「初めての大一番」 (Hajimete no Ooichiban)
“First Big Win”
Right when Special Week was starting to build a following from her and Team Spica’s series of victories, she had her first defeat. Seiun Sky was able to avenge her previous loss to Special Week by going about a completely different strategy once they came up on the hill in a surprisingly thrilling race that would be Seuin’s grand comeback. It was the first time Special Week faced something as crushing as a loss as she heads to the venting stump to cry. There’s also another layer to loss as she interacts with girls who have dealt with injury on the track like Grass Wonder, whose leg injury lends itself to the idea that there are harsher consequences to making any mistakes on the field. Defeat is one thing, but it is far scarier for a horse to get long-lasting leg issues.
There is also some added tension as Toujou Hana puts the pressure on the Trainer to take his training more seriously than he did when he left if he wants his team and Special Week to succeed. Although he’s been telling the girls to go about racing with their own instincts, this mentality is most likely the problem that got the Trainer in hot water the last time he left the academy. It is interesting though how the show is introducing more dramatic elements because it seemed like it was getting too easy for Spica, and Special Week was having a hard time making the intense rivalries found in other sports anime. Seiun Sky is too lax outside of the field to gun for Special Week, but I can see her defeat sparking other girls to go after Special. To paraphrase Accelerator, some could be mislead into thinking that because her status is weaker, it means they are stronger.
On a brighter note, this was also the episode where Tokai Teio teaches Team Spica how to improve their idol game after Symboli Rudolf is repulsed by the fact that there are now winners who have no skill performing on-stage. It was funny to see how every other scene with Gold Ship has her distracted by other things such as trying to split a watermelon, solving a Rubix cube, and meditating during Tokai’s karaoke/dance lessons. There are also some humorous nods to the real life horses that the girls are based off of such as Special Week’s ability to gain weight at an instant.
But one interesting aspect of Tokai is how her aspirations steered towards wanting to be like Symboli. There’s an underlying feeling that even though Tokai says she shares Special Week’s goal of being the greatest, her desires are more with being able to match up to the level of prestige that Symboli has reached as the leader of the student council, and her aim to eventually run with her gives more meaning to her pursuit of what success means to her. And it makes it meaningful for Uma Musume to outright have characters who go beyond just wanting to be number one, and have their own personal milestones they want to reach with their peers and mentors.