Run with the Wind: Slow and Steady Wins the Race by Keana Águila Labra

Image source: anime-planet

Kaze Ga Tsuyoku Fuiete Iru, or Run with the Wind, is a sports anime developed by Production IG for the Fall 2018 season. There is a level of standards for sports anime: it has to breed excitement, suspense, and the sweet, sweet taste of victory. Heartfelt moments are shared after dreaded hardship and rivalry. Though there are no adrenaline-spiking moments yet, the foundation is laid for Run with the Wind with its first episode, and there is great potential for this track and field club to be exhilarating and gripping with its genuine characters.

The episode begins with a chase between third-year Kansei University student, Kiyose Haiji, and first-year, Kurahara Kakeru, who is shown to be shoplifting pastry bread. After confronting Kurahara and asking him to apologize to the shopkeeper, Haiji convinces him to move into his apartment, “Chikusei-sou,” owned by the landlord, Mr. Tazaki, with eight other students: twins, Tarou Jojirou and Joutaro, Sugiyama Takashi, a third-year business school student, Sakaguichi Yohei, a fourth-year sociology student, Kashiwazaki Akane, a second-year literature student, Hirata Akihiro, a fifth-year student, Iwakura Yukihiko, a fourth-year law student, Musa Kamara, a second-year science and engineering student, and of course, Nira the dog, who is shown as the apartment’s resident pet. Mr. Tazaki also resides on the grounds in a separate, smaller room beside the dorms.

This scene segways into the opening, and we are briefly shown the rest of the supporting characters. The music is upbeat, which is the standard of any sports shonen anime. Though the animation is nothing spectacular, it is solid in its presentation; it does its due diligence by introducing the audience to the characters we are expected to meet. At the end of the opening, we see Kurahara in a track uniform; but we don’t know if this is in the past or future.

The rest of the events in the first episode are rather slow. There are a few questions asked, hinting at Kurahara’s mysterious past. Mr. Tazaki hears his name, and mutters to himself, “Kurahara? I’ve heard that name before.” Again, there are no significant decisions made in this episode yet: the ten boys reveal further details about themselves during Kurahara’s welcoming party dinner and celebrate now having a fully housed apartment.

During dinner, Musa suggests that they take a day trip together. Yukihiko asks if they will rent a car, and Haiji asserts that they will not need a vehicle. The boys stare on at Haiji, confused, as it is a long distance away from the apartment. After a dramatic pause, Haiji announces his interest in participating in the Hakone Ekiden. He confesses he was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a tenth man in order to reinstate the Kansei Track and Field Club and enter the prestigious, elite university race: the Hakone Ekiden Marathon. Mr. Tazaki is also revealed to be the coach of the Kansei Track and Field Club. Other than Haiji and Kurahara, who was hinted at having history and possible emotional trauma with his involvement in track and field, the other eight have little to no background in running, let alone sports.

After Haiji’s revelation, Kurahara meanwhile adamantly swears against participating in the Hakone Ekiden, describing it as a lost cause; but he is sure to change his mind, eventually. The other boys are in disbelief at Haiji’s abrupt announcement; but they soon learn he is serious. Haiji goes to great lengths in approaching each boy individually, bribing and blackmailing each of them to join. He even goes so far as to imply eviction; leaving a few members distraught at this zero sum game. The end of the episode has Haiji confronting Kurahara, divulging to him that he’s aware of his previous track and field experience.

Despite the rather sluggish pacing, I remained intrigued. I found myself invested in these characters and in their endeavors. The visual aspect of the anime had me engrossed; I can’t stress how refreshing it is to see the fluidity of their movements. The character designs are similar to Haikyuu, with swooping hair and circular, engulfing eyes, but the animation, again, is arguably more smooth. The two runners are built as they should be: they have muscular, yet lean physiques. The hair on each character bounces when he runs, and arms and legs seem to stretch with each stride. This is all displayed in the first minute of the show, with a panting Kurahara and excited Haiji. One can feel the pure joy emanating from Haiji’s expression, “Do you like running?”

The facial expressions remain fluidly animated throughout the episode; when Nico-chan takes a swig of his beer, one can almost feel the flecks of foam atop our lip as well. The art is softer; lines aren’t as distinct and range from light brown to black depending on the dominant colors of the character. There are a few gratuitous nude scenes; none are overtly sexual, and it is refreshing to see characters through the female gaze. In the spa, the focus is directed to a scar on Haiji’s hamstring. It is not yet mentioned how he received it (or who gave this scar to him), but it leaves him with a mysterious aura, similar to that over Kurahara at this time.

There are subliminal messages of a possible romance between Haiji and Kurahara; and if not romance, then at least tension. Haiji is the one who returns to the bathroom and finds Kurahara naked, sans any kind of reaction. Haiji keeps his gaze locked on Kurahara, never averting or relenting. However, this may just be the bait to keep BL, or Boys Love, fans watching even if they are not usually into sports anime.

Though not much occurs to advance the plot in this episode, the viewer is given a sense of the already established relationships and camaraderie between the existing eight tenants. This was something I was not used to; often, we are immediately informed on what the characters’ intents are and the goal of the team. But, this slower approach sets the groundwork for the events to come: more questions are raised than questions answered, and that leaves the viewer with anticipation for the next episode. The animation leaves the viewer excited, eager to witness actual competitive running in action. One can’t help but be curious enough to continue watching the series, at least for the mere purpose of discovering more about Haiji and Kurahara. If you haven’t already seen this show, I would highly recommend it. This is a sports anime worth sticking with all the way to the end.

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