「花、一輪」 (Hana, Ichirin)
“Flower, One Wheel”

We’re three episodes in, and I can honestly say I only have one real problem with Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru. And I’m not even sure it’s an actual problem or, if it is, what kind of problem it is. That is to say, Haiji. Frankly, I just don’t like the guy. I’ve never liked guys like him either in real life or on the screen – the ones who think other people’s lives are theirs to play with. And convince themselves that their own goals are noble and thus, it’s noble to exploit and manipulate others in order to achieve them.

Am I being presumptive here? No doubt – we’re only two episodes into this series. But I’ve known a few Haijis in my day, and you can spot them a mile (or let’s say 5 KM) away. The thing is, I’m not exactly sure what Miura Shion (the author of the novel) wants me to think about Haiji. Maybe I’m not supposed to like him – maybe I’m reacting exactly as I should be. Maybe I’m supposed to find him charming and funny (no to the former, sort of to the latter) and be swept up in his dedication to the cause (nope, not yet). I guess the answer to that, at least, will become clear over the next few episodes.

That’s definitely a difference between this series and Fune wo Amu, likewise a story about obsessions and those who pursue them. I never resisted getting swept up with those people – maybe in part because their cause connected with me more viscerally, but also because I didn’t find their methods so distasteful. What Kaze ga Tsuyoku is communicating effectively is just how badly Haiji wants this – that he’s desperate to succeed and willing to go to any length to do so is clear. I’m just not convinced yet that I should by sympathetic.

Kakeru, on the other hand, has an arc I’m finding more relatable – even if he’s hardly been Mr. Congeniality himself. Stealing the bread was bad, yes – and kudos to Haiji for handling that situation the right way. But Kakeru is somebody who’s clearly dealing with a lot of personal pain, and he’s not trying to drag anyone into his problems. That’s probably not healthy for him, and ironically for all Haiji’s douchebaggery Kakeru is someone he probably is helping by forcing him to connect with the world. But I’ve been where Kakeru is right here – not as regards running, but in life generally. And it’s not an easy place to be.

The latest twist in Haiji’s chicanery is getting the vegetable seller’s daughter Hanako (Kimura Juri) to act as a lure to motivate the guys to run. I won’t overstate the case by comparing what he’s doing here to prostitution, but it is fundamentally disrespectful to her and frankly kind of gross. In other words par for the course for what we’ve seen of Haiji so far, and – also par – pretty effective. Certainly on the twins anyway, but then even if you pooled their intellects I doubt they’d be bright enough to illuminate a phone booth.

As for the others, Prince continues to struggle badly – to the point where I have doubts whether it’s safe to even force him to run 10 KM at this point (though “run” would be overstating the case). The lawyer-to-be Iwakura Yukihiro (Okitsu Kazuyuki) is the first to stand up for himself – going out clubbing at night and blowing off the morning run. But Haiji basically threatens to destroy his social life if Iwakura doesn’t play along, and that more or less breaks his resistance. Musa continues to deal with casual racism from the others, but at least Miura is pointing it out (through him) – I hope someone else in the cast acknowledges it too at some point.

The crux of all this is that the Ekiden remains a ridiculously difficult hurdle for these noobs to overcome. The race may be 10 months away but even to enter they must pass a qualifier where only the top 20% survive, and to do that each of them must be able to clock a 16:30 5K or 30:00 10K – which, for the record, is damn hard. So it’s not enough for just Haiji and Kakeru to be fast – and now some ugliness from Kakeru’s past seems to have reached out to jab at him again, leaving his own state of mind even more in doubt. I guess, in that context, maybe Haiji’s extreme methods do make more sense – desperate times call for desperate measures, and the task he’s set for himself is full-on desperate…




  1. I guess personal experience is the lens through which we see the world. While I do not like extremely pushy people like Haiji, I did find this episode quite funny. Yes, he IS being a douche, but for some reason, I can’t overly fault him for it. I can appreciate that he really isn’t to your taste, though. Some people just rub you the wrong way and there’s nothing to “fix” it.

    A detail that has stood out about this show so far: The respectful use of a Black character. Too often, anime uses a one-tone not-so-great caricature for African/African-American characters, where we are either portrayed as rappers (yo-yo-yo), exotic (in a fetishist way, for female characters), or brutal. I have thoroughly enjoyed that Masa is not only fluently speaks Japanese AND fully integrated into the house/culture (to avoid all the silliness of language barriers and gaijin shenanigans), but also very vocally expresses his dislike for being stereotyped whenever he has the chance. Sure, I found it VERY strange that his 1st scene in the 1st episode was a naked-bathroom one (not sure where Japanese folks got the idea that Black folks generally are cool being introduced to a stranger naked, but hey…), otherwise, I really look forward to seeing this little side character grow. my 2 cents.

    What prompted me to comment, Guardian Enzo, was actually your comment about his “use” of the vegetable seller’s daughter Hanako. It is not disrespect of her person if she is fully informed, which she seemed to be when he thanked her for helping, after. And prostitution is waaaay to strong of a word for the circumstance. I mean, let’s go all the way back to when flight attendants had to be slim, white and pretty. Would we really call that prostitution? Or that waitresses are typically made to wear short uniforms or body-hugging dresses? To me, it reeks of sexism & chauvinism, but prostitution might be pushing the envelope too far.

    1. Well, to your last point, that’s why I said I wouldn’t use the word prostitution. But it is sexist and creepy, whether Hanako agreed to it or not. Haiji’s using a 16 year-old girl as eye candy to manipulate a bunch of college guys to do his bidding, Yuck.

      As to the Musa situation, I’m leaning towards agreeing with you that this is a positive characterzization, but not totally sold. I’d really like to see some kind of acknowledgement from someone besides him that the cracks the others are making are not cool. This kind of casual racism is endemic in Japan, and too many theoretically forward-thinking people seem to see nothing wrong in it.

  2. I wondered exactly the same as you Enzo. Are we supposed to like him or not? I’m really trying to see him as just cheerful guy, full of passion and ambition, but he is doing it wrong way. I thought that it making them join forcefully will just for laugh at first and in the end he will somehow help them discover quickly how enjoyable it is or something, but destroying someone social life? Not cool man. I’m still seeing Haiji neutrally, yet I hope there is more in him, otherwise it would be kind of waste of MC (since he kind of is). Can’t wait for next episode, I hope they wont tease us with appearance of this red haired character and leave his and Kakeru’s past as mystery until mid of series that is more than 10 weeks away…

    1. I’m pretty much with you on this. Haiji is interesting, but the shit he pulls on the others is pretty inexcusable. I think it’s really key to get some idea of just how the author views Haiji, because that really does matter a lot. The last straw for me with Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (which had plenty of other stuff that drove me batty, believe me) was when it became clear that the mangaka was totally on-board with the horrible way the protagonist was treated by his “friends”.

  3. I agree that whatever the writing endorses Haiji’s behaviour or condemns it will make or break the show. Passion alone isn’t going to explain what he is doing, let’s alone justify it. We can only hope it will bite him in the butt when some guy gets really fed up (Prince and Lawyer are good candidates) and he is forced to apologize.

  4. I am liking Haiji a lot because I trust that the show won’t be trying to pass his extreme methods as a good thing, such as in shigatsu wa kimi no uso (interesting how Enzo mentioned it, every time I see characters like this it also immediately brings shigatsu to mind as well, ever since ep 1), which annoyed me to no end despite the overall positive results it led to. I would be disappointed if this show ended up glorifying his actions similarly, but to me it’s still within the boundaries of acceptableness now, and it’s played for humour and also met with extreme disapproval from the rest of the cast (this is the most important part to me) rather than having the other characters go “wow Haiji’s an amazing ray of hope in the darkness!!” I can see how people wouldn’t like him though.

    I also don’t think it’s disrespectful to the girl at all. Mainly because as someone said above, she’s totally okay with it. Sure maybe the fact that she’s a cute girl added to the motivation of the runners, but what Haiji said about it being important to have an audience is more important in my opinion.

    Previously it was 1 manipulative Haiji who was forcing them to do stuff + 1 bunch of unwilling guys who kept turning to each other going: ‘seriously why are we doing this again?!’ leading to a lot of doubt and shared unhappiness in the group. But with the addition of someone who’s a supportive outsider I can see how things would work a lot better. Evidently they all think Haiji is crazy and would never truly buy into his crazy dream since he’s the only one really into it and the rest of them are tagalongs, but with the addition of someone normal-ish supporting them makes it feel much more proper/less stupid and they would now feel less like they’re just being led into Haiji’s impossible schemes.

  5. I think that Haiji is funny because is a fictional character … I like characters like Natori from Natsume or Ayame from Fruits Basket who are not totally good or bad.

    I have high doubts about the Prince’s health …

    I’m very intrigued about Kakeru’s trauma.


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