Secret Santa: Koi Kaze

When I peeked into the box that Santa had left for me this year, I expected a run-of-the-mill imouto anime. Instead I saw a moral dilemma. No, it wasn’t that Santa’s gift had put me into a moral dilemma: it was that the gift was a moral dilemma. Well, I’m definitely openminded to things like that. I won’t pretend not to be so selfish as to be even more openminded when it’s someone else’s moral dilemma, perhaps most of all so when the persons involved are fictional characters. So, undeterred by any judgements I might have brought to the topic beforehand, I continued unwrapping Santa’s present. And it’s as if Santa were suggesting that I, in watching Koi Kaze, consider the following situation.

Koushirou had been raised by parents who perhaps never got along particularly well, who had his younger sister Nanoka twelve years after him, and who divorced not long after her birth. At which point Koushirou moved out with his father and finished school. His mother kept her own small business as a beautician, and continued raising Nanoka. Some years later, ready to enter the adult world and the job market in his own right, Koushirou took a position in a small company specializing in dating services. And some more years passed in which Koushirou’s mother and younger sister played essentially no role in his life.

Now (so Santa seemed to be telling me) imagine that Koushirou meets a girl in her last year of junior high school, without realizing that she is his little sister. Through an odd coincidence, they wind up spending the day together at an amusement park. And on the Ferris wheel (isn’t it always?) comes a moment of honesty and clarity when Koushirou is reduced to tears as he considers his present situation. He has broken up with his girlfriend, and he’s not sure he cares. Will he ever be able to find someone else?

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Remember that Koushirou does not realize here that Nanoka is his little sister, in fact does not even know her name.

Nanoka responds with compassion, as any decent person would, and even more so because she can identify with Koushirou’s feelings due to her own circumstances. When the not-a-date-that-became-a-date ends, the two by chance run into their father. And it is only then that they realize that they are siblings. Not only that, they learn that Nanoka is to be moving in with Koushirou and their father, since they live half as far away from Nanoka’s new high school as their mother does. And with such an encounter as the backdrop, Nanoka and Koushirou begin their new life together as siblings.

So as not to spoil the details, let’s just say that their initial fateful encounter in the Ferris wheel causes mutual feelings to develop between Koushirou and Nanoka that are more than the ordinary feelings between siblings. (By way of full disclosure, I have no means of comparison for such a thing, because I am an only child.) Before long, terrified of what might happen, Koushirou moves out on his own. He is for the most part open with Nanoka about his intentions. He asks her not to come looking for him, and says that they must never see each other again.

I would be remiss here if I didn’t mention the heartbreaking tension that has built up, due to all those details that I didn’t spoil. Koi Kaze is listed in the seinen and psychological thriller categories after all, and should not be lumped in with OreImo and other similar anime series. I would also be remiss if I said I didn’t feel tremendous compassion for both protagonists at this point. As unlikely as the circumstances are, it seemed to me that something like this could actually happen — indeed, undoubtedly has happened. I could sense the terrible burden on Koushirou’s shoulders especially, with him being the older brother and an adult.

Anyway, the enforced separation doesn’t last long. Soon Nanoka breaks her side of the agreement, bringing a gift of tangerines, claiming to be worried about her older brother’s health (and, to be fair, she probably is genuinely worried). After an encounter with Koushirou’s female coworker, who claims falsely to be dating Koushirou, Nanoka demands to know the truth. Does Koushirou really have a girlfriend, or does he not?

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In other words, tell Nanoka that he does in fact have a girlfriend. In other words, lie.

And this brings us to the central moral dilemma of Koi Kaze. Put yourself in Koushirou’s place, and imagine that you want to do something you believe is wrong. No, not just illegal: wrong. And not just something that your friends or family tell you is wrong. Not something that your culture or your religion or your upbringing tells you is wrong. Not something that people who don’t share your belief system, or politics, or moral philosophy, tell you is wrong. Something that YOU believe is wrong. And the quickest way to put yourself out of the position of doing this thing you think is wrong, is by lying. Something you also believe is wrong. And which will result in someone you care about being hurt. Then again, at this point, someone you care about will be hurt no matter what you do.

I think all of us can relate to wanting to do something that he himself or she herself condemns. Even if no one else gets hurt either way as a result of our decision, it is still a heavy burden, and a very human one. And it is in this light that Santa simply pointed at the screen, and bade me watch for the solution Koi Kaze gives to this dilemma. And I watched while in choosing a path, in trying to find the best solution, Koushirou and Nanoka made the decision that I hoped they wouldn’t. That I hoped I wouldn’t, if I were Koushirou.

Oh, I could say more. But what would be the point of my doing so? To anyone as displeased as I was with the outcome of Koi Kaze, I’d be wasting my breath. And to anyone pleased with the outcome, I’d also be wasting my breath. Or perhaps the point isn’t to be “pleased” or “displeased”?

I am not afraid of making moral judgements. That, too, is part of being human. But this essay is already far too long, and so I’ll end by assuming that Santa just wanted to suggest a show that would get me to think. Not to concern myself with whether or not the ending was what I would have chosen, but rather to think about what I myself do when I find myself in moral dilemmas, and about the decisions I make then.

And if so, then the old guy in a red suit has done it again. Because being put in a position to think, and to learn, is one of my favorite gifts of all.

R86

R86 is a chemistry professor, which is the sort of job that probably made you stop reading already. He teaches at Texas A&M University, also known to Austin dwellers as "Enemy Territory." In his spare time, he enjoys music (flute/saxophone/clarinet and MIDI/Vocaloid synthesis), gaming, and watching anime.

6 thoughts on “Secret Santa: Koi Kaze

  1. Hey it’s Santa here! I think what I appreciate most about Koi Kaze is that it’s both wholly honest about the costs of Koushiro’s and Nanoka’s relationship while refusing to judge either person. Incest is by all accounts the wrong decision: there’s the biological of course, but also that Nanoka’s love for Koushiro might be nothing more than youthful idolization, that all of society would reject them if they went through with it. But Koi Kaze never forgets that Koushiro and Nanoka are suffering and that whether it’s right or wrong, the decision is ultimately theirs.

    I think I may have been more OK w/ the outcome of the series than you were–in the end I think it’s their decision, whether or not it’s the “right” thing to do. But considering that incest is so often used in anime as nothing more than fetish fuel, I really appreciate that Koi Kaze takes the time to treat it as the horror (and incredibly complicated thing) that it is. And I’m glad it made you think, because that’s all I could ask for really 😀

    (as a side note, the scene where nanoka and koushiro are at the pier and nanoka quietly suggests they commit double suicide is one of the most devastating scenes i’ve seen in anime)

    1. Wow! A Christmas note from Santa himself? (Oops, I mean “herself?”) That’s got to be the ultimate in Senpai Noticing Me! 😀

      One of the things I most appreciate about anime is that it doesn’t whitewash things, or at least that it usually doesn’t. I think you and I are closer to agreement on this series than it might seem at first. I guess I was just hoping against all odds that Koushirou would stand up like an adult, come up with a way out of this heartwrenching situation that would actually work for both himself and Nanoka, and show his younger sister by example how to make it happen.

      And I agree wholeheartedly about the scene on the pier. For a moment I thought they were really going to do it. Whether that would have been better than the actual outcome is a whole ‘nother topic of conversation.

      Thanks again, Santa, and give my best to Mrs. Claus and the elves! 🙂

  2. Nice article! I think you pretty much summed up my thoughts!

    Koi Kaze is much like Hourou Musuko in its ability to make you think (though I much prefer Hourou Musuko), and that is something worth appreciating!

  3. Koi Kaze is one of my favorite anime, or at least my highest rated ones.

    One of the things that stands out for me about the show is the unlikely recognition that Koushirou is a heroic figure. I didn’t acknowledge this at first, but some time ago I had cause to try and define heroism and look for heroic figures, and he popped up.

    Koushirou is heroic in that he struggles against the sin in his life. He stumbles, but he wants to do what is right. He’s fighting the good fight, and he sacrifices to do it.

    1. Thanks for adding this, Adam. It’s way too easy to focus on uplifting thematic elements in series – we often forget very important matters like sin, struggle, etc.

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