There are very few anime that know exactly how many episodes they need to tell a story. That makes for dry middle stretches, rushed openings, dragged out sequences, non-endings, rushed endings, or series that just kind of limp along until they fall over in the final episode. Run With The Wind has happily ignored that trend and managed to tell a story about a team of ten characters and only in minor parts felt like it was belabouring a point rather than moving along at the needed pace to keep things from getting too dry.
While I’ll look more at the overall pacing and tone of the series in my full series review, a review I am very excited to write, I will just note here that 23 episodes is exactly what this story needed and it used its time wisely. While there were the occasional segments or sub-plots that were either a little stretched out or characters that didn’t quite get the focus they needed, considering the vat cast, this anime managed to accomplish a lot and maintained excellent quality of presentation while it did it.
But none of that reviews this specific episode which gives us everything we’ve come to love from Run With The Wind as well as absolute closure on the boys journey to run in Hakone and what happens next for the team. The final leg of the journey is run by Haiji and it is right that he brings the race to a close for the team given he’s the driving force behind it.
However, that doesn’t take anything away from Kakeru’s amazing achievement in this episode. As the second last runner of the team he caught up an enormous amount of time and even broke the section record that had literally only just been broken. For Kakeru’s personal journey to find a reason to run and to enjoy running again it was such a great moment.
And great moments were to be found in abundance as we had the team cheering as Haiji finished. Finding out the outcome of the race and were they ended up overall. Seeing the team coming back together and a montage of what they went on with after the race. Seriously, the episode does everything it needs to do before quietly, and beautifully, coming to an end.
There isn’t much more I could have asked for in this final episode and I’m very please to say that I’m glad I gave Run With The Wind a go. I’m not huge on sports anime, a team of ten seemed a little excessive in terms of trying to characterise, and watching characters run seemed less than thrilling as a prospect when this first started. How wrong I was and I am very happily proven wrong.
I was surprised that nearly half of this episode of Run With The Wind ended up being devoted to King and flash backs of King entering the house. Other than his job hunt, King hasn’t had much characterisation within the story and is one of the characters that I didn’t think had a lot to offer.
To a point that is true with little being really revealed. On the other hand, this is kind of a good reflective moment for the audience seeing King accepting his failures and himself while he runs, doing something for the first time really since entering college and doing it with a team of people who are depending on him. it is also a nice calm moment before the sash gets handed over to Kakeru.
Sorry to say to King, but he was a character that was destined to be fairly forgettable out of the group of ten, and it would have been really cruel to have Shindo’s arc and moment directly followed by Kakeru because no matter how great the moment that came before it, Kakeru’s leg of the race was always going to overshadow the bit that came before it. So King played his role well, and that ten minutes didn’t feel dragged or wasted, but it did make the start of Kakeru’s leg even more exciting because of the build up to it. Haiji’s comment on the phone to Kakeru that he was already the best runner was just kind of perfect and to be honest set up some big expectations for the next leg.
And Run With The Wind delivered. Kakeru running has always been kind of compelling to watch, and I don’t even like running. This is always achieved through some visual gimmicks that have been used just enough that it isn’t bizarre when they start occurring in this race, but not often enough to overpower the fairly realistic tone the anime has gone for in most other elements. I really liked the visual effect where it was like Kakeru shed a layer of ice or snow from around his body.
However, more impressive than Kakeru just running is the improved mental state we find this character in. Finally he’s running for the sheer love of it and has found a team he wants to run with. He wants to push himself to go further and faster. While I’m not convinced there won’t be a hiccup at the start of the next episode, this start to Kakeru’s run was truly impressive and everything you could kind of have asked for given the journey so far.
Run With The Wind remains an incredibly impressive anime in how it has put itself together and how it seems to understand its pacing and characters so well and seems to make the best choices for putting them on display.
We caught a little of Haiji’s backstory at the start of this episode of Run With The Wind. They kept it short but gave us enough detail. Part of me wished they had taken a similar approach with Kakeru but that shipped sailed already. It is interesting to note how much I disliked Haiji early on. While I can’t say I approve of him coercing his teammates into joining him to achieve his vision, I must admit Run With The Wind has done an excellent job of giving him motive for acting that way so while I still dislike the action I just can’t bring myself to still dislike Haiji.
We also get a small newspaper scandal this episode dealing with Kakeru’s past. This leads to a fairly angry phone conversation as well as the actual running coach having to do some coach like work to smooth things over. It isn’t a big focus but is rather one of a number of events peppering this episode in the lead up to the race.
There was also a marathon practice in there where we established that the twins and Haiji were kind of making up.
We also celebrate Christamas and New Years with the team through a montage before we finally move to the morning of the race. However, even then, we flash back to Haiji telling the runners where they will be and what leg of the race they are taking.
It almost seems like this episode was frantically packing everything in before beginning the race (though given we’re at episode 18 and there are meant to be 23 episodes I wonder how many episodes of running we’re about to watch). Yet this episode never felt rushed and none of these events felt undervalued. It was the natural culmination of what had come before and the feeling of things moving faster as we got closer to the race itself was really well portrayed by this episode and how they chose to convey these events.
Of course, they can’t just let us enjoy the triumph of finally getting to Hakone. No, Shindo seems to have woken up with the dreaded cold but it looks like he’s determined to get to the race. I can’t imagine the team not finishing the race. At this point I’d suggest that they either finish it despite Shindo’s cold and Haiji’s leg, or it will be Haiji who doesn’t make it to the end rather than the race stopping midway along because one of them doesn’t turn up. Still, they might surprise us.
All and all, this has been a nice dramatic build up and now I’m ready to see this team in action.
We knew last week that the twins, Joji and Jota, were starting to wonder what their goal was and fortunately Run With The Wind isn’t interesting in dragging out any other drama unnecessarily (Kakeru’s story went on long enough). This week we see that come to a head and while the answers aren’t clear what is clear is that each member of this team is looking within to find their own reason to run and be a part of the team.
That doesn’t mean it is all smooth sailing with the twins acting particularly childishly leading to some discord within the group. Kakeru is particularly affected feeling guilty for not answering the twins after the qualifier about why they were running as he feels this is what has set them off. Still, that also leads to some fairly funny moments including Kakeru chasing down the twins when they ditch a road trip to view the course to go play soccer. The reaction of the other team members at the idea of outrunning Kakeru is pretty amusing.
Really this is the audience’s first view of the course they are going to run and while we move from site to site fairly quickly it looks like a mammoth ask for the team to complete the track, let alone actually get any kind of position. I was honestly blown away by the scale of this undertaking and I really do get why Kakeru said the entire thing was impossible way back in the beginning after seeing that.
Of course, it isn’t all team mates and finding reasons. The episode ends on Haiji back at the doctors and I wonder just when we’ll be let in on what has happened to him in the past, what has driven him to run, and whether this race is going to do some serious harm to him. I don’t think that would make him back down but I’m curious as to his story in all of this. Despite having a lot of screen time, Haiji is very good at revealing information about others while playing his own cards incredibly close to his chest.
As usual, this was visually a feast, the characterisation was on point, and this show just continues to be a delight to watch. It doesn’t demand much from its audience with its straight forward plot, but it does manage consistent entertainment.
This is it, the qualifier. The team will either make it to the next level or their dream will end right here. There’s plenty of drama to be had in an episode that shows off many of this anime’s excellent qualities. After last week of Run With The Wind made me realise just how much I cared whether they advanced or not, this episode made me realise that there’s been a lot of thought and craft put into this anime.
I kind of knew that already having previously commented on the visuals and the use of sound in this anime as well as how well realised such a large cast became. However, this episode brought all of its best elements together and delivered a suspenseful and dramatic episode that was still incredibly fun to watch. Basically, it invited us into the role of the spectators and made us love every minute of it (which given I probably would hate watching a real foot race is kind of surprising just how much fun they made this). Yet underpinning all that enjoyment of seeing characters putting all their training into practice, there was this knot in my stomach hoping Haiji would make it to the end and hoping that Prince managed to make a reasonable time.
While the outcome is certainly predictable, it doesn’t matter. They still manage to build up the drama beautifully in this episode and couple that with great use of sound and some great visuals throughout the race. The perspective switching from the different runners to the news crews to the fan club watching on the side lines keeps things from becoming stale and before you know it the episode is coming to an end.
Of course, they couldn’t just let us end on a high note. The twins have to raise a fairly pointed question right before the credits and clearly that is travelling over into the next episode. It makes sense that having accomplished one of the major goals that it would be time to reflect on what you are doing and why but the anime could have let us enjoy the moment for just a little bit longer before dropping the tone like that. It works from a dramatic point of view but it was a little bit a of a buzz kill to my mood.
I am very rarely invested in sports anime and in the notion of who wins an event or not. Emotionally I just don’t think it matters though the characters certainly give it their all and try hard to carry me on their journey. Yuri managed it in Yuri on Ice because victory, while certainly a goal, wasn’t what really carried the story. It was more his personal success at finding his confidence on the ice and being able to skate the way he wanted to skate without nerves sabotaging him. That I found to be a truly triumphant journey.
So as I watched the ten boys line up at the start of the qualifier here I had to wonder why I was tense and holding my breath as the count down started? Why every drop of rain made me worry for falls and injuries that might doom their attempt? Why did I even care and when did that start?
For an episode that mostly sat in a holding patter with Haiji reviewing training schedules and fretting that he hadn’t pushed hard enough, and the majority of the boys getting excited over minor achievements and some publicity, it was almost as if Run With The Wind itself was holding its breath and waiting for the moment to release it. We’re reminded once again that none of these boys outside of Haiji and Kakeru are runners and yet what they’ve already accomplished just by being able to participate in the qualifier is astounding (and a little far-fetched in the case of Prince but that personal triumph was television gold and I won’t let reality mess with that).
I can’t remember half their names and individually each character isn’t exactly compelling. But, much like the theme the anime has been hitting us over the head with for some time, these characters aren’t individuals. They are a team. And the team, collectively is a fascinatingly odd bunch of boys that compensate for the weaknesses of the others and collectively they’ve overcome so much. It would feel somewhat cheap for their journey to end here and the thing is, I don’t think it matters if we ever get to the real race. Just having this team ultimately being able to compete in it would be the triumphant finish I need for this story.
So whether or not I want to admit it, I do care. Haiji, the most arrogant manipulator on the planet as I once called him, has persisted and worked hard and brought the team together even if sometimes through under-handed means, but has cared deeply for each individual he dragged into his dream and all of them have gained from the experience.
As the episode drew to a close my heart nearly stopped at the cliff-hanger and while I know exactly what the show is doing and I don’t much like emotional manipulation part of me wants to shake the monitor and scream ‘why’ at it as the closing credits play. Maybe the problem is, I started caring a little too much.
In typical fashion the training camp has come to an end but not without another gag as Haiji tries to inspire the team by showing them an edited video of the relay, seeing some more montages of the boys training in the summer, firework hijinx and finally a shot of the team standing side by side and staring off into the horizon.
It’s all very functional and necessary though nothing particularly unexpected at this juncture and little risk taken visually or with the sound which is a bit of a shame given how some moments in this series have really taken off because of how they’ve been presented. There’s nothing wrong with this sequence but it also feels like we’ve seen all this before and so ultimately it serves its narrative purpose but is forgettable as we transition into the final races leading up to the qualifying one.
We see the last team members getting their official times until only Prince is left. He marks off the calendar and we can see he has only one chance left before the qualifier and if he can’t get a time they can’t even try to qualify. It’s one of those forced tension moments that sports anime do so well, but here the thirteen episodes of build-up and Prince’s growth as a runner kind of warrant this sort of attention and so it is actually reasonably satisfying.
By the same token, there’s little doubt what the outcome will be and while Run With The Wind takes another opportunity to drive home its teamwork and supporting each other mentality with sweet and charming results, there’s not a lot of suspense. The joy here is in knowing the outcome and feeling the characters have earned it.
Looking forward to next episode which I assume will be the qualifier. Unless the anime wants to throw another road block in the way first just to up the emotional stakes. I’m hoping not.