Thursday, May 2, 2013

Otona Joshi no Anime - Kawamo wo Suberu Kaze

Year: 2013
Studio: Answer Studio
Director: Hiroshi Kawamata
Script: Reiko Yoshida 

     How much weight does a decision carry, and what if we come to regret it only to realize all is too late? Kawamo wo Suberu Kaze is a poignant story that entertains these questions through the heroine's life choices. After Jinsei Best 10, I like this one the best out of the entire Otona Joshi franchise, it's a very quiet episode but no less emotionally effective. Curiously, the two, both beautifully made, share similarities in terms of narrative – connecting with one's past and moving forward in life – but vary dramatically in style and tone. While Jinsei Best 10 is whimsical and dreamy, Suberu Kaze is fairly straight forward in its approach – a realistic plot told in a realistic fashion. Though far from ordinary, the attention to details, the sophisticated directing and aesthetics, all come together and make it quite the special experience.

At age 33, Noriko has everything she ever strived for – a husband with a successful career, a beautiful boy, and a prosperous life. But she's not the happy woman she thought she would be. After living abroad for 5 years, she comes back to Japan with her 4-year old son, and thoughts of divorcing her estranged husband. For our heroine, home is a place that reminds her what she left behind – the possibility of another kind of life.

Many years ago when she was just a teen, in her father's sweets shop, she worked along side a boy who came to share a special bond with her. He's a reserved man, almost hard to approach, and most of all, an ordinary person with no greater ambition than to make sweets. Yet, she found herself inexplicably drawn to him, and unable to avert her eyes whenever she's in his presence watching him delicately crafting his artwork. It's not an attraction that manifested itself in overt passion, but in small exchanges, a few glances, a slight touch of the fingers, and the one and only night they spent together. For sure, he has always been love with her, and he expressed it in the best way he knew how – sweets, made with feelings he didn't know how to express verbally. But their relationship, obscure and secretive, was not enough to stop her from leaving, a young woman unwilling to spend her life in a little town with an ordinary man. She was ambitious and she married a man who had the ability to realize her ambitions.

5 years later, with her marriage falling apart, she seems to have developed some kind of eating disorder to cope with her anxiety. It's quite the shock to see her savagely stuffing food down her throat, only to throw up immediately after. I'm not sure what drove her to visit the sweets shop of the man whose memory haunted her mind for years, maybe it's regret, but maybe it's a small hope that he's still waiting for her. She goes through a myriad of emotions (and it shows on her face) when he informs her he's been married for two years and has a 1-year old daughter. I love how the scene is staged – reflected in the glass of the family photo is an image of the two of them, truly hitting the point home that the reunion is no more than an ephemeral reflection of their love and a possibility lost. At first, I was a little caught off guard by her decision to conceal her son's age, but it became quite clear the secret she's carrying is even bigger than I assumed and the suspicion was confirmed by her final remark – Motoki doesn't resemble her husband in the slightest, he has long, beautiful fingers like a certain someone we know.

The ending is bittersweet and frustrating, but also incredibly realistic. She made the most responsible choice – to withhold the secret from the one man who perhaps deserves to know. After all, it's not a happiness they can afford without sacrificing the stability of their current life and hurting those they love in the process. It's a price Noriko has to pay for the choice she made 5-years ago. Even if their hearts are connected, they are stranded on different pages of the story, and to be together, they'd have to tear away all the pages inbetween. Well, it's not all depressing, if you think about it, their love did come to fruition through Motoki and he's the connection they will always have. Was she wrong to aspire for a grander life? I don't think anyone has a convenient answer. What we do know is outcomes are not always predictable and we have to live with the consequences of our decisions, no matter how painful. There is no place for "what if" and such is the way of life.

It's a damn shame not many people know about this anime, or the Otona Joshi series in general. Josei can be such a powerful genre with so much to say when well-executed, but unfortunately, it's rare to have this kind of material adapted in the first place for lack of commercial appeal. It's a sad state of anime, really. But hey, if we are not completely deprived of Josei, I suppose I shouldn't complain too much. If you haven't caught on, I love this story a great deal, everything about it is memorable and emotionally moving. I cannot recommend it enough.

Overall Rating: 9/10


  1. Planning to watch the project next week. :) I've been meaning to get around to it but I'm only just now getting the time to do so.

    1. Haha, summer is starting! You should have plenty of time right? I'm actually crazy occupied these much so I haven't had a chance to watch any of the newer episodes.

  2. Lovely review! I quite enjoy this whole series of anime movies that I found by reading your blog (yay!), but sometimes these kinds of movies I have to mentally prepare for because they're too close to RL stories that might happen and there are times when I just want a happy-go-lucky ending, you know? I appreciate the beautiful narrative of a complicated situation, but like 5cm per Second, sometimes bittersweet endings are not enough to satisfy me as an ending that ties everything up in a neat little package.

    Nonetheless, I look forward to reading more of your reviews! More people need to look into Josei (and adapt josei manga into animes...hehe). :)

    1. Thanks for reading~ I'm glad it served its purpose heh.
      Yeah, I hear ya, happily-ever-after is gratifying, especially after a difficult journey. I think the best works balance between optimism and realism.
      I prefer Miyazaki and Hosoda over Shinkai for the reason that Shinkai's works can a little too elusive and emo for my taste. He's too much of a poet sometimes to capture the finer narrative details of Miyazaki and Hosoda.