Judge Joel Pearce is a little creeped out by this incestuous tale of bra-sniffing and statutory rape-like antics.
"The feelings of guilt gradually disappeared over time…" -Koshiro
I found myself absorbed in the first volume of Koi Kaze. After the second volume, I'm less convinced. This is a challenging and disturbing series, made more upsetting by the casual nature of it all.
This middle volume of Koi Kaze picks up right where the last one left off. Koshiro's embarrassment over the bra-sniffing episode is tangible as he wonders whether or not she saw him. Nanoka didn't see it—she just wonders why he has been so distant and short with her. For a couple episodes, it seems like their initial responses to each other will fade into typical sibling tension. But that's not going to last.
There are a few reasons that I am now finding Koi Kaze more disturbing than I did at first. As we get to know Nanoka a bit more, she's turning out to be quite innocent. Although she's meant to be sixteen, which is too young, her actions make her seem even younger than that. When she gets a love letter from a boy at school, she is curious what a relationship with a boy would even entail. She is totally incapable of reading Koshiro's feelings, and her conversations with other boys are awkward and difficult. While her character design is somewhat cute, she doesn't look to be more than 13 or 14, and the extreme difference in size between the two characters is often emphasized. Maybe this shouldn't make a difference. After all, they are still brother and sister. I have to say it though: even if they weren't related, it would be pretty creepy.
The progression of their relationship is too realistic for comfort. The audience gets a very close view of Koshiro's thoughts and feelings, as he grapples with the guilt of his attraction for Nanoka, followed by intense jealousy when other boys show interest in her. So many anime series submerge taboo subjects by creating jokes out of them, but Koi Kaze digs right into the controversial issues. The intense curiosity I had during the first volume whether they would make the right decision has now turned to dread as I see the approach of the inevitable.
If nothing else, the series is brilliantly designed. The first volume set up the problem, leading up to the first serious potential source of conflict. In the second volume, that tension has increased and developed as both characters come to terms with the feelings they have for each other. The third volume is going to require a decision, and the creators of the series are going to have quite a time making it work for the audience. The emotional tension between them is already pushing the boundaries of comfort, and more will turn some people off the series completely.
The artwork is deceptive: Koi Kaze has the look and sound of a series for preteen girls. The colors are pastel, the visuals are soft, and the characters are cute. This volume even comes with a page of cute "No-No Big Brother" stickers. The music is reminiscent of other Shoujo titles, and the audience is lulled in by the slow, thoughtful tone. In the middle of that, it's really jarring to hear Koshiro pondering whether it's that strange that he thinks about Nanoka when he masturbates. The series keeps on lulling the audience back into the story, but moments like that keep us from getting comfortable.
I like the background of the family that's included in this volume. Koshiro takes a trip to visit his mother, and thinks back to his childhood as he does so. This isn't the first time that Nanoka has suddenly appeared in his life and made things difficult, and the knowledge of their childhood past adds to our understanding of Koshiro's attitudes and personality. This look back happens at just the right time in the series, giving us a break from the discomfort of the relationship. When the problems come back in full force in the cliffhanger at the end of this volume, it's obvious that Koshiro and Nanoka aren't going to be able to put off a decision much longer.
The transfer on this disc is up to par with the original, with no noticeable transfer flaws. Though the animation is simple, it doesn't look cheap. The Japanese voice work is far stronger, and is recommended over the English dub. While this disc has a full five episodes, there aren't many extras. There is a collection of Japanese commercials for the series, and it's interesting to see how poorly they capture the tone of the series. Here, the emphasis is on the perversion of the relationship, and little of the sensitivity of the episodes is present.
My recommendations for Koi Kaze are getting harder to write over time. This is tough territory to head into, and it took me until this volume to realize how much. This series digs deeper into the psychology of these characters and justification of their feelings than most people will want to go. More than anything, I am left wondering how the writers of the series managed to make it all so eerily plausible. Mature anime fans that feel they are willing to take that journey with the characters will find a lot of impressive things about the series, but consider yourselves warned.
Although I have not collected enough evidence yet, Koshiro and Nanoka are going to have to work very hard to escape with a verdict of innocence.
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