OP: 「Catch up, latency」 by (UNISON SQUARE GARDEN)
「0人目の男」 (Hitome no Otoko)
“The 10th Man”
In a very real sense, for me the Fall 2018 anime season starts with Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru. We’ve had a few premieres and the second episode of Double Decker was certainly encouraging, stamping it as the first candidate to break out of the second tier of new series and be a keeper. But there are three shows that rank far, far above the pack in terms of expectations and Run with the Wind is the first to make its entrance. So truthfully, this is when things start getting serious.
Any time a season looks as weak as this one does, that really ramps up the pressure on one of those top tier series – and intensifies the pain if things don’t work out (as was the case this past season). I pretty much know what to expect from Golden Kamuy’s second season – it’s basically a split cour – and after Ushio and Tora, Karakuri Circus shouldn’t provide many shocks (especially with the major staff of Ushio carrying over). But Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is more of a mystery, though it does have some known names among the staff. And of course, the author of the novel it was based on, Miura Shion, is now a familiar name to anime fans.
Miura-sensei of course was the author of Fune wo Amu, on which the excellent series that sparked a modest if intermittent rebound for NoitaminA was based. Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is produced at Production I.G.. They deserve credit for consistently spending some of the capital from their commercial shows on more literary stuff like Miura’s works (23 episodes in this case, for heaven’s sake), and their general aesthetic – cerebral, introspective, visually elegant – is well-suited for it. And as you’d expect, Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru looks great – virtually 100% hand-drawn, excellent and distinct character designs, rich background details. This is right in I.G,’s wheelhouse, that’s for certain.
It’s interesting that the studio seems to have ported over virtually no key staff from Fune wo Amu, despite the fact that less than two years separate two adaptations of the same author. Directing is Nomura Kazuya, who’s a long-standing I.G. veteran with a good if not great track record as a director. Scripts, interestingly, are handled by Kiyasu Kouhei – quite well-known as a seiyuu and actor but new to writing for anime. He has written for several TV shows and films, and that fits – thematically this series could easily be a live-action series. The other notable staff name is Hayashi Yuki, a major figure in anime music composition whose efforts make a distinctly positive impact on the premiere (and character designer Takahiro Chiba was chief animation director for Haikyuu!!, a show which saw I.G. raise the bar for anime depiction of athletics).
After all that, then, how is the episode? In a word (or maybe it counts as two, I don’t know) – on-point. Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru delivered the premiere I expected, and that’s a good thing. The build is relatively slow here, though we are introduced to a veritable army of characters (there are big names among the cast, but I’m not going to laboriously list them all now). The anime makes the interesting choice of doing a bit of time-hopping in the premiere – maybe the novel does too – and it works to good effect. The two main names to remember for now are Kiyose Haiji (Toyonaga Toshiyuki) and Kurahara Kakeru (Ootsuka Takeo). While there are ten prominent characters in the story, these two are the ones around whom it will seemingly pivot.
The theme around which Fune wo Amu was built was language, and with Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru it’s running. But Miura seems largely interested in obsession – the drive to complete a task at any cost. That certainly seems to apply to Haiji, who’s determined to field a team (10 seems to be the required number) to complete the Ekiden, an ultra-marathon from Tokyo to Hakone. He’s already got nine men in his apartment house at Kansei University – he finds his tenth in Kakeru, who he spots on the run from a convenience store clerk after shoplifting some bread. Haiji clearly knows good form when he sees it, and it’s obvious that Kakeru has running experience – to the point where his name may even be a famous one in the sport. I quite liked the fact that Haiji made Kakeru apologize to the clerk before taking him back to the apartment – it’s a nice touch of realism and a hint as to Haiji’s character.
That apartment house, Chikusei-sou, is actually the dorm for the Kansei track & field club – though none of the guys living there knew that before Kakeru arrived. It’s an eclectic and interesting bunch of oddballs (including a transfer student from Tanzania), but Haiji has clearly recruited them for a reason. That’s interesting as some of them seem not at all athletic, and one has been there longer than Haiji has. A motivating factor for Haiji seems to be a major injury he suffered in high school, from which he still carries the scar (the intricate depiction of Haiji’s tan is a great display of attention to detail).
As I said, this is a bit of a slow builder, but I’m fully on-board already. It’s a two-cour series that would certainly be classified as seinen if it came from a manga – it’s not going to be in any hurry, and that’s fine with me. College is a tragically underrepresented setting in anime, and I hope Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru ends up as the antithesis to Grand Blue, a truly brain-dead and demeaning depiction of college life. There’s plenty of drinking and minor debauchery in this episode – this are college guys, after all – but anime is crying out for a smart, ambitious take on college life and the strange psychology of the long-distance runner both. With the pedigree behind it I’m pretty confident this is a series that can provide it, and nothing I saw in this excellent premiere changed that.
ED: 「リセット」 (Reset) by (Taichi Mukai )