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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide

How would you rate episode 1 of
Wind Breaker ?
Community score: 4.4

What is this?


Haruka Sakura wants nothing to do with weaklings—he's only interested in the strongest of the strong. He's just started at Furin High School, a school of degenerates known only for their brawling strength—strength they use to protect their town from anyone who wishes it ill. But Haruka's not interested in being a hero or being part of any sort of team—he just wants to fight his way to the top.

WIND BREAKER is based on a manga series by Satoru Nii. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

Alright, guys, gals, and non-binary pals, it looks like now is as good of a time as any to talk about how prejudice works in Japan. It's not typically focused on some specific skin color or religion. Rather, due to Japan's homogeneous roots and focus on societal harmony, it's more of a general thing against any things that are considered to be “not normal.” Or to put it another way, there's a popular phrase in Japan: “The nail that stands up gets hammered down.” Thus, any difference from the societal norm—ethnic background, physical or mental disability, or even hair color—can lead to being bullied or ostracized. That's what we're seeing here with Haruka in Wind Breaker.

Be it due to an accident in his past or simply by birth, Haruka has what is considered unnatural hair and eye color. This had led to him being stereotyped at best and actively shunned at worst. In his mind, he's decided that if he's going to be treated as garbage based on his looks alone then he might as well become king of the garbage—and take out his impotent rage on any young thugs who dare to throw down with him. I get his rage at the unfairness of it all and find his situation 100% believable.

(On a personal note, a middle school teacher friend of mine once had a student with an “unnatural hair color.” This student was harassed by teachers and students alike—told constantly to dye it black. The unnatural hair color? Blond. She was half-Japanese and it was her natural hair color. It took her mother protesting to the prefecture's Board of Education for the school staff to give up on their demands.)

So when we have an anime that blatantly condemns Japan's prejudice problem in a way that is both poignant and entertaining, you have my interest. Add to that some phenomenally choreographed fight scenes with fluid animation to match and you have my full attention. I'll be seeing you next week Wind Breaker.

Rebecca Silverman

My inner third grader desperately wanted this show to be about competitive farting, but my academic self recognizes that the title is simply a case of someone (presumably the original manga creator) slapping an "er" on a word in an attempt to make it apply more personally to its main character. Haruka is shocked to discover that Furin High School, where he enrolled to become the top delinquent, has become colloquially known as "Bofurin," with the meaning of "wind break," a reference to a structure that shelters something from strong winds. Applying the suffix "er" to the word becomes about Haruka himself and his journey from an angry, hurt teen to someone recognized for more than his appearance. It's just too bad it runs afoul of that other slang usage.

Etymology aside, this is off to a solid start. Even without Haruka overtly saying anything about his past, we can see what brought him to the point where he'd enroll in the worst school in Japan on purpose: he's got some sort of chimeric condition that renders half of his hair white and one of his eyes light brown. The excellent opening scene, done in white-on-black imagery, shows Haruka attempting to balance on a tightrope as he's buffeted not by wind but by people's lack of understanding and assumptions about him. Even his parents seem to blame him for his appearance, which is both thoroughly ridiculous and heartbreaking. By the time the story opens, we can see why Haruka has retreated behind his own fists: if no one expects him to be anything more than a thug, then he'll be the best thug around. It's the only way he can find his self-worth.

Fortunately for him, the town he moves to doesn't care about his looks. The only people who mention them with any kind of sneer (or at all) are the obvious villains; everyone else is willing to let his personality and actions speak. Haruka never says this touches him, but we see it clearly in his actions, facial expressions, and body language. It's a stellar example of show-not-tell, backed by fluid fight animation. I don't particularly like watching people beat each other up (much less while townsfolk howl for blood from their windows like a bad movie about the Roman Colosseum), but this episode makes it look good. I like it better than the manga of the same scene because the movement really adds to the experience.

The underlying current of Haruka's emotions and mental health makes Wind Breaker work in its first episode. It's not just another story about a delinquent with a heart of gold. It's about a wounded soul discovering that he's worth something after all. Yes, part of that worth is caught up in what he can do in a fight, but at this point, he needs all the reassurance he can get. Following its dual trajectories of brawling and emotional redemption should be a good ride this season.

James Beckett

Wind Breaker is one of those premieres that comes along nearly every season. It has all of the elements of a show I really ought to love, and yet something about it doesn't click the way it ought to. The animation is mostly excellent; the direction is quite strong (which is good since this premiere is very talky in its first half); the music is solid; and when the inevitable delinquent beatdowns occur, they're pretty darned exciting. Fans of coming-of-age dramas and cheesy street-fighting action manga will likely get a real kick out of it. So, despite everything Wind Breaker does right, why did I feel somewhat reserved about its first episode?

I think it's mostly a matter of tone and style, which means that my criticism mostly boils down to my personal taste clashing with the material. For one, our hero Haruka falls squarely into the realm of "edgy teenager's loner badass self-insert protagonist" territory. Not only is he the toughest of the toughest when it comes to fighting punk-ass teenagers in back alleys and parking lots, but he has been cursed with his two-toned hair and heterochromia. That's already a lot for a grown educator of children to get on board with, and it's made even more challenging due to the series' strangely subdued sense of style. If the world of Wind Breaker was a little more "out there," and if it were represented in a more exaggerated and impressionistic style, then I'd have an easier time buying into the premise, I think— the Studio Trigger version of Wind Breaker sounds like a dope time, for instance, especially if it was channeling a little bit of The Warriors on top of that. As it stands, though, Wind Breaker's whole vibe is just a little too…plain, I guess? Sure, some of the delinquents have shark teeth, and the very idea of a modern Japanese town that armies of brawling teenagers have overrun is inherently ridiculous, but the fairly average and "grounded" way that Wind Breaker's art style and narrative ironically makes the story feel less believable, at least to me.

That said, there's a lot of promise to be had here. I could easily see myself being much more enthusiastic about the series on a different day, waking up on a different side of the bed, with the stars aligned ever so much more adequately above my head. At the very least, I really love Kotoha, the waitress who befriends Haruka; their early back-and-forth was my favorite part of the whole premiere. I'll be giving the series another episode or two to see if it can fully work its magic and get me on board with Haruki's misadventures.

Nicholas Dupree

There are a couple of things you just have to accept with this show. First, it takes place in a universe where roving gangs of leather-jacketed street thugs walk around smashing up the joint like they're enemy characters in a side-scrolling beat-em-up. The second is that our protagonist's defining angst is based on people rejecting him for, well, looking like an anime protagonist with two-toned hair and heterochromia. Both conceits are a bit silly and cheesy, but if you're willing to embrace that tone, then this premiere kicks all kinds of ass.

For one, the action is phenomenal. There is nothing quite like watching some well-choreographed and superbly rendered beatdowns; this first episode features a ton of it. If your main frame of reference for delinquent anime is Tokyo Revengers, you might have a heart attack from seeing a street brawl that moves with this much energy, where the blows land heavy and fast. There is an absolute smorgasbord of cool, clever, and enthusiastic touches that bring these brawling boys to life, and the same is true when the characters aren't beating the tar out of each other. Sakura, especially, is animated with a ton of personality, capturing his defensive bluster and embarrassed tenderness. From top to bottom, this premiere looks great, bringing its premise to life superbly.

There's also a lot to like about the story we get here. Sakura being ostracized for looking like he stepped out of a supernatural battle manga is a bit goofy. Still, the sense of resignation and defensive use of violence he's adopted is deeply relatable. He doesn't fight because he likes the feeling of broken noses against his knuckles but because it's the only way he can find a sense of validation when people otherwise reject him. If they're going to assume he's scary or antisocial before getting to know him, well, he might as well be the scariest, most antisocial fighter out there. I also love that Kotoha immediately sees through all his teenage posturing, recognizing the lonely and kindhearted kid underneath. It's a great way to introduce the endearing parts of our hero without totally defanging him, and it made me excited to meet the rest of the rowdy, rough boys.

It's the perfect introduction for a story about delinquents with a heart of gold, and if the production can keep up even a fraction of this polish, it'll be a great time. I'm still hesitant after the last couple of modern delinquent anime fell apart before my eyes, but for now, this is worth checking out.

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