「HOME ここにしかないもの」 (HOME Koko ni shikanai mono)
“Home – The One and Only”
A fun—if incoherent—break away from the action.
This week’s episode of Prince of Stride means to repair some of the cracks in the team’s unity—a quality whose pertinence is highly stressed in the Stride world. As was hinted at the end of last week’s episode, Yagami’s issues with Fujiwara have been elevated to a whole new level. He now more strongly likens his teammate to his brother—a comparison which further expands the rift between them. Yagami displaces all of his deeply ingrained frustrations with his sibling unto a poor, clueless Fujiwara. This mental conflict makes its presence known on the course, for once again, the two are just unable to connect, no matter how many times they run (HA HAA) through it.
As Kuga so wisely points out, the two are not looking at each other, but at someone who is running ahead of them. For Fujiwara, I don’t know what he could be referring to. It’s clear with Yagami, though, that he’s calling to attention his unhealthy fixation on his brother. Although Fujiwara is perhaps too cold and austere to accommodate Yagami’s feelings, Yagami’s obsession leaves him unable to fit into the coherence of the team. He disregards the feelings of those around him and becomes wholly dominated by his own—missing the entire point of the sport. So how then does his senpai try to amend this predicament?
Well with a pool day, apparently.
In a fun change of scenery, the plot veers into some rest and relaxation. It’s fun to see our characters enjoy themselves wholeheartedly, even to Fujiwara’s displeasure. The team’s senior members are obviously trying to get the two first year runners to bond—become more familiar with each other, have a good time together, and so on, in hopes that that union will transfer onto the race track. As the days activities progress, however, it becomes clear that the two are actually doing better individually than together.
An Unresolved Resolution
The way in which the episode supposedly solves this conflict is rather troubling because it leaves some of the core issues untouched. It does an impressive job of establishing the tension between the two, but amends it in a way that ignores all of it. The strife between Yagami and Fujiwara is primarily fuelled by Yagami’s hang-up with his brother and Fujiwara’s inability to prioritize his teammate over the sport like how Tomoe was unable to put his brother before stride. Rather than address these issues head on, the plot decides to settle it all by having the two band together in Sakurai’s courageous attempts to finish a snow cone challenge.
While this makes for a fun little scene, it makes the whole affair seem rather anticlimactic. When the episode visits the same relation the two were having trouble with earlier, their success seems to come about as a mere necessity of the plot. The episode established earlier on that their inability to connect was because of their aforementioned personal problems. It feels unjustified when they finally do it right because none of their previous complications were amended or even addressed in the event that apparently resolved everything. The narrative arc here tapers off rather jarringly in the last act. There’s no substantial resolution here.
Empty Narrative Promises
Furthermore, it was addressed very early this week that Joe Sakurai strongly encourages his daughter to come to his school, in pursuit of an ideal stride absent at the current Honan. When it comes up, the viewer is given little to no reason to believe that Sakurai would even consider the transfer—she exhibits practically no consideration on the matter.
However, at the episode’s conclusion, the episode makes a big show of her conviction to commit to the school after all—as if the audience was left skeptical up until then. The sentiments she reveals (that the team’s imperfections are what make it beautiful) is strong stuff, and a proper way to conclude the motif of disunity which ran throughout the episode. However, because the character arc—Sakurai’s conflict—that it was attached to was so weakly demonstrated, it ends up coming across as ungratifying, and thus discordant with the rest of the plot.
The episode should have more strongly tied the struggles of all the first years in order to deliver a more coherent and satisfying narrative. Perhaps Sakurai should have been shown actually contemplating the switch, and maybe because of how disconnected Yagami and Fujiwara were—a far cry from the ideal stride she came to the school for. In this scenario, her insistence with the snow cone challenge would have proved a more appropriate resolution to the whole ordeal, but especially if some prior incident elucidated to her the beauty behind imperfection and the potential to build together towards unity. Just a few added scenes, and this week’s episode could have been a strong continuation of last week’s strong developments.
As it stands, however, Prince of Stride Alternative missed out on a lot of potential this week. While the intention to work on the team’s harmony before heading into the tournament was appropriate, the end result left a lot to be desired. Still, I feel that the characters were developed to a noteworthy degree, and I sense a good deal of progression. Going forward, though, I’m hoping the series delivers on some stronger and more coherent character arcs. It seems Yagami’s obsession still has a ways to go before being resolved.