「選ばれざる者たち」 (Eraba Rezaru Mono-tachi)
“Those Who Are Not Chosen”
If Golden Kamuy is the best series (and funniest, ironically) of Fall 2018, and SSSS.Gridman the most surprising, then Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is certainly the most vexing. For me, anyway. I walk in the door with mixed feelings before the episodes even start, and by the end of them I’m so conflicted I don’t know what to think. This week’s was certainly no different, but there are indications that the fundamental dynamic is changing in important ways. And while that may or may not alleviate my problems with this series, it will always surely clarify things substantially.
Here’s where I think we are, more or less. I still have a major bone to pick with Haiji, who as far as I’m concerned is a bully and a con man being presented as a hero. The latest twist of lime squirted in the eye is this whole nonsense about running being for the “chosen” – presenting Haiji as some kind of noble egalitarian trying to prove that the everyman can compete just as well as trained athletes. I had to pause the playback while I threw up a little at that one, but there’s nothing too complicated about this to me – Kakeru is absolutely right, this is a sport. The way Haiji wants to approach it, anyway. Where Haiji is right is that it’s probably better to let these noobs get humiliated in a real competition sooner rather than later, just so they can get a sense of how large the gap is they have to contend with.
That change in dynamic comes through the courtesy of two characters, one of them of course being Prince. We’ve already seen that despite his frail body and self-deprecating T-shirt collection, he has a breaking point and when pushed past it, he’ll snap like a cornered tanuki. Well, I think he’s being pushed past it. Morning runs are now joined by evening runs, growing increasingly arduous. Orders are giving about buying new clothes, quitting part-time jobs, suspending one’s life altogether to solely dedicate it to the pursuit of a dream. Haiji’s dream, of course.
Prince, at least, is not going to accept that without a fight – in his case, one based on idealism and personal misery. For Sakaguchi Youhei, heretofore “King” (Kitazawa Riki) the stakes are even higher. He’s one of those side characters who slides into the spotlight this week (another, Shindo, is in full lap dog mode), and he’s graduating – which means he has the rest of his life to consider. He needs to attend his seminars and his job events and dedicate himself to finding work in order to support himself. As such, he excuses himself from Haiji’s ramped-up regimen. And for now, at least, the latter makes no attempt to stop him.
I know individual perspectives vary, and I’ve certainly seen that in reactions to this show (specifically Haiji). To me it seems patently obvious that Haiji has no right to take over every aspect of these young men’s lives – to tell them whether or not they can work, to order them to ditch the classes they (their parents) are paying for, how to eat and sleep (and eventually shit and (not) fuck, one assumes). King is not in a position to accept Haiji’s demands, for very practical reasons. In other words, something has to give. And the lingering question over what the author thinks of Haiji’s actions can no longer be ignored.
I’m happy, at least, that this is going to be confronted, but I’m certainly concerned about what the result will be. I think King asks Haiji exactly the right question – is he going to take responsibility for the lives he’s upending? In a sane world Haiji will get (verbally, at least) slapped around over this and emerge chastised. Things will go forward, but on different terms. But is “Kaze ga Tsuyoku” a sane world? I’m not so sure – this could all be spun as King and Prince being the last two to be force-fed the error of their ways and accept the way of Haiji as their guiding light. I suppose it’s possible we’ll get nothing like either of those possibilities and the denial will just cruise onward, but I frankly can’t see a path to that. And that means, at least, that I’m going to know where I stand with this show one way or the other. For that much I’m grateful.