Love is Complicated
After I covered School Days, I decided it was high time I explored some other “controversial” titles with comparable reputations. While today’s show, Koi Kaze has a better reputation in the more versed anime circles, the 2004 series still garners a lot of of negative discussion and criticism due to the subject matter it explores. Anime is no stranger to the siscon scenario, but what happens if we play it totally straight? Today, I’m here to tell you why it’s well worth your time, and for reasons you probably won’t expect.
While the show is about a brother and a sister who fall in love with each other, it’s far from what the series is actually about. It’s better to say that the show explores the concept of love and how society expects people to respond to it. Sure, the topic it explores these themes within is taboo, but that’s also the point.
There’s this strange aversion to media that covers sexually taboo topics here in the West particularly and I always found this to be perversely hypocritical. On the one hand, there’s the fact that siscon shows are enjoyed by a lot in the anime medium to begin with, so why is Koi Kaze so risque? However, even putting that aside, there is a lot of Western media which is far more explicit and indulgent when it comes to this topic that several people hail as masterpiece works.
It’s an easy punching bag to turn to, but Game of Thrones is simultaneously more explicit in its portrayal of a brother-sister relationship while being a lot less meaningful in terms of what it has to say. Still, it’s not the only example, just one I think most people can easily identify and relate to.
So why is Koi Kaze considered to be so controversial then? Part of the reason may have to do with the style of the animation. I mentioned School Days earlier, and in a lot of ways it has that grounded sort of style. It’s not the most attractive, but it leans more into realism than an exaggerated, or more expressive style you might see in other anime.
Then of course is the issue of the ages. Our lead, Koushirou is 27 while Nanoka is only 15. Fiction is already an ideal space to explore the topic of age-gap relationships, and this can be done with little issue if After the Rain is any indication, one such show that several heap high praise onto. Koushirou is interested in Nanoka before learning she’s his sister, but the reason for that is pretty simplistic.
Koushirou hasn’t really ever felt love for anyone. Well, more accurately, he’s always had difficulties identifying his emotions and it is through his time with Nanoka at the amusement park early in the series that he begins to realize that. For him, she’s somebody who offers insight into himself and allows him to feel what’s “missing”.
As such, the writing reminds me of something like March Comes in Like a Lion where the topic is given serious weight. This persists through the direction and sound of the show as well, resulting in a work that truly has something to say but wants you to take it as seriously as possible.
One complaint I’ve seen leveled at the show beyond the “disgusting” subject matter is how Koushirou goes back and forth regarding his feelings toward Nanoka. He knows that they shouldn’t be together, that it’s the wrong thing to do, and yet he struggles with this throughout the entirety of the series.
Nanoka differs in that she is faster to accept these feelings. She’s also a lot more naive, but this leads her to be more genuine and earnest. In a lot of ways she represents an ideal, what love should be, something that transcends these notions we often prescribe.
The pair contrast each other well but further emphasize the main idea of the series. As we live our lives we are shown what romance is meant to be, but in reality it often plays out quite differently. Koi Kaze neither encourages, nor condemns the relationship pointing to the hardships the two would face while still embracing the upsides.
You can best see this in the final stretch of episodes where a co-worker of Koushirou’s discovers the truth about the relationship he has with his sister. However, it goes further when Nanoka and koushirou visit their mother’s house in the final episode. It’s awkward and uncomfortable.
In many ways, Koi Kaze is an interesting series to watch but one that I wouldn’t consider perfect either. As I’ve mentioned the visuals are often not the best and can actively detract from the experience, which is a real shame because everything else is so well put together.
The biggest gripe I have with the series, however, is actually the final episode. It’s so close to being a great ending, but it felt like Koi Kaze never could commit to how it wanted to ultimately handle the conclusion. The awkward family visit leads to a scene of contemplating suicide, then sneaking into the same amusement park from the start, and then finally ends with an “I love you” that’s never really fully said or expressed properly.
As far as endings go, it’s not at all horrible, but for me this muddied the message and idea the show felt like it was going for. In a way, it’s as if Koi Kaze was afraid of endorsing the relationship but still wanted to heavily imply that this was the correct outcome. Given that this decision is the core conflict in the series, it’s unusual that things get close to having a strong sense of finality while avoiding it altogether.
No trailer, as such you’ll have to settle for the OP instead
Still, I have to say that Koi Kaze is far from this controversial monstrosity that many make it out to be. While the subject matter is taboo, it’s a worthwhile experience. This may not be the kind of thing you come back to time-and-time again, but it is an anime that you should give a chance to at least once.
Have you seen Koi Kaze? Does the subject matter put you off at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below. If you enjoy the work I’m doing here please consider becoming a patron or making a one-time donation by clicking the provided buttons below. Thanks so much for reading and hope to see you again soon!
5 thoughts on “Koi Kaze – This is Controversial?”
Not seen (ot heard) of this one but I did somehow sit through a show many years ago called Yosuga no Sora which features incestuous twins. I wish I could understand Japan’s fixation with such themes but I doubt there will ever be a happy medium between our attitudes and theirs and that is not me being prudish, just English I guess. 😛
Even comedy shows like Eromanga-Sensei, Oreimo and Onii-chan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!! can be creepy in broaching this subject though in this form, many western fans find it easier to digest. More power to them I suppose, but not for me.
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It’s worth seeking out if you can find it in some form. The show, despite having incest as the main conceit, isn’t really about that as I noted. This also isn’t explicit in what it depicts either, as again, it’s not the focal point. It just didn’t seem like /this/ show is the one that would get such a volatile reaction.
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There are some really great anime out there that broach taboo topics and do it well. “Kuzu no Honkai” is one. “The Garden of Words” is one of the best anime ever made. They deal with student-teacher affairs.
I just could not get into Domestic Girlfriend. Too contrived and I felt no sympathy for the boy or the teacher because they behaved so stupidly. There was also a gender issue. Swap the genders and it would just be far less controversial.
And then there’s incest. “Yosuga no Sora” has its strong points. I consider “Grisaia no Kajitsu”, and the Monogatari series to be classics and incest is a theme in all of them. “A Sister is All You Need” is pure fun. There’s a whiff of it around 3 Gatsu no Lion, tho Kyouko isn’t an adopted sister. I believe she’s a foster-sister which means she isn’t even related to him by law.
I haven’t seen “Koi Kaze” but I think the age differential – coupled with her own very young age – that I’d find problematic rather than the incest. Increase both their ages by 33% and much of the controversy would be gone.
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Appreciate the comment Fred. I’ve been working my way through “some of the worst anime ever made” and this was one of them. By that I mean, the really controversial stuff.
I still have yet to watch Garden of Words, but I own it. That film doesn’t really fall into the controversial category, most people like it. That, or they at least can appreciate it.
As for Domestic Girlfriend, you say, “There was also a gender issue. Swap the genders and it would just be far less controversial.” However, I don’t agree at all. The show also didn’t really get much controversy which is part of my point in writing this particular article (less so about that show specifically, but this type of media in general).
Your middle bit where you hit on several shows, I have only seen A Sister’s All You Need and March, so I’ll only comment on those. The first series is a lot better than expected and I’ve already covered it here. March, you are correct.
While watching Koi Kaze, the relationship was never uncomfortable to really watch. The final episode is very awkward, but it has less to do with the relationship itself and more the interactions the two have. The ending shows one thing but implies another, which is where I think it fails a bit. However, the “controversy” that supposedly exists here is really stupid. The show handles itself very well.
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