「消えない影」 (Kienai Kage)
“A Shadow That Does Not Disappear”
The notion of consequence has been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t know how anyone could watch unfolding events in the United States and not feel that way – what we’re seeing in public life right now is a new reality, where actions and words seem to have no consequences whatsoever. What would once shock and outrage is now met with shrugs, and the most transparent of lies and misstatements are dismissed by the free press as par for the course. When the truth has been devalued to the point where it loses all meaning, the path ahead is a dark one indeed.
All of that is obviously way, way more important that anything happening in any anime. But anime is the main premise of this site, and watching Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru brings all this to the fore for me. My gold standard for outrage where anime consequence is concerned is Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, the series where in the words of my fellow RC blogger Samu at the time, “Everyone except the MC is a total shit and I hate them”. That could be a problem in itself, but the main problem was that the author was squarely in the camp of the total shits. Then we have Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul, where the laughable redemption of a genocidal sociopath was treated as a natural development. The fact that SSSS.Gridman also has a character who reeks of future redemption they don’t deserve is a sobering cautionary note when getting too excited about that show’s strong start.
All that is a roundabout way of saying that for all it’s doing right, the fact that Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru seems to have no idea that its co-lead has been a total shit for the first four episodes is pissing me off. Call it scar tissue or whatever you like, but we don’t watch anime in a vacuum – our perception is a composite of our prior experiences. I don’t mind that Haiji has been a total shit – there are plenty of other characters here I like. What I mind is that Kaze ga Tsuyoku (and this is surprising, given that this is the author of the very smart Fune wo Amu) doesn’t think Haiji has been a total shit.
After this episode, I’ve pretty much given up on there being any consequences for Haiji, because Miura-sensei has laid her cards on the table. Haiji is the good guy, selflessly dragging his slacker and self-hating housemates out of the darkness and into the light, and the real bad guys are stiffs like Kakeru’s old track teammate Sakaki Kousuke (Kawanishi Kengo). All the kumbaya stuff this week pretty much put the nail in the coffin on this situation changing (one can’t even call it a redemption, since in Miura’s eyes Haiji’s done nothing he needs to be redeemed for), so at this point my choices are to like it or lump it – accept it and move on or call it a deal-breaker and move out.
The truth is, I really don’t want to do the latter, for any number of reasons. The most obvious is that this is a good series apart from this glaring problem, and it’s also a two-cour one with plenty of time to make me forget about all this. I think with the rest of the reluctant runners pretty much falling in line, Haiji in jerk mode is probably going into hibernation (it already started this week, in fact) and the series proper is going to more focused on the actual effort to qualify for the Ekiden. And in truth, Haiji hasn’t done anything nearly on the level of Charioce or even the total shits of Shigatsu – he’s just an asshole. And we all know plenty of those, if we’re honest.
Still, for all that, the more this series focuses on the likes of Kakeru and the other housemates the happier I’ll be, because I like them a lot more than Haiji. Kakaeru and Sakaki’s backstory filled in a lot of blanks in the past, and Kakeru remains the character (so far) with the closest thing to a real arc. And I quite like most of the supporting cast, especially Ouji and Hirata-sempai. It would also be nice to see Musa get some development as more than comic relief, because there’s a ton of potential in his storyline – he’s going to face a lot of bias about his supposed “unfair advantages” if he decides to compete seriously in collegiate athletics.
The other factor that’s probably going to be most critical in determining whether Kaze ga Tsuyoku succeeds as a story is going to be the depiction of the Kansei miracle – how is this ragtag bunch of misfits going to achieve the seemingly impossible? I’m less worried about this one given Miura’s work in her follow-up Fune wo Amu – she doesn’t seem to be an author who glosses over the dirty work or portrays monumentally difficult tasks as remotely easy. As that theme continues to be on the ascendancy (presumably) in coming episodes, this series should start to really take off along with it.