Prince of Stride Alternative is a sport anime focused on the relationship of three first year students -Nana Sakuri, Riku Yagami, and Takeru Fujiwara- as they reinvigorate the famed Hōnan high school stride club. Beginning with a search for new members the groups strives to compete in the End of Summer tournament. Stride is a fictional competition that blends parkour and sprinting with six person relay teams in head to head matches.
-Great OP and ED
-Solid art design and use of color
-Lack of tension in races, due to a predictable story.
-Unable to distance itself from otome game source material
Before I began to watch_ Prince of Stride_ I was cautious in my expectations, both positive and negative. Positive because the director of the series Atsuko Ishizuka, did such a great job with No Game No Life. Which stood out last year for its art design and color palate. However, Stride’s source material originated from an otome game (romance games targeted at women). This fact had me worried that the show would become a clone of a certain swimming show involving men from a commercial.
The art and style of this show is on point. The styling of the races and OP are reminiscent of_ Air Gear_ and Persona, using different textures to create a vibrant background involving all of the characters that filled the screen. Anticipation for each race is a result of how clean and polished the environment was. Everything from the obstacles, to the design of the large scaled font on the sides of buildings created some wonderful scenes. Making me yearn for more action in each race.
But that excitement was doused upon by Strides inability to present a race coherently. In early episodes, it was hard to understand the scale of the objects the runners were maneuvering around. Mainly due to the editing and the abundance of tight shots on the runners clearing the objects, the distortion that it created was frustrating. In later episodes this issue is less frequent, but the secondary annoyance is the decision to not provide the audience a layout or map or distance or anything really, to convey basic information about the area where the teams are running. There are quick cuts to a top down map on a screen, but the issue is unresolved because the shot follows the runners instead of pulling out to show them in relation to the map as a whole. The best that Stride can muster is the time difference between each leg of the race as members prepare to relay with their partners, but that information is slightly useless due to the fact that the audience is rarely given overall times or even the average time of each member.
All of that should make it obvious what the show is concerned with. _Stride _is a show that puts the relationships first and the competition second. There is nothing wrong with that focus in a sports themed show. One of the common tropes in sports anime is the childhood promise to win a big tournament, stating that you compete for your friends and not yourself, and the clash of two rookies who end up working well together. Stride hits all of those beats and more, but the balance of the show feels distorted.
It is hard to justify viewing_ Stride_ as sports show about running. While there is a framework for that is in place the running and training is just a device used to enable the students to participate in various antics, whether the students are modeling for a sponsor or going on a trip to their rivals -Galaxy Standard- training facility and throwing a beach party. Even though_ Stride_ doesn’t seem to fully embrace its otome game origins, it does not shy away from the potential male/male romantic pairings that are occasionally implied. Making the show awkward at times to sit through.
Stride in general is plagued with an attempt of trying to please a wider audience, but wounded itself in the process. There is the generic sports show about running, along with the romance (or “bromance”) created from the winking subtext of the relationships between members of the team. In simpler terms, it’s hard to enjoy the show as a whole if one of these aspects doesn’t appeal to you. Potentially leaving certain members of the audience disheartened when the show is unable to earnestly present enough of a race, or move away from the dreamlike world of male teenage bonding.
It is just fine if you enjoyed the show, I know there will be some individuals out there who did. But the if you are considering whether or not to watch Stride just be ready to come face to face with a lesser version of_ Free!._