12 days 2018 #1: Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is strong

Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru / Run with the wind  —  to ep. 11
Mild spoilers ensue

For my first post for 12days(of)Anime (etc) I’m doing a quick revisit to the 2018-19 anime; the latest version of Run with the Wind as it nears its midpoint. You did know that it previously was a novel, a manga and a live action movie, neh? This iteration might well be one of the best (barring the novel of course). The anti-organised sports (and associated tropes) mood continues, as slowly the Chikusei-sou dwellers make peace with their reasons for running and with each other. One by one they win their 16:30 official times.

I had a chance to re-watch the 2009 live-action movie with my sweetie (still no English subtitles to be found), though she declined to do any real-time translating. Her verdict: A typical gambatte sports grinder with pretty boys, To be fair, a good third of the live-action flick is the Tokyo-Hakone Ekiden itself. Then there is the big meet before when the teams compete for one of the remaining 10 spots in the Ekiden (10 are already “seeded” from last year’s best). The movie version of the Prince is nowhere as pathetic as his anime incarnation and less time is spent helping him with his form. After some in-depth help in the anime, Prince-san breaks 30:00

She did however correct one big misunderstanding that I have been harping on..

That’s Kansei University, not Kansai. Missed that. Closest thing I can find to approximate Kansei is “Technical” or “Engineering”. So no plot magic from the aged ex-coach needed. They are in story-verse Setagaya, which is in Kanto and presumably were at one point (and still eligible to be) a member of the Kanto Association.

Still waiting for Kurahara’s high school to be cleared up.

Another difference between the anime and the movie: The ex-coach is younger, a portly late 50’s – early 60’s with a van that follows the runners and a PA system to yell encouragement. I like the older version in the anime better.

Other differences: exhausted Haiji does not end up in the hospital. Shindo-san gets a brief cameo as her girlfriend dumps him. Musa has too many African masks in his room. We are getting a few more reminders of Haiji’s knee injury and the Ace runner previously shown acting with sportsmanship drops an oblique reference to “new, strong runners” in competition for a spot in the Ekiden. Haiji tells Kurahara the “strong” is the greatest compliment a distance runner can give; not fast.

So, yeah: #Kazeanime. I’m calling this as one of the best , if not… of the season. I should sign up at their fan site. (I wonder if the production cttee promo-types???)

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Wind

Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru [Run With the Wind]
Anime. Production I.G, Fall 2018, 23 Episodes. (1)
https://www.ntv.co.jp/english/pc/2018/08/run-with-the-wind.html

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.

 

ENDNOTES:

(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
https://myanimelist.net/anime/37965/Kaze_ga_Tsuyoku_Fuiteiruhttps://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=anime&aid=14109

(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/
http://losmovies.cx/free-movie/tt126951/watch-online-feel-the-wind

(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:
http://travel.cnn.com/tokyo/sleep/yoshidaryo-japans-most-famously-decrepit-dormitory-179885/
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/09/29/issues/kyoto-dorm-time-forgot-japanese-students-dig/
https://throwoutyourbooks.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/kyoto-university-students-oppose-campus-signboards-closure-yoshida-dormitory/

(4) The Hakone Ekiden (a ten-person relay race of near-half-marathons)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakone_Ekiden
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekiden
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/why-japans-incredible-long-distance-runners-will-never-win-the-london-marathon-10182050.html
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2014/jan/08/hakone-ekiden-greatest-race-on-earth
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2008/12/28/more-sports/track-field/facts-about-the-hakone-ekiden/

New 2018-19 qualifying rules:
https://germanroadraces.de/?post_eng=end-of-an-era-hakone-ekiden-qualifier-to-switch-from-20-km-to-half-marathon-brett-larner-japan-running-news