Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru [Run With the Wind]
Anime. Production I.G, Fall 2018, 23 Episodes. (1)
The concept behind Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is that while a stereotypical manga/anime coach and team structure is usually an evil fascist hellscape, a self-governing runner’s collective can redeem the sport.
All power to the Soviets!
I thought it would take a lot to get me to watch a
shonen, oops seinen sports anime but Run With the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru) has gently tricked me into enjoying it, much in the manner that it’s protraganist Haiji has suckered the rest of the Chikusei-sou dorm/ lodging house into practice runs. To do so, it has jettisoned – if not subtly framed in opposition – most of the competitive tropes characteristic of sports grinders; tropes which to me highlight the exploitation, hypocrisy and monstrous bad faith of commodified competitive sports: In other words, all that sportsy stuff that sports-heads just love. Alexa; play We are the Champions…
“I just want to know what running is all about.”
Run WIth the Wind instead approaches the core idea of “what for?” with an insouciant “for a while”. If true compulsion were to rear its ugly head, it might carry a whiff of The Wages of Fear, re-tooled for long distance relay running. Or perhaps not. The “why” of running is asked in Run With the Wind as a deeply personal, existential question (and otaku t-shirt). Indeed, why do anything? The unlikely athletic misfits of the Chikusei-sou are nowhere near the dire situation of say; recovering Scottish heroin addicts, in the matter of other classic loser-dog redemption team movies and there will be no hidden superpowers that shatter class barriers, as in the Chinese 2001 soccer comedy Shaolin Soccer.
The Kansei University Track and Field Team might initially come together to keep a low-cost roof over their heads (along with 2 meals a day, all for a bit over $300/month !!!) but none of them -really- have to run.
This makes the story beautiful.
As well, by way of side consideration for us guys who get antsy about such things; while a pile of -guys- hanging out and doing the team sport thang will undoubtedly look like irresistible yummy yummy ship candy to a certain demographic of woman viewers (among others), at least the writers have left out most of the coy wink wink nudge nudge subtextual fujo-baiting that has recently become a box-office imperative. I venture that by doing so, the writers and production staff have gained more in mood that those so inclined can treasure (and use) than crude attempts to pander and tease would have done.
This could be a side effect of the anime as artifact. Run WIth the Wind is based upon the 2006 novel Feel the Wind by Shiwon Miura, who also wrote The Great Passage. It has previously been adapted into a 50 chapter manga, a live action movie (2) and a stage play (!?)
Run WIth the Wind bears other neato cultural traces as well. Though situated somewhere in a dimension warped fictional space that alludes to the Osaka region but looks like Tokyo’s Setagaya ward, the Chikusei-sou dorm/ lodging house owes a debt of inspiration to the infamous Yoshida-ryo dormitory at Kyoto University (3)
Kyoto’s anarcho-syndicalist Yoshida-ryo is co-ed. The Chikusei-sou is exclusively male (and devoid of any high-spirited student political airs). As well, aside from the greengrocer’s high-school age daughter who has drafted herself into the role of a Japanese school team ‘manager” (gopher and mascot) Run, (so far) is devoid of women: girlfriends, women teachers, school nurses, big or little sisters and moms are all MIA. Similarly, the Tokyo-Hakone Ekiden (4) is a guy’s race. While there are women’s Ekidens held yearly across Japan, there is no women’s Tokyo-Hakone run.
As well, the race is only open to teams from the 20 universities which belong to the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto. For January 2, 2019, 21 teams will run but in the real world but they will still all be from university teams from the Kanto region. Presumably some storytelling magic will be slipped in to open participation to a long-lapsed and now revived Kansai-in-Tokyo University team for the anime race. Or the English subtitles are a mess – which would also explain how Kakeru Kurahara used to be on the Sendai Josei Highschool track team.
Wow! Sport trivia; which feels to this sport-abjurer as wildly beside the point yet introduces the characters’ mixed feelings about the race and running as diversion and placeholder for all the other big, nagging and ultimately unsolvable questions in their university lives. Why indeed?
The key to the larger story is not Kakeru Kurahara, the 10th man – because he is a sports story cliché, even if his arrival sets the tale in motion. The hinge point characters are the King and the Prince. The Prince, as completely out-of-shape and frail otaku at first looks as if he has as much chance of running 20km as I, or countless other out of shape viewers, have. Why Haiji is not figuring out a proper stride for him while the Prince is still a complete noob is one big question. Another is why Haiji hasn’t started him on the walk 4, run 4 method? The butterflies were a nice touch.
With ‘King’ we draw closer to nut of the story. University will end. Jobs and the world of work; regimented, conforming and relentless for the next 40-50 years (barring burnout or karoshi) loom large on the horizon. Yonder before us lie deserts… We who are about to… King is freaked. Reality is a bitch and she isn’t impressed one bit by his recruit suit.
Meanwhile his roomies are one by one pledging to an inane, out in left-field, whatever, how far can we get, this is crazy but in a good way, we should just, because why the fuck not exploit of infiltrating a famous (and famously grueling) long-distance run. Oh snap, why not streak the Ekiden while they are at it?
Is Haiji a running-obsessed time traveller, esper and alien who will work magic training tricks on the ragtag team? He handles all their cooking; is he slipping steroids into their hot-pot? The anime is set for 23 episodes – though five episodes in it feels as if it might need twice that number. Is it possible that the 23 episode run is timed to end near the running of the IRL Ekiden? Smooth scheduling trick!
Run from, run to, run with
“Running is all about strength, not speed–the strength that comes from being you and forming a bond with someone else.”
No surprise that the fast bonds of friendship forged through grueling training and the race will be one of the big big themes woven into the tale. Guys. Friendship. Large neon sign over the Chikusei-sou. It would be impossible, given the set-up to be otherwise. But long-distance running is fundamentally an alone-in-your-own-head-while-your-body-falls-apart-painfully endeavor. Mind over matter. Solitary. Sure you have to make it to your checkpoint and get that sash to the next team member (and do so within 20 minutes of the fastest runner’s hand-off or they will be sent off with a substitute sash and your extra time to the checkpoint will be added to the team – If you drop out of the race, even for an injury, your team is out!) but those 18-23km sections are going to test whether the competitive urge to match or surpass nearby runners will be enough to distract you from the pain and that ever-present WHY?
Figure out the answer later. For now, keep running. No regrets.
(1) Original Creator: Shion Miura
Director: Kazuya Nomura
Series Composition: Kohei Kiyasu
Character Designer: Takahiro Chiba
Key Animator: Hideki Takahashi, Takashi Mukouda
Sound Director: Hiromi Kikuta
Music: Yuki Hayashi
(2) Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (2018) is the latest adaptation of the novel by Shion Miura. The book has also been adapted as a manga by Sorata Unno which began in Weekly Young Jump in 2007, moved to Monthly Young Jump in 2008, and concluded in 2009. The anime adaptation was announced by the launch of an official website on May 31, 2018. The series will premiere on NTV and BS-NTV in October 2018.Feel the Wind (2009) More on the 2009 live-action Kaze ga tsuyoku fuiteiru (2009) at IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1517476/
(3) The movie version Chikusei-sou has more of an inner-city shop next to a residence feel. The anime’s dorm’s “vibe” is missing. See the following on the Yoshida-ryo dormitory at Kyoto University:
(4) The Hakone Ekiden (a ten-person relay race of near-half-marathons)