Even more so than any other genre, Sports anime have a knack for inspiring fans to contemplate kicking a ball, hitting the gym, or heading out for a quick jog. In rare instances, anime even motivates viewers to sit down and watch a real basketball match, although this tends to last for approximately half-an-hour before the channel is switched to anything else airing at the time.
Chasing your dreams and pushing forward in the face of great adversity are common themes among the genre's entries. Although far from an exception, Run with the Wind takes things a step further by constantly stressing the absurdity of a newly formed team striving to qualify for the Hakone Ekiden Marathon following only 10 months of training. College students on the cusp of adulthood, Kansei University's ten (mostly reluctant) runners seek to accomplish a task not even they believe to be possible!
10. Joujirou Kizuki
Presented as a tag-team with his twin brother, Jouji is a laid-back student with a background in soccer. Unlike some of the other candidates elected by Haiji to run the marathon, Jouji is in relatively decent shape but seems to primarily lack the motivation to go the extra mile. Each member of the team has their own reasons for competing, as they struggle to overcome their own personal hurdles.
Jouji is primarily interested in attaining a girlfriend, which is hardly an absurd goal for a college student. Fair enough! There is nothing wrong with wanting to impress potential suitors. In fact, it is quite a relatable goal. Both twins struggle to maintain an urge to compete once they discern winning the Hakone Ekiden Marathon is not truly an option. Ultimately, the pair arrive at the conclusion that the race is less about winning and more about creating memories with schoolmates set to leave Kansei University.
Jouji's low rank is mainly a byproduct of the twins' actions during the Hakone, as both brothers get distracted and could have probably performed better. Jouji's actions directly cause his brother to lose focus, so he fares slightly worse.
9. Joutarou Kizuki
As the older of the twins, Joutarou comes across as slightly more mature than Jouji, although the siblings share near-identical personalities. Consequently, much of what was said about Joujirou transfers over to Joutarou, who also originally joins the team as a way to potentially meet girls and to spend time with Hanako Katsuta.
As the only Kansei runners to not surpass expectations during the Hakone Ekiden, the Kizuki brothers tend to get a bit of a bum rap. That being said, Joutarou and Joujirou find the resolve to compete in a marathon that has no significant meaning to them. They endure 10 months of grueling training and, for the most part, seem to genuinely believe the team had a chance to go the distance. While their expectations may be somewhat unrealistic, the siblings accept Haiji's vision and endeavor to actualize his dream.
8. Youhei Sakaguichi
Going by the nickname of King, Youhei resists Haiji's plan longer than nearly every other character. King is far more preoccupied with securing a job than training for a marathon, especially one far beyond his capabilities. Among the funniest personalities on the roster, King remains quite a reserved character throughout the majority of the anime, although this coldness fits Youhei's back story.
King dreamed of experiencing the perfect college life. Sadly, he proved to be his own worst enemy. As the days turned to months and ultimately years, King suddenly found himself on the verge of graduating with little to show for his time at Kansei. King's desperate search for a job reflects the character's desire to leave behind a period of his life defined by disappointment and regret. He craves a fresh start.
On the surface, King hardly comes across as a particularly inspiring character. He is grumpy, wastes quite a lot of time, and often takes out his frustrations on others. Initially, King seems destined to repeat the same mistakes, but he ultimately gains self-awareness and realizes something must change. Facing your own flaws is never easy!
7. Yukihiko Iwakura
A law student in his fourth year, Yukihiko wants precisely nothing to do with Haiji's crazy dream of qualifying for Hakone. Yukihiko embraces every opportunity to highlight the insanity of the task Haiji has forced upon the residents of Chikuseisou. Along with talking a good game, Yukihiko routinely skips practice, typically as a side-effect of a late-night drinking session.
While the twins and many of the other characters are driven primarily by emotion or a desire to impress a third party, Yukihiko approaches the situation logically. He is under no delusion of the plausibility that Haiji's plan bears fruit. Yukihiko is among the oldest and most driven characters, so he has plenty of reason to oppose the prospect of squandering months on a fruitless exercise.
Although Yuki's reservations endure throughout most of the series, when the need arises, he never fails to back up his friends. Whether helping preparing dinner or participating in a qualifying race, Yuki is always there supporting the rest of the track team.
6. Akihiro Hirata
Taken at face value, the majority of the cast goes through similar character arcs. Putting aside Haiji and Kakeru Kurahara, the rest of the team are introduced as relative newbies lacking the self-belief to accept the feasibility of their fearless leader's ambitious plan. Through sheer determination and Haiji's refusal to take "no" for an answer, one by one, they push through their own limitations and realize there is nothing that cannot be accomplished with a great deal of effort. Running is just a tool to facilitate self-growth.
Despite a background in track providing an advantage, Akihiro Hirata arguably overcomes the most challenging mental obstacles out of all the runners. While the genius Kakeru quits the sport due to an inability to play nice with others, Hirata retires after being told to consider quitting by his former coach. Consequently, Hirata associates running with personal failure. Hirata also smokes.
Hirata allows someone else's judgment to destroy his enthusiasm for the sport. Thanks to Haiji's dream, Hirata succeeds in proving the coach and himself wrong. After tasting the pain of being deemed a failure, Hirata steps back on the road to overcome his demons!
5. Musa Kamara
Musa is simply the nicest person in Run with the Wind. Born in Tanzania, Africa; Musa is the only international student on the roster, a fact greeted with some mildly racist remarks by a handful of other teams. As a Science and Engineering student, Musa is not much of a sportsman and needs to work just as hard as everyone else to procure a mandatory running time to be in contention for Hakone.
Not to dismiss Musa's athletic prowess, but the character shines the brightest as a supporting player. Perhaps as a byproduct of feeling somewhat like an outsider, Musa tries exceptionally hard to foster a positive atmosphere at Chikuseisou. He is the ultimate optimist and can be trusted to consistently give 100% to the cause. If the ending is anything to go by, Musa can also be relied upon to keep a secret!
4. Kakeru Kurahara
Essentially starring an ensemble cast, Run with the Wind treats each member of Kansei's track team with an equal degree of respect. That being said, Kakeru Kurahara is the anime's de facto protagonist. Easily the strongest athlete on the team, Kakeru is an elite runner who turned his back on the sport after a disagreement with a coach caused widespread problems for his high school teammates. Rejected by his peers, Kakeru chose to run on his own rather than as part of a team. Preferring to put this entire mess behind him, Kakeru wants nothing to do with Haiji's Hakone aspirations.
Like many protagonists in sports anime, Kakeru is naturally gifted at the sport, however, he is also incredibly well-trained. Continuing to practice on his own, Kakeru has not lost a beat since his high school days. Consequently, the protagonist's growth entirely revolves around his relationships with the rest of the team rather than Kakeru overcoming his own physical limitations.
Initially, Kakeru rejects Haiji. He does not have any time to slow down and wait for amateurish athletes to catch up. As the series progresses, Kakeru gradually opens up and actively begins to share his expertise with the less skilled characters, even the incredibly slow Akane Kashiwazaki. Kakeru's athletic skill inspires his teammates and motivates Haiji to finally put his plan into action. Kakeru's growth as a person is even more inspiring than his ability to run really fast!
3. Takashi Sugiyama
Kind-hearted and honest, Takashi quickly and wholeheartedly embraces Haiji's plan, despite not being particularly athletic. On occasion, Takashi comes across more like a manager than a member of the track team. With the exception of perhaps Kakeru and Yuki, Haiji relies on Takashi more than any other person, and the latter accepts the responsibility without uttering a single complaint.
Kansei's track team may be striving to qualify for Hakone, but this is only a quantifiable goal. Winning the marathon is not the point; in fact, qualifying for the competition is only a nice bonus for most of the characters. Along with wanting to impress his parents, Takashi primarily seeks to create lasting memories with Haiji and company while it is still possible.
Takashi's Hakone performance is the main reason the character places so highly on this list. Tragically struck down by an illness, Takashi forces himself to compete so his companions are not disqualified.
2. Akane Kashiwazaki
Prince is easily Kansei's worst runner. Found of reading manga and books, Akane has absolutely no reason to engage in a touch of voluntary exercise. He hates jogging and this never really changes. The likes of Akihiro and the twins at least have a background in sports to rely upon, while Takashi and Musa are happy to be taking part in a competition with their friends. Initial resistance aside, King and Yuki are in decent shape and grow an appreciation for Haiji's training.
If it were not for the fact the track team requires ten runners to participate, Akane would not be going through the hell of waking up every morning to take part in an activity that he detests. Prince is there solely because his friends need him. Akane gets no pleasure out of qualifying for Hakone and faces the additional embarrassment of trailing far behind the other runners.
Fully aware of his limitations but refusing to give up, despite really wanting to, Akane's determination is inspirational. Forget Haiji or Kakeru, Prince is the most mentally tough character in Run with the Wind!
1. Haiji Kiyose
Who else could possibly secure the top spot? Run with the Wind's story is entirely driven by Haiji's personal dream and unwavering belief in his friends' potential. While everyone—including his very own teammates—mock his goal to qualify for Hakone, Haiji simply smiles and continues to optimistically gaze towards the future.
Towards the beginning of the anime, Haiji almost comes across as a bully, and he essentially blackmails the rest of the characters into accepting their parts in his plan. However, Haiji is undeniably a deeply compassionate and caring person who works himself to the bone to ensure Chikuseisou's residents are fully fed and protected.
Haiji's passion invigorates Kakeru's love for running and transforms a group of amateurs into a competent unit capable of standing alongside some of Japan's best track teams.
Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is a touching story about ten very different students coming together in pursuit of a dream beyond their individual abilities. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Haiji may be the glue keeping the team together, but every single member must pull their own weight or the entire thing will come crashing down. Companionship is inspirational.
Which Run with the Wind runner inspired you? Please let us know in the comment section below.