「BELIEVE いつでも俺はここにいる」 (BELIEVE Itsu demo ore wa koko ni imasu”)
“Believe – I Will Always Be Here”
A second entry that, despite some missteps, proves to be a strong one.
This week Prince of Stride Alternative gave us a promising glimpse at the action to come. It spent the bulk of its time attempting to develop a strong dynamic between the two leads (Fujiwara and Yagami)—one that I feel paid off quite nicely.
A Powerful Duo
A good number of sports anime have built great shows atop a strong, central relationship between two protagonists—often opposite in style or skill—whether they be rivals, teammates, or some combination of both. Hinata and Kageyama in Haikyuu!! , Kuroko and Kagami in Kuroko no Basket, and so on and so forth. Here, Prince of Stride Alternative states clearly its intention to do the same with leads Fujiwara and Yagami, two athletes whose relation to Stride couldn’t be more different. Fujiwara is a confident savant who devotes seemingly all of his mental and physical capacity to the sport while Yagami is insecure in his ability to run, and is bogged down by past demons.
As a result, Yagami is unable to run his fastest—he’s literally weighed down by some troublesome details of his past, assumedly involving his brother, a former ace of the Stride club during its halcyon days. For whatever reason this may be, Yagami is thus afraid, and insecure with his place as a Stride athlete.
But that’s where Fujiwara comes in. Stride is a sport where teammates are linked in trust through the coordination of “takeovers,” which are similar to baton passes in Track & Field relays. As a former runner myself, I can tell you that the execution of these passes require absolute synergy from both involved. The stride of each runner cannot be broken, for both must be in sync—his rear hand needs to go up right as my baton hand is coming down—in order to maintain speed and not lose momentum, which can mean everything in a race. All this must be done between a specified zone on the track—if you cannot get this down in that section, it’s over. The pass often requires hours and hours of practice, until each runner has absolute understanding of each other’s rhythm and pace. It’s is when two runners become one unit.
The same goes for these “takeovers”—both racers must be in complete trust with one another in order to maintain speed, and it becomes the manifestation of Fujiwara and Yagami’s bond. Fujiwara has enough confidence and skill to bolster the performance of a fellow teammate. He properly gauges their maximum speed, and coordinates the “relation” accordingly to maximum effect—evidenced through the stats Sakurai provides. The only factor that could jeopardize the situation is the other runner’s capability to reach his own potential, such as in the case with Yagami, who just can’t let go of the past well enough to match Fujiwara’s operation.
As Fujiwara makes clear, though, he has enough confidence for the two of them. His faith in Yagami can push him to his greatest heights—this trust just had to go both ways to be complete. As a mysterious stranger cryptically tells him, Yagami is “waiting the wind” to get up and run. Yagami has to forget about all that’s holding him back, and let the wind—let Fujiwara, and innate, natural force—take charge. In this sense, Fujiwara and Yagami, in a metaphorical sense, make a fantastically sensible sports anime duo.
My issue, though, is the amount of time spent on the characters and their relationships in general. Even though we get why Fujiwara and Yagami click on a figurative level, the show has yet to really characterize their social rapport. We barely see them interact outside of just running together—what’s in order is a strong character chemistry between the two to really strengthen the quality of this series. While we get bits of their back and forth dialogue—I feel as if we need more to cement these two and their relationship. Also, not much time is allocated to developing the rest of the main cast.
While these symptoms are usually permissible in a show’s second entry, the series is already diving into a full-blown match next episode against a powerhouse school. A sports anime should typically focus exclusively on fleshing out its main cast before letting them mingle with another cast of new characters. I worry that the show is rushing too eagerly to the action, and not realizing the dire importance of building a strong foundation before letting loose. I’m afraid what little of that they have so far will come undone as the focus begins to meander to new characters.
However, my worries are easily amendable. The upcoming match could easily serve as a means for Honan’s Stride Club to develop as characters. Perhaps the duel exposes kinks in their team dynamic and chemistry which will pave avenue for further development. Who knows, anything can happen—I just hope Prince of Stride Alternative chooses to take its time building these characters—I want to love and root for them with all I’ve got.
Anyways, apart from these issues, this week’s installment of Prince of Stride Alternative lays the foundation for a potentially poignant one-two punch in Fujiwara and Yagami, but still needs to find time to further flesh out them as characters, as well as the rest of the main cast. I’m liking what Prince of Stride Alternative has to offer so far—each of these characters isn’t stale or bring by any stretch of the imagination. They just need to further deepened as individuals—and whether that’s in the clubroom or on the streets—I’m sure Prince of Stride Alternative can deliver.
ED: 「Be My Steady」 by Galaxy Standard [Reiji Suwa (Mamoru Miyano), Shizuma Mayuzumi (Daisuke Hirakawa), Bantarou Chiyomatsu (Takuya Eguchi), Tasuku Senoo (Tatsuhisa Suzuki), Asuma Mayuzumi (Yuuki Ono), Kaede Okumura (Toshiyuki Toyonaga)]