Meet Kakeru Kurahara, the 1st year former elite runner at Kansei University. The first episode shows his daredevil actions as he is caught stealing. Thankfully, he is saved by 4th-year student Haiji Kiyose who has an ambitious dream of competing in the Hakone Ekiden. The Hakone Ekiden is considered an important relay race taking place between Tokyo and Hakone in Japan. Kakeru seems like a perfect candidate to be on the team. Upon being invited to the Kanse University Dorm, he quickly discovers it’s a place for the Track and Field team. The show sets up for a huge amount of story and character development as we quickly realize how weak their team actually is.
Now I’ll say right off the bat that I am a sucker for an underdog story. It has the potential to develop characters on many levels. The problem here is that Kakeru isn’t a noob compared to the rest of the team. He already has experience in running but lacks enthusiasm. This is explained through some very complicated and dark background storytelling. Apparently, an incident from his former Track & Field team caused him to doubt himself. Nonetheless, I believe Kakeru’s personality to be one that people can understand after seeing what he’s been through. This is a sharp contrast to Haiji, who is always enthusiastic about the team and his dream. The main problem is that the team requires a lot of training and commitment to compete at the Hakone Ekiden level. Still, I appreciate the character bond of the team. As the show progresses, Kakeru begins to realize that he’s not running alone and that he has friends to run with. The main selling point about Kakeru’s own journey is how he conquers his personal demon and move beyond his past.
You better get used to seeing a lot of Kakeru and Haiji’s character bonding in this story. Interestingly, the rest of the cast get their spotlights too as they reinforce the show’s themes. Characters such as Takashi and Akane (aka Prince) are inspirational for their dedication and realization to succeed. Remember, most of the guys in Haiji’s team aren’t experienced or very athletic. It takes a strong will, determination, and attitude to become successful. The show carries character development as its team members strive to be the best they can be. It’s a relatable concept that can be applied to real-life with goals being accomplished through hard work. I personally find the show’s attitude to be very inspirational with many of its characters cast conquering their fears and running toward their dreams.
As dramatic as the show can be, do also expect a decent amount of lighthearted moments and comedy. The Jo twins are a prime example of this with their playful personalities. The man service also adds in some cheek humour when the team have bonding moments while discussing their goals. When the drama picks up though, definitely be prepared to experience the real deal. Teams such as Rikudo University is no pushover for their reputation. Haiji’s push to get his team to succeed also comes at an immense amount of effort considering the requirements for this dream race. It’s revealed in the show that the team must rank into the top 10 teams and meet personal records.
So by all means, it comes as no surprise the amount of pressure the team can feel while training. This is where the main amount of drama drops in with characters feeling how difficult is to reach their goals. Nonetheless, I confess to saying that a show like this meets the satisfaction of “the journey is more important than the destination”. People may have heard this phrase many times before but as a driving force in the show, it suits it perfectly. The amount of character development is expanded to most of the main character cast that you can easily recall their names and some of their memorable moments. No one is truly left out in favour of the main cast even as they seem featured more prominently at times.
As a Production I.G. show, this definitely reminds me of a bit of their other sports projects. Haikyu especially comes to mind for its similar character designs and competitive atmosphere. More importantly, I felt a great deal of realism for its character designs. Throughout the show, the characters evolve physically and mentally. Their character expressions and reactions carry an emotional weight that can easily be felt throughout the show. It’s the type of feeling when you finally earn a sense of pride and accomplishment after all the hard work. And don’t forget, the team consists of cool guys so the man service can be a treat for the ladies.