「ライバル—8月の約束」 (Raibaru—8 Tsuki no yakusoku)
“Rival – A Promise for August””
A nice break from the action to strengthen our main cast—both in skill and character depth.
This week, Prince of Stride Alternative wisely decided to slow the pace and further develop its characters. The Honan crew took a trip to Saisei’s overwhelmingly impressive training facilities in hopes of growing stronger for the impending End of Summer tournament. This episode established very early on that our Honan runners have a long way to go in order to stand toe to toe with the likes of Saisei. Not only in terms of their amenities, but also in their skill levels. We get the sense very early on that Saisei is a polished and airtight team that are perfectly in tune with one another as a unit, thanks in huge part to their relationer. Honan, on the other hand, is a just recently concocted team, crudely unrefined, both individually and as a cohesive group—but certainly not without potential.
And this episode makes an effort to work out these kinks. Multiple times throughout, members of Saisei play mentor to Honan runners—mostly in the case with our first-year trio. While Reiji did little more than serve as a goal to surpass for Fujinuma, the bond between the others added depth to not only the characters, but the idea of the team.
When Asuma bonds with Yagami, he mentions to him his shared struggle in having an older and more prestigious brother. This is significant because up until now in the series, the only times Yagami’s brother was ever mentioned by rival teams, it was in comparing the two—deindividualizing him by casting him in the shadow of his superior brother (which itself is the source of Yagami’s insecurities). However, this is the first time that Yagami’s older brother has been mentioned in reference to Yagami’s individual personality—in humanizing and empathizing with him. The fact that Asuma is the first to do so incites a strong sense of friendship between the two.
Shizuma shed some light on what it truly means to be a relationer. He tells Sakurai that their role is to be wholly familiar with the ebb and flow of their teams. They must be in full sync not only with their running patterns and pace, but also their emotions, their mental states, and so on. They’re not just the glue of their team—they’re the heart of it. Though we always got a sense of this before, the fact that it’s being stated here explicitly adds new layer on not just Sakurai’s character, but also on the nature of the team—meant to be on unit, and all through Sakurai. Great little development.
Overall, I really liked the sense of camaraderie and rivalry this episode set out to establish between the two teams. Though it didn’t go as maybe deeply as I’d prefer, it’s still commendable that Prince of Stride Alternative is even trying to establish something as traditional but worthwhile as the school-rivals trope of sports anime. Hopefully, the dynamic will continue to have consequences on the plot, as well as the growth of our main team. From all the fun and antics the two team shared, their friendship is clearly strong.
Also, I’m incredibly eager to see how the series will incorporate a shared history between its first years. Does it feel shoehorned and arbitrary? Well, yes, but at the very least, it’ll lend some real character depth to Fujinuma, who has so far shown very little. It also might strengthen the relationships between the three characters, who are presumably the central protagonists, but have so far provided very little of that feeling. Nothing but high hopes going forward.