Kaze no Stigma (2007) Anime Review

Kaze no Stigma (Japanese: 風の聖痕スティグマ Hepburn: Kaze no Sutiguma, lit. “Stigma of the Wind“) is a Japanese light novel series written by Takahiro Yamato and illustrated by Hanamaru Nanto. After the death of Yamato on July 20, 2009, the story remains incomplete at twelve volumes. A 24-episode anime adaptation directed by Junichi Sakata and animated by Gonzo aired from April–September 2007.

Summary

Kazuma Kannagi was the eldest son of the Kannagi family and presumed heir. However, due to his inability to use “Enjutsu” (炎術, Blaze Technique), the power to control flames, he was considered to be useless within his family. Despite his inability to wield fire, his father insisted on him competing for the right to wield “Enraiha” (炎雷覇, Blaze Lightning Supremacy), a powerful heirloom sword traditionally wielded by the family heir. The 16-year-old Kazuma was soundly defeated by 12-year-old Ayano Kannagi, his second cousin, and his father banished him from the family.

Four years later, he returns as a master of “Fūjutsu” (風術, Wind Technique), the power to control wind, and with a new name: Kazuma Yagami. Soon after his return, several Kannagi family members are killed by someone using Fūjutsu and Kazuma is presumed to have committed the murders in revenge for his banishment. Though innocent of the murders, he is confronted by various members of his former family who wish to fight him. However, the only person that Kazuma wants to fight is his father, the strongest Enjutsu user and whom he later defeats in a duel.

Kazuma is revealed to be a Contractor, a rare individual who has entered into a contract with the “Kaze no Seirei-Ō” (風の霊魂王, Wind Spirit King). Due to this, Kazuma is able to draw upon the wind spirits around him, which amplifies his inherent powers, and allows him to heal his wounds. When using this power, his eyes turn azure blue. However, this ability puts a strain on his body, as it is his stamina and will that limits the amount of power available to him.

After the duel Kazuma returns to his hotel and finds that his younger brother, Ren Kannagi, an extremely powerful Enjutsu user in his own right, has been eagerly waiting to see his adored elder brother again. Their reunion is interrupted by the Fūjutsu user who killed the other Kannagi and who kidnaps Ren. Kazuma returns to his former home to consult with the head of the Kannagi. Ayano intrudes into their meeting and, believing Kazuma to be guilty of the murders, attacks him on sight. Remonstrated by the family head, and her father, Ayano works with Kazuma to rescue Ren.

Further story arcs revolve around Kazuma, Ayano and Ren and the growing relationship between them.

Plot

So the plot revolves around the disgraced former-head-to-be of the Kannagi family, Kazuma. Kazuma had the misfortune of being born into a famous fire magic wielding family…and had no real talent for mastering his fire magic. He was taunted and bullied by members of his own family. Finally, he had a showdown that was supposed to decide who got to be the next generation’s family leader…and he lost to spitfire Ayano, an impulsive redhead whose wardrobe consists mainly of her teal colored school uniform… Ayano won the status of family leader and inherited a mystical weapon, Enraiah, which she can summon into a fiery existence from the ether…(Yikes! I had a nerd moment. I’m ok now.) Kazuma, having embarrassed his father, Genma, an accomplished fire master, was disowned and expelled. Ren, his kid brother, was considered the only son.

Harsh stuff. Kazuma disappeared for a bit…but suddenly returns after four years in exile. And guess what? He’s kick ass now. The problem was that he was never meant to master fire: he’s a wind master. The dude can fly, he can blast enemies with gusts of wind that slice like blades, and he’s got that devil-may-care attitude that is very blase. He returns to the ancestral home, promptly duels- and defeats- his father, reconnects with his little brother, pisses off Ayano, and earns the respect and appreciation of the Kannagi patriarch, Ayano’s father, Jugo. Basically, because he has a contract with the great wind spirit, he is a powerful ally. He can easily track enemies and sense the presence of yoma- or demons- that wreak havoc in the world.


This is where the cool subtleties kick in: Kazuma got booted out of the family, but not out of hatred. Even Genma, who acts so harshly, seems to have done what he did out of concern, out of desire that his son find his own way. Jugo turns Ayano’s world upside down to make sure Kazuma secures a spot back in the Kannagi family. Even Ayano is intrigued by Kazuma, who seems to dole out some of that school-of-hard-knocks education he received by not making anything easy for her. Jugo constantly hires Kazuma to help the Kannagi family- either with investigations or as Ayano’s bodyguard. Kazuma likes to jadedly state that he’s only helping out for the money- and indeed you get that sense when Catherine doubles what the Kannagis pay him in order to get him to coach her for her duel against Ayano. However, Jugo even states that by offering him monetary compensation, he allows Kazuma to maintain his pride after having been so publicly disgraced. In fact, during Catherine and Ayano’s duel, you get the sense Kazuma is rooting for Ayano when she finally brushes the dirt of herself and understands the weaknesses he’d been pointing out to Catherine…

When the series began, I thought the banter between Ayano and Kazuma would be more even- they would drive each other crazy sort of deal. It’s not quite like that, though: Kazuma definitely has the upper hand: he’s older, more experienced in combat…and in life. He’s observant, skillful, and doesn’t reveal anything he doesn’t intend to. He doesn’t lose his cool, he doesn’t get flustered. Ayano is the one who gets flustered by Kazuma’s cool and hip behavior.


Ayano is immature, hotheaded, impulsive, insecure…but also has a deep sense of justice, duty, and loyalty. Sometimes I’d find myself wishing she’d give Kazuma a harder time, call his buffs, and make him squirm. But she’s not like that at all- she’s not a player and doesn’t know what to make of all these confusing feelings. She’s a bit in a dither at times- not in a terribly annoying way. She doesn’t have any real feminine wiles, she is guileless. She wears her heart on her sleeve and there are times where I found myself shaking my head thinking, “Nooooooo,” such as when she almost reaches for Kazuma’s hand and when she yells to Catherine that there’s no way she’s letting her take him to the USA with her (I would have loooooved it if she had turned to Kazuma at the end and simply said something to effect that he was free to go wherever he wanted if the pay was good…but her name is Ayano, not Mary Sue…).


I love that Ayano’s such a tomboy and that when she’s angry she goes out to have tea with her best friends and stuffs her face with an inordinate amount of pastries while fuming about the latest offense Kazuma perpetrated. The fact that Ayano is so transparent kind of bothered me, though. Well, maybe not so much that she is transparent as much as Kazuma is so guarded and aloof. I kept thinking, “Where’s your pride, girl?” But now it hit me- I haven’t finished watching the series, but I’m halfway through the second season, right in the whole Pandemonium arc, and it seems Kazuma has a heartbreaking past involving the loss of someone he loved very much. Perhaps someone unflinching, real, and consistent, as Ayano reveals herself to be, is exactly what the wounded Kazuma needs?

 
Ayano hasn’t gotten all googly-eyed and worked herself in a heart-infested tizzy over Kazuma, after all. She isn’t annoyingly in love with him- she’s just really lousy at masking her interest, her desire to be close to him, know what he’s up to, and shows this affection through her irritation, her sparks of occasional jealousy, her disastrous strategies to get him to spend time with her (in her defense, though, Jugo gets the cake for coming up with the inane date-perfect scenarios- which, of course, fall apart catastrophically: the fake investigation in the amusement park and the hot springs vacation for all…), which always involve making Kazuma buy her dinner- always the most expensive items on the menu at the finest restaurants in town- her way of getting back at him for making so much money off her.

She is not devoid of introspection- and then you realize that what Kazuma says earlier on in the series is quite true: someday she will make one heck of a woman…to which she irritatedly replies (but not without feeling the depth of the compliment), “I already am!” She is young, and her clumsiness is just inexperience- she is fresh and true. She is figuring these complex feelings out on her own, realizing that the realm of human relations and emotions is far more dense than the battlefield.

Kazuma in fact calls her on it, when he states that Ayano prepares only to take her opponents down with one attack.  Her world, so far, has been that black and white: good or bad, win or lose. He’s been observing her all along, through what we gradually come to understand, is a pretty numb self right then- reeling from so many losses. The guy doesn’t need subtle. He needs clear and unequivocal- and that’s exactly what Ayano is.

My Personal Thoughts

It’s Kaze No Stigma- or Stigma of the Wind, as some translations have it. The Kaze No Stigma anime is  based on the light novel written by Takahiro Yamato and illustrated by Hanamaru Nanto. I think the best way to explain a light novel is that it consists of stories more suited to young adult readers- junior high and high school, primarily.
First things first: apparently the author died before the series of books was completed.  I haven’t read it yet. The anime, however, has been completed and is only 24 episodes. I’ve noticed that often anime based on a long-running manga (and some manga can run for years and years) will choose only a few volumes/story arcs and end. That’s what happened with Fruits Basket and Kare Kano…and so far, with Kuregahime (oh please, please, let there be more seasons of jellyfish-inspired dresses, cross-dressing, and Banba’s righteous afro).


The whole premise of Kaze reminded me of Avatar: The Last Airbender in that you have different groups of people mastering the use of powers based on the four elements. In Kaze, however, they are “magic users,” as opposed to “benders,” and the action takes place in contemporary Tokyo.

Kazuma had been carrying a huge burden: his lover, Sui Ling, was murdered, before his eyes, by the Pandemonium folks. To make things worse: 1) As she was being sacrificed she asked, “Was I born just to be sacrificed to a demon?” 2) Sui Ling had asked Kazuma, at a happier time, to always protect her and be by her. 3) Kazuma did not gain his powers until AFTER Sui Ling was killed. Takibana reveals to Ayano that when she first met Kazuma, during a special mission in London, he was a very dangerous and dark character. His pursuit of justice made him into a sort of “the ends justify the means.” He did not care how much destruction he brought forth as long as he accomplished his goal. Takibana further notes that since his return to Tokyo, Kazuma had changed- and she believes it’s because of Ayano. Ayano’s persistence, her loyalty, and ultimately her honesty are what finally break down Kazuma’s defenses and bring him back to his senses.

I found it interesting that Ren and Kazuma are so opposite- not just in appearance, but in behavior. When Kazuma experiences grief and loss, his powers become dark and, as Ayano notes, toxic. Ren, however, cherishes the memory, is grateful, and despite his sadness and longing, does not feel anger. Granted, the circumstances surrounding their losses were very different, but there is something very inherently good about Ren; it’s no surprise he can cast the purifying flame…

I really liked Kazuma’s little interior monologue as he comes to his senses after his big showdown with Ayano- it’s a farewell to the memory of his lost love: that she will always have a claim to part of his heart, but that he must make room for others because he can only truly own the present moment. I like that although he’s been remarking to himself what an amazing person Ayano is, he makes the comment about making room in his heart while gazing at her and his little brother Ren. It’s a Buddhist, perspective, which is up my alley- and I like that he doesn’t  immediately seize Ayano in a cheesy embrace. The guy’s been reawakened- he’s thawing out from a loooong chill, and his reactions toward Ayano are still playful. I loved how he takes the blowing wisps of her hair into his fingers and thoughtfully and gently brings them to his lips. The feelings run deep, so they will take a little while to reach the surface…

As much as I REALLY liked the concept and story of this anime, and even some of thecharacters(Particularly Ren who was just adorable) there were certain things that I just couldn’t get past.

1) I’m not much for foolish love stuff messing with an actiony anime

2) I’m pretty sure the main love interests are COUSINS and therefore I was really disapproving

3) Ayano, despite her improving slowly, was obnoxious and Kazuma never really changed. Each had good points, but this issue was that other than Ren, who matures during some of his screentime, there wasn’t a lot of change. Ayano is still a ridiculously overpowered, over emotional, jealous, and annoying teenage girl. Kazuma is a jerk for messing with her and doing so CONSTANTLY, REALLY ridiculously overpowered, and kind of flat emotionally which, as refreshign as it is from Ayano’s over the top-ness, was boring.

its a simple action anime with mediocre length (4-5-6) episodes long plotlines and a few fillers. The humor in the fillers is pretty good, the main plot is acceptable. We have a few plotholes, but you have to accept the anime for what it is. The story is secondary, the action is important. 6/10

Animation: Low buget, simple. The action scenes are not bad, so it works pretty well, but its not a great spectacle. 6/10

Music: better than average 7.5/10

Characters: probably the forte of the series. We get some pretty well built characaters aqnd even some decent characetr developement. The male lead is a very good character, the female, well, pretty annoying. Most of  the secondary characters are likeable, some are annoying or unnecessary.  7/10

Overall: This is not a masterpiece, but its a homogeneous mix of action, comedy and even some tragedy. Plotholes exist, but to be honest, this anime is fun. One of the best choices if you just want something pretty much mindless.

At the end of the anime, it’s pretty obvious that the entire story hasn’t been told.  You are left wondering how Ayano and Kazuma’s relationship is going to unfold, you wonder when Bernhardt and Lapis will surface to strike out again, and how the tensions between different members of the Kunnagi family are going to be resolved (Genma? And where is Kazuma’s mother, whom we’d seen giving him a credit card upon his dismissal from the family? And what’s the deal with Genma and Takibana? I actually thought it wasn’t a bad match…Oh, I am so confused.)

I might have to read the light novel now. Even knowing it will never be completed the way the author would have conceived it.

My overall opinion on this anime is that I loved it and it was so close to perfect. I will definately reommend this anime to watch. I rate this anime 7.8/10.

風の聖痕
(Kaze no Sutiguma)
GenreAction, romance, supernatural
Light novel
Written byTakahiro Yamato
Illustrated byHanamaru Nanto
Published byFujimi Shobo
DemographicMale
ImprintFujimi Fantasia Bunko
Original runJanuary 19, 2002 – March 20, 2010
Volumes12
Manga
Kaze no Stigma -Kouen no Miko-
Written byTakahiro Yamato
Illustrated byNeko Miyakai
Published byFujimi Shobō
DemographicShōnen
MagazineMonthly Dragon Age
Original runApril 9, 2007 – March 6, 2008
Volumes2
Anime television series
Directed byJunichi Sakata
Produced byHidemasa Arai
Takashi Tachizaki
Tsuneo Takechi
Written byMayori Sekijima
Music byYutaka Fukuoka
StudioGonzo
Licensed byNA Funimation
Original networkChiba TV, TV Saitama, Tokyo MX TV, KBS Kyoto, Gunma TV
English networkSA AnimaxSEA AnimaxUS Funimation Channel
Original run April 12, 2007 – September 21, 2007
Episodes24 (List of episodes)
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