KAZE NO STIGMA
A well-scripted romance with threads of action, comedy, and supernatural fantasy woven throughout the story, "Kaze no Stigma" loosely translates to "the shame of the wind." This is the story of the Kannagi family reject, Kazuma, and how his journey to become someone affected the family that he left behind. Together with his younger, highly-favored brother, Ren, and the future head of the family, Ayano, he protects the normal human population from Youma, demons of possession and power. While the story progresses toward defeating an alchemist wizard hell-bent on destroying the un-empowered humans, the story mostly focuses on the growing and developing relationship between Kazuma and Ayano, and chaos ensues.
With every episode, each character becomes more and more human. Ren grows from idolizing his big brother Kazuma to learning from him and maturing into his own person. Ayano is by far the most intricate character. She is a hot-headed and violent character with a wonderful heart and an impossibly thick skull. Kazuma is an open booktheviewers, not his fellow characters. Even if the full extent of his past scars is not shown until the last episode, the viewer ismeant to understand what he feels throughout the entire experience. The author, Takahiro Yamato, did a good job of fashioning such a phenomenon in the world of anime. The psychological dynamics between the main couple are fascinating. As their fighting styles clash, their personalities comply with one another's existence but are not quite complimenting. The position of dominance alternates to fit the situation and possible consequences to create a favorable outcome. Subservience is a struggle for both characters, so they alternate constantly. When first introduced to the main protagonist, all three have the same last name and are considered family. This begs twoquestions, what is the relationship between Ayano and Kazuma and if they are family how is this not incest? Interestingly enough, the English translation of their familial relationship is second cousins, but the title "cousin" given to Kazuma's father only indicates that he is a descendant of the main bloodline, not that he is the biological cousin of Ayano's father. Rather, this states that the entitlement to head of the family is within the grasp of both main bloodline families, unlike the branch families mentioned in the beginning of the series. The branch families are most likely lesser families that married into the more prestigious Kannagi family or main bloodline family member married beneath them in power, giving up their claim to the entitlement to head of the family. With around 300 years of main bloodline family descendants, relational lines and familial ties become hard to label, so simple titles like "cousin" exist. In the English subbed version, Ren calls Ayano "big sister" as that is what she means to him and Kazuma "big brother" as that is his actual title as the first son of their father. This makes the situation between the two even funnier to watch in subbed.
"Kaze no Stigma" utilizes the stereotypical Japanese classic folktales and legends and brings it to life in a new and present context of today's society. The traditional concepts of duty to family, representing honor within the family, revenge, and sacrificial offerings are all presented in context of feudal Japan, but the story takes places obviously in the 21st century. More impressively, this has already been done through the classic "Inuyasha," but "Kaze no Stigma" approaches this differently. There is no barrier between the past and the future, but rather the coexistence of the two contributes to its main themes: living with the past in the present while looking toward the future, there is no reason that people cannot make decisions that will ensure life to all who treasure it, etc. This merging between tradition and new context of society is a common struggle of the seen in many Japanese anime and reflect the real struggle the Japanese culture has struggled through for the past couple of decades, seeing an original version of this struggle is refreshing.
"Kaze no Stigma" has 24 episodes, one theme song, and one ending song. The music accentuates the moments during the one season series, and each selection is well placed within each scene. Music does not really stand out to serve any other purpose than to complement the scenes and brings no further attention to its self. One of the series strongest points is comedy. The comedy-specific episodes can be watched out of context and enjoyed due to the masterful implementation of situational irony and slapstick. Certain points of the anime get rather dark. Depending on the version, Kazuma either interrogates criminals to the verge of death or to death during his elapse into temporary insanity, dubbed and subbed respectively. These scenes are few and happen between a five episode span, so they are easy to skip over. The suspense of belief is well executed as the viewer is explained rules of this universe rather quickly in the first few moments of the first episode through action, not tedious and repetitive narrative explanation. Poor quality fanservice sprinkled throughout the series, mostly just panty shots. Funimation dubbed this series, so it is in the hands of experts. Watching either version would not reduce the level of entertainment, but with the English subbed, the viewer must be more aware of the Japanese culture and social context.
"Kaze no Stigma" has an overall good entertainment value with decent action, spectacular comedy, and a romance story guided by world crisis. As the manga that "Kaze no Stigma" is based off of is ongoing, I appreciated the honest ending and the fact that there was no forced confession or neatly wrapped ending. It was a promise of what was to come in future issues of the manga, nothing more.