It’s a new year! A new anime season! Let’s get started!
Honan Academy has just gotten three new students. First there’s Sakurai Nana, your average benign otome game protagonist. She moved to Toyko from Hokkaido to join Honan because of her interest in a sport called Stride (which is basically parkour-based relay racing) that Honan is particularly famous for. Next is
Nanase Haruka Fujiwara Takeuru, who joined for the exact same reason. And then there’s Kagamine LenYagami Riku, an extremely athletic young man who wants to join as many sports clubs as he can.
Unfortunately for Nana and Takeru, they arrive to find the Stride club a shadow of its former self – it even has to combine with the Shogi club in order to stay active. The two Striders (is that what they’re called??) that enamoured Nana so much in a video she saw are now seniors and no longer active, and the remaining members arent enough to form a relay team. However, with the inclusion of Nana, Takeru and Riku, their chances are a lot better.
Unfortunately Riku seems reluctant to join the club at all, despite wanting to be in almost every other one in the school, and despite his amazing athletic ability. The Stride club decide to hold a parkour race in the school with the condition that he join the club if they can beat him.
Prince of Stride: Alternative is such an awkward name for an anime. I get that they wanted to change the title from the game its based on just slightly, but the ‘Alternative’ makes it sound like a second season or something, which is confusing. And you’d think that the name ”Prince of [anything]” would be off limits considering Prince of Tennis is one of the most popular sports anime of all time. Also, alternative what? Alternative to the game? Alternative universe of Free!?
To be honest…yeah. This is an AU of Free! about running and jumping. It’s not a comparison I would make lightly, but I really do get the feeling that this was exactly what the producers were going for. The Stride scenes especially seem to be trying as best as they can to try and match the kind of excitement and fun in the relay swimming races of Free!, especially with the iconic high-fiving, right down to the cheesy synth music. I don’t say that Takeru is Haruka just because he looks almost just like him (although he does) or because he acts just like him (although he does) or because he even sounds and talks just like him (although he does), he also has a comical fixation on other peoples (well, other boys mostly) leg muscles which is played for laughs in the same way as Haruka’s fixation on any body of water.
And you know…that isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually pretty interesting seeing how a show like Free! would play out with a different sport, and Prince of Stride wins points for originality for using something like parkour. I came into this expecting to find it as lame and droll as I tend to find most otome game anime, but something about this first episode at least was just…fun, to me. I was honestly shocked at how much I ended up enjoying it, even while acknowledging that it was still pretty campy and dumb. I like the crispness of the art and character designs – especially considering I’ve never really been a fan of the typical style for otome games – and the whole Stride sport really does work a lot better than you think.
The animation is passable for the most part, and was better than I thought it would be in the race scenes, but there’s still some sloppiness to it that really take away from it a bit, although its not so much the character animation as the blatantly CGI backgrounds when they’re running. There’s also a part where the crowds of people watching the race are CGI and look pretty pathetic. I hope that it manages to keep the animation at this passable level though, because a show like this pretty much relies on it if it wants to convey any sense of excitement in the races at all.
The main thing that I found amusing in this episode though was how ridiculously, comically dangerous Stride is. These kids are running at breakneck speeds down corridors and jumping up/over the edge of buildings and railings and the whole time I couldn’t help wondering where all the teachers were during this. Granted, one teacher does appear when the Stride club announces its revival over the PA system, and he seemed pretty annoyed…so I hope this does indicate that the teachers opposition to the ‘sport’ becomes a plot point. Just for some faint degree of realism in all this.
One other thing that caught my attention was the possibility being raised that Nana could be a Strider (I know no one uses this term at all in the show but it amuses me) herself, which is a bit of a big deal when you consider that ‘the girl’ is pretty much always just defaulted to being the club manager. I really hope she does get to eventually run and jump everywhere like an idiot because that would make this show pretty noteworthy for breaking a frustratingly common mold.
I’ll be watching more of this one since the first episode was a lot more dumb fun than I expected it would be, although who knows if it can keep that up for the rest of it. It is based on an otome game after all.
Out of 5,