Judge Joel Pearce doesn't want to get in trouble for enjoying this taboo-laden anime series.
"I wonder if you have ever truly loved someone from the bottom of your heart."—Koshiro's ex-girlfriend
Koi Kaze starts with the odds stacked high against it. For one thing, it's a love story between a 27-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl. And she's his sister. How could such a relationship be humanized? Could it be anything except one of those tacky anime shows featuring an ordinary guy surrounded by cute fan service temptation? Why would anyone even want to see such a show?
And yet, it works. This is the most sensitive, heartfelt, least exploitative anime series I have seen in a long time. To say I was hesitant going into the show was an understatement, but I was immediately caught up by its magic. Whenever I get a shipment of screeners, I always sit down and toss each disc into the player for a couple minutes, to get a sense of what I'm in for. Suddenly, it was half and hour later, I had finished the first episode of Koi Kaze, and I had watched the rest of the disc by the end of the day.
I should fill you in on the details. Koshiro is a sensitive 27-year-old who has always had a hard time communicating his feelings to other people. As a result, he is not very good in relationships, and has just been dumped by his girlfriend. In a fluke, he runs into the same 15-year-old schoolgirl several times, who has recently had her heart broken. They hang out together at a theme park for an evening, pouring their hearts out to each other and feeling an uncommonly strong connection, despite their age difference. The other foot drops when they discover that they are siblings, and that Nanoka is coming to live with Koshiro and their father. Now, they have to deal with the affection they immediately felt for each other as they also learn to live together as siblings.
Incest is about as taboo as you can get. We can handle stories of homosexual relationships, interracial relationships, cross-class relationships, movies about affairs, and movies about transvestites, but incestuous relationships are used to uncover horrible family secrets. If anything is close to incest on the taboometer, it would be consensual relationships between adult men and underage girls. Koi Kaze does several things to make this more palatable, to the point that this theme doesn't bother me much anymore. The theme is softened by light, sincere humor and heartfelt narration from both of the main characters.
To this point in the series, there's greater focus on Koshiro and Nanoka learning to live together as siblings than on their feelings for one another. Most siblings have years to work out how to deal with (and annoy) each other. These two are learning as they go, and their lack of experience causes moments of awkwardness and miscommunication. They both understand what the role of an older brother or younger sister should be, but they don't know how to become that in such a short amount of time.
It's clear, though, that this will be a love story by the end. Fortunately, thanks to a great setup, it's actually a better love story than I have seen in quite a while. Both of these characters have problems that hold them back in relationships, and things in their past that they need to work through. Koshiro is completely incapable of expressing his emotions, and has even started to have a hard time feeling them at all. Nanoka has just had her heart broken for the first time, and is trying to learn how to deal with the pain of failed love. There are genuine barriers in their relationship, so much so that we have to hope that things won't work out.
Which raises the question: do we get to choose who we love? The most popular answer is no, that we fall into love and can't escape it. That doesn't hold much water, though, because we have all felt feelings for someone that we cannot be with. Hopefully, it's not a situation like Koshiro and Nanoka find themselves in, but most of us have had feelings for people who are already with someone else, or that we know we wouldn't be able to live with long term, or someone who simply doesn't love us back. We need to find ways to deal with those feelings and move on with our lives. To this point, Koi Kaze argues that we don't have a choice who we are drawn to, but there is always a choice as to what we will do about those feelings. It's unfair to accuse these two characters for the feelings they have—after all, they didn't realize they were related when they met, but they will need to make the right choices now that they know the truth.
The complexities of their relationship are highlighted by the other characters in the show. Koshiro has a co-worker who is obsessed with high school girls. His actions are so repulsive that Koshiro is immediately embarrassed to associate with Nanoka at all. At the same time, Nanoka has a friend who pledges love for a boy she has just met, only to realize he's already taken. This side plot emphasizes how young girls behave at 15, and the dangerous territory that the two siblings are in. At the same time, Nanoka seems (in some ways) to be unusually mature for her age. She stands out from her peers, but also has moments of childishness.
Koi Kaze has been impeccably constructed. The pacing is just right, unrushed but managing to cover a lot of ground. Soft piano music strikes the right tone, and the animation is downright stunning. The series is a watercolor painting burst into life. Everything has a soft look, but there is impressive character detail, and the frequent computer effects don't stick out. Fortunately, the transfer from Geneon does the show justice. The anamorphic transfer is absolutely flawless, with none of the problems that often come with animation transfers. The colors are rich, there's a strong black level, and the lines are clean without being too sharp. Both stereo tracks are strong, with elements subtly mixed together.
There aren't many extras. There are the requisite textless credit sequences and previews, but that's it.
I'm sure a lot of people won't be able to get past the premise of Koi Kaze. You know who you are, and you should stay away. A part of me is bothered by the humanization of this potential relationship, but I have found no offense with how the situation has been handled so far. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Oh, My Goddess, another short series that handled an impossible relationship in a reasonable way. Adventurous fans of love stories will probably be as enchanted by this disc as I have been, and the series has the makings of an anime classic. It's certainly the most touching love story I have seen in a very long time, which is kind of embarrassing to admit
This first volume of Koi Kaze is free to go, but Koshiro and Nanoka are ordered to proceed carefully. Not that I approve of their relationship, of course.
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