Today let's explore the core themes of this season's most thrilling sports adventure!
Prince staggers down the track, his awkward gait strange but steady. Once he would have thought only manga heroes could endure like this, but things are different now. His friends believe in him, and so does he. He is an athlete. He wants to win.
Running can be a terribly lonely thing. Out there on the road, with the wind rushing past and the sound of your own blood pumping in your ears, you begin to question why you’re running at all. Run with the Wind’s leads Kakeru and Haiji each fled from running in the past, when their own passion for the sport was shattered by the cruelty of their demanding, dehumanizing coaches. Running became a burden to them, and a signal of their own inadequacy—Haiji through disappointing his father, and Kakeru 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.
Musa jogs with a steady tempo, knowing only his calm focus can carry the team through this crucial chapter. Once insecure about how he compared to other runners, he knows now that only the thoughts of his friends truly matter. And his feet are light; his friends would never abandon him.
For Haiji, learning to find motivation outside of personal glory was forced upon him, when a crippling injury ensured 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 punishing ten-part relay seemed absurd to his reluctant dorm, he took the time to reach out to all of them, and help them find something worth running for. He was selfish and stubborn and utterly unrelenting, but he wouldn’t have done any of it if he didn’t genuinely believe in his team.
Jota runs with a smile on his face, though he knows this is the last time. He has loved this journey, but it is taught him that the true runner in his family is his twin brother Joji. That doesn’t bother Jota; though they’ve walked together this long, it is exhilarating to see his brother find his own goal. Wherever they wander, they have each other, and they have the team.
The inspiration to run takes a variety of forms for Run with the Wind’s various characters. Though it’s thrilling as a sports narrative, the story’s true power 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 unbreakable mutual trust. Prince finds the courage to run in his comic heroes, while Nico discovers that running brings him mental clarity. Musa and Takashi find friends and a source of pride, while King relearns the confidence that perpetual job interviews robbed from him. And Kakeru, well…
He built their fanclub, he built their website, and he’s not stopping now. This team means everything to Takashi, and though his body aches with fever, his limbs still carry him up the mountain slope. His friends urge him to stop, tell him he’s done more than enough, but he is the beating heart of this team, and he’d sooner cut out his own heart than quit this race.
Kakeru, more than any of his teammates, needs that communal support. 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 heroes simply win, but when they learn to better trust each other. Kakeru’s greatest moment in this series doesn’t even feature him in a race; it’s when, on the sidelines as a friend passes, he suddenly discovers he’s found a sense of responsibility for these racers, and genuine love for his team. It’s a glorious moment, a validation of everything Haiji believed, and a testament to the fact that we are all stronger together.
Yuki gallops down the slope, the harsh descent of Hakone compounded by the heavy snow, the leading pack lost somewhere down the mountain. And yet, for all his fevered calculations, his mind holds a clear image of his friend in the distance. Is this how it looks from the summit, Kakeru? Don't leave us too far behind.
In the end, as the glorious ten-part Hakoden has revealed, running for others will ultimately give you a greater perspective on both the complexity of others, and the things you yourself truly value. As section after section passes, Run with the Wind’s stars each demonstrate their own unique kinds of excellence—Musa’s even temper, Jota’s running form, Yuki’s intelligence—while simultaneously becoming greater than themselves, and contributing to a larger whole. And through making these connections, these runners have arrived a far greater understanding of who they are and what they’re truly capable of. Having friends beside you helps you push past what you thought were your limits, discover new sides of yourself, and contribute to triumphs that seemed unimaginable alone.
Nico keeps a steady pace, the old bitterness of dismissive track coaches mingling with a quiet shock at his own progress. Is this really him, passing all these runners, driving forward with such confidence? The boy whose body type was all wrong for running, and who had long accepted he'd never move like this? Doubts fade as an old truth resurfaces: whatever anyone else says, Nico loves to run.
Through its carefully realized characters and thrilling execution, Run with the Wind turns the choral joy of these runners into a glorious anthem. Their team is greater than them, and each of them feel privileged to be a part of it, while simultaneously trusting all of their long-struggling teammates. You can’t go through a trial like that and not learn something about your fellows, or yourself. As the sash is passed across Japan and back again, Run with the Wind’s faith in running as a collective struggle, and as a road to self-knowledge, becomes brilliantly clear.
Kakeru runs freely, the guilt and shame of his old self outpaced and left far behind him. From the sidelines and the screens, he feels the trust and love of his teammates, and knows he is in the place he is meant to be. The joy of running has returned to Kakeru, and the track spirals out like a fond promise before him. Wherever he runs, he is home.
Have you enjoyed Run with the Wind's celebration of the communal joy of running? Let us know which of its terrific runners spoke to you in the comments!
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