ANIME REVIEW: KOI KAZEGenre: drama, romance, seinen
Original year of release: 2004
Director: Takahiro Omori
Writer: Yoshida Motoi (manga) Noboru Takagi (series composition and script writing)
Number of episodes: 13
Runtime per episode: 24 mins
STORY AND CHARACTERSKoshiro Saeki is going through life without finding much joy in it. Despite being in his late twenties he still lives with his father because he can’t be bothered to find his own place. He works at a matchmaking company yet his own love life is a mess with his girlfriend breaking up with him, because Koshiro can’t muster up the energy to show even the smallest signs of affection.
This all changes however when he is told that his younger sister, whom he’s not seen in many years, is going to live with him and his father. All of a sudden, he has to come to grips with sharing a roof with not just one person, but two. Complicating the situation further is the fact that he slowly begins to realize that the feelings he has for his baby sister far extend that of an ordinary brother/sister relationship.
This anime series…honestly took my breath away. Not at first though. This is definitely not a series that will instantly grab you by the throat and not let go. It’s more something you have to grow into as you slowly begin to learn more about the character and invest in them emotionally. Koshiro at first really does not come across as a sympathetic character. As I mentioned in my brief synopsis, he’s simply going through life without much enthusiasm and that reflects on his interactions with others, often coming across as needlessly harsh with a very dour mood. It wasn't not until much later, when I'd learned more about him over the course of a number of episodes, that I began to feel some sympathy for the guy.
However, that’s just the beginning. As the series goes on we learn more and more about the two leads and we see them grow and develop as people. But because this is such an unconventional romance, there is a constant feeling of tension and suspense as you’re constantly wondering where their relationship is actually going to end up.
The show also makes no secret of the fact that this is a highly unconventional and even unhealthy relationship. In fact, the later parts of the show actively examine the downsides of such a relationship, as many of the supporting characters turn their backs on the leads once they find out about the relationship. From here, the leads themselves get caught in a state of inner struggle, as they realize how wrong and potentially self-destructive this relationship can be. At the same time, they can't just simply ignore these strong feelings they're having for one another.
If this wasn’t obvious yet, this is not a happy-go-lucky show. It’s an emotionally draining series full of utterly heartwrenching moments as well as a series that outright challenges the viewers to contemplate their stance on certain topics that they might want to denounce at first.
What’s also highly remarkable about this series is how incredibly realistic and nuanced it is. The show is entirely devoid of the usual over the top hijinks and exaggerated interaction a lot of people associate with anime. Instead, the way everything plays out is extremely understated with highly realistic dialogues full of long pauses and subtle changes in facial expression cluing us in to the incredible conflict unfolding in these characters’ psyche.
This is what I appreciate so much about this show. It doesn’t underestimate its own audience. It expects you, the audience member, to have the patience to slowly grow to love a seemingly unlikeable character and become emotionally invested in a conflict that isn’t brimming with cheap melodrama. As a result, the dramatic pathos feels genuine and at times, I really felt like my throat was being clenched tight.
Another aspect I don't talk about much but really want to bring up here is the voice acting, mainly because it's so freaking good. The performances are so understated and so real that at times it felt less like actors simply reading their lines and more like actual people talking in the street.
This series is also anything but formulaic. It completely eschews the usual topics seen in romance anime and crafts its own story with a pacing and story structure that's as unconventional as the romance it depicts. The usual set up for any story is to introduce the main characters, present them with a conflict they have to overcome and then have them overcome it by the end. This show doesn’t do any of that. Rather, the conflict emerges from each interaction between the characters, and as the series gets closer and closer to its conclusion, none of that conflict gets anywhere close to being resolved. Rather than coming up with some cheap cop-out, the show ends on a moment of catharsis from where we as the audience can draw conclusions as to the eventual outcome of the story for ourselves.
Koi Kaze is the kind of anime that reminds me of why I love anime. It’s an incredibly well-written and well-directed series that takes a very honest and realistic look at a subject that’s rarely addressed in fiction, and never with this much maturity.
The series is very slow paced though, and most viewers will definitely require a few episodes to really connect with the characters on an emotional level.. But even with that caveat in mind, I have to say: this is a series I recommend to anyone but the most staunch drama haters. It is a masterclass in writing believable and well-crafted characters. There is simply no weak character in the entire series, just as there is no weak episode or even a weak scene. This series is a powerhouse of quality and one of the best anime that I have seen in recent years.
Koi Kaze has been licensed by Geneon Entertainment and after they went under has gone out of print. There’s also no legal streaming option for this either. So as much as I would love to inform you how to spend money on this series at this point, that’s not possible. Unless you happen to get really lucky and find a copy of the Geneon release. In which case, be a dear and send me a pm.
See You Space Cowboys…
Anime Review: Koi Kaze
Kerberos reviews the drama anime from the early 2000s Koi Kaze. A show that was highly controversial at release but has been all but forgotten...
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