Run with the Wind
Episode 9

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Run with the Wind ?

Ugh, that cliffhanger is going to kill me—let's hope I'll be the only casualty! This week on Run With The Wind, we learn that Haiji's round-the-clock care for his runners comes at a steep cost to his own health. “Mismatched Runners” was all about the importance of mutual support, how a well-placed word of encouragement can mean everything and the lack of one can have dire consequences.

This week started out on a decidedly unsupportive note as we reprised Kakeru's cruelest moment yet. The morning after it happens, the twins are shocked and poor Prince was too upset to sleep, but Haiji is ready to forgive. Just like when he apprehended Kakeru while he was robbing a convenience store, Haiji looks for the silver lining in his actions: ”He went too far. He also said that because he's taking running at Hakone seriously.” Despite Haiji's warning not to talk about it, it's not long until the entire team knows about Kakeru's misdeeds. What's interesting about the conversation that ensues is that rather than sharing their own thoughts on the drama, they frame it in terms of what Haiji would and wouldn't allow or do in retaliation. It's easy to forget that not long ago, Haiji started out as everyone's shared slave driver. Now he's the moral center of the team.

It'd be nice if we were all lucky enough to have a Haiji in our life! He's chaotic good—manipulative and sneaky but not in a mean way. He's the kind of friend who tricks you into eating three square meals a day and picking up a life-improving exercise habit. And it's clear that Haiji truly cares. When an apron-clad Haiji chases Nico-chan-senpai with a hilariously elaborate homemade bento and scolds him for not eating, his attentive nature comes through strong. “I consider the volume and nutrition everyone needs when preparing meals every day,” he says to Nico's shocked reply that Haiji would've had to be doing those calculations for the past four years! Perhaps this is why Haiji ignores his own dizziness at the track meet, instead cheering wildly for the team members on the field.

The track meet is a beautiful study in contrasts. On the racetrack we see our struggling runners, striving forward with pained faces. On the sidelines, the rest of the team cheers them on passionately, even if it means making a spectacle of themselves. This development was so charming that I couldn't help but smile, and the runners felt the same way. “Just as we were thinking, 'Stop! It's embarrassing,' we actually started running faster,” Jota (or is it Joji?) reflects afterward. Meanwhile, our boy Kakeru has finally learned about the importance of empathy; when the team members failed to make official times, he was as disappointed as if they were him. (It was also cute to see Kakeru deny how loudly he was cheering after the fact.) The “mismatched runners” of the title actually have a lot to learn from one another. My favorite of these contrasts was at the beginning when Haiji says Prince helps him “re-experience the excitement of running.” Just as Prince has gone from walking to an unsteady jog, Haiji recalls his own recovery process.

Speaking of Haiji! I will never enjoy cliffhangers. I think they cheapen the appeal of tuning in each week, and if it's as easily resolved as Kakeru's harsh words to Prince, it won't have been worth the stress. A show with this much heart doesn't need to resort to this kind of doctored tension. Haiji has cared tirelessly for everyone else, and the team's real test will be rising to the challenge of repayment in his time of need. This sweet and often funny story has taken a turn for the bittersweet, and it'll be interesting to see how its character-driven plot pivots to match.

Rating: B+

Run with the Wind is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.

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