Blowing Past Your Limits

Run With The Wind Episode Review Title

Run With The Wind Episode 20 Review

I seldom throw the word ‘perfect’ around when describing an anime. Or even a particular episode of an anime. Mostly because there’s usually something that could be improved. And that is true here as well with episode 20 of Run With The Wind. Jota’s opening part of this episode was quite weak, as is his character in general, and yet… when thinking back on the episode as a whole… Perfect.

Run With The Wind Episode 20

Anime has given us the new face of determination. Of never giving up or surrendering. And it isn’t some shouty shounen protagonist or overpowered fighter who will win the day regardless of how many buckets of blood they just left all over the ground before they picked up their sword again.

No, the face of determination, the most inspiring character I’ve come across since Winter last year when Hina and Rei blew me away with their character arcs in March Comes in Like a Lion, is Shindo from Run With The Wind. A quiet achiever and support character who isn’t the best at the sport, but was one of the first to decide to give it a go and try. One of the hardest workers at collecting support for the team and keeping the website going. Someone who has quietly supported each and every member of the team at one point or another.

Run With The Wind Episode 20
Given the opportunity to quit – no one would blame him – but he isn’t going to stop.

A character who despite having a fever ran twenty kilometres up a mountain range and never gave up. He lost ground and time, was over taken, nearly collapsed on more than one occasion (and I think he did collapse at one point) and yet he had made a commitment to his team mates so for him giving up was not an option.

Run With The Wind Episode 20
Remember this face. He is perfect.

Shindo, your moment was absolutely perfect in every way. This episode reduced me to tears. Not a single tear or just glassy eyed, but full on sobs. While the episode itself won’t do it, watching the series to this point and realising the character journey to get here and then seeing that strength come shining through, it just hit me so hard.

Yeah, Run With The Wind is definitely going to be my anime of the season.

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Tsurune Series Review

Tsurune Episode 8 Minato

Overcoming challenges together; Tsurune takes on the emotional scars of its cast and shines.

There’s something just a little bit special about this latest sports anime from Kyoto Animation. The studio is known for being good at handling solid emotionally driven stories with the likes of Clannad on its line up and its also dipped its toes into boys doing sports before with the fan-service laden Free. That perhaps set the bar very high for Tsurune in some viewers’ minds and I do recall seeing a lot of first impressions that went along the lines of ‘as expected from Kyo-Ani’ or ‘nothing special compared to…’.

Tsurune Episode 2 Minato and Who

However, that seemed a little harsh given is something is done well it is done well even if another anime made by the same studio perhaps surpassed it or the studio has done something comparable before. While I’m not going to make the case that Tsurune is some sort of hidden master piece, I will put forward strongly that Tsurune is well worth the watch for those who like getting invested in emotionally driven stories with the back-drop of a sports tournament to keep the plot on track and to ensure that we have an ongoing sense of direction.

Tsurune Episode 1

Tsurune is beautiful. There’s no denying that fact and while I’m certain we could screen cap some less favourable moments, almost every scene is beautifully composed and the use of colour, light and movement are purposeful and interesting. The choice for the majority of Masaki’s scenes early on to be bathed in blue tones (a colour scheme we return to at the end) was very well done and played nicely into a narrative twist in the early episodes. The portrayal of wind and movement as the arrows flew was gorgeous and was taken to its extreme during the final where each shot set a flurry of sparkling leaves flying (okay, they may have taken some liberties with reality but it looks great). And each of the characters, yes the heavily male dominated cast, look fantastic.

The music and sound design also deserve a special mention as these are truly used to enhance each and every scene. While it might seem to some too calculated or artificial, I found it absolutely complemented the visuals and the narrative and particularly during competitions I found myself waiting for the sound of the arrow being released, the wind, and then the impact as the arrow either hit or missed its target. It was very affective and adding greatly to the overall enjoyment while watching.

On the surface we have a basic story of a character who used to be good at archery who quit after developing target panic (essentially couldn’t hold his draw and released the arrow too soon throwing off his aim). His friend who followed him to high school wants him to get back into the sport as does a childhood friend who has reunited with them. After some resistance, Minato does decide to get back into archery and works to overcome his target panic.

Tsurune Episode 8 - Minato

That story alone could have worked beautifully and yet while that is the frame for the story, Tsurune explores so much more. With five boys coming together (the group of three friends and another two characters), there are plenty of personal conflicts and emotions to deal with as they try to form a team and overcome their own short comings. Where Tsurune surprised me was how well in dealt with Seiya’s story as I had thought he was more of a support character but ultimately he had an incredible arc. The coach, Masaki, also had plenty of solid development and was portrayed as a real character rather than a token adult figure. Even the characters at the rival school began to be expanded upon toward the end and while their arcs seem cut off in the middle it created the feeling that this story and these characters were more real.

Tsurune Episode 11 Masaki

However, at only thirteen episodes and with so many characters not everyone can have their story told. Nanao, despite having some excellent supporting moments, is still largely a mystery as was Ryouhei, despite his childhood friend status. The three girls who were also in the club had a couple of excellent scenes but were largely ignored by the narrative getting to stand on the sides of scenes and really just got used by the plot when needed rather than being fleshed out in their own right. These are small complaints and without more episodes it would be difficult to address these issues, but given the excellent progress so many other characters made it just feels like a shame that others were almost benched.

Tsurune Episode 7

From a plot point of view this is about as standard as it comes as the team overcomes personal conflicts, struggles to qualify and then slowly comes together toward the end of the series. That doesn’t make it less satisfying to watch but if you are after something unpredictable or something that throws in a few unexpected twists and turns Tsurune probably won’t do it for you.

Tsurune focuses instead on maintaining its pace and tone. The focus remains on the characters and their growth. The competitions are the setting which allows that growth to happen and provides complications and set backs, but the story never forgets what its core is.

Tsurune Episode 2

While this isn’t the single most spectacular anime I’ve ever seen, it was an absolute delight to watch each week bringing a bit of calm bliss as I watched the next episode. I grew to care deeply for these characters and loved seeing them rise up and overcoming challenges. All and all, I would recommend giving it a go. While it may not work for you, and if slow pace isn’t your thing it probably won’t, there are certainly worse anime you could try than Tsurune.

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Karandi James

May The Wind Be At Their Backs

Run With The Wind Episode Review Title

Run With The Wind Episode 18 Review

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 18 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.

Run With The Wind Episode 18 Kakeru - Scandal

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 18 Yuki

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.

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The Moment Of Truth From All That Training

Run With The Wind Episode Review Title

Run With The Wind Episode 16 Review

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 16

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 16 Prince

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 16 The Team

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.

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How Did They Make Me Start Caring?

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Run With The Wind Episode 15 Review

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?

Run With The Wind Episode 15 Haiji and Kakeru

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).

Run With The Wind Episode 15 Team in Paper

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 15

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.

Facing Forward Is Easier When You Know Someone Has Your Back

Run With The Wind Episode Review Title

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Review

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Fireworks

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Prince
And Prince still gets the absolute best lines.

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Prince

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.

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The Final Draw of The Match But Not The End

Tsurune Episode Reviews

Tsurune Episode 13 Review

If I was to have one complaint about this final episode of Tsurune, other than the fact that my weekly bliss and chill session has finished, it would be that this final episode seemed so incredibly dense with character moments. For something with such a languid pace and calm nature, there was so much to walk away from in this final episode and yet nothing felt rushed or forced but it makes processing the episode complicated.

Tsurune Episode 13 Minato and Shu draw the final arrow.

It isn’t just Minato or Shu who have their moment, we have the twins finally getting some development outside of being twerps as one of them begins to buckle under pressure and we with have a continuation of the Seiya and Shu conversation from earlier in the season where we see clearly the impact of Seiya’s growth. There’s the general team dynamic including how each of the boys deals with the pressure of the finals, and there’s the support from the girls. Tommy Sensei reflects on his role as their teacher and in making Minato shoot during the briefing to Masaki paralleling Masaki’s earlier worries that he’d made a mistake with Seiya. And lastly the anime comes back to Minato and Masaki and also returns us to the first scene where Minato first fell in love with archery and we see the Masaki was there during that scene as well connecting all the threads of this story beautifully.

That’s a lot going on in one episode. And to handle each of those characters and moments without feeling rushed or forced, and to give each moment the consideration it deserves, is a narrative feat well worth applauding even if the tone and subject matter isn’t to your taste. Everything in this anime has come together superbly in this final episode even though it felt like they’d reached that point last week when the team got their act together. For an anime that isn’t really about sensationalism in sports but rather quiet contemplation, they managed to up the ante with this final competition without compromising on tone, and again that was an impressive feat to behold.

Tsurune Episode 13 The Girls

Yet despite the sense that things have all come together what I don’t get a sense of is that these character journeys are at their end. For each of these boys their journey is ongoing but it doesn’t matter if we see that or not (though for the record I’d love a second season). What it means is that over thirteen episodes all of these characters became real to me and they feel like they have a life before and after this story and that again is something of an achievement.

Tsurune Episode 13 Minato lines up his shot.

I’ll do a full series review of this but if you didn’t give it a shot this Autumn season I’d strongly recommend it.

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Clearing the Air With The Help of Friends

Run With The Wind Episode Review Title

Run With The Wind Episode 13 Review

The episode begins with a punch but not the one we expect after last week. Instead, we see Kakeru punching his high school coach. Then, after the OP, we return to the present where Kakeru’s punch is brought up short by his teammates.


It is a powerful start to what is a fairly well directed episode even if the overall subject matter ends up being less impressive. I’m going to be honest, Kakeru’s drama has dragged on so long and ends up being able to be boiled down to angry teenage boy acted impulsively after not doing anything about regulating his emotions over a long period and then had to deal with consequences that came down across the whole track team. For people who were directly involved I guess it would be a big issue but as an audience member at this stage I’m kind of indifferent to Kakeru’s issues and mostly just wanted him to get over them so we could get on with the rest of the characters who’ve proven to be delightful.

Run With The Wind Episode 13 Kakeru's old team.

That said, despite the story itself not being all that great, the cuts back and forth between Kakeru’s high school days and his present moments training with the team build up a sense of a climatic reveal regardless of how you feel about the reveal. The use of static over the flash backs, with more interference and noise the closer we get to the punch, is highly effective at conveying Kakeru’s mental state.

Run With The Wind Episode 13 Kakeru's catalyst.

Why we needed a sit down with the whole team to ‘confess’ everything is something I’ll never quite understand but the team’s reactions are predictable and suitably amusing. It does feel though like the end of this episode has brought a breath of fresh air with this whole Kakeru’s mysterious past finally being out there and so I’m very much looking forward to next week. Particularly when the preview at the end of this episode shows we are going to get some more time with Prince.

Is It Time For the Team To Get It Together?

Tsurune Episode Reviews

Tsurune Episode 12 Review

Tsurune as a sports anime has remained a bit of an oddity. Sure the boys do spend a lot of time drawing their bows and practising but realistically whether they win or lose in this tournament has been made utterly irrelevant by their character journeys and their own desire for self-improvement. Seo, as the only female character getting any kind of time with archery, says herself after getting knocked out that she’s satisfied that the result reflects her current level of ability and leaves it at that.

Last week the episode left us with the bomb-shell that Masaki had been in a car accident and after a tense week of waiting and hand wringing to find out if he was okay, the start of this episode leaves us with a big, we don’t know. It’s a realistic answer but it means that stomach squirmy feeling that we’ve had all week while waiting to find out what has happened continues and it colours every sequence of the tournament until the end when they finally tip their hand (note to every other anime ever, this is how you use an emotional cliff-hanger).

Tsurune Episode 12 - Seiya is best boy

That makes the reasonably mundane events of this episode all take on a certain urgency and whether it is Minato’s initial plunge into self-blame immediately cut off by Seiya (who after his own brief bout of self-pity a few episodes ago has come back even stronger as best boy). But it is the girls, whose names I don’t even remember because they’ve had so little to do in this series and so little development, that actually really step up to the plate when the boys are all staring at their phones and panicking. It is a fantastic scene and one that was definitely needed. It also really makes me wish the female characters got to be more than emotional support or commentators more often in this series even though I know the focus is the male team.

Tsurune Episode 12
You rock even though I cannot remember what your name is.

Kaito then tries to rally them and reminds them to use what Masaki has taught them in the tournament. This gets them motivated but they still struggle through the early rounds. Ultimately it is an insight by Minato that turns it all around but as usual his poor communication skills almost blow the team apart (fortunately he holds his ground and makes himself heard).

Tsurune Episode 12 - Kaito

The final round of shooting this episode is a sight to behold and it is one of those moments in anime where you can cry an cheer simultaneously with the episode ending out on the team and audience finally finding out what is up with Masaki before the episode ends. With one episode left to go, I’m just kind of hoping this gets a follow up series though all things considered I don’t know that it will. I do know that I’ve loved following this anime this season and I love this team.

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The Change of Seasons Welcome a Changing Wind

Run With The Wind Episode Review Title

Run With The Wind Episode 12 Review

Run With The Wind continues to be surprisingly compelling despite being a show about ten guys running around in circles. Okay, I’m not into watching marathons or track. What continues to sell this story are the characters and the way their progress is being handled. While not as overt emotional development as we are seeing in Tsurune, Run With The Wind excels at small moments and small triumphs. While Kakeru and Haiji continue to get the lion’s share of the focus each team member is given enough smaller moments scattered throughout episodes that we don’t forget them and they all feel like they are going on this journey.

Run With The Wind Episode 12 Kakeru

After the gap between episode 11 and 12 we have a new OP and ED. I’m not sold on the OP at all but the ED is pretty great. The rest of the sound remains on point and this is one anime where the sound direction continues to need to be applauded.

Run With The Wind Episode 12 Celebration

Takashi and Yuki get a moment to shine and celebrate early in this episode and it was nice to see this small moment. They didn’t win the race but they both managed a qualifying time and it feels like a very natural development given how close both of these characters have been to this previously. I also loved that the team dynamic is still very much in tact with the twins stealing a lot of dialogue but each character having their moment. The one disappointment from this episode was the decided absence of Prince quips and his only real contribution was getting travel sick on the way to the camp.

Run With The Wind Episode 12 Twins

However, by the end of the episode all the earlier moments may fade from memory as the episode veers very much into another round of Kakeru has issues and the red-haired guy from the other school whose name I won’t ever remember is still being a jerk. It kind of leaves a sour taste as it feels like this whole plot line has lingered far too long without either being addressed or resolving and at this point I’d really like it to as almost everything else in the anime is more interesting.

Run With The Wind Episode 12

Still, Run With The Wind remains a compelling viewing experience and one that I’m still pleasantly surprised by. Looking forward to where it goes during its second cour.