Fellow blogger, Psychime (give him some love!) recommended Koi Kaze to me. And, I’m very glad he did so!
Fair warning, this is gonna be a long one. Hang in there with me!
An In-Depth Look at Koi Kaze
Ah, where do I start… finding a relevant place is hard…
Broadly, Koi Kaze is a drama/romance which explores the ‘more-than-sibling’ relationship between Saeki (brother) and Nanako (sister.) One of the shows most defining features is not this controversial fact, but the age difference between the two; twenty-seven and fifteen, respectively.
Koi Kaze is not so much ‘simple entertainment’ as it is understanding, and the exploration of real issues that rarely ever see the light of day in ‘general’ media.
Koi Kaze is not a show about incest. Koi Kaze is a show about incestuous relationships, the problems they cause, and what it means to love a person you are forbidden from loving in any romantic/sexual sense.
People would be mistaken for thinking this show is anything close to the likes of Oreimo and Eromanga Sensei – it exists in a completely separate universe. It is futile to even attempt at making comparisons. Koi Kaze is not sexualised, and nor is it fetishized. There is not a sliver of fanservice – it’s a story that needs none of that.
Without further ado: Let’s delve into a world of pain, and a world of passionate, true-to-life storytelling.
Koi Kaze is a very hard show to digest, to wrap your head around and form definite thoughts on the things it offers.
Obviously, the one theme we’re required to talk about, is that of incest. Koi Kaze is intelligent in this regard. It does not endorse incest. In fact, after watching the show, it’s impossible to say it does anything even close. Though, neither does it outright condemn it. Koi Kaze presents a set of ideals. We’re left to figure out what they mean, and from this, form our own opinions.
From the outset, we (at least I) view the show through the eyes of the main character, Saeki. A twenty-seven-year-old, who seems to have lost all happiness in life. This is exacerbated by the knowledge of him working at a marriage-arranging company. It’s almost ironic that whilst he recently lost his love, and slipped into depression, he is required to curate it in other people who have no sense of each other.
Saeki’s sadness and utter loneliness are an integral theme of the show.
Before we criticise and denounce, we have to understand incest. We have to figure things out, and make our own judgments on whether it could ever be an acceptable situation. This alone is controversial enough, without the glaring age-gap between Saeki and Nanako – which I personally find a larger issue.
Incest happens… it just does. It would be foolish to deny that fact in the real world. And, not just sex for pleasures sake, but undeniably love too. One has to keep this in mind going into Koi Kaze. For harbouring preconceptions about the show is definitely a mistake. An open mind is required.
Do I think incest should be accepted… no, I do not. It’s a hidden social issue, that I can guess is more wide-spread than society generally realises… or wants to admit. This is the exact reason why artistic narrative like Koi Kaze is so important – to understand these issues, and the irrefutable divisions that are caused by them. Without that, what do we have? Personal ideations that have no basis in reality? Biased views from the media and those around us? Koi Kaze, and similar media, are required for us to make our own judgements. For us to see the world from different perspectives. For us to not be ignorant on issues that are very real.
Koi Kaze handles its knowledge with grace. It relies on beautifully written characters and story, to transmit a message of caution… and inherent sadness in pursuing things which lead down such a bumpy, unmade road.
Defining ‘Wrong’ and ‘Right’
Who am I to say what is wrong, and what is right? I don’t have that power…
Our judgements are forged from imprinted social customs.; those we receive from our parents, and those we pick up from interacting with the outside world. Slowly, as we become adults, we form a set of personal ideals, that will usually – for the most part – align with those who surround us in similar cultures. Of course, each person will have his/her deviations. But, one could say they are never overtly severe and disruptive to society.
The same can’t be said for the backbone of Koi Kaze…
No matter what culture (civilised ones) you reside in, incest is unaccepted. That’s a fact. People will say that it is due to the physical nature of it. The idea that a child born of an incestuous relationship will develop with disabilities of some sort. When in reality, there is a rather low – but real – chance of this being the case. Anyway, that’s complicated, and slightly off-topic.
As we see in Koi Kaze the problem arises with the relationship itself. A normal brother-sister relationship is tumultuous; it is in moments good, and in moments bad. However, in the end, you will always (within reason) come out into the light on the other side; for the bond is too strong to be broken by trivial arguments. However, things drastically change when romance and sexual attraction are brought into the mix. Of course they do…
Family dynamics is an important theme in Koi Kaze. Saeki and Nanako’s father (Zenzo) is a man who seems to have little backbone. I think, in some way, Saeki resents him for this. For not having the courage to try to make his marriage work. For letting Nanako get away at such a young age. Zenzo quite clearly loves Nanako. Though, he seems somewhat… put on edge by her, as if he feels the requirement to make up for lost time by being overly protective. No doubt, he is completely unaware of what Saeki and Nanako have. In fact, you rarely ever see any positive interaction between Zenzo and Nanako. Many times I found myself believing Saeki acted as brother, father-figure… and romantic interest. Jack-of-all-trades, if that’s an appropriate way to phrase it…
What exactly changes? Imagine yourself having an argument with your lover, (yeah…yeah… kind of hard for many of us, but stick with me) even if things reach their worst, and cannot be fixed, it is always an option to move on – after a time… Saeki knows this from the beginning. But, imagine that person is your sister. A person who you have grown up with, (in some part) a person who is of your own flesh and blood, a person who you will know for the rest of your life. A person who you simply cannot ‘move on’ from.
Not only this, but the hurricane it causes to the surrounding relationships: Father, Mother, Sister, Aunt, Uncle, Brother… whomever – and the relationships of their non-relative friends. What must they think of being with a person whose children have a ‘romantic and sexual’ with each other? All of these people cannot ‘move on’ easily, as if it were any other normal break-up. We are offered the almost horribly negative viewpoint from Saeki’s colleague Chidori. It’s from her where Saeki gains perspective, and realises how the majority of the world regard the things he is doing.
Who do you side with, if anyone? Who do you disown, if anyone? Who is in the wrong, if anyone? There are far too many unknowables.
With this being said, it’s also a matter of the family in question. I don’t deny that there are families out there that – however hard – would be able to deal with it, and retain a bright(ish) future. Whereas, there are those who it will tear apart with so much force that they can never be sewn back together.
It’s a situation one cannot predict without it being reality.
This is the problem with Saeki and Nanako – how disruptive and utterly destroying it could very well be. They both understand this; Nanako even considers ‘Lovers’ Suicide.’ For you can’t be a part of that pain and suffering if you are dead. Of course, it’s cowardly, but in such a predicament, understandable.
‘Love’s’ Undeniable Grasp
You can’t help who you fall in love with, right? Even if it is your… fifteen-year-old sister, who you haven’t seen in years.
What happens if that love you feel, is not love, but senseless lust? What does that make Saeki?
The question you have to ask is, can Saeki – a twenty-seven-year-old man – lust after a girl who is fifteen? It’s a questionable desire taken alone, even without considering that person is your sister. So, with this in mind, is Saeki a terrible person? Maybe… maybe not. What does it mean if a person has these thoughts? Are they sick, twisted? Or are they just a product of basic, naturalistic, human desire?
The latter seems more plausible to me. Though, don’t go thinking this is an excuse for certain actions because it isn’t… We all have thoughts that are better kept to ourselves. Thoughts that might worry, even scare another person if we were to let loose with them: physical harm, ‘rare’ sexual desires, wholly irrational notions that only make sense to those who conjure them. And yet… most of us manage to get along just fine, even whilst acknowledging this.
It’s taking action on such desires where things turn hugely problematic.
It’s clear that Nanako really does lover her brother, Saeki – as something more than a brother. And, I don’t think that’s in question. And yet, we have to keep in mind, the notion of ‘love’ itself. Or rather, what a fifteen-year-old thinks that might be.
Can you tell me what love is? Can anyone? Because… of course, it’s a subjective construct…
Nanako has no experience. Unlike Saeki, she has never ‘loved’ another person in a physical, truly romantic way. It’s also questionable as to whether Saeki himself as ever truly loved another before: this is shown to us in the first episode as his relationship is ending. So, can Nanako know what those feelings are, can she trust them? Should she? She is a child, that’s not in doubt. Yet, she is fifteen too, she is not entirely devoid of life-experience at this point.
I don’t doubt Saeki should have shown his age more. He should have held back, restrained from showing any sort of reciprocation, no matter how hard it might have been. He should have sat with Nanako, explained why it couldn’t happen – trimmed off the buds before they had a chance to blossom.
Maybe this thought is a controversial one: I do not think it is sick to think the thoughts Saeki does. In fact, I would go as far as to say, it’s not entirely uncommon. I think sick, and twisted are the wrong words to use even after doing what Saeki did. After all, it is a consensual relationship – even when taking into account Nanako’s age and naiveté.
Saeki is depressed, he is lonely, he has trouble connecting, he lives at home; there are so many hurdles between him, and the world he lives in. Nanako comes along, his long-lost sister to whom he showed no love in the past. She falls in love with him. He falls into… something that resembles love with her. In some sense, it is a product of the situation – albeit a wholly misjudged, and inappropriate one. Though, despite it, you can feel for Saeki, and Nanako too. They feel like real people, in a real situation. And, this is what makes Koi Kaze so brilliant – the sincerity behind it, the unapologetic melancholy we vicariously view through the characters’ eyes.
Art and powerful Storytelling
‘Art’ is a naturally subjective term. How do we define it? Is Koi Kaze art? I think so. Could you say the same for Oreimo and Eromanga Sensei? No, I wouldn’t, not at all.
So, what makes it art, where so much anime (intentionally, I might add) isn’t?
You have to take a deep look at the characters: how are they constructed? How do they shape the narrative world around them? What’s at stake in the potential conflicts? Beyond that, there is the story. How much emotional weight does it have behind it? How complex and three-dimensional is it? Then there are the nuances: What does it mean? What do the metaphors imply? Are there hidden connotations that are not apparent at first glance.? How is the narrative revealed, through dialogue, or visual-storytelling? What themes does it portray, and how does it portray them.
All of these aspects contribute to the ‘art’ of the show. In this sense, Koi Kaze is hardly lacking.
In the last episode. Saeki and Nanako return to the park where they met on the ferris wheel that evening, early on. Here, as they’re leaving, they carve their names into the tree. Having watched Koi Kaze you will know the ending is left… somewhat open to interpretation. However, previously to the name-carving, her father’s work colleagues suggested the trees should be cut. He replied with ‘would that not be a waste?’ I see this as a poignant metaphor; their names, a visualisation of their relationship with each other, carved onto a tree that is potentially going to be cut down… This almost pessimistic view is compounded by the very last scene – Saeki and Nanako promise to see each other every Spring at the same park. Nanako then walks away, proclaiming she’s going home.
Understandably, this montage of scenes can be interpreted in many ways. Though, the way it appears to me, is that their ‘relationship’ has come to an end, or at least, the kind they’d been experiencing over the previous months. Nanako’s going home. And Saeki will continue with his adult life – whatever that entails. Leaving the both of them to meet once a year, to remember that night that acted at the catalyst for what was to follow.
Moving On, and unfounded Criticism
Koi Kaze truly impacted me – almost more so than any other anime ever has, being only second to Welcome to the N.H.K. (which I plan to do a… lengthy post (series?) on at some point)
This is not a statement I make lightly. For the most part – to my disappointment – entertainment usually makes little to no impact on me. Only a very small number of films/shows (of any medium) have ever made me feel anything. Koi Kaze, succeeded where so many others couldn’t. I can’t give it enough praise for that.
I’ll be honest Koi Kaze didn’t shock me, neither did it make me feel uncomfortable in any manner. Like so many others, I do not think it’s disgusting, sickening, or whatever other depreciatory term you have in mind. People misunderstand that art and media doesn’t have to be happy. Shows/films, they do not have to inspire you with joy and invaluable lessons. The industry would be horribly dull if that were the case.
I find myself being drawn towards the sadness in shows such as Koi Kaze. The reality in it trumps shows of other kinds. The true-to-life portrayal of its characters, and the ways in which they do things. It’s rational. It’s understandable – all whilst being completely taboo. If you can say this, I fail to see how Koi Kaze is anything but brilliant.
I want to give an honourable mention to the soundtrack. The acoustic tone to it perfectly sets the sombre atmosphere. It’s amazing how in certain scenes, the music lifts the emotion even higher… as it inevitably becomes even sadder. I find it very reminiscent of that in Welcome to the N.H.K, and that certainly is a good thing. It’s amazing how many shows seem to forget the simplicity of it, and how it can make a good scene into a masterful one.
I’m sure there is much more to be said about Koi Kaze… but this is getting a little lengthy, and my thoughts are all middling together arund about now. I think at some point, I will return to Koi Kaze, because it is a true masterpiece that has not nearly enough words said about it. I feel like Saeki and Nanako need an in-depth character analysis – something that’d possibly be out-of-place here. Anyhow, that’s one for the future!
What did you think of Koi Kaze? Was its portrayal of taboo themes realistic?
As always, thanks for reading!
-Chris (Follow me on Twitter and consider supporting Peach’s Almanac on Patreon!)