Reviewby Theron Martin, Aug 14th 2005
DVD 3: The Decision
In a last-ditch attempt to stave off the developing relationship between himself and Nanoka, Koshiro moves out and tries to get Nanoka to commit to not coming to see him. Nanoka's feelings are too strong for her to stay away forever, though, and try as he might to resist, Koshiro cannot deny that he does want to see her again, too. But because they are brother and sister, their relationship cannot go anywhere once they are reunited. . . or can it? Can Koshiro summon the courage to act when a way out presents itself? Does he even want to? And what might happen when someone else learns what's going on?
If you have not been watching this series so far, do not pick it up with this volume; go back and watch the previous two volumes first. Moreso than with most series, it is absolutely essential that a viewer sees how things have gotten to this point to be able to understand and appreciate why things are going on the way they are in this volume.
In bringing the story of Koi Kaze to a close, “Decisions” raises some heavy questions. Inappropriate crushes are not unusual for teenagers (though Nanoka's is, admittedly, particularly inappropriate), but is that all it is for Nanoka or is she genuinely in love? How much blame does Koshiro deserve for the direction in which things have developed? He is the adult here, so isn't it his obligation to be the responsible one and put his foot down, no matter his own feelings? How much do his feelings count? Does Kaname have a moral obligation to interfere when she gets wind of what's going on, or should she mind her own business? And, most importantly, is this a relationship worthy of respect, since it's something both parties clearly want, or is it just plain wrong? Most of these questions have no easy or clear answers, and Koi Kaze leaves figuring them out entirely up to the viewer. It simply shows what happens without really taking a stance on whether or not any of this should be happening. By doing so the staff has maintained the story as a superbly-written work of forbidden love which might make some viewers uncomfortable, rather than the edgy and offensive piece it easily could have been.
As with the previous two volumes, the keys to the success of “Decisions” are its excellent characterizations, flawless use of natural-sounding dialogue, and exquisite sense of timing. Events develop slowly, precisely, and with great feeling as they build towards a powerful emotional peak in episode 12, though sentimental souls will undoubtedly find other places in this block of episodes which also resonate deeply. None of the characters strike a wrong note, whether it's Koshiro's deep angst, Kaname's reaction to Koshiro, or the fears that Futaba, Nanoka's friend, is starting to have about what is really wrong. As before, Odagiri is still around for a bit of comic relief, but this is otherwise a very serious story utterly devoid of any typical anime romantic hijinks.
The artwork has never been the selling point of the series, and “Decisions” is no different. Character designs for Nanoka, Kaname, and some supporting characters are fine, while designs for Koshiro and most other male characters are more rough-edged. The inconsistency in character art quality between distance and close-up shots, which plagued the previous volume, is less of a problem in this volume. Background art, while not bad, continues to look distinctly less clean and refined compared to the character art. On the upside, both character and background art has some good attention to minor details, such as the mark on Nanoka's forehead after she's fallen asleep with her head on a table. Animation in this volume is unremarkable, though this is not a set of episodes which demands much of its animation, either.
Gentle scenes require a gentle musical scoring, and the poignant piano-based themes fit the bill quite well. The musical scoring in this volume is most notable, though, for when it isn't heard. For many key sequences the scoring lapses altogether, allowing all attention to rest on the dialogue; at one point in episode 10 the background silences lasts almost ten minutes, something which would be unheard-of in most anime series, yet the scenes encompassed by that silence never lack for it.
The best-written dialogue and internal ruminations wouldn't work without great vocal performances delivering them, but thankfully Koi Kaze has a talented crew of voice actors for both its Japanese and English dubs. On the English side particular praise goes to Patrick Seitz for capably handling Koshiro's strong emotions in this volume, but all the important roles are performed admirably, making the English dub as emotionally impacting as the original performances. The English script stays reasonably close to the subtitles, losing none of the original meaning or feeling.
Extras on the DVD this time around include company previews, the original Japanese closer, and two slightly different clean closers. The most distinctive extra is “Bears' Mini-Theater,” which is a (very) brief and amusing recap of key scenes from all 13 episodes using a pair of stuffed bears set to captions and circus-style music. Included in the case is another set of “No-No Big Brother!” stickers.
Some fans of the series may not be happy with how it ends, as it feels like there should be more to say. I think another chapter would spoil the fine dramatic balance which has been achieved here, however, and given the way things have progressed over the course of the series I don't see any other reasonable way it could end. This is a series where the writing, musical scoring, and voice work have come together perfectly to create something truly special. Only its artistic merits keep Koi Kaze from finishing its run as far and away the best overall series of the year, and there are none that will top it in writing. If you can appreciate serious stories about forbidden love, then this is a title you must see.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : A-
+ Superior writing, superb vocal work in both languages.
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