Run with the Wind
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Run with the Wind ?
I never thought “The Emperor's New Clothes” would be such a literal title! King gets a new T-shirt, but leave it to Run with the Wind to turn that ordinary premise into a heartfelt character exploration, an emotional drama wrapped in sports anime storytelling. As the team gets closer to their goal, little moments go a long way toward developing tight and consistent characterization. This episode's resolution of King's story arc beautifully mirrors new details about Haiji's past and the trauma within. As they set goals and support one another as a team, it's gratifying to see how each character is improving not only as a runner, but as a person.
It's interesting that the track and field club has characters nicknamed both “Prince” and "King". In King's case, it's short for “Quiz Show King,” which is definitely a term they used on Fastest Finger First for skilled trivia nuts. King likes to unwind with a quiz show similar to Jeopardy, and lately he's got a lot of unwinding to do. His unsuccessful job hunt has him stressed and on edge, and his well-meaning but boisterous teammates aren't helping him relax. As the only member who's job hunting, King feels isolated, and his bad attitude is pushing everyone away even further. Or it might, if his teammates didn't care about him so much. Shindo continually checks on him, drawing a parallel between job hunting and race training. Just like King is job hunting because he must, Shindo started off as a reluctant runner. But when he gave it an earnest shot, things turned around. “It's way more fun to run when you choose to run instead of being forced to.” When they convince King to give running one more try, Shindo rushes to put on his club T-shirt so King isn't the only one wearing it. It's an example of one of the little gestures that show how much the team supports each other, in running and in life.
At the same time, Kakeru is trying to learn more about Haiji. We know about Haiji as a coach and we've seen the injury on his knee, but Kakeru wants to know what Haiji was like as a runner. He's all smiles as he tries to encourage the team, but some of his old hurt comes out in an emotional confrontation with King. When King angrily asks if running is going to help his job hunt, Haiji asks him, “Instead of running from it, why not try running with reality?” Stewing in his own hurt won't help, as Haiji says, “Standing still will make you anxious. I was like that once.” Suddenly Kakeru gets an answer to his question; Haiji trains because it's better than sitting around worrying. King comes to the same conclusion after he goes out to play a frustrated game of Mahjong and realizes that he's still not helping himself, he's just killing time. In a clever trick of the show's story arc, his slouch down the street leads him exactly where he belongs, where the rest of the team is out recruiting members for their fan club.
Between Haiji's injury and King's frustrating job hunt, Run with the Wind continues to tackle relatable problems that real young people might face. But despite these occasionally heavier themes, it never feels depressing. Small touches of characterization, from a particular character's running stride, cafeteria food choice, or preferred free time activity, go a long way in giving the show heart. In this episode, the most spot-on characterization occurs in the way each team member has his own happy reaction when King decides to finally join the morning jog. This scrappy group may not qualify for the Hakone Ekiden, but in endearing themselves to the audience and one another, they've already come a long way.
Run with the Wind is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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