Run with the Wind
Episode 1-3

by Lauren Orsini,

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Run with the Wind ?

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Run with the Wind ?

Distance runners are a strange bunch. The sport is practically masochistic, and misery loves company. So as an on-and-off distance runner myself, I was excited about Run With The Wind from day one. How would it portray a hobby that many view as tedious at best and punishing at worst? I wasn't surprised that it opted for a fun sports anime style, but I was impressed by the authenticity of the running experience that it managed to depict.

From the get-go, this show has a lithe look. The character designs are unmistakably Takahiro Kishida (whose work you might recognize from I.G.'s previous Haikyuu!! or Welcome to the Ballroom). There's enough detail in the art to capture the charm of the run-down track club dorm for which Haiji has covertly been scouting if not talent, at least warm bodies capable of forward motion. He hits the jackpot with Kakeru, a clearly troubled student who zooms past Haiji while robbing a convenience store. Without background music, the show emphasizes the rhythm of his breathing and measured footfalls, giving him away as an experienced distance runner. There's a lot more to be explored in this two-cour series, but within three episodes, we've already gotten an evocative sketch of each character as defined not through their reason to run, but their reluctance to do so. Some shows can't define five characters in that time, much less ten. (I'm thinking of Cheer Boys, another college sports anime from last year, which had considerably more trouble balancing its ensemble cast.) I especially appreciated the show's acknowledgment of stereotypes with Musa. “It's prejudiced to think black people are fast runners,” he reasonably counters when Haiji suggests he must be athletic.

Haiji uses a mix of carrot and stick tactics to get everyone on board, and we're supposed to find his demonic smile endearing. I can see why his intimidation tactics might not sit well with some, but in my experience, this is distance running culture—a mix of prodding and guilt-inducing to get the group going, especially on days when the weather isn't great. It's a little odd how Haiji introduces Yaokatsu, a high school girl, to motivate the guys simply by smiling at them like she's a prize at the end of the race. I'd have a bigger problem with it if it weren't revealed that she was in on the whole scheme. Of course, this is nothing compared to the elephant in the room: a daily 10k is nothing compared to the elite athleticism required for the Hakone Ekiden, the distance relay that Haiji aspires to race. Akane (fittingly wearing a shirt that says “Why?” on the front) should make it clear that the Couch to 5k people are not lying, any couch potato can run one—though preferably after a few weeks of building up to it! But Kakeru, the most disciplined runner of the bunch, has a decent point when he suggests that perhaps this group isn't Ekiden material. The max qualifying time (somewhere around 30 minutes for a 10k) is intimidating. Personally, I've never run a 10k (6.2 miles) in less than an hour.

By then, of course, the endorphins from the daily 10k have gotten to the group, and one of the twins asks Kakeru, “What's your deal?” For now, the group has found a reason to run. There are a lot of unsolved problems ahead, starting with Kakeru's past abruptly popping up in the form of a red-headed interloper, but this show has already done an effective job crafting a lively, character-driven story that's more about the journey than the destination—just like distance running itself.

Rating: B+

Run with the Wind is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.

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