Run with the Wind
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Run with the Wind ?
This was not the easiest episode to watch. This week on Run With The Wind, Kakeru allowed all of his anxiety about the Ekiden to come out in the form of blaming his teammates. In a misguided attempt to do what he thinks is right, our protagonist became our antagonist—the apparent “Dangerous Character” of the episode's title. It's great to see the show tackle difficult themes, but it's hard to care as much as usual after the guy we usually root for starts acting like a villain.
I'm glad the team turned their track meet review session into a party, because glimpses of our running club just unwinding are becoming fewer and further between. Everyone is trying so hard in their own way—from King polishing his Ekiden trivia (turns out running is helping him with his job search!) to Prince getting a treadmill and gleaning inspiration from Ashita No Joe. Less inspirational is Nico-chan-senpai skipping meals and Kakeru training with dark circles under his eyes. You know that when Haiji is worried about how frequently somebody is running, it's time to dial it back. Physical and mental burnout are real problems runners face, so I worry about these boys' joints, but even moreso their psyches.
Kakeru knows he's working hard, but ridiculously, he isn't convinced anybody else is trying. Haiji retorts Kakeru's accusations with a spot-on line: “Is speed the only thing that matters to you? Then there's no reason to run. Ride a bullet train. They're faster.” The climax arrives when Kakeru asks Prince to quit the team if he's unable to see results as soon as the next track meet. By having him go after the character so many audience members relate to (with his geeky habits and his amazing running shirts, like this episode's simple “ugh”), the show feels like it's intentionally turning Kakeru into the bad guy. Prince's shocked face drives this home—how could Kakeru antagonize the underdog of the team? And yet, Prince's comparative lack of skill has been the elephant in the room for a while. While I appreciate Run With The Wind addressing this difficult question, having Kakeru be the one to do it makes him look awful. Since the beginning, when we saw him stealing from a convenience store, Kakeru has been on shaky ground as the audience worked to look past his bristles to the traumatized kid underneath. This development reminds us that Kakeru can be truly cruel at times, undoing a lot of the progress we've made with him as the hero.
Conversely, this episode makes Haiji out to be even more like a leader. It's evident through his careful escalation of everyone's training schedules according to their unique needs, his encouraging words, and his joint review session/drinking party to help the team unwind. Haiji knows what it's like to be slow, and the close-up of his knee under the table during a heated exchange with Kakeru reminds us exactly why. He has a clear goal, but he's not going to trample over others to get there. This is a reverse of the first three episodes, in which Haiji appeared ready to blackmail runners onto the team and Kakeru was the most sympathetic. They occupy opposite roles now, making for some incredibly radical character development. Other than the quickly sidelined Hana, everyone has grown so much since they were first introduced—even if it's not always for the better. Run With The Wind's characters aren't always likable, but they are always evolving and becoming more interesting.
Run with the Wind is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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