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When I rate something a 10, it has to be a show that makes me feel like I have become better for having seen it. There's a joy in watching a 10 show that a 9 only reaches in its peaks. A 10 is inherently subjective, because the smallest of details can make that 10 turn into a 9 or 8 for someone else. I'm prefacing my review with this disclaimer, because I know that I loved this show almost beyond reason. I often divide reviews into things I liked and things I disliked, but for "Run With The Wind" that would be almost pointless. Instead, I will discuss the categories of things I liked, and allow for the occasional critique.
ANIMATION: This was gorgeous. Sure, sometimes you could see a time crunch affecting the faces, or the mob characters as a whole, but I'm sure those will be cleaned up in future releases. The lesser-talked about element of production, the sound effects, were also top notch, from beginning (the sounds of a bicycle chasing down a runner at night) to the end (the sounds of a runner in pain).
PLOT: I used to run, so this gets a huge pass from me in regards to the limitations of a sports anime's plot. Nevertheless, I love that the easiest tropes were avoided. The omnipresent rival from the main character's past is just a jerk. The team doesn't miraculously become the best relay team in the history of Japan. Achievements are realistic, and the first half of the anime - almost a full cour - revolves around the difficulties in getting a group of amateurs to buy into a grueling competition. Deviations from reality are for comedic purposes only. (Related: the characters look like humans their age, gender and race. The characters from Africa all look different & distinctive while maintaining that realism. It's a low bar, but most anime don't clear it.)
CHARACTERS: Every runner on the team gets attention and rounded characterizations - it's clear who's the main character, but they all get a moment. They all seemed like believable college boys. Incidentally, bonus points for not being a high school drama - they act like the young adults they are. It would've been nice if the high school girl who assists with practices had gotten more time, but I know she was never the focus of the story. More female characters would've been nice, but that feels to me like complaining about the original 12 Angry Men - it's a male track team, so what were we expecting?
If you haven't watched this, do so as soon as you can, if you care even a little about running, or if plot is less important to you than solid characters and beautifully rendered animation/sound effects.
My reviewing system for films and shows that are NOT anime: 1-5: I hated it. I also don't think it has redeeming qualities, so you shouldn't watch it either. 6: I didn't like it. It's not my thing, I didn't like the execution, I don't want to see it again. However, I don't think it is a BAD film or show - it has qualities that will recommend it to those who like that kind of thing. 7: It was fine. I didn't love it, and I don't need to see it again. I won't be sad if I never see it again. 8: I liked it. I didn't love it, and while I'd like to see it again, I wouldn't want to see it often. 9: I loved it. I would be sad if I never saw it again. I might want to see it every few years. 10: I loved it beyond description. I wouldn't mind re-watching it every year.
Clarifying my Anime rating system: My number key below is an attempt to parse the small differences between 5 and 6, 7 and 8, & 9 and 10. When I rate, I consider my own enjoyment, the characterization and the plot, the appearance of the animation, and occasionally the soundtrack - in roughly that order. An anime will lose at least 1 point for presence of deal-breaker tropes (for example, comedic pedophilia), and more if the trope(s) ruined my enjoyment. On the other hand, it will gain at least 1 point for artistry in animation or sound.
Never Recommend: 1-4, inclusive. Further clarification: I don't expect to rate anything 1-4, as I would probably never finish watching something in this range of rating. It's likely to have bad plotting, subpar animation, bland characterizations, silly and/or irritating tropes, etc.; I would consider it to be pure excrement.
Cautious Recommending: 5: In this case, it started out with a higher score and slipped over time... because I normally don't watch anything that I would score below 6, except for movies (small time commitment). 6: I may or may not have watched the whole show, but I recognize deal-breaker issues in it, and I'm unlikely to rewatch. It just wasn't enjoyable enough for me to forgive its flaws. There would be huge caveats to any recommendation.
Likely to Recommend: 7: Not my thing, but usually I at least respect it. Generally, I didn't like it enough to think I would rewatch it, but also didn't see huge problems in the plot, characterizations, etc. and thought it was worth finishing. I might suggest it to someone if I know they like the specific sub-genre or other work by the studio. 8: I had a good time watching it, but it didn't move me the way a 9 or a 10 does; it's possible that over time I would upgrade it if I liked it more on reflection. I would be willing to rewatch it. I'd recommend it with the occasional caveat.
Highly Recommend: 9: I enjoyed it very much. It may have had one or two issues, but not enough to diminish enjoyment. It's possible that over time I would downgrade it to an 8 (changing tastes) or upgrade to a 10 (realize it's never left my mind). I'm likely to rewatch, and likely to buy the DVDs. I'd recommend it to most audiences. 10: Virtually flawless. I'd definitely rewatch, and definitely want to buy DVDs. I would shill this to anyone.
EDIT: for 2021, I'm participating in the MAL Anime Challenge. Any anime in the Completed section with a * in the note was watched for the challenge.
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