Production I.G is back with another excellent drama series that centers around the sport of running. It is highly character-driven and features one of the best group of characters for a sports shonen. Run with the Wind’s main duo each ran away from the sport in the past when their own passion for running was broken by the cruelty of their strict coaches. Running became a burden to them, and a signal of their own inadequacy—Haiji Kiyose through disappointing his father, and Kakeru Kurahara through lashing out at his coach, and thus ensuring his whole team suffered.

When your choices are victory or shame, it can be hard to take pride in your running. For Haiji, learning to find motivation outside of personal glory was forced upon him when he was crippled through injury, ensuring he’d never triumph alone. Instead, he embraced running as a group effort and made his great strength into his ability to connect with and inspire all of his teammates. Though the concept of running a grueling ten-part relay seemed crazy to his reluctant dorm, he took the time to reach out to all of them, and help them find something worth running for while helping them with their personal issues in life. He was selfish and stubborn in the way he went about doing so, but he wouldn’t have done any of it if he didn’t genuinely believe in his team. One thing you can’t take away from Haiji is he is a great motivator, the type you need, and a caring person. He’s helped changed his friend's lives for the better.

The inspiration to run takes a variety of forms for the characters. Though it’s thrilling as a sports narrative, the story’s main appeal is how well it illustrates the lives and feelings of its runners from the start, and how convincingly it draws them together into a group with both strong individual motivations and mutual trust. Prince finds the courage to run from his manga heroes, while Nico discovers that running brings him mental clarity. Musa and Takashi find friends and a source of pride, while King rediscovers the confidence that perpetual job interviews stole from him. Run with the Wind’s most central character conflict is Kakeru learning to rise above the trauma of the past, and see running not as a burden or source of shame, but an activity that actually brings people together. And as you’d expect, many of the show’s most rewarding moments come not when these characters simply win, but when they learn to better trust each other.

There are two things Run with the Wind does exceptionally well: its ability to convey the pace and tone of college dorm life, and having the incredible gift for sculpting sympathetic characters and rich, bitter relationships. Each character has their own stories to tell, much of this show’s characterization comes through in its brilliantly observed incidental moments, as Haiji and the rest bicker about classes, divvy up chores, and generally live their college lives. Though I wouldn’t call Run with the Wind a slice of life by no means, it’s able to capture a lived experience and sense of mutual friendship with a grace characteristic of the best of them. With a ten-person team, it’d be easy for half of the cast to get lost in the crowd, but each of them is given plentiful time to express themselves, find their own relationship with running, and ultimately contribute to a greater, loving team. Every member brings something unique and worthwhile to the team, making its insistence that running is a team effort feel utterly convincing.

There are fantastic character chemistry and dynamics along with great sly, subtle humor but doesn’t rely on them alone. It is also slowly developing its overarching conflict alongside its cast. From the start it is clear that the challenges that await the club are immense, the relay race they intend to participate is an exceedingly competitive affair. But far from the usual framing of these sorts of zero to hero stories, the narrative is much more concerned with the outcomes and beliefs of its cast than the prospect of merely winning. The end goal offers a reason for these people to improve rather than just harping on the importance of victory, and the narrative is much more concerned with presenting their setbacks and growth than anything else. Run with the Wind's portrayal of these characters comes across as naturalistic, humanizing, and occasionally hilarious, the strength of its source material combining with a great adaptation.

Production I.G did an amazing job all around the board. Run with the Wind’s character designs goes for the realistic body size/proportions but isn’t afraid to bend and flex from that for the sake of expression and interesting visuals. Body language conveys much of the characters’ personalities. Each one has a distinctive design and face, and fluid animation brings out their individual quirks and flaws. The color palette is well balanced that has a very wide range for the various type of moods. Backgrounds are well detailed, stellar scenery and good use of depicting the change of weather for each of the four seasons. The running scenes are animated superbly and mix well with the sound effects and exceptional and well-timed soundtrack. Without background music, the show emphasizes the rhythm of the characters breathing and measured footfalls. Facial expressions, movement of the body, arms, legs, correct body posture and hair swaying back and forth are all down with attention to detail, even the perspiration of the runners. A setback was definitely its usage of CG, which was mainly used for some of the background runners or crowds of people.

Voice actors are perfect matches to their character and lots of credit to them, they absolutely nailed their roles, made conversations feel like the type that any normal person would have with their friends, having the ability to go through a wide range of tones and emotion. They treated the characters with care and brought them to life. Being able to pass off the banter as genuine as these voice actors did only go to show their expertise. The soundtrack is gorgeous, a matter of fact, it’s a masterpiece and definitely a one to own. Once again, the music is all timed-well hitting all the emotional moments on cue, it just invokes a lot of feelings on its own and when you add it alongside the story being told visually, you’re getting poetry in motion on your screen. A mesmerizing mix of synth-pop and orchestra goes to show just how Yuki Hayashi is one of the most promising composers in the industry right now, he’s already amongst the best. The OP’s and ED’s are all excellent with "Reset" by Taichi Mukai being a favorite.

In this show, what is valued is human interaction; connecting with those around you in a deeper, richer level without wanting anything from them. It's about falling in love and re-connecting with something that materialism can't give you. And strangely enough, is about selflessness and community through introspection. Run with the Wind masterfully weaves all these concepts into a beautiful story that touches your heart from the start. Life, like running, is not all about time but about our experiences along the way. Your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are brief moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can't. But then you find your inner strength and realize you're capable of so much more than you thought. What Run with the Wind has taught me, perhaps more than anything else, that there's no reason to fear starting lines or other new beginnings.

85 /100
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