I watched Prince of Stride: Alternative, which is an otome-game adaptation by Madhouse. Here are my thoughts:
For context, this show revolves around an imaginary sport that is kind of like a relay-race version of parkour but with a leader who coordinates everyone. It is very entertaining to watch, actually.
The animation quality is good, but much more importantly the visual direction is absolutely terrific. I really like the way colour and brightness effects are used in this. It's difficult to explain but this anime was so bright during some scenes I felt like I needed to wear sunglasses just watching it. It was sort of like they played with the exposure settings on a camera or something like that. It looked great. Art style too I really liked. I liked the character designs. The visuals for this anime are a major strong point. I enjoyed them enormously. Especially for a sports anime, having awesome visuals like this really was a pleasure. Cinematography was also well done and made the sporty scenes enjoyable to watch. There are also lots of really cool sound effects that enhance the running scenes a lot. The running scenes look, feel, and sound AWESOME. Overall the production quality is excellent. The OST is good as well and enhances the mood of a variety of scenes.
In terms of characters, there is a self-inserty team-leader succubus character and there are her male team members. You might anticipate that this would result in a typical reverse-harem situation, but actually shounen-ai between male team members is the only romantic subtext, and even that is mild. Apparently in the VN there is a lot more hetero romance involving the MC. The male characters are fairly likable, and each have unique personalities which mesh together for some good chemistry within the team. Takeru was my favourite character. Beyond the characters themselves, the drama is handled fairly well, which leads me to my next point.
This anime has great direction. They had to introduce an entirely new sport and do some world building, but I never felt like I was being forcefed information. Exposition was handled well. There's also a good balance between sporty scenes and slower, more dialogue-heavy scenes. There is some comedy, but it's sprinkled lightly and not used inappropriately. The anime actually has a consistently serious tone (and feels that way to the viewer). Maybe that was an artistic risk because someone might find the sport they're doing to be absurd, and it might be easier to just load up the comedy. I'm glad they didn't take that approach. The series feels competitive, dramatic and exciting. You could really feel the emotional highs and lows. I felt excited every time I queued up an episode to watch.
If I had to identify a weak point in Prince of Stride, I would say it's the plot. Although well executed, the story at its core is kind of mediocre. Sometimes it can be kind of 'melodramatic' as well, however this is hardly surprising for an otome-game adaptation.
Overall rating: 9/10
Shockingly underrated anime. Really well directed and exceptionally entertaining. I will definitely be rewatching this.
I really hope that someone makes a high-quality Blu-ray rip of this (I couldn't find one). It seems like this franchise got disproportionately less recognition in the West relative to its popularity in Japan. There is little evidence of any kind of western fanbase. I think the combination of sports and the otome aspect is a major reason for the anime's lukewarm reception. The average person watching it for the sport appeal was likely put off by the otome elements, and conversely the otome audience often didn't enjoy the sports focus. I think that the anime as a whole appealed to very few people — most people were probably only drawn in by specific aspects of the show, not the sum of its parts. This might explain the mixed feelings that so many people seem to have. I'm probably unusual in that I found most dimensions of the anime appealing. Hopefully the rumours about a second season are true.
UP UP SPEED UP