「チーム—感情を接続します, 風になります」 (Chiimu—Kanjoo o setsuzoku shimasu, Kaze ni narimasu)
“Team—Connect Emotions, Become the Wind”
Geez I wish Stride was a real sport.
This week, Prince of Stride Alternative provided its strongest race yet—both exhilarating and thematically resonant.
This week’s match packed loads more oomph than previously seen. It was the first to feature Kuga. With his incredible talent, he also brought a heap of emotional weight. More was riding on this race than in week’s past—could the team function with a remnant of their dark history? Would Kohinata be able to connect with Kuga, given his reluctance to even let him on the team?
Well I’m happy to say that the episode answered all these and more. Though it was hammered home in a somewhat excessive manner, Sakurai was key in explaining the theme of the race and the sport as whole: the transfer of emotions. Sounds cheesy I know, but basically it entailed that the team members needed to function as one, seamless unit in order to maintain speed and reach their maximum potential. Any break in their unity would mean a loss for the Honan.
The biggest threat to that harmony was Kohinata’s beef with Kuga. Kohinata needed to be rock solid with Kuga if the team was to succeed. It’s somewhat understandable, though, that he was upset with his senpai’s departure. Despite the rationale behind the decision, his captain was left without teammates and friends—struggling just to keep the club alive. For Kuga to suddenly waltz back into a team he had no hand in rebuilding seemed a bit unmerited. However, thanks to some encouragement from Kadowaki (as well just as eventually coming to his senses) Kohinata finally realizes that Kuga loves the team just as much as he does, and wants nothing more than to protect it. This shared feeling is finally acknowledged and exchanged with the relation, providing closure to a character arc that has nicely solidified this team dynamic.
Furthermore, it was great getting a little more insight into Yagami‘s insecurities. It was a nice touch projecting Yagami’s current voice onto his past self—implying that (at least in relation to his brother) Yagami is very much the same person as he was then. He’s done no healing since. While that loose end wasn’t tied up here, its added depth could be setting the stage for some more substantial development along the line.
Also, goddamn was that race fun to watch. Thanks in part to the aforementioned emotional weight, but also to the obnoxiousness of the opposing team. Ichisookun High School was composed of a buncha cocky little pricks, and though their character depth didn’t extend beyond that, it was just enough to provide for thoroughly entertaining opponents. I was rooting for our Honan boys in this race more than in any other. Their relationer’s petulant reactions to his team’s setbacks were satisfying to watch. Though Sakurai‘s speech was meant to be inspiration (which it was, to an extent), I couldn’t help but find it humorously overdramatic. However, it did reaffirm her genuine passion for the sport, and though this is sadly her only real character trait, I’m glad the episode relegated at least some screen time for her.
Furthermore, the match clearly and excitedly framed all the various tricks and technical moves, but it also revealed the freedom to route one’s own course to the next stop, which channels the creativity attributed to parkour. Plus the soundtrack is seriously on point—quick rock beats and smooth melodies are applied to all the right areas for maximum effect. It got me energized to go out and run about as well. And just as Kuroko no Basuke always made me eager to play some ball, this race got me pumped to partake in…a sport that doesn’t exist. Seriously, if a sport like Stride takes off in the future, you can definitely count me on board.
Overall, a strong addition to the series thus far. This race had all the emotional weight that I criticized previous matches for lacking, and I sincerely hope this is a sign for things to come (especially with training camp on the horizon).