Run with the Wind
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Run with the Wind ?
Anyone who thinks running is a solitary sport should look at Kakeru. From his former teammates to his abusive high school coach to phantoms of his former self, this traumatized boy carries a lot of people with him every time he breaks into a sprint. This week's episode of Run With The Wind is a reminder that you can't run away from your problems, even if you are unusually fast. In “Shadows That Don't Fade,” we take an emotional deep dive into Kakeru's issues, while a clever twist of character development turns a ghost from his past into an unexpected source of motivation for the whole team.
Visual storytelling instantly draws us into Kakeru's story. We learn that in high school, he had a coach who sowed resentment toward Kakeru by treating him like the team's golden boy. Kakeru tries to speak up but finds that he can't. “I can't do anything but run,” he tells Hana later. We then learn through Sakaki's taunt that in lieu of using his words, Kakeru once resorted to using his fists. Through Kakeru's anguished thoughts, we get a personal glimpse into his slide to rock bottom as he gambles his last yen on pachinko (what a terrible idea!) and finally resorts to thievery in a convenience store. I'm glad we finally got a thorough explanation, though the immediate gut-punch of the show starting with a robbery was a breath of fresh air. Kakeru has been dealt a bad hand, but he's not innocent either. This makes the payoff at the end of the episode all the more rewarding when he grows as a person and finally talks back to Sakaki. Without the toxic dynamic of his high school team, Kakeru might finally be able to thrive.
Kakeru is the focus of this episode, but it's Akane AKA Prince who acts as its moral center. A near-altercation between Prince's comics club and the rugby team emphasizes his role in the collegiate pecking order. It's great to meet Prince's amiable group of lovable losers, especially Comrade Manga. Meanwhile, during their morning run, Haiji works to meet Prince in the middle by comparing his shuffle to the finish to a cartoon hero's triumphant homecoming. Likewise, Prince meets him halfway by improving his race time. It's all a big joke to onlooking Sakaki, who apparently has enough bad history with Kakeru to get up at 6 AM specifically to go out and heckle his team. But Sakaki faces an unexpected adversary when Prince rises from the dead to point out all his rage toward the jocks of the world: “I hate people who criticize others for what they do!” Sure enough, while Haiji has been practically demonic about getting everyone to come to practice, he has neither shamed nor criticized the runners for their race times. He just wants them all out there working together, and that's what is slowly beginning to dawn on Kakeru—this isn't just going to be a repeat of his bad high school experience.
Sakaki may have a mean face, but just how bad is he? His reaction to Kakeru's final declaration makes it feel as if he was egging Kakeru on just to get his high school rival to finally take him seriously. Characters in Run With The Wind do good and bad things but are too multi-dimensional to really be classified as good or evil. The characters' interactions with one another are constantly making me reassess them, and that's a mark of good storytelling.
Run with the Wind is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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