Prince of Stride: Alternative – 02

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Prince of Stride: Alternative – 01 (First Impressions)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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