Miscellanea and Ephemeron
08/24/2005 Archived Entry: "Anime review: Koi Kaze"
Review by Kelly S. Taylor
Despite its beauty, there's a definite "ick" factor to this title. Yes, my friends, "Koi Kaze" is definitely bound to join "Flowers in the Attic" and "The Blue Lagoon" on the small and infrequently visited shelf of incest romance classics. Koshiro and Nanokaís parents separate when Nanoka is still an infant. The two meet by chance years later and fall in love not knowing that they are siblings. They find out that they are brother and sister and the story begins in earnest.
The emphasis that the author, Motoi Yoshida, places on the suffering inflicted on these two passionate characters by an unkind and unforeseeable act of fate gives the story a classical feel -- although I canít recall Shakespere or the Greeks ever including a scene where the hero sniffs a pair of the heroineís panties....
One thing I was particularly impressed by was the way Yoshida uses the very mundane setting to heighten our appreciation of the misery of the characters. Poor Koshiro goes through epic angst in a sad little one-and-a-half-room efficiency apartment. Cruel florescent lighting and the tattered toilet tissue of torment follow him everywhere. Iím being flip, but there are several genuinely affecting moments. The one that comes most strongly to mind is the scene where the two of them are sitting on a pier. After several moments of silence, Nanoka asks in her calm little voice, "Well, are we going to commit suicide now?"
Like I said, thereís an "ick" factor to "Koi Kaze." It's not there because the anime ever gets that graphic. Itís also not there because I stubbornly kept remembering this was a story about incest when the presentation wanted me to get caught up in the romance. Itís there because the anime plays on both the cute sweetness of a story of young love and the cute sweetness of a story about family. Put them together and you have incest romance... and Iím afraid incest just doesnít seem cute, sweet or romantic to me.
The greatest cognitive dissonance comes from the juxtaposition of competing generic paratextual cues. Paratexts, of course, are like paramedics, and paralegals... Yes, they get paid a quarter of what their similarly skilled colleagues do. Actually paratextual cues are the elements of presentation that guide us how to classify something that we read, hear, or see. Although we say that you canít judge a book by its cover, thanks to paratexts, we usually do. The cover of "Koi Kaze" and the closing credits of each episode feature images of Koshiro, Nanoka, and their parents as a happy family. The back cover of the DVD and the opening title sequence shows Nanoka, our big-eyed, school-girl-uniformed heroine in the watery pastels of romance.
More jarring are the paratexts where cues for heart-warming family drama and sweet teen romance are combined. Inside the DVD jacket is a sheet of "No-No Big Brother" stickers. On one, Koshiro orders, "Donít let your eyes wander!" On the other, Nanoka sadly muses, "I want to be your only girl." Then thereís the teddy bears.... Nanoka is fond of teddies. The little bears become a symbol for her and show up several times in the episodes. For example, she writes a very anguished letter about their relationship to Koshiro on teddy bear stationary. The juxtaposition of the youthful innocence of the teddies and the mature subject matter of the letter is poignant in this instance, but the producers of "Koi Kaze" run with this imagery in a way that just gets weird. One of the extras on the DVD is "Bearís Mini Theatre" in which a brief synopsis of the entire series is acted out in comic form by teddy bears.
Previews for upcoming episodes are also presented in an unexpectedly jocular vein. These chiba sketches frequently feature one of Koshiroís office mates, who serve as comic relief. The very idea of comic relief in a story about incest skirts on the borders of bad tasteÖ Really, it does more than skirt. It sits there like a zit on prom night, leaving you to stare and wonder, "Why the hell is this here?"
In final analysis, do I recommend "Koi Koze"? I have to answer with a resounding, "I dunno." It's well written, beautifully drawn, and skillfully packaged by Geneon. The characters are engaging. Their plight is high drama. The anime definitely held my attention. However, there's just no getting around the fact that it kinda creeped me out. Collectors specializing in the unusual and controversial will definitely want to pick up a copy. For the rest of you, use your own judgment on this one.
The Wapshott Press
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