This year, I decided to be “adventurous” and take part in Reverse Thieves’ annual Secret Santa event. Though I wasn’t sure how well it would work out, it turned out to be a really fun experience, and I look forward to doing it again next year (my only worry is how well my person liked the series I recommended)!
Out of the series I had to choose from, I ended up going with Koi Kaze which was a bit of a surprise. My other two choices, Dennou Coil and Kaiba, are series that I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while now, so they initially seemed like the obvious choices. In the end, though, I decided to go with Koi Kaze because it’s the only one out of the three that I’ve been avoiding. When I originally happened upon the series a few years back, I almost immediately shoved it to the bottom of my priories list since incest wasn’t really my thing, and I wasn’t particularly interested in double checking. Well, come Secret Santa time, I decided I didn’t care as much about the topic as I did before and what the heck? It’s only 13 episodes. Secret Santa, if you’re reading this, I want to take a moment and thank you for sticking that show on the list since I probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise!
A lot of anime today, especially when it comes to harems, like to to toe the incest line but never cross it. The sister who’s in love with her brother is practically a token character and she is, more often than not, treated as a joke character; her affectionate displays are too over the top to be taken seriously and we all know that her brother isn’t going to pick her anyway. Even a show like OreImo doesn’t take its premise seriously and wimps out at the end in terms of Kirino and Kyousuke hooking up (an event, in itself, that seemed to be poorly handled from what I read).
Enter Koi Kaze, incest done right. Koshiro is a man in his mid-twenties who lives with his dad and has a stable job as a wedding planner. One day, his younger sister, Nanoka, suddenly comes into the picture, and Koshiro finds himself struggling with unexpected feelings that go beyond simple brotherly affection. What Koi Kaze does that other shows do not is it deals with the question of: “How okay is this actually?” Most of the time, you, dear Reader, and I automatically go: IT’S NOT AT ALL! Initially Koshiro does this as well and, throughout the series he struggles with the morality of his feelings from the societal point of view that he, like the rest of us, has grown up accepting: one simply does not fall in love with his sister.
Koshiro, the adult, knows that what he feels for his younger sister is wrong. Normal people don’t takes whiffs of their sister’s bra then go masturbate; he knows this. He feels intense guilt and even shame about his feelings, especially when he did the aforementioned deed. At several points in the show, he calls himself a pervert and, for the majority of the show, he wanders around with a brooding/melancholy look plastered on his face. He desperately tries to bury his feelings, tries to act like the big brother he knows he should be, even going as far as to reject Nanoka when she indicates that she might have similar feelings.
The age difference between the two (12 years) only compounds the problem since Koshiro seems is caught between seeing his sister as a child and as a grown woman. Though he constantly refers to her as a child, he doesn’t really see her as such, something that the show itself reinforces as we see Nanoka get her period and are constantly confronted with the image of Nanoka’s undergarments, especially her bra, a symbol of sorts that she is no longer a child. Though he’s attracted to her, Koshiro is disgusted with himself and his “perverted” view of his sister (“I hope you stay a child.”). An interesting contrast to Koshiro’s feelings is presented through Nanoka’s own process of falling in love. While Koshiro struggles with his “adult” desires, Nanoka experiences a much different sort of love that evolves throughout the course of the show. Her love has a distinctly innocent feel to it and rightly so considering she is only 14 years 0ld, a girl growing into herself and only starting to really become a woman. Perhaps because of her naivete and innocence, Nanoka is able to also maintain an endearing straightforwardness and honesty. She doesn’t struggle nearly as much as Koshiro with the idea of their relationship (at least externally), at the end, even comforting Koshiro by telling him they don’t have to figure out their future right now. By watching the struggles these two undergo, we can’t help but begrudgingly question for ourselves whether they should allow themselves to indulge in their feelings or if they should hold themselves back and carry on like normal siblings. The way the issue is handled makes it so that it doesn’t seem as black and white as it did going into the show.
The progression of the love story is definitely one of Koi Kaze‘s strongest aspects. It has a natural flow to it and never feels particularly rushed, something that probably stems from, in part, the introspective nature of the show, with more focus on character’s thoughts and the implied feelings and meaning than anything else; many of my favorite moments are silent interactions between the two, simple hand holding or looks. Going back to the story’s progression, I really loved how well the ending fit. Though Koshiro still finds himself questioning the relationship (“Really….what are we doing”) and their future is one that is still full of ambiguity and many an obstacle, as he watches Nanoka walk home in the final episode, he is finally able to say to himself, with a sort of happiness and conviction that he had been fighting, “I love you!” We don’t see how Nanoka and Koshiro’s relationship will continue to play out. For all we know, the social stigma against it may eventually cause it to fall apart, but we do know that at that moment in time, for the present, at least, the two are happy, content to simply deal with the present and not necessarily burden themselves with worries of the future, worries that we know they are still trying to figure out how to face (“The one thing I do know is…This moment…is something that I don’t want to let go off” -Koshiro).
Though our two mains turn out to be great characters, the side cast is much more of a mixed bag. My favorite of the bunch is definitely Chidori, Koshiro’s coworker and the only person to figure out the feelings that exist between the two. In her, we hear a voice of reason. When she figures out that Koshiro has serious feelings for his sister, she initially responds in anger, reacting as most normal people would; she tries to reason with both Nanoka and Koshiro at several points, trying to get them to see how the relationship isn’t worth the trouble and the pain, especially since it may only be fleeting. What I like best about her is that, though her efforts obviously fail and I doubt she and Koshiro will ever be able to fully mend their relationship, she doesn’t totally condemn them either. She accepts the fact that she can’t do anything anymore and, though she refuses to wish Koshiro good luck at the end, she does wish him good health; she may not approve, but she doesn’t wish misfortune upon them either. The rest of the side cast is pretty okay with the guys (Koshiro’s dad and another coworker) mainly acting as a comic relief, sometimes insufferably so.
The only part of the show that I probably wasn’t the biggest fan of was the animation which was sometimes a bit on the iffier side. I did like the muted colors because they added to the serious nature of the show, and I really loved Nanoka and Koshiro’s character designs, both of which I think felt fit each character perfectly; Nanoka’s actually looked like a young girl, and Koshiro looked like an adult, not a bishounen. Making up for the lack of stellar animation, though, was the series’ music which was great. Most, if not all of it, had a beautifully melancholy or contemplative tone that added wonderfully to every scene. The OP and ED are also pretty great in how how well they fit the slow moving series.
In the end, Koi Kaze had me rooting for an incestuous couple…which is a first and probably a last. During my watching experience, I dutifully attempted to take notes, but, by the end, they had turned into 14 pages of 98% ALL CAPS /SOBBING AND YELLING at characters, a sign of much love from yours truly. Though I’d be lying if I said, at times, I didn’t have moments where I felt a tad bit awkward and almost guilty rooting for Koshiro and Nanoka’s relationship, the fact that I wasn’t completely creeped out and that I found the characters to be as sympathetic and endearing as I did just goes to show how well done the show was done. Nanoka and Koshiro were characters whose struggles and emotions were handled in a way that made them feel genuine and made me like them. Though it isn’t perfect, Koi Kaze comes pretty damn close all things considered.
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Glad to hear you enjoyed it! I gave Koi Kaze a try on a whim, back when I was struggling through the first few episodes of Clannad and blogging about the experience. I really found Koi Kaze to be the right show at the right time: it hit me harder than Clannad and without the weird aftertaste of Jun Maeda’s particular brand of emotional manipulation. As you said, it’s not perfect (the protagonist’s perverted co-worker is not a highlight) but the most important part of the series, the “relationship” between Koshiro and Nanoka, the show nails. A lot of late-night otaku shows these days fetishize incest (for various icky reasons) but Koi Kaze stands out in my mind for never selling short exactly how horrifying and wrong incest is while refusing to condemn the characters involved. Koshiro and Nanoka realize the consequences of their actions but push forwards anyway, and you have to admire them even as you’re horrified at what you’re witnessing.
Interestingly enough the guy who directed Koi Kaze also directed Baccano, Natsume Yuujinchou and (currently) Samurai Flamenco–he has more range than any other director than I can think of! At any rate, I’m glad you chose to check this series out rather than tossing it to the wayside. It’s an unheralded classic I’ve seen some reject due to its subject matter but I’d honestly recommend it to anyone looking for a mature drama. Glad my secret santa recipient actually chose to write a review this year > : D
Thanks for commenting and sorry for taking so long to reply!
Koshiro’s male coworker really was the only real problem I had with the show’s characters. I can sort of see why he was there (maybe to provide a contrast between otaku fantasies and reality), but I can’t say I enjoyed many of the scenes he was in.
Exactly! I really have to admire the show for keeping the creepiness of the situation but still making everyone relatively likeable.
Oh yeah, I noticed that as well when I looked him up out of curiosity on MAL. I’m definitely interested now in checking out more of his stuff since the vast majority of what I’ve seen from him I’ve enjoyed a great deal.
Thanks again for recommending the show to me and I’m glad that I was able to have you as my first secret santa!
I liked a lot the titles of the episodes. And although I like how the story was handled decently and not fanservicey, I wasn’t very fond about the age difference and the sniffing scene. My 2 cents
Thanks for commenting and sorry for the late reply!
I actually regret not paying more attention to the episode titles earlier; they were so nice!
Oh yeah, I can see how those might be problems for some. They definitely added a certain awkwardness to some parts, but I found that they added more to the show than detracted from it, personally. Regardless, I think it’s neat that a show like this even exists and was handled as well it is.