Run with the Wind – Anime Review

Synopsis: One chilly March day, Kansei University fourth-year Kiyose Haiji (Haiji) encounters Kurahara Kakeru (Kakeru) running uncommonly fast through the streets at night and forces him into living at the Chikusei-so (AKA Aotake). Haiji has a dream and ambition. He became discouraged after suffering an injury in high school, but he wants to run again. He wants to participate in the Hakone Ekiden and show off the running ability he’s been pursuing. He has only one year left to turn that dream and ambition into reality. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)

Run so hard, you start to go bald.

Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):

Tom: Run with the Wind isn’t so much about Haiji and his quest to run in the Hakone Ekiden, as the above synopsis suggests. That forms the through line, but the actual story centers on Kakeru, and periodic focus on the rest of the young men Haiji ropes in to form their rag-tag team, and their efforts to discover what running means to them. The series primary focus is on Kakeru himself, his struggle to deal with mistakes from his past often forming the backbone of the series, with other characters peppered in for good measure.

The moment that sparked a million fanfics.

Linny: Run with the Wind maintains a realistic tone, keeping most of its aspects grounded and never straying into too fantastical levels of feats and performance. The team’s attempts to improve at running proceed at a tempered and realistic level with no true miraclous improvements or changes in their fitness level and skills. Not only that, the show also tells some very relatable stories with these college aged characters, ranging from those struggling to find employment to  striving to find a true passion and direction after college. However, there is a bit of unevenness when it comes to balancing the stories of each member of the team. This isn’t show ruining by any measure, and some would even call it standard for an ensemble cast. But it does deliver a blow to the emotional impact of Run with the Wind’s finale five episodes as it tries to wrap up the personal adversities and journeys of the more minor team members.

Tom: It’s true the series doesn’t give all the members of the team equal attention. Outside of Haiji, Kakeru and Prince, the manga lover of the group and who has the harshest struggle to gain the physical ability needed for the Hakone marathon, the other seven members vary wildly in terms of focus. While all members of the team pop up every episode, focus on their characters and personal struggles is indeed lacking and the short spurts of character work that seek to conclude series, don’t quite land with the same emotional punch as the struggles of Haiji, Kakeru and Prince. Still these final bursts of character work offer decent send offs, even to the members who went mostly unexplored. With how much that needs to happen in order to bring this group of boys from not even amateur runners, up to a professional level, it’s commendable what character development was offered for the entire crew. The series starts strong, trying to divide equal focus across Haiji’s ten man team, but gradually centers on Kakeru, with periodic boats of focus for Prince and his valiant push to improve himself enough so the team qualifies in the Hakone Ekiden. The rest of the cast kinda gets sidelined, with only periodic bouts of focus until those final episodes, where everything building comes to fruition. Because each character does finally get a chance to shine in the Hakone run, spanning the final five episodes, these last few episodes feel like a satisfying conclusion to the series, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats as to whether these underdogs can truly pull off a surprise win.

And what does that have to do with this job interview?

Linny: I’d like to reiterate one of Tom’s earlier points; that the focus of the show is about the race and the impact training and participating for it has on the boys. Unsurprisingly, the race takes up several episodes right into the final episode and even affects how the show chooses to conclude itself. We only get a very quick glimpse into everyone’s life after Hakone, with only a few minutes in the last episode that jump three years into the future. Don’t go in hoping to get an in depth exploration post race. And while some might find the overall individual stories for each runner a little trope-y, Run with the Wind still manages to carve out an engaging journey with each. Yes, the disgraced drop out turns out to have a solid reason for ending up that way but the story still hits all the emotional notes that will have audiences only warming up to him even more. It’s not a flawless endorsement to anyone seeking something groundbreaking but solid storytelling should win over near everyone else.

Tom: What’s made the series a treat from beginning to end is its incredible balance between comedy and emotional drama. The way our runners interact with each other forms the backbone of the series, keeping episodes dramatic, yet also comedic as characters butt heads, grow closer, and gradually develop from reluctant participants to Haiji’s plans, into a true team that’s willing to push themselves to the brink. Because the characters are a bit older than typical sports anime, things feel a little more mature, hinging less on so on “friendship is everything” that so many sports shonen titles fall back on, and that ties into the more grounded, realistic portrayal Linny was talking about. The comedy by proxy feels less bombastic and ridiculous, only furthering that natural feel, and helps keep the characters feeling like real and honest people, struggling with their dreams and ideals while preparing for the incredible challenge of the Hakone run.

Prince (on the right) speaks for most of us with that reaction face.

Linny: Run with the Wind is the perfect sports anime for an older anime fan or anyone seeking a story that’s realistic and restrained in its approach. While there is a latent and insanely talented lead character, the progress of everyone from reluctant, unfit or outright unwilling teammates to the underdog you’ll be cheering for is a journey that’s bound to warm audience’s hearts. Watching them struggle with not only becoming better racers but also their personal life issues adds meat to the story and delivers relatable content to viewers who might be going through or have gone through similar. The subtle approach to comedy further bolsters the show’s calming and realistic vibe all in all creating a sports anime that may not be innovative and attention grabbing but is sure to leave its mark on anyone interested in the concept of a more subtle and character oriented sports series. 

Tom: Run with the Wind may not be groundbreaking, but the series none the less produces an endearing ensemble of characters whom you can’t help but root, cheer, and worry for as the Hakone race finally gets going. Stand outs like Prince and Kakeru make the backbone of the series appeal, and while it’s unfortunate that many of the others don’t get quite much as depth and focus, their combined presence keeps the series filled with a wealth of drama and comedy that makes Run with the Wind feel like a packed experience, making every episode a blast of enjoyment. Honestly there’s a good chance I’ll be pushing Run with the Wind as an Anime of the Year contender, even if we’re still only at the start of 2019. It’s just that much fun.

Recommended: Grounded and honest, Run with the Wind offers a wealth of characters with plenty of drama and comedy to make this series one of the most underappreciated titles of 2018 and 2019.

Recommended: Run with the Wind takes a down-to-earth approach to the sports anime genre, weaving relatable tales and likeable characters to win viewers over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run with the Wind is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.

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