Run with the Wind
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 23 of
Run with the Wind ?
Will somebody please license the Run With The Wind novel? The anime may be over, but I still find myself wanting more. This finale had a little of everything: high tension, emotional catharsis, and a time skip with a reunion. At the same time that it covered the most successful highlights of the boys' Ekiden experience, it skimmed over the lasting repercussions of the brutal race, which has left Haiji unable to run competitively ever again. Run With The Wind gave its beautifully-developed characters the happy ending they deserve, but it didn't quite tell the whole story of what came next.
Like the first few episodes of the show, this finale compares and contrasts Run With The Wind's two primary protagonists, Haiji and Kakeru. Both of them share the arc of a young person overcoming adversity, but in very different ways. Haiji is a natural leader, building a team to support him and his injury through one final spurt. Kakeru is the more brooding type, whose superhuman abilities are indirectly responsible for his angst-filled backstory. When Haiji runs during this episode, he's accompanied by an increasingly devastating creak, his injured knee viscerally compared to a faulty hinge. When Kakeru runs, the accompanying soundtrack is as dynamic as the glowing white path he seems to follow at an effortless yet breakneck pace. It makes sense for the final episode to focus on these two, the polar opposites that have always framed the series.
Though their Ekiden experiences couldn't be more different, Kakeru and Haiji's relationships to running are inextricably linked. Haiji has seen Kakeru as the personification of running since their first meeting. “That night when you passed before my eyes, I had a thought. 'That's my dream right there. It's taken shape, and it's running.'” Kakeru, who said last episode that he was in love with running, has a more literal take: “You asked me once what running is—the answer is you.” This suggests an intense, almost romantic connection between the two, so I wasn't surprised to learn that Run With The Wind novel author Shion Miura has written numerous scholarly articles about BL. Run With The Wind is not a BL series, but this ending feels like it's open to audience interpretation. It certainly wouldn't be the first sports anime to attempt to skirt this line. Either way, the powerful emotions at play in this exchange reinforce that Run With The Wind has never been about running competitively as an individual, but about a journey through which teammates make each other stronger—in ways that not even Haiji and Kakeru seemed to realize until the climax. Only at the end of the Ekiden do they acknowledge that they couldn't have done it without each other. The momentous music, Haiji's painful breaking point, and the tears pricking Kakeru's eyes all cement their finish line reunion as the true ending to this emotional rollercoaster of a series.
Run With The Wind doesn't leave its supporting cast behind, but the epilogue is shown in broad strokes. Nira has puppies. Musa grows a goatee. Hana's crush on one of the twins (or maybe somebody else?) turns out not to matter at all—she's so woefully underutilized that even her role as a love interest isn't important. None of the graduating team members seem to still be running. Haiji now coaches and walks with a limp—he isn't the first athlete to suffer the Ekiden's punishment permanently, and he won't be the last. We don't really know how he feels about the end of his career coming in his early 20's, because the epilogue glosses over the downsides in exchange for a hopeful view of the future, shown clearly through the sheer number of new recruits to the Kansei team. The series ends on a high note, but I wonder what they're leaving out from the novel in this last-spurt rush. This is obviously a sanitized version of the ending I was expecting, but it's not like these good boys don't deserve it.
Run with the Wind is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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