Run With the Wind peels away from the pack of most other sports anime with its unique cast and storytelling style. This week, Micchy and Andy explain why you should watch this thoughtful and idiosyncratic series.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for language.
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So Andy, I dunno about you, but between Welcome to the Japari Park and Run with the Wind, I'd say this has been Big Mood season.
My favorite kemono friend is Dog, so I guess I'd say we're in this together.
For reals tho, it's funny how my favorite character in this sports anime is the one guy who desperately does not want to be in a sports anime and can only cry for help through his shirt choices.
I live for his suffering because I know it would be mine if forced into the same situation. I also live for his shirts because god damn it if he's gonna die running, then he's gonna let the world know about it.
It's not every day you get scammed into training for a relay marathon by some college kid.
Your manga or your life. Which would you give up first?
So yeah, Run with the Wind is a nice departure from sports anime formula in that it's about college kids rather than high schoolers, and each of them is at a slightly different stage of their lives.
And all of them are dancing to the insidious whims of this smug fucker planning to run them to their deaths.
That boy there is Haiji, a college senior who's hellbent on running this major relay marathon before he graduates.
And these are his chosen victims:
There's a senior called King who's desperately looking for a job, Nico-chan-senpai the chain-smoking CS guy who's too damn old for this shit...
The Ouran twins but dumber and hornier
Like any self-respecting college student, the twins just want to pull more stupid bullshit before they have to face adult responsibilities.
Then there's Yuki, the distressingly functional law student with big aspirations, protagonist Kakeru, a freshman who doesn't know what the hell he's doing with this life...
Some other guys?
And the single most precious piece of garbage
to ever exist.
I seriously cannot overstate how pure and good Prince is. Weeb royalty forced into the daylight.
Poor guy just wants to hole up in his room and be a degenerate, but these assholes keep making him work out and talk to people, it's so unfair.
To be fair, he manages to be decently well-groomed, seems to attend class, and we even saw him try to recruit new members to his manga club. He may be the most unathletic character ever to grace a sports anime, but he's a functional nerd who also has his heart in the right place despite it causing him immense physical suffering.
It's a nice contrast to our ostensible protagonist, the living embodiment of going off to college right after your high school girlfriend dumped you and
struggling to get over it.
Kakeru's like every angsty high school sports anime protagonist to ever exist, except now he's in college with a bunch of guys who are so over his brand of teenage nonsense, it's great. And that's what sets this show apart for me. In a sea of sports anime about teenagers, it's nice to have one or two with characters in their twenties who don't take their high school flex super-seriously. In Haikyu! or Kuroko's Basketball, the sport takes center stage, perhaps because the characters don't have anything more to do with their lives. Run With the Wind is about how these early 20-somethings don't have the time or energy to obsess over the sport, so they have to decide what to prioritize. It's definitely where I found myself after high school when suddenly my life wasn't completely dominated by music or figure skating anymore.
I love that even though the main setup is your typical "we've only got a year but we're going to Koshien!" premise, the real conflict is managing the emotional expectations of a team. Watching the characters give themselves excuses as to why they can't do this, but also internally rationalizing why they're still trying is great. Kakeru in particular is super-interesting not just because he's a ball of freshman anxiety with no idea how to express himself as an adult, but we also the damage caused by having both no expectations for the team and too high standards for himself, all compacted into one character. He's so reluctant to be part of a running team again that he fails to see how his presence could lift everyone up. Even after he tries to step into that mentor role, he still can't understand their position on this endeavor, so he pushes them away again.
He's so used to being outstanding among his peers that he can't fathom why Haiji wants them all to keep trying when there's no way they can be the best team. And yet, as we see in episode 7, Kakeru's not the best anymore. He may have been great compared to other high schoolers, but the college field is on another level. So now he's stuck in this rut where he feels like the other guys are just dragging him down, when he's really the one holding himself back. In Kakeru's mind, there's only "winning" and "losing"; he's so stuck in his own head that he doesn't see the point of running for any other reason.
He's got a lot of pain and insecurity stemming from his past, and boy does he need to adopt a healthy outlet. We get snippets of how being outstanding alienated him from his team due to a shitty coach. Coaching Tip: if you have a good player on your team, don't give them special treatment they didn't ask for and then berate their teammates for not being as strong.
Personally I feel for the kid, because no one wants to be stuck on a team with Shinji Matou.
Yeah, fuck that guy and his stupid greasy hair. Kakeru's old coach basically encouraged him to focus only on his own successes and failures, teammates be damned. That's a tough burden to bear when you're 16 and your classmates are your entire world.
Deep down he loves running, and he totally wants to share that feeling with others! But he's instilled with this sense that he can't respect anyone slower than him and loses all sense of self-worth when he meets anyone faster. When push comes to shove, he just locks up and turns into an Arthur meme.
The boy's got some serious emotional constipation to work through. There's more to life than running real fast.
Alternately, he could run so much that he transcends humanity and becomes a being of pure light.
Meanwhile, Haiji's being pretty tight-lipped about why he wants everyone to run in the Hakone Ekiden, but considering he straight-up yells at Kakeru for obsessing over his time, I have a pretty good hunch. My guess is that he doesn't necessarily believe they'll actually qualify for the race; he just wants the experience of training with a team, just so he can say he tried and lived his college life to the fullest. I don't think it's about the race itself. It's about the journey, as cliche as that might sound. Of course, since this is a sports anime, they probably will make it, but I wouldn't be surprised if they don't, either.
I'm gonna disagree on this one. While the journey is definitely part of it, I think it's fair to call out just how overbearing Haiji can be. A large part of the show's fun factor early on is watching him force the others into the club, and then force continually harder training on them. Kakeru trying to rush the schedule is a problem not because it's futile, but because it's trampling on the seeds Haiji's sowed that can actually make it all the way. Part of why Kakeru even sticks around is his inability to get a bead on Haiji; he's never seen the guy go all out and doesn't know which of them is truly faster. All Kakeru knows is that Haiji spends a lot of time training these slow runners, yet he's respected by someone even faster than himself.
I hate to go back to this dickhead, but he clearly occupies a lot of space in Kakeru's head, and whenever he shows up, the normally patient Haiji actually moves to shut him down.
Oh, and I can't forget our precious boy calling bullshit on his antics too.
This is the part where I boo the frosh like "nobody gives a shit what u did in 11th grade, get over it". For real though, Prince is consistently the voice of reason in this show, as odd as it seems on the surface. He's the one who's always breaking down what is and isn't realistic, though of course being too pragmatically-minded can lead people to give up on things they really can do when they misjudge the situation.
While everyone else is at varying stages of mental and physical ability with running, Prince's place in the group is pretty much set. He's the strugglebus of the group physically, but mentally, he always makes damn sure he's not the reason anyone else gives up. We'll just have to wait and see whether or not the value of that kind of strength can get through to Kakeru.
Or maybe Prince will just die.
Okay the funny thing is that his times aren't actually that bad. Pretty normal, in fact. Kakeru's just a sports anime protagonist with no sense of normalcy by comparison.
Yes, Prince is relatable in many ways.
I can't believe we've come this far without talking about the rest of the cast. So I just need your two cents here: is this man's hair the best or is it The Best?
With that hair, I don't know why I was shocked when the show told me he spent his nights clubbing, but somehow I was.
Like no. You are not allowed to be a successful law student, have a great aesthetic, and find time to go clubbing.
It's a good character design! I also just wanna give props to Run with the Wind's production overall, it looks so good.
We should also give a nod to Musa for being an actual African character who knows what you're thinking.
In addition to looking good, I'm also gonna mention the sound design. Everything from the whooshes of wind to the music as they run, and especially the times when it completely drops into dead silence.
Honestly, I would recommend Run with the Wind on its production strengths alone. Episode 7 has several minutes of dozens of people running, almost all traditionally animated. Their hair even flops!
It's really cool and totally worth checking out. Especially when they kick into gear and the sweat starts flowing.
And best of all, they drew the dang nipples.
(this is a sticking point for me w/ a lotta anime just fyi, they never draw the dang nipples)
Too bad they chickened out in other respects.
Perhaps the world just isn't ready.