Love, Where Art Thou?
The most serious of taboos--sibling love--were once a topic seen only in the realm of hentai. Learn how Koi Kaze bucks that trend in the most serious and realistic of ways.
Koi Kaze, which literally translates as Love Wind, tells the story about an older brother named Koushirou Saeki (twenty-eight years old) and his younger sister named Nanoka Kohinata (fifteen years old), who gradually fall in love with each other. Superficially, Koi Kaze's story sounds like it would be about a horrid, appalling, incestual relationship, but there is a bigger theme that transcends it.
As Koi Kaze's producer Yasuyuki Ueda (Haibane Renmei, Serial Experiments Lain, Niea_7) stated in his message about Koi Kaze at Geneon's Lounge, he hopes that viewers would be able to see past Koi Kaze's "more than obvious themes" and be able to "feel the irresistible feelings of being in love." Because of the adult themes present in Koi Kaze, viewers must be mature enough to understand and cope with its controversial themes.
Koi Kaze begins with an ordinary day for Koushirou, who works at a matrimonial agency in Japan. Recently, he broke up with his girlfriend, because she said, "There's someone else I've fallen in love with." Although he expresses indifference towards the break up, he's quite torn up inside. On his regular commute to work, he catches a glimpse of an attractive high school girl on the train. Reflexively, he tries to ignore her, but ends up helping her because she drops her train pass as she gets off of the train. Later that evening, he returns home, where he lives with his father. His father reveals to him that Koushirou's younger sister will start living with them tomorrow. By living with them, it would cut down on her commute time to the high school that she's going to attend.
Since Koushirou's parents have been divorced since he was a young child, Koushirou hasn't seen or talked to his sister for over ten years.
The next day at his job, his ex-girlfriend unexpectedly drops by to pick up the keys to her house from Koushirou. Before they part, she poses a question to Koushirou, "Have you ever loved someone from the bottom of your heart?" This question troubles Koushirou, because he's already twenty-eight years old, and he has never really loved anyone in that way before. Will he ever find real love?
Later that day, his co-worker Chidori gives Koushirou two tickets to an amusement park in an attempt to get him back together with his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly, Koushirou sees the same girl that he met at the train station the day before. Strangely enough, he gives the two tickets to her. Since the girl has been waiting for her dad, she invites Koushirou to the amusement park. Essentially, they go on a "date." They get along together so well that they end up revealing their current heartbreaks to each other later that evening. Koushirou reveals his break-up with his ex-girlfriend, and the girl reveals her disappointment about a guy that she had thought had liked her. Koushirou even begins crying, because he finds it so easy to communicate with her. As they are about to part for the evening, Koushirou's dad calls from the distance, and both Koushirou and Nanoka respond: "Dad?"
One would think a synopsis of the first episode would be spoiling the series, but the first episode is barely the tip of the iceberg. From then on, each passing episode depicts the growing relationship between the two siblings. Koushirou juggles his newfound, yet frustrating feelings for Nanoka as tries to be the responsible "older brother." Nanoka, while initially oblivious to her brother's feelings for her, slowly grows quite attached to him. Later in the series, you'll learn that Nanoka has always wanted to look up to her older brother, and she was hoping to do all the "normal" things that siblings do. She has been really looking forward to living with her older brother for a while, but before she realizes it, she falls in love with him. At times, she becomes confused by her older brother's erratic behavior, and she struggles with the growing love connection between them.
The rest of the story has a few surprises, but nothing felt forced. The flow of events felt natural and realistic, and that is what makes Koi Kaze so good. There are many times where Koushirou and Nanoka speak their minds, trying to get a grip on their feelings, trying to sort them out logically. But just like in reality, love is both a simple, yet complicated emotion that is usually difficult to understand. Throughout Koi Kaze, the drama and romance between Koushirou and Nanoka gradually intensify as they struggle with their feelings for each other.
The visual appeal of Koi Kaze's animation style isn't awe-inspiring or spectacular, but it is definitely unique. There aren't any big mecha flying around or flamboyant gunfights, but the animation feels down to earth, flowing and dream-like. It is even quite sexy at times. There is a particular emphasis on the characters, more so than the overall environment. Characters' eye movements, facial expressions, body language, their dress attire and movement were all well done. Each character has a unique way of expressing themselves. As for backgrounds, sometimes they may look water-colored, but they are very beautiful and attractive. They compliment the mood and atmosphere of Koi Kaze very well.
In addition to the water-colored backgrounds, there are particular environments that have much detail. Places such as train stations, train stops, streets, the office place and home environments really looked realistic. Animators even used actual places in Japan to draw the train stops and stations. The crowdedness of Japan's trains, as seen when Nanoka is being felt up on the train, feels realistic. Little idiosyncrasies such as these add to the realism, atmosphere and the mood of the series. There are many scenes where Koushirou and Nanoka are surprised, and the environment surrounding them seems to fade away, leaving just the two of them in focus.
This concept of realism is not limited to Koi Kaze's setting, it can also be found in the show's character interaction and development. Since Koi Kaze is a drama-driven romance, it is natural for these two areas to be important. The two main characters' personalities are formed quite early. Koushirou is twenty-eight years old. He has a usual salary job, just got dumped by his former girlfriend, and is indifferent to everything. Of all the characters, he's probably the focal point of the story. His growing frustration with his feelings for Nanoka is a critical part of the series. At times, he is very harsh to Nanoka, because he can feel the relationship growing beyond that of brother and sister. How he acts around her and what he does because of her feels natural and realistic.
Nanoka, on the other hand, is fifteen years old. She begins as an innocent, naive, straightforward, cute and charming high school student, but there are hints throughout the series that indicates her transition to womanhood. At one point in the series, she complains of muscle cramps, but it's really that she's menstruating. She turns sixteen during the series; sixteen being the legal age that females in Japan can marry with parental consent. As the series progresses, her emotional development is surprising. While she begins as a static-like character, she ends up being just as developed as Koushirou.
Aside from the two main protagonists, there are two supporting characters that don't have a lot of screen time, but they both play a role in representing the important views of society. Koushirou has two co-workers that he's friends with at the matrimonial agency. One of them is named Chidori Kaname. She works a lot with Koushirou, and she always seems to be friendly with him. She represents the strong anti-incestual view of society that "looks down upon older men dating high school girls" and she enhances the controversial nature of themes in Koi Kaze by bringing a sense of painful reality to the series. The other co-worker is Kei Odagiri. He is quite perverted and serves as a contrast to Chidori. He always rants off his fantasies of meeting and dating high school girls, despite his older age. Ironically, Koushirou and Chidori continually dismiss his fantasies, but Koushirou actually ends up acting out some of Kei's "fantasies" before he even knows it.
The realism in Koi Kaze is similar to that of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, a soap opera-like anime from 2003. Both are drama-driven romances that emphasize realism in its story. However, there are significant differences. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien focused on a tragic love triangle between the three main characters, and it was based on an H (Hentai) game. Koi Kaze, on the other hand, focuses on the love relationship between two characters, and more importantly, that they are siblings.
Koi Kaze offers a romance story that usually isn't taken seriously in most other anime. Anime generally treats this type of romance with a comedic nature, but Koi Kaze treats it seriously. While incest is viewed and treated as a sinful sexual taboo in most of the world, one can't help but to be interested in Koi Kaze. The script of Koi Kaze is well written and has a realistic way of unfolding its plot. Ultimately, Koi Kaze conveys itself so well that viewers may even think about what he or she would have done personally done in Koushirou or Nanoka's situation. It's easy to think about their situation with a calm mind, but when love is involved, people tend to do remarkable or even disheartening things. I believe that the feeling of uncertainty in Koi Kaze is what makes it so intriguing. It instigates the topic of incest, and then really makes you think about it. Whether the characters acted correctly or incorrectly depends on the person watching, making it a good anime to discuss with others.
As for music, it is reminiscent of chamber orchestra pieces, meaning that only a few instruments play throughout each piece. The pieces have a remarkable range of tone, from pleasant and energizing, to sorrowful and tender. Viewers would immediately be able to recognize the main theme of the series. While watching the series the first time, however, most viewers would probably be concentrating more on the dialogue and monologues of the characters. The fact that viewers won't remember too much of the music during the first viewing doesn't necessarily mean that the music didn't do its job. It's probably a good thing, because it means that the music didn't overpower or detract from the mood of the scenes.
The opening theme, "Koi Kaze" by EF, is quite catchy and memorable, and definitely reflects what the main characters in the story are feeling. Like the title of the series, the opening theme talks about love. The end theme, "Futari Dakara" by Ito Masumi, is pleasant and tender. Viewers probably can recognize Ito Masumi's voice. She is responsible for performing the end themes for Haibane Renmei, Scrapped Princess, Zone of the Enders TV, and the opening for Azumanga Daioh.
Kenta Miyake, who played Koushirou Saeki; and Yuuki Nakamura, who played Nanoka Kohinata did an excellent job. Granted, they were the main characters of the series, but they really gave these characters depth and memorability. I was impressed with Yuuki Nakamura's performance, since this is her first leading role in an anime. The other seiyuu weren't given as much screentime to speak, so their voices weren't as memorable. The old father, the mother, a sexy co-worker, the perverted co-worker and Nanoka's peppy high school friends' voices felt okay, but not great.
If you like drama-driven romance and have an open mind, I would recommend giving Koi Kaze a try. I liked the fact that it is controversial, and that it made me think about my moral values. Obviously, Koi Kaze is not meant for viewers who prefer watching something action packed or are not very open-minded. Koi Kaze is a serious drama with mostly dialogue and monologue. If you're ready to watch a realistic, yet controversial romance anime, get ready to immerse yourself in the little world of Koi Kaze! It just might get you thinking about your views of love.