Here is a list of three true facts about relationships in modern Japan that I have learned from watching years of anime:
1. The beginning of every day for modern Japanese women is waking up late, dashing out the door after grabbing something for breakfast, and suffering mishaps on the way to school or job, usually in the form of banging into the guy she thinks is cute but who acts like a jerk to her all the time; the beginning of every day for modern Japanese men is unexpectedly waking up next to a beautiful woman/cat girl/hot alien (sometimes a cop chasing after another hot alien)/goddess who finds him irresistibly sexually attractive, even though he is shy or awkward.
2. School uniforms for girls in Japan all feature above-the-knee skirts, and the girls in said school uniforms are actually tiny women, not girls, in that they are completely self-aware and cognizant of consequences in the manner of an adult, ready to be in grown-up relationships, fully sexually developed, and always, always 18.
3. For modern Japanese men, the sexual urge is accompanied by a nosebleed; the response to being sexually propositioned, regardless of whether the one propositioning is an alien, his sister, young, is a moment of panic but then complete acquiescence, with no worries after the fact about consequences (if the sexual act even occurs: typically it is interrupted by an angry sister/a cute (female) next-door neighbor or co-worker who hits the male with something/a sempai who punishes him).
I could go on. Obviously this list is tongue-in-cheek; obviously anyone who as watched any amount of anime has run into some of these tropes, they are famous as to be laughable, and there are versions of this elsewhere on the internet. But these ones specifically, the rules of dating and romance, are sort of given, and thus sort of converged in my brain to make the experience of watching Koi Kaze even weirder.
I rented Koi Kaze kind of as a joke, to get revenge on a friend who had selected an incomprehensible and pretty boring French film when it was his turn to pick a rental. It was pink, and girly-looking, and I had no idea when I got it that we would go back and rent the rest of the series within a week. But there it is: we had to find out what happened.
I will refrain from posting too many spoilers about Koi Kaze; briefly, it is the tale of Koshiro, an emotionally distant 27 year old man who goes on a date with a “cute high school girl” only to find out that she is actually his 15 year old estranged sister Nanoka, who has come to live with him and his (their) dad to lessen her commute to school. The rest of the anime is about their relationship. It defies every law I’ve posted above: their first meeting is respectful, non-comedic, emotional, thoughtful. Nanoka, at fifteen, looks fifteen, if not younger. She is not a 20 year old woman in a high school girl’s uniform (her uniform, by the way, is well past her knees, making her look even younger), emotionally and physically she is a child. Koshiro, when he realizes he is attracted to Nanoka, is tormented by this, and his emotions are given serious, honest-to-the-point-of-discomfort treatment, as are the potential consequences of such a relationship.
In fact, in order to make its point about the seriousness of the subject matter, Koi Kaze even includes a comic-relief character, a co-worker of Koshiro’s, who has the typical anime-perspective on the erotic nature of high school girls, especially when they are cute and young. Presented as unethical and pervy, the co-worker envies the sexual opportunity presented by Koshiro’s position, (the sexual opportunity of, you know, living with your adorable 15 year old sister), and is constantly trying to think of ways to meet high school girls for his own sexual purposes.
This anime has kind of haunted me. I refrained from posting about it soon after finishing it (this was a few weeks ago that I watched this) because it took me a while to process it. I think the thing is, I rented it for a laugh, but I ended up being impressed. I admit I was impressed by it on the level of sheer “Huh, this really is an anime about a 27 year old man who is sexually attracted to his 15 year old sister,” but in the end I was actually more impressed by how delicately but seriously and realistically the series approached the subject matter. Certainly the next time I see older male/younger girl relationships, or brother/sister sexual tension in an anime, I’ll be thinking about something other than the “D’oh! Hilarious!” manner in which it will inevitably be presented. I mean, not that I didn’t before, but now it has the added punch of the images from Koi Kaze indelibly burned into my brain. Kind of like how, after reading Lost Girls, any time I see something involving Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, or The Wizard of Oz it is just. . . you know, different.