Anime: Prince of Stride: Alternative
Original Run: Jan 5, 2016 to Mar 22, 2016
Genres: Sports, Drama
Sakurai Nana attends Honan Academy because her interest in stride, an extreme sport that’s a hybrid version of relay race, parkour and sprinting. Fascinated by a previous match that involved the reputable Honan Stride Club, Nana is determined to join the team as its manager. She finds that she’s not alone in her enthusiasm when a fellow first year and stride-maniac, Fujiwara Takeru joins her. To both of their dismay, it’s revealed that the Stride Club is almost defunct and requires two more members to participate in competitions.
They rope in another first-year, Yagami Riku, with an interest and all sports but stride, and Nana takes the final free position to form a full team. But merely filling the numbers isn’t enough to make a winning team and it will take a lot of effort from all their parts to restore Honan Stride to its former glory.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a review so I’m half-afraid I’ve forgotten how to do it but here we go.
Prince of Stride: Alternative (I have no idea why that Alternative is in the title) is a sports anime featuring a made-up game called Stride which can be succinctly described as the child of relay race marrying parkour with some sprinting blood in the mix. The appeal of a sports anime depends a lot on the way the sport itself is presented and in that regard, Prince of Stride succeeds without excelling. Stride is a very cool sport, fun to watch and also imagine but it’s also quite straightforward. The scores are based on speed and thus matches come down to who can run and clear the obstacles faster. Thus it lacks the delightful – and often ridiculous – pomp and parade of anime sports but is still a perfectly serviceable element in the story.
What Prince of Stride really focuses on is its characters and it’s very much a character-driven drama from beginning to end. The Honan Stride Club and its seven members are the central figures and their antics propel the story forwards. Said antics are generally varying levels of humorous but there are also several emotional moments ranging from melancholic to heartwarming. Most of the focus in that regard goes to Yagami Riku, a freshman boy with moderately severe brother issues (thankfully nowhere near Uchiha Sasuke levels). It’s handled quite well – there’s ample foreshadowing from early on and his problems are not easily brushed aside with one or two speeches but are addressed in a way that feels organic albeit rushed.
As for criticism, the main one would be that there is little to no tension within the show. While it’s somewhat exciting to watch the stride matches, there’s never any pressure to any of it, not enough to make you care whether Honan wins or loses. Since this is a sports anime, that’s a definite demerit. Other than that, there’s nothing in the narrative that warrants great disapproval just as there’s nothing in it that warrants great approval.
In many ways, Prince of Stride is very generic but also has enough individuality to it to make sitting through thirteen episodes worthwhile. We see familiar characters and familiar situations but all with just enough of their own flare to make the story its own entity.
An abundance of teams, each with at least 6 members, means that Prince of Stride is not lacking in characters but only a handful of them are important and even among them, not many get consistent development. The Honan club members – Heath, Hozumi, Ayumu, Riku, Takeru, Nana and Kyosuke – are have their own mini arcs but Nana, Takeru and Riku gets most of the attention.
I will forever be perplexed by who the protagonist of this is. The beginning suggests that it’s Nana but she fades to the background pretty quickly and then only pops out again towards the end. Let’s start with her anyway. Nana came to Honan because of her passion for stride, intending to be the team manager but ending up as a team member instead. She’s nice, kind and very dedicated to stride and that’s really all we see of her. She does have her own charm but few instances to show it off. Riku is cheerful and angsty in turns, his naturally energetic disposition clashing with his aforementioned brother issues. Nothing too special but it all works well enough. The most charming out of the three is quiet, dorky Takeru even though his tendency to grope other men’s muscles is rather of-putting. You know those scenes where naked girls grope each other’s chests for some contrived reason? This is the male-on-male equivalent of that except with legs instead of breasts.
The determined club captain Heath and his wayward ex-teammate Kyosuke both have their shared arc in the story which, while not giving much depth to either, serves to make them a pair of interesting secondary characters. The same can be said for Hozumi and Ayumu, though most of the focus is on the latter. Other Honan-related characters of importance are Dan-sensei, their perpetually cool stride coach who always has one or ten wise idioms at hand, and Heath’s older sister Diana who’s lively and memorable despite her limited screentime.
There are plenty of characters from outside Honan too but most of them aren’t that significant except for the course of a single match. Those who are most noticeable include the captain of a rival team Reiji, Riku’s brother Tomoe and Nana’s father Joe. Reiji is just there for some of the episodes, being the textbook perfect example of a friendly rival, especially for Takeru. Tomoe, though we see little of him, gives the impression of a soft-spoken, well-meaning guy who’s awkward with people and finally, there’s Joe who’s the token neglectful parent who makes clumsy, disastrous attempts at amends.
There’s certainly variety to be found here and they all come together well in the end.
Art and Music:
The art is perfectly adequate and sometimes very pretty. The backgrounds as well as character designs are of excellent quality and full of bright, varied colors. The stride games themselves benefit from fluid animation.
Prince of Stride has some great tracks in it. The opening theme is Strider’s High by OxT and is an upbeat tune concerned with the sport itself. The ending themes, Be My Steady and You’re My Courage are by Galaxy Standard, a band that’s featured in the show. The original music score is good as well, especially the song You Gotta Show Me (Trust) that plays during the matches.
Prince of Stride can be effectively summed up as an entertaining anime that’s in no way exceptional. It’s harmless and often hilarious with a cast that’s not too developed but who have their own charm.