Aside from the second season of Haikyuu!!, which was a leftover from fall season, Prince of Stride was probably the most talked about sport anime of the beginning of 2016. While the idea of a series about stride seemed a bit odd at first, the first episode of Prince of Stride managed to convince many potential viewers that hey, races with parkour in an anime sounds pretty cool! Unfortuantely, the series only offered a few promising first episodes that turned out to be empty promises by the second half.
Consisting of 12 episodes, Prince of Stride is a sports anime based on a visual novel and produced by studio Madhouse. The story follows the stride team of Honan Academy as the characters attempt to re-build the team to compete in the End of Summer competition.
Being completely honest, I didn’t even plan on watching Prince of Stride. I’m not a big fan of sports, and I expected only cliché sports shounen tropes. And that is precisely what I got. Prince of Stride was not a bad series, it could even be considered to be above average. The problem with it is that it promised so much more. Prince of Stride introduced some elements that were refreshing to see, like the art style, very exhilarating fast-paced races, as well as some interesting facts on fitness and nutrition.
Focusing first on the best things, the best moments of the series are found in its first episodes with the introduction of the sport, its characters and the promise of exciting parkour-like races. And I say “promises” because that’s all they were. In fact, the coolest races in the series all took place within the first 5-6 episodes of the season. After that, the series got lost in far-too-frequent speeches of teamwork, believing in yourself, making your dreams come true, yada yada yada… Prince of Stride could have done something special if it had put some more effort on characterization and world building, but instead of that, it all felt very flat.
The world building mainly lacked in regards to the End of Summer competition. While strides were hyped up during the first episodes (they even introducing some interesting talks on partnership and placing ads during the strides), when it came to the most important strides, the episodes felt very lackluster. There was no build up to the competition and we didn’t get to see its context in the shape of audience reaction or the media. The excuse of “there were only 12 episodes” doesn’t work here, as the series wasted a BIG amount of screentime in repeating flashback scenes or cheesy inner speeches that, far from adding anything new, only annoyed me even further. I’m not saying these message are bad or unnecessary (some of them were really motivational), only that they were overused. I have to say, though, that I really liked about the anime was the concept of ‘connecting’ feelings/emotions whenever they slapped their hands. Sincronization in stride is key, after all.
As per the characters, there was not a single character that felt unique. We have seen it all: that one character who has retired due to an event from the past who has to be convinced to come back by other members, the veterans who have given up on the team, the newbies who bring fresh energy to the team… we have all seen them before. The only character that interested me was Nana, but we didn’t even get to have some solid resolution between her and her father.
Animation-wise, Madhouse did deliver some well-animated scenes, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been, considering the quality of the majority of their works. Some viewers speculated that perhaps the animators had been overworked after they gave all their best for One Punch Man in the previous season. The art style was quite unique, though, and even though some elements like the sky and clouds put some viewers off, I found that it was a good decision because it made viewers put all of their attention on the action instead. After all, a sports anime should focus more on the animation of the sport rather than in the beauty of the backgrounds. As per the music, the opening was very catchy, and the OST was good overall, even though some tracks got a bit repetitive.
Prince of Stride had a particularly interesting premise that, next to Madhouse’s high quality animation, could have ended up being one of the most exciting animes of the winter season. Unfortunately, the series got lost in its cliché character dynamics and slapstick comedy, becoming just another sports series about pretty boys and forced comedic situations that were funny 1% of the times. If you are OK with those type of anime, then you will enjoy Prince of Stride, as it also offers some exciting, action-packed episodes that make the series worth watching. However, if you are looking for something innovative with more work on its characters, I’d recommend some other sport anime like Kuroko no Basket, Ace of Diamond or Baby Steps.