Bar Jojo Part 5 (natch), Run with the Wind is probably my favourite anime this season. As I’ve said many, many, many times before, I love sports anime! It also helps that the show’s characters are extremely entertaining and that there’s awesome chemistry between them. During episode 5 we see King wrestle with his commitment to his newfound hobby, running, as he struggles to find paid employment. This got me thinking about a recurring theme in anime: passion vs. practicality. What do I mean by this? Well, anime about plucky characters with heads full of dreams are a dime a dozen. Maybe they want to be recognised by other people, go to nationals with their sports team, or make it big with their band… But what happens when life, with all of its obstacles, gets in the way of these dreams? Today I wanted to devote some time to exploring this conundrum, using Run with the Wind as a springboard for discussion.
During episode 5 of Run with the Wind King gets suited and booted to attend a job fayre in the wake of his upcoming graduation. He also applies for job after job with no success. So it’s unsurprising then when, shortly after Haiji declares that the residents of Chikuseisou forgo paid employment to wholeheartedly pursue running, King snaps, saying “Sorry, but I’ve got my own life to live.”, before storming out of the room. I can totally understand where King’s coming from. It’s great to be passionate about something, but that passion isn’t necessarily going to pay the bills. Sometimes it’s just not practical, or even possible, to sacrifice everything in pursuit of a passion.
Yet this is something that we see time and time again in anime, especially shounen anime, where characters often strive towards a dream in spite of some rather sizable obstacles. Take Black Clover’s Asta, for instance, who dreams of becoming the wizard king, despite having no magical powers, or Naruto’s Rock Lee, who, similarly, hopes to become an excellent ninja, despite having zero aptitude for ninjutsu or taijutsu, or One Piece’s Luffy, who spends his life sailing the open seas in search of the Grand Line, despite, unbelievably, not being able to swim.
Maybe these anime are so popular and prevalent because they allow their viewers, often young dreamers themselves, to dream. They also convey the idea that anything is possible so long as you work hard, don’t give up, and stay true to yourself. To the extent that the viewer believes these mantras, these shows are comforting, inspiring, and uplifting.
So it’s not surprising that anime which show life getting in the way of (or sometimes even putting a stop to) characters’ dreams are considerably fewer in number. These anime also have smaller fan bases and are aimed at far more mature (and possibly more jaded) audiences, e.g. Honey and Clover, NANA, and Silver Spoon. SPOILERS: During Honey and Clover, Hagu badly hurts her hands, which inhibits her ability to create art, during NANA, Nana K unexpectedly becomes pregnant, which puts an end to her fledgling relationship with Nobu, and during Silver Spoon, we learn that Komaba gave up on his dream of becoming a professional baseballer to take over his family’s farm after his dad passed away.
Admittedly, these anime felt pretty bleak at times. I definitely shed my fair share of tears while watching them! But, unlike idealistic shounen shows, they show life for exactly what it is: painful, difficult, and, at times, full of obstacles. They also show that failure, or else having to temporarily shelve one’s dreams, isn’t necessarily because of a lack of effort or resilience on the part of the dreamer, which is a myth that I think shounen shows may, unintentionally, perpetuate. Sometimes life throws you a curveball that you can, in no way, anticipate or dodge. There’s also a kind of catharsis to be obtained by watching these anime. Knowing that life isn’t peachy for everybody or that you’re not alone in your struggles is oddly comforting, in a bittersweet kind of way. You can also learn from characters how to (or how not to) deal with life’s problems. In these ways, I feel that these anime, whilst bleak, are so, so valuable.
Anyway, back to Run with the Wind. Following King’s outburst, Haiji counters by saying: “Reality will always be there in front of you. So instead of running from it, why not try running with reality?” I think that this is another way of saying, using running, the anime’s primary focus, “roll with life’s punches”. Yes, sometimes life sucks. But instead of burying your head in the sand, as King had begun to do, by distancing himself from running and from his friends, or constantly fighting against its current and wearing yourself out, learn to swim with it. Adapt to the best of your ability and make the best of the hand that you’ve been dealt. This will look different in each of our lives. For me, it means to find enjoyment in the little things, like a moment’s peace with a hot cup of tea, in the midst of strife and turmoil. What would applying these things look like in King’s life? I suppose we’ll find out… I’m really looking forward to seeing how this group of lovable goofs deal with the obstacles that will, inevitably, come their way as they passionately pursue their goal of running in the Hakone Ekiden!