Introducing Stride: an extreme high-thrilled sport where parkour and endurance running collide together!
The rules of Stride are really simple: you form a team of six people and you compete against one other team. Five of you run across the race course as a relay, avoiding obstacles, and staying on track. The fastest team who crosses the finish line first wins.
It’s definitely a very interesting concept straight from the get-go. So why can’t I rank this show any higher?
Well, for one, whenever you introduce a sport, it is imperative to consider your audience: they have no clue what the sport is about or never even heard of anything like it before. Furthermore, sports often incorporate a lot of new terminology that can lose the audience quickly. As a result, the screenwriters must absolutely take the time to explain these terms well.
This is where Prince of Stride begins to crack. In the first few episodes, terms such as “relationer” will be thrown at you and leave you second-guessing until you actually see it in action. Techniques associated with parkour or the relationing process itself, too, are never properly explained. And, most importantly, the rules of Stride are very open, and this is a recipe for disaster. For instance, shortcuts – what exactly constitutes an acceptable shortcut? Couldn’t you technically just “shortcut” an entire leg? Since this rule and others like it are never thoroughly explained, viewers who are making an attempt to understand what is happening are more than often left hanging and utterly confused. And mind you that this is just one rule – there are plenty of others that don't make any sense either.
The other issue is the characters themselves. As you probably know, Prince of Stride centers on the members of the Honan Stride team. The characters on this team had serious potential but were never given ample time on the show to have enough depth. Some characters were given no time at all and honestly were not a significant factor in the show (e.g. Hozumi). They could have been left out from the story and the plot of the entire show would not have changed much (minus the fact that you would have an incomplete team, oops). Others are what I like to call half-baked: some characterization but somewhat forced. A good example of this is Nana. Nana’s true colors begin to show when her father shows up back in Japan, but since her father was never mentioned up to this point, it seems as if his entire purpose was to elicit some emotional response from her. Thus, her actions and thoughts come off as a little unbelievable. I would argue that the only decent characterization was of Riku (see episode 11), since we later learn that he uses Stride as a way to dissociate his own identity from his more talented brother’s.
As for the plot, there isn’t really anything remarkable about it. As with all other sports anime, Prince of Stride: Alternative tries to balance Honan’s training and the tournaments that they participate in. In the first half of the show, there is more training and other trivial things that they do (e.g. obtain a sponsor) than there are actual tournaments, and some of these training sessions do not produce anything fruitful other than heightened, excited emotions. Towards the end of the show, however, the plot finally gets somewhere when the Honan team comes face-to-face against two of their toughest, most challenging rival teams during the End of Summer semi-finals and finals.
For the art, let’s just say it’s different. The color palette that Madhouse chose to use in this show often comes off as overly bright or pale. It’s not oversaturated as in the colors of No Game No Life but will take some time to adjust to. Despite this, the animation and artwork is very consistent. Sound and voice acting are also of high quality, albeit none of it really stood out.
So, just to summarize, I wouldn’t say that this is one of the better sports anime out there. Its premise had a lot of potential but unfortunately the plot does not build off from it at all. If you’re looking for a more balanced story or characters with more depth, you won’t find them here. I felt like too often this show came off as a little dry since nothing is really explored well, and it’s likely that you will think this way too.
Overall rating: C
Author's Disclaimer: Please remember, this is my own personal opinion. I critique anime primarily on how the story is executed and how well-rounded the characters are. This review is not meant to target any other review but was intended to provide a more holistic analysis.
It should also be noted that this is a full-fledged review of the entire season.