「始まりの出会い」 (Hajimari no Deai)
A brand-new school year (and a brand new anime season) means a brand new start. For Arimura Yu (Yano Shougo) (it’s ironic his idol name is Otonashi, which means silent), this means a career change from successful idol to jockey-in-training. Yu joins the incoming class at a famous horse racing academy where he has a hard time fitting in, being rejected for who he was (the idol) and not for who he wants to be.
Personally, having also gone against the grain in following my dreams, I found Yu relatable in confronting your own and others’ expectations while embracing the excitement of forging your own path. Yu doesn’t say why he wants to be a jockey other than that he loves it, but there has to be a person who inspired him. Who I’m sure will come up later in the backstory.
Everything is but smooth at the opening ceremony, with hostile reporters and an accident leading to runaway horses. (I could see an accident with the electricians coming from miles away, though I was expecting paparazzi to be hiding in the van rather than electrical clumsiness.) Thanks to Kazanami Shun ‘s (Tsuchiya Shinba) horse-whispering and some teamwork, the horses are contained and Yu makes a new friend who embodies his wish to become one with the horse. (And dare I say, potentially hints of romance with Shun, our knight on the white horse?!)
Shun’s persona as the country boy who goes with the flow seems vastly at odds with the elitist atmosphere of this prestigious academy. This will probably land him in trouble, but also breathe fresh air into a stuffy environment steeped in tradition. If it is true that he’s never ridden a horse before (and the same goes for Yu and Kouta, I think), one has to wonder about the school’s admission process. Given that it is an equestrian academy, you’d think they would have experience with horses (even if limited to having ridden a horse a few times) as a requirement. But, it’s not, which is convenient for our newbies.
It is significant that this is a year of firsts for the school. Yu is the first one in a long time to arrive at school via the back gate (I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say that there is a connection between Yu and the last back-road arrival). Another first is Shimotsuki Eri, who is the academy’s first female jockey-in-training in a long time. It takes a lot of guts to break into a male-dominated scene, which makes such characters interesting. However, often in anime, these female characters are overly brash and domineering with a hidden girly side-sparkles and blushes included, which if not written carefully, Eri can also fall into this stereotype. I am happy to see that Minori Inase is voicing her-I loved her work as Jeanne in Vanitas no Karte.
The teachers also seem to be quite the characters in their own right. Asahi-sensei (Sakurai Takahiro) and Nohira-sensei (Touchi Hiroki) are clear foils to one another with the whole cool, laidback teacher vs. strict teacher thing going on. Frankly, Asahi is annoying with his weird accent and randomly interspersing ridiculous English in his speech and Nohira acts like he has something stuck up his rear end. We’ll see if either (or both) of them grow on me.
I already foresee conflict between Yu and some of his gatekeeping classmates. I get it, if you love something, you’re going to want to protect it from people who would trample all over it. But, don’t make it hard for the newbies who are genuinely interested-it no longer becomes about the sport, but about your own idealized version of the sport.
This rift is immediately visible when they split up into groups in pursuit of the runaway horses and the elite, experienced horse-riders leave Yu behind with the newbie riders Maki Kouta (Kobayashi Chiaki) and later, Kazanami Shun. I have a feeling this conflict will become more pronounced in coming episodes, with Kouta being the peacemaker as the typical good-natured guy who wants everyone to get along.
In terms of plot, there were a few things that stretched believability. For one thing, I find it hard to believe that horse-whisperer Shun had never ridden a horse before. Sure, someone can be good with animals, but there’s no way someone could calmly get on a horse and ride it at an experienced level (and even have it jump) without haven ridden one before. It’d be like asking someone who’d never driven a car before to race it down a highway-and imagine how that would turn out. For another thing, the Sakura horse appearing to guide Yu along the road less traveled to school was a bit far-fetched, but at least Asahi-sensei addressed that with the whole “ghost-horse” rumor.
The visuals for this premiere were very gorgeous, sometimes lending an almost surreal aspect to the scenes. The music (by the spectacular Sawano Hiroyuki was also quite beautiful, contributing to an overall enjoyable watch.
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from this premiere and being the first equestrian sports anime, it was quite eye-catching and didn’t lean as heavily into the idol/pretty boy aspect as I was expecting. (Speaking of eye-catching, the eye-catch was quite unique, showing the horse-stats.) If you enjoy sports anime, horses, and inspiring anime about following your dreams, I would continue laying your bets on this horse race!