Every once in a while, you come across something different. Such is the case when I, back in 2013, joined a Chatzy chatroom full of anime enthusiasts, and met a man who was enamored with the concept of incest. Even more, the room accepted his appreciation for “little sisters,” and would arouse his interest by playfully mentioning little sisters at completely random points. It is through this chat member that I had received the recommendation of Koi Kaze, and after seeing that another MAL buddy—who rates anime notoriously low—gave this anime an 8 out of 10, I gave in and added it to my Plan to Watch list, where it would sit there for almost three years. Until now.
Allow me to say this before going any further: I am not directly opposed to incest. If a brother and a sister, father and daughter, mother and son, cousin and cousin, or whatever other combination of familial bloodlines want to pursue something that crosses the boundary of typical family interaction, I really don’t give a shit. So long as they know the impact that it will have both through hereditary complications and societal alienation. If the two are happy being with one another and are aware of the hurdles they’ll have to face, I have no objection to it. I do not consider it “wrong” or “gross,” but I acknowledge that it’s not exactly advisable, as I wouldn’t encourage it in most circumstances.
For those of you reading, this hefty and controversial opening will lead you into the impression of Koi Kaze‘s content matter. It is, indeed, about a brother and sister falling in love with one another. That’s basically the entire gist of the story, as there are very few side-stories to speak of; if so, they’re resolved fairly quickly. The point of Koi Kaze is to carefully develop the romantic relationship between brother and sister, and the weight of breaking taboo has on the brother, in particular.
If you thought incest was the only taboo here, you’d be wrong. The synopsis for this anime gives the implication, but for those of you who missed it, the story is about a man named Koshiro, who is 27-years-old, and was just dumped by his girlfriend for being too unemotional. On his way home one day, he sees a high school girl get off the train he was riding on when she drops her I.D. card, so he jumps at the chance to retrieve it for her. Once outside, the wind starts blowing and the cherry blossom pedals start flying across the screen as the two figures stare into each other’s eyes, hinting at a blooming fascination between the two. The girl turns out to be Koshiro’s sister, who is 15-years-old, and will now be living with Koshiro and their father from now on. So not only incest, but a twelve-year age gap. Aye-aye-aye.
Controversy aside, watching this series was a bit of a mixed bag. There are segments of this story that I enjoyed, but I feel the characters are the most important aspect of this anime, as it directly revolves around them and their interactions with each other. So, there’s not much really to note about the story besides the events that occur and the pacing of it all. That being said, this anime is very s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-w. It builds up the tension to almost extreme levels in most cases. For the first half of the series, I felt a lot of the issues faced between characters were dragged on for too long, but once the siblings began to acknowledge their romantic intentions is when I felt the story became the most engrossing. It’s a steady climb, but I feel by the end that the pacing pays off. I also had no issue with how the emphasis of normal day life played out, and made it seem like time was passing by normally, which Koshiro noted to be “really fast” without realizing it.
With the characters comes the real controversy of the anime. Not the obvious one, but one from a technical standpoint of visual entertainment. Koshiro is an asshole. Not only an asshole, but one without any motivation for anything. Always moping, drowning in his own thoughts, and doesn’t really seem to respond to anything. I understand the guy’s depressed and emotionally constipated most of the time, but holy shit, this guy is really unlikable. It isn’t until the end where it shows through use of flashbacks his family situations, but even then he doesn’t seem any different. It’s like he’s a never-growing child, which he at least acknowledges, and for developmental purposes I can understand, but I can’t help but feel he’s an overall weak character. Although, I feel the constant need to think and act like an adult is one the story highlights well, and only adds to the drama caused by the impending relationship with his sister.
The use of the term “asshole” is how he treats his sister, Nanoka. Throughout the first few episodes, he’s constantly insulting her, discouraging her independence, and treating her like she’s six. It somewhat justifies this by having him feel he needs to act as an adult with the age difference and the guilt he has for falling in love with her by trying to treat her as if she’s beneath his standards, but let up a little, would ya? He goes overboard constantly, and it more often than not only leads to the inevitable scene where he ends up helping her and deepening the bond they have between them. It feels unreasonable.
Nanoka herself, I feel, is the best character in this entire anime. I enjoy her personality fine, though it can be bland on its own. What I find so appealing about her is the sort of father-daughter relationship she has with Koshiro, which is strange considering she is interested in him romantically, but it better shows her age and inexperience with the world and with love in general. The one good thing about Koshiro being an asshole is seeing how Nanoka responds to it, which normally incurs confusion and distrust within her. But at the end of the day, she doesn’t know. She’s never been in love and she’s never had a brother, so it’s refreshing to see someone try and learn and question what it means to have a brother, be in love, and a combination of the two. In essence, I love that she thinks, and she thinks a lot, as does Koshiro. It makes for a lot of alone scenes, which flattens out the pacing, but it builds tension, too, which I think the story plays with marvelously. The fact that she feels so strongly for her brother and casts aside any other issue that may (and will) arise because of that love, only further shows her naivety and dependence based on her age and her dependence to Koshiro, who is supposed to be the adult among the two.
Koi Kaze has something I don’t think many anime have: a good ending. With as controversial a subject as this story has, I think the way they ended the anime makes a lot of sense, and only further opens up the discussion for relationships as such. It’s impactful, with just the right amount of sentimentality, both happy and sad, to give the impression that it could end either way. The final few scenes between Nanoka and Koshiro were among my favorites from the entire anime.
While the anime was a nice one to absorb, it wasn’t particularly a pretty one. Animation and overall make-up was really shaky most of the way through. There were scenes that dazzled, but they were as sporadic as my eleven-year-old brother’s interest in school. Overall, the animation is probably the anime’s most noticeable failure, with faces looking distorted from afar, characters’ extremities being either too big or too small, the color palette being bland, and some scenes aren’t even completely colored (see: picture of Nanoka’s school). They may pass it off as “creative integrity,” but I’d call it “strict deadlines.” This anime was made in 2004, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone guessed this was made in the ’90s.
Allow me to mention something about the sound quality, too. Wow! Sound?! I noticed something about that?! Yes, well, the voice acting I felt was odd. Voice acting? I have something to say about voice acting? That’s a first. The first few episodes I felt the jobs were really mediocre. Everyone sounded out of it and almost uninterested. I noticed it more with Nanoka’s actor than anyone else, but Koshiro doesn’t exactly have the most believable voice, either. However, as the anime went along, it got better, so I’m inclined to believe it may have been debut jitters or something. There was also a nice emphasis on orchestration to heighten the mood. I think I was numb by the time I started to notice it, so I can’t say it made me feel any more empathetic, but the emphasis is always appreciated.
It’s a controversial title, for good reason. Not everyone’s going to agree with the themes present, but perhaps that’s the point. Koi Kaze, even without the use of taboo, is one I enjoyed… most of the time. The second half in particular, while the first half was confusing and used for build-up more than anything. It has a nice way of showcasing the struggles of dealing with one’s inner desires and coping with not being able to get what you truly want. It’s a series that uses the concept of incest to its advantage to make an enriching experience, rather than exploit it for trends (a la OniAi), and I feel the story is all the better for it. Even if one is against incest, I feel Koi Kaze is worth at least looking into. It doesn’t encourage it, but it doesn’t discourage it, either. It’s a beautiful image of ambiguity that I think reflects well for a story without an answer.
Personal Score: C+
Critical Score: B-
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.