Koi Kaze Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What They Say
Koshiro and Nanoka are brother and sister separated since Nanoko was a baby. When the time comes for her to enter high school, it is decided that the two will live together. This is easier said than done. The two had already been on a date! Although they will try to have a platonic relationship, it becomes increasingly tense. Will the two hold off, or will the temptation prove too difficult?

The Review!
At age twenty-seven, Koshiro's life changes when the sister he never really knew comes to live with him and his father.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix provided for the show is solid throughout but it isn't exactly a mix that's going to knock anyone's socks off to begin with. Koi Kaze is very dialogue driven show for the most part and there aren't really things like action scenes. There are a few areas where some good directionality comes into play with things like the trains and doors but for the most part it's a center channel based series. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of this volume.

Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is an interesting one to look at since it's doing a slice of life kind of tale and trying to utilize things such as the seasons and the mood of the sky to influence the characters so it has a very real world feel to its color palette that's shaken up every now and then by some really vibrant pieces that just pop into view. The consistency of the color scheme works really well here and it adds to the atmosphere perfectly. The transfer itself is a real pleasure to watch with it maintaining a very solid feel for the large sections of colors without any blocking or gradient issues. Cross coloration is non-existent and I'm hard pressed to find any serious instances of aliasing during the four episodes here. This just a transfer that's easy to lose yourself in as you take it all in.

Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, we get the gorgeous looking image of Nanoka done with a soft brush feel surrounded by the cherry blossoms falling while she's wearing the traditional school uniform and has her bookbag in tow. It's one of those classic style pictures that just symbolizes a lot of different things for different people but just works effectively here. The style and detail is just beautiful, a very appealing image all around. The back cover keeps the same kind of feel with a few blocked sections and similar colors that provide space for a good number of shots from the show and a summary of the premise as well as episode numbers and titles. The discs technical and production information is all fairly easy to find along the bottom though a touch difficult to read with the color choices used. The insert uses part of the front cover artwork to provide a listing of the chapter listings for the four episodes here while the reverse side lists the planned months of release for the next two volumes.

The main menu is a nicely done piece that uses the same kind of artwork and feel as the cover with Nanoka and the cherry blossoms but livens it up a bit more with some of them floating around the menu while a small selection of purple filtered images floats next to her and just above the menu selections. A brief bit of soft instrumental music plays along as well, though it ends in an abrupt way before starting up again instead of fading out to something a bit more seamless. The layout is easy to navigate and problem free when it comes to accessing everything. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and used them accordingly.

The only extras available on this release is a clean version of the opening sequence as well as the opening sequence presented with its Japanese text, a feature I love to see more of.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Controversial to those who had seen it prior to its release, unmarketable to many and offensive to a good number of people as well, the early word on Koi Kaze as a title that will bother people certainly made it one of my more anticipated titles of this year. With its focus on an unusual relationship and something that veers heavily into taboo territory depending on where you live in the world, the series isn’t something that's easily digested for a lot of people. With the first third of the show on this volume, it's definitely one of the better structured doomed romances that I've seen in anime in a long time.

Or at least I'm presuming it's going to be doomed because of the gloomy air that hangs over much of the show due to its nature. The series is focused around twenty-seven year old Koshiro, a man who lives with his father in a sizeable house and has a decent job at a matchmaking company. He's a bit unkempt at times and doesn't take terribly good care of himself, so much so at times that his boss keeps him from meeting the clients, but for the most part he's simply another body that's doing his job and living out a fairly average if somewhat dreary life. To make matters worse, he's just been broken up with by his girlfriend and the way he casually accepts it as just something that happens tells a lot about how he feels about things in general. He's living but there's no life to it.

While taking the train home, his eye ends up following a young high school girl and the button she's carrying in her hand. When she struggles to get off the train she ends up dropping her ID, which Koshiro does try to get her attention about, but fails to do so and ends up getting off the train trying to catch her. When she turns around after he calls to her, it's one of those magical moments for both of them as the blossoms float by and Koshiro eventually stutters enough to return it to her before they both go their separate ways. It's been so long since he's dealt with high school girls that he's forgotten a lot about them presumably, but that night he learns from his father that he's going to have to re-learn a lot of it as his younger sister is coming to live with them.

As it turns out, the high school she's going to is closer to their house than her own by at least an hour so instead of the long commute she's going to come live there. Divorced some twelve years earlier, Koshiro only knew his sister until she was three or so and by all accounts rarely saw his mother again once they split up and he went with his father. Between graduating school, presumably college and then a working life it's not too far fetched depending on how their relationship was towards the end or what was going on in his mothers life. But now a sister he's never known is coming to live with them and she's fifteen years old, the age he was when they last knew each other. There's a bit of fear about their pleasant and calm life coming to an end but Koshiro keeps much of that to himself and just accepts it.

Koshiro's meeting of his sister comes in a most awkward way for him and her both, though he's fare more devastated by it. When leaving an event for the company, he comes across the same girl from the previous day who had dropped her ID. Still feeling awkward about her, he gives her the tickets to the amusement park nearby that the event holders had given them and she takes it a bit further by insisting that he come with her. To his surprise, he has a pretty good time with her and she seems to feel fairly safe around him, but he keeps coming back to things in his mind where he has to shake his head and remind himself about who he is and who she is. While taking the ferris wheel, she ends up revealing to him about a boy she liked only to find that her confession goes unreturned because he's already dating someone else. This seems to open something up inside of him and he has a small breakdown and starts to cry a bit, remembering things related to his own being dumped in the past few days. This moment of weakness surprises him but ends up touching her quite a bit and the two feel a real connection.

So no, it's nowhere near a surprise that it turns out that the two are brother and sister though their reactions when they find out are priceless. While he starts freaking about it internally, particularly his little crying moment, she goes into pure little sister mode by calling him big brother and just fawning over him. Her moving in hasn't changed the household too much but sometimes they eat better thanks to her cooking and things are a touch cleaner but it's not a radical change. Some of the things that Koshiro has to deal with now are amusing trivialities really such as some of her unmentionables being hung out to try or occasionally coming across her in varying states of night clothes. Or even worse, the unbearable draw of her bra sitting on top of the laundry basket.

The two of them set into a brother and sister routine fairly easily but Koshiro has a lot of internal problems with it that do stem back to their "date" of sorts. Pretty much all of it is internalized and kept to a minimum but what you get out of it is that he's disturbed by his feelings for her and is having a hard time dealing with it. In a sense, they are things that most anyone can have but just slightly different, such as a strong attraction or love for someone you know but that they're just beyond your reach and it seems to just drive deeply at you even though it shouldn't. It's worse for Koshiro since she is his sister and all, but at the same time it's also understandable on some level due to the differences in age and that she basically became a sister out of the blue since he hasn't seen her since she was three. But even as he deals with this, the time he spends with her ends up feeling right but that feeling ends up irritating him since he knows its wrong and it only causes him to lash out at her and others.

One area of the show that I'm enjoying a lot so far is the office environment that Koshiro is involved with. While he's not a boss or a low-rung employee but just another of the bodies in there that does a good job, there are some interesting things to it. The stereotype comes out in one of his co-workers named Odagiri who wants to have the company lower the age of the match-up events from the mid-twenties to the teens so that he can start scouting and getting high school girls involved. It's all for personal gain of course as he wants to date one of them himself so it's not surprising he gets shot down each time he mentions it. When he learns of Koshiro's sister he tries to get him to set them up and all sorts of jokes crop up from there. To provide balance with him, we get Chidori, a woman who is slightly higher on the rung and runs things in this particular office. She tends to give Koshiro a bit of grief about things, particularly about dating a high school girl when she first sees him and Nanoka but at the same time you can see that there may be something more that she may look to Koshiro for.

The design and look of the show is one that's really beautiful. The design of the city scenes, the way the weather plays into things and just the way the locations become as much a character as the leads is a big part of this in making it feel as rich and detailed as it is. The colors are well chosen and they help to accentuate the mood of each of the scenes, either brightening them up such as on the ferris wheel or during the post-rain scenes when Koshiro finds out his ex-girlfriend is already dating someone else and you have that wet black top that's reflecting all the lights of the city. Visually, this show draws you in easily enough and with much of the dialogue being internalized pieces that are almost somber or just the simple conversations of the leads, it's a relaxing piece that ends up drawing you into it. There are a few good laugh out loud moments and it's not a depressing show like Saikano is, but there's an element of despair to it that permeates much of the show.

In Summary:
With the first four episodes, it's easy to see how the possibility of such a relationship would creep a lot of people out and they'd never get past the first episode itself. The show itself so far doesn't actually veer into truly creepy territory, at least in these episodes, and is actually a rather enjoyable twist on a romantic problem. Anime tends to be able to have more fun with varying kinds of relationships, Marmalade Boy being a favorite where the parents swap spouses and the kids end up as non-blood related brother and sister, but Koi Kaze looks to examine something a bit more and with more seriousness. In the end, I honestly cannot find myself offended by it but rather just curious as to how far they'll go with it and what they'll do. Having seen so many hentai series that deal with this in much starker and cruder ways, there's no way that I could really find this offensive. With only two more volumes to go, it's a low-commitment intriguing series that I'm curious to see what they'll really do.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Original Japanese Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98/34.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Koi Kaze