Prince of Stride: Alternative – 04

ps41

PoS (which is not a POS) follows up a big, exciting, official race with…another big, exciting, official race! Good form, especially if this is just a single-cour series. An anime about a game of speed should have a fast-moving plot. Especially since, well, most of the characters are pretty bland, so it’s best not to focus on them too long!

One notable exception this week is Ayumu, who may be the most knowledgeable in trivia and best shogi player, is the worst runner on the team. Far from being able to pull off “gimmicks”, he’s scared of them, taking him off whatever pace and flow he’s able to put together. But Ayumu doesn’t let that stop him.

He uses his frustration with being the worst at everything Stride-related (well, almost everything; more on that later) to fuel a steady, forceful improvement regime, helped out by Hozumi. And while he’s exhausted on the day of the race in hot-springy Atami, and Takeru doesn’t seem interested in his muscles in the bath (not necessarily a bad thing), he’s a lot more confident than he was.

ps42

That is, until he meets his opponent on Mihashi High’s team, who is very friendly but also enormous, with a death grip for a handshake. It’s here where Ayumu hints that in order to survive in Stride (and more importantly to him, not let everyone down), he must flex his most developed “muscle”: his brain. To that end, he convinces his opponent he’s racing for his sister (though it kinda backfires when the guy promises he’ll give it his very best, rather than let him win).

Ayumu’s little conflict isn’t quite enough to sustain an entire episode, however, so it’s good there are a couple more things bubbling. You have the Kamoda brothers, for instance: the older, meeker Yuu only a “figurehead” relationer to the team’s ace, the younger, flashier Kei.

Yuu’s unique relationing style during the race positively baffles Nana (along with a no-radio-reception tunnel at a crucial moment, a rookie mistake). She’s even more troubled (and hence, distracted) when she learns that the runners aren’t actually even taking orders from Yuu.

ps43

Still, Nana trusts in her runners and they make their relations; perhaps a bit sloppily here and there, but they make them. It’s another exciting race with the guys making the Road Runner whooshing sound when they take off running. I’ll only say that while in general I dig the super blue-heavy palette of PoS, the over-saturation tends to be overused at times.

When it’s Ayumu’s turn, the lead the previous three runners built against Mihashi quickly vanishes as the skyscraper blows past him. Unable to bear being the one who lost them the race, he takes a crafty shortcut that nobody expects, only because it requires a dangerous drop, which he does not stick. For a few moments when Nana couldn’t reach him, I feared he’d ended up in the drink, ending the race right there.

ps44

Instead, he makes contact to Nana, and makes the last relation with Hozumi, who digs deep and regains the lead for Honan, resulting in their first win by a fraction of a second. No time for celebration, though, as Hozumi immediately turns around and races to Ayumu, who is later carted off to the hospital, banged up but alive.

After losing the race he so desperately wanted to win for Yuu, Kei decides he’s done usurping him as relationer, and for all the apologizing Yuu does, Kei knows he’s the one who should be sorry. Good for you, guy who looks way too much like Takeru!

Our last little wrinkle of drama is another peek into the whole “Riku’s estranged brother” story, where apparently after seeing his brother’s team win on the interwebs, Tomoe calls Galaxy’s relationer Kyousuke about maybe pairing up.

Kyousuke is noncommittal (he apparently had to give up Stride and doesn’t deserve to run anymore…so dramatic!), but something tells me one way or another we’re gonna see a clash of the Yagami brothers.

But here’s the thing: I just don’t think I’m going to have time to cover PoS every Tuesday going forward, so I’m afraid this is goodbye. But it’s a goodbye with a Robert Redford Nod of Approval.

7_ses

Advertisements

Prince of Stride: Alternative – 03

psa31

With my enthusiasm for this Tuesday night (for me) sports anime waning fast, this was exactly the episode I needed: one that brought us the show’s first real race against an elite opponent in Saisei’s Stride Club, who double as a dance and vocal unit and are known and adored as Galaxy Standard AKA Gal-Stan, which sounds like some kind of American industrial conglomerate that manufactures nuclear reactors for aircraft carriers…but whatever!

What matters is, these guys are tough…but they’re not the haughty assholes I thought they’d be, which made watching their interactions with our boys in blue a lot more pleasant. Only one of them, Takusu, could be classified as a jerk, but Takeru is just as fiercely competitive to the point of rudeness.

psa32

As the two teams line up for the race, it occurs how closely the five Honan runners resemble their Saisei counterparts. You have the guys with the dark hair, the greenish hair, the prettyboys, the tough guys, and the goofy guys.

I also liked the little pre-start conversations between the five pairs, though the simultaneous drawing out of their route legs made for a somewhat busy presentation; I had to rewind a couple of times to catch what they were saying because the graphics distracted me. But they’re cool graphics, so no biggie.

But then just like that chatting time is over and it’s time for a muthafuckin’ race, ya’ll. And I’ll tellya, it was a fun one to watch, from the whooshing sound of a runner blasting off the line to the uncertainty of who will have the upper hand in each leg.

And then there’s Nana, clearly nervous in her first true race, but never failing to connect her runners, once the Saisei relationer puts her at ease by making her listen on her headset to how much goddamn fun her boys are having.

psa33

And it does look like fun, unless you’re Heath, or Ayumu, who are totally outclassed by their Saisei opponents. Heath takes it in…ahem…stride, but Ayumu gets so pissed off with the ability gap that he slows way down. And the Saiei guys aren’t just faster, they’re flashier crowd pleasers as well.

Takeru, who’s last in the order, has over fours seconds to make up against the Saisei captain and anchor, Suwa Reiji. Reiji, for his part, looks like he feels kinda bad his team’s going to beat Takeru’s so handily…right up until the moment his relationer tells him Takeru is right on his ass.

Saisei wins—it would have been ridiculous for them not to—but it’s only by .42 seconds, thanks to Fujiwara’s scary closing speed, which winds him considerably. And Reiji is happy it’s close. He likes a strong challenge and he got one.

psa34

As for Honan, they did end up losing, which they thought meant losing Heath’s sis as a sponsor, but she was watching with Saisei’s sponsor, and was so pissed off she had a new line of sportswear custom-made for the guys and Hana: sharp-looking crisp white unis to replace their dour ld blue gym suits.  But she makes it clear she won’t accept further failure.

The next big even coming up is ominously called the End of Summer, AKA EoS, and the ridiculously unbalanced Honan has a lot of work to do. But after this week, I’m looking more forward to watching their progress than I was at this point last week, so Prinstride can log that as a victory on its little iPad.

7_ses

Prince of Stride: Alternative – 02

psa21

So I’m apparently not that into sports anime. I never took a look at Haikyuu!!, Kuroko’s Basketball, Ookiku Furikabutte or even Free!’s sequel; they just weren’t calling to me. Now weird sports, like Shokugeki no Souma, Chihayafuru, or even Genesis from SKET Dance? Now we’re talking!

So I’ll admit, I’m craning my neck a bit into this genre I rarely enter, and struggling a bit with the premise of the central sport, which—not to at all belittle those who actually participate in this kind of thing—seems a little on the thin side. Despite all that, I am legitimately enjoying Prince of Stride….promise!

psa22

It doesn’t really matter that I’d rather cook or play Genesis than run a lot; what matters is that these guys do want to run, and their passion and energy is infectious. They’re also all a diverse collection of personalities, united by their love of Stride (even those who prefer Shogi).

But to become a proper Stride Club (again), Honan needs to make…ahem…strides in the “relationing” department (still don’t like the use of that word). Fujiwara and Riku are out of sync due to the latter’s slowing down before the crucial high-five.

The team also needs a sponsor, but Heath has them covered thanks to his sister Diane, who owns a department chain and asks for just two things in exchange for her patronage: that they win, and that all these lovely young men model her wares, in an extended scene that does not over-indulge.

psa23

The modelling turns out to be mostly harmless (though the girliest of them would disagree after being forced to dress in drag for Diane’s delight); as for the winning, Both Sakurai and Yuki decide to trust in Fujiwara’s speed. Yuki does as Fujiwara urges him to do and stops slowing down, instead going full-out, and from the reactions of everyone, it goes very well.

There’s still room for improvement all ’round, but there’s not going to be much time for it; their first match is coming against the famous elite Saisei Academy’s Stride Team. I’d call Honan underdogs due to their accomplishment and publicity deficit, but then again, some of their shots will end up in D’s catalogs…and Fujiwara is pretty confident they’ll be able to beat the favorites.

As for their faculty advisor…he really needs to knock it off with those invented sayings every five seconds. It’s also a little disappointing to see the only female main character boxed into a non-running support role, vital though it might be. Hana-Kana simply doesn’t have much to do here.

6_ses

Prince of Stride: Alternative – 01 (First Impressions)

psa11

I made a short film in high school titled Somnio Venatio—Latin for “Dream Hunting” (not pretentious at all!). It was about a guy who was stuck in a world where he was always either chasing someone or being chased by someone. It involved a lot of running (and some swift jogging), with no stated reason for any of it. The running just was.

I’m not very good at it (no stamina) but I’ve always liked running. It’s the most basic and accessible way for a person to transcend the normal pace of life and see the world in a different way. At the height of its action, Prince of Stride: Alternative captures that frenetic energy very well, as well as the passion for speed its characters possess.

psa12

Brass tacks: The Stride Club both Sakura Nana and Fujiwara Takeru enrolled at Honan Academy is just three members strong when they arrive, and they’re all playing shogi, because they’re also the Shogi Club. Struggling underdog club: check. But here’s the thing: both Sakurai and Fujiwara are on a mission, and they will not be denied. At no point throughout the episode to they despair at the prospect of failure.

psa13

 

Needing at least one new member plus a “relationer” for a team that can officially compete, Sakurai and Fujiwara take different paths to recruit fellow first-year and athletic phenom Yagami Riku. I say different because while Sakurai would rather ask her new acquaintance nicely if he’d join them, Fujiwara spends much of the episode glaring at him from behind his glasses and bangs, as if stalking prey. Regardless, they get Yagami, and a little in-school race is organized pitting the first-years against the senpais.

psa14

As for Sakurai, she came wanting to be a manager, but Fujiwara deems her capable of being the team’s “relationer”, who keeps in communication with the runners and, I presume, keeps track of their positions in relation to each other. It’s not the spotlight, to be sure, but it does seem to be a crucial role.

That wonderful energy of which I spoke above only comes in short bursts for most of the episode, then finally surges in the final act when the race is held in front of the entire school, whose interest was somehow revitalized despite the bottom-feeder status of the club prior to the first years’ enrollment.

The race is a great technical set piece; Madhouse’s animation is smooth and crisp even at speed, the size and geography of the school is very nicely laid out, and the four runners each had their own style of movement. Of course, the school race was but a brief tease. Bigger, more ambitious races around town are sure to come, so I’ll keep watching for now. But the lack of depth in the characters is already apparent, which could be problematic in the long run.

6_ses