Prince of Stride, a show based off of an otome game with a bit of sports and competition added in. Advertised as a sports series, yet it’s obvious that the show appeals to the female audience with its cast of pretty boys. What is striding? It’s basically a fictional extreme sport of running similar to that of parkour but with unique obstacles.
Produced by Madhouse studio, the show runs pretty fast on its feet, literally. The first episodes introduces the main characters in standard fashion. Nana Sakurai, the main heroine transfers to Honen Academy and quickly becomes the manager of the Stride club, a club dedicated to striding. The members of the group consists of a variety range of characters and personalities ranging from the cheerful Riku Yagami to the cool Takeru Fujiwara. Each member of the club also possesses individual skills and characteristics that makes them unique on the team. While this is all good and dandy, the show doesn’t capitalize on their traits but instead follows a generic route of competition. Yes, there’s risks and strategy that is adapted into each race. However, the ending result usually is predictable. And that’s honestly something that isn’t so admirable.
The story structure is designed as more carefree although striding is the main course of the plot. Other times, the show feels like it’s taking a breather such as fashion shoots, hot springs, and even the infamous beach episode. In general, the story turns into a mixed affair of comedy and competitiveness. If that makes any sense, the series also takes every advantage of the boys to make them stand out as bishounens. There’s nothing wrong with that except the show focuses perhaps a bit too much on it for the first half of the series. It takes the serious nature of the striding when the boys are presented more as fan service rather than athletes. On the other hand, the show does take its game mechanics seriously. Every relay race is designed aesthetically and never the same. In addition, the show adds commentary to explore the physical aspects of the obstacles, short-cuts, and potential strategies runners can use to their advantage.
However, the story isn’t the main problem with the show. The main problem lies with the characters. It’s hard to feel attached to any of them. Takeru is like a Free clone of Haru but hardly has a strong relationship that can be relatable. Riku adds a bit more of casual atmosphere that people can get used to quickly but it’s hard to accept his character. He’s just too damn carefree. Heath Hasekura, the half-man, half-model is probably Mr. Fan service and there’s little depth about his character at all. Finally, Hozumi Kohinata exposes almost all the weakness of the show with his non-existent characterization, girly face, and weakly timed jokes. Luckily, there’s some characterization and background storytelling through mid-story but the overall execution lacks steam. Don’t expect Honan Academy’s rivals to be memorable either. They have cliché written all over them with easily forgettable characteristics.
If you’re interested in some fun excitement, then Prince of Stride might be a show for you. While the storytelling and characters are easily forgettable, the relay races themselves lives up to the hype on most occasions. Stride is apparently a fictional sport so the rules and risks are a refreshment to any sports fan. It invites speculations on what strategies can work and what may fail. The risk is also realistic as well that includes near fatal injuries. Furthermore, the show does a clever job highlighting the body movements of the athletes. Each episode is choreographed consistently whether it’s jumping across shortcuts, bypassing obstacles, or just running against the wind.
The artwork is like colored rainbows. Bright and flashy are just few of many words that can describe the background visuals. It also has a sense of flamboyant feel as each relay race has a different style unique to each competition. And of course, who can forget about the boys? They are the main stars not just for being athletes but an eye candy for the female audience to see.
Soundtrack is surprising attractive with a good amount of psychology mixed in. There’s good timing during crucial points of each relay race to capture the thrill of competition. It’s also creative enough to be legitmently entertaining to the ears. Character voice mannerism is moderate although I personally find them lacking with the exception of Riku. Meanwhile, the OP and ED theme songs are rather mediocre in respect.
In essence, Prince of Stride is more of a show that seems to appeal to a certain demographic and advertised for the audience to play the game. It isn’t an entirely awful show despite the lackluster story or mild characterization. Rather, it doesn’t deliver with the premise and each episode seems to lack more and more steam as time drags on. I find it hard to also get attached to many of the characters and in the end didn’t really find liking any of them. Blurring the lines of fictional sport and modern man service, this is a show that easily feels like an advertisement.