Thankfully, he is saved by 4th year student Haiji Kiyose who has an ambitious dream of competing in the Hakone Ekiden. The Hakone Ekiden is considered an important relay race taking place btween Tokyo and Hakone in Japan. Kakeru seems like a perfect candidate to be on the team. Upon being invited to the Kanse University Dorm, he quickly discovers it’s a place for the Track and Field team. The show sets up for huge amount of story and character development as we quickly realize how weak their team actually is.
Now I’ll say right off the bat that I am a sucker for an underdog story. It has potential to develop characters on many levels. The problem here is that Kakeru isn’t a noob compared to the rest of the team. He already has experience in running but lacks the enthusiasm. This is explained through some very complicated and dark background storytelling. Apparently, an incident from his former Track & Field team caused him to doubt himself. Nonetheless, I believe Kakeru’s personality to be one that people can understand after seeing what he’s been through. This is a sharp contrast to Haiji, who is always enthusiastic about the team and his dream. The main problem is that the team requires a lot of training and commitment to compete at the Hakone Ekiden level. Still, I appreciate the character bond of the team. As the show progresses, Kakeru begins to realize that he’s not running alone and that he has friends to run with. A main selling point about Kakeru’s own journey is how he conquers his personal demon and move beyond his past.
You better get used to seeing a lot of Kakeru and Haiji’s character bonding in this story. Interestingly, the rest of the cast get their spotlights too as they reinforce the show’s themes. Characters such as Takashi and Akane (aka Prince) are inspirational for their dedication and realization to succeed. Remember, most of the guys in Haiji’s team aren’t experienced or very athletic. It takes a strong will, determination, and attitude to become succesful. The show carries character development as its team members strives to be the best they can be. It’s a relatable concept that can be applied to real life with goals being accomplished through hard work. I personally find the show’s attitude to be very inspirational with many of its character cast conquering their fears and running toward their dreams.
As dramatic as the show can be, do also expect a decent amount of lighthearted moments and comedy. The Jo twins are a prime example of this with their playful personalities. The man service also adds in some cheek humor when the team have bonding moments while discussing about their goals. When the drama picks up though, definitely be prepare to experience the real deal. Teams such as the Rikudo University is no pushover for their reputation. Haiji’s push to get his team to succeed also comes at an immense amount of effort considering the requirements for this dream race. It’s revealed in the show that the team must rank into the top 10 teams and meet personal records. So by all means, it comes to no surprise the amount of pressure the team can feel while training. This is where the main amount of drama drops in with characters feeling how difficult is to reach their goals. Nonetheless, I confess to say that a show like this meets the satisfaction of “the journey is more important than the destination”. People may have hard this phrase many times before but as a driving force in the show, it suits for it perfectly. The amount of character development is expanded to most of the main character cast that you can easily recall their names and some of their memorable moments. No one is truly left out in favor of the main cast even as they seem featured more prominently at times.
As a Production I.G. show, this definitely reminds me a bit of their other sports projects. Haikyu especially comes to mind for its similar character designs and competitive atmosphere. More importantly, I felt the great deal of realism for its character designs. Throughout the show, the characters evolve physically and mentally. Their character expressions and reactions carries an emotional weight that can easily be felt throughout the show. It’s the type of feeling when you finally earn a sense of pride and accomplishment after all the hard work. And don’t forget, the team is consisted of cool guys so the man service can be a treat for the ladies.
With 23 episodes, I confess to say that it’s the perfect amount for this particular anime. Why? That’s because it managed to develop its character cast while staying consistent with the storytelling. The amount of realism made me realize how inspirational this show can be. With every episode, I felt compelled to see just how much the characters can succeed for their future. Honestly, we need more literature adaptations these days.
Anyone who has ever run knows that it sucks. Why waterboarding is a thing when treadmills exist is a complete mystery to me. I guess even the KGB had its limit on how fucked up their torture methods were. Anyhoo, Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru -- Run with the Wind -- is a story about people who are literally the epitome of masochism and, as weird as it may sound, actually enjoy running. I was expecting a psychological series going in depth with this pain = pleasure thing, but turns out our series relies on fujobaiting instead.
It should be warned already on the title page
that every factor from story progression, seiyuu choices, male casting and slice of life-like approach yells out one thing loud and clear: homo undertones. While great many sports series have chosen this approach (Haikyuu, Kuroko, Wind Up, Free -- just to name a few), Kaze ga has very little charm outside its naked ecchi boys / manservice factors. Just to specify to what extent this exist and why it is a problem: there are 4 scenes of our young boys being naked already shown in the first episode before we even know their names. I don't mind male ecchi or bros bathing together washing each others dicks when it is manly and #no_homo, but when it becomes the first thing that stands out in a sports series that was told be filled with drama and comedy, and executed with cute boys who don't, in any way, act like genuine humans, we are off to a terrible start.
The selling point of sports series tends to be their cast for their stories can never truly work if the person(s) going thru the story are not worth of being followed. Kaze ga's cast and approach I'd like to describe with a short meme: y Tho? Our "club" of 10 boys are, outside few expectations, the exact same people. They have nearly invisible personalities, all they have are things that are common between all of them for there aren't such things that would separate them from each others -- outside their outlooks. And even this isn't entirely true since there are even twins among them. As a whole, the cast is fake and empty to a point that I wonder if this is what feminists see when watching CGDCT or ecchi anime. The cast doesn't have much appeal to me. I couldn't find any way to care about any of them. They have nothing that would make relate to them, they offer no entertaining personality traits, their behavior is dull and mainly reminds me of cardboard. None of them have any interesting past stories or current stories. None of them even says anything mildly interesting at any point during the run. The more they talked the more I came to go meh over them. How awfully boring must ones life be to hang out with any of them? A question I found myself asking several times.
Outside episode 16, the sports side is an absolute joke. Even tho I don't like running myself, I have seen series that focus on running and track&field and which I have liked. Kaze ga's take on this torture method is exactly as dull as the sports itself. Nothing stands out, nothing feels meaningful, there aren't even any fitting/atmospheric or agro songs used that could make these scenes better. Instead, same few songs are repeated over and over and none of them is very fitting. So often, there plays some supposedly emotional song whilst our cast members run and sweat, followed, for example, by a scene where they get scolded for being too slow. What the series is trying to deliver here never reached my end. And typically, these running scenes are very short and made in the exact same manner, only thing that differs is the aftermath. Watching the execution here feels like repeatedly hitting ones head in the wall with a force so light that you barely even feel the effect, but still know it is happening. There are even sports series centering around baseball and fighting sports which field work (AKA running) is more noteworthy than anything Kaze ga achieved. The best characters here are these one-dimensional 'evil' buttholes who just come around to mock our sports team for being a disgrace towards track'n field. Why? Because their phrases are truthful remarks. Especially towards the end, the melodrama Kaze ga mixes together with sports is nothing less than a disgrace towards all athletes.
In terms of actual story, one of the driving motions here are our boys interest to girls.. Literally "lets run for the are girls.. on the other side of the road." I am not sure who the writer is trying to fool with this since they only introduce one slightly relevant female cast member and she is more obviously filler than any other character. Also, she falls under the trope "every food she prepares turns poison" because apparently it is funny when women can't cook. She is totally adorable regardless. Yet it feels so unnecessary to insert such things here yet not deal with them accordingly. The outcome is just idiotic. The events itself are rather formulaic. Male x male interactions in fujobait manner, bathing together naked, and running. Some pseudo-psychological things going on since, apparently, running (for our mc) is the same as running away from problems, and the main dude seems to have some. Even so, there is no clear reason for the series to exist, story-wise. It's clear from early on that the mc's "insecurities" are just bullshit used as an excuse to work as some sort of ongoing cliffhanger to make people interested in what type of "mysterious" reasons he has for being such an angsty loner. Other sides of the "drama" are practically sitcom-tier since the cast acts like a bunch of drama queens instead of there being any "real" drama going on. Sometimes randomly asspulled and beyond fake event occurs, such as one character suddenly losing a consciousness at the end of an episode just to create a cliffhanger worth of 3 pennies. To talk more about these cliffhangers, they are used to some extent and every time they match the definition of "horse shit". False tension and not much more.
The production, outside the incredibly bland character models (their bodies look like spaghetti and have even weirder necks than people in Ballroom e (not exaggerating -- same studio, also) -- and worth-of-nothing sports scenes, is one more thing that is not making this thing any better. The naked men bathing -scenes seem to be the ones that have gone thru the most planning. Comedy moments are over-simplified to a point that it looks just cheap and it is practically the exact same execution every single time. Dude's doing 2 frame shaking when being cornered. Otherwise the series screams it is made by Production I.G with their modern standards (which have been going down and down rather consistently for years if someone hasn't noticed). The pacing is simply too slow during any part that is not related to running and too fast with anything that is. Obviously, because they wanted to save money when animating running masses. CGI is being used during track events and it's like 3fps when out zoomed. Often, people who run look like they are floating over the track rather than touching the ground with their feet. Looks so incredibly lame. Not that it couldn't be forgiven if there were some actually good things going on. Pros that out weighted the cons. To me, even the smallest of problems stood out for I couldn't achieve any level of immersion with the series, rather saw it as nothing but a soulless product.
All the criticism aside, I did quite enjoy moments around Akane "Prince" Kashiwazaki, who is the polar opposite of everyone else. Seems to hate running and is in really bad shape. His running form is so awkward and wrong that I managed to laugh at it few times, mainly reminding me of zombie movements from Resident Evil games. Even his posture while standing is advanced scoliosis, so I guess kudos for creating a dude like him. Other thing I have to drop here is the ending of episode 19 which was simply hilarious. If only there had been other good things I could praise than the rare few.