Prince of Stride Alternative is the latest sports anime based around a team of attractive, athletic young men competing at a school tournament level. And it’s actually pretty good so far.
Watched 4/12 episodes.
Well, to say it’s entirely about the team of boys is a little unfair, there’s actually a girl, first year Nana Sakurai, on the team of 6. She takes on the role of the Stride club’s relationer (I’ll get back to what Stride actually is later), a role it’s assistant rare for someone female to do, though we also haven’t seen any female runners yet either, so I’m not entirely sure what that’s about. I’ve not played the otome game, but it seems likely this is a way to get the game’s female lead to be surrounded by male romance options.
Stride is a fictional extreme sport that requires a team of six for competitions. It’s essentially urban relay racing, with elements of parkour thrown into the mix. It makes heavy use of GPS mapping systems to show the route and where the runners are. To make a relation and switch runners they need to sync up over a cross zone and slap hands, ideally with both runners at top speed. At this point the shot often pans up into the sky. It’s nice.
The animation is by Madhouse, who have worked on some very nice looking anime in the past, including, but certainly not limited to, Death Note, Death Parade, and One Punch Man. Compared to those anime the design of Prince of Stride is very bright and light. The colour design and aesthetic is really great, using a lot of strong, bold colours — mainly reds, whites, and blues.
The story begins with Nana teaming up with the stern and dedicated fellow first year Takeru Fujiwara, who are both fans of Stride, and want to join Honan Academy’s Stride club, which, once famous, has now fallen into obscurity with their star runners leaving or quitting. They enlist another first year, Riku Yagami, a jack of all trades when it comes to sports. It turns out he is the younger brother of one of Honan Academy’s star runners from the Strider Club’s glory days, though this hasn’t come up much yet.
The tone is usually quite nice and light, with moments of introspection punctuated by comic relief in a way that works quite well. Much of this is merely passable — characters moving about and interacting in ways that are somewhat pleasing if not outstanding. It’s the running where Prince of Stride Alternative really shines.
Not only is the action, animation, and sound design (both effects and music) great during the racing sections, but the pace is just as impressive. The balance between drama and comedy goes out the window, and it becomes truly tense and gripping. They’ve only had two races against proper teams so far (in episodes 3 & 4), with a friendly inter-team race in the first, and training in the second. Hopefully these will continue to be a large part of every episode, especially as they’ve got a whole tournament to get through in only one short 12 episode season.
A lot of Prince of Stride Alternative will come down to how it performs as a season overall, where it goes from here and the story it manages to tell over quite a short run (pun unintended). But the running action truly makes it stand out. It’s edge of the seat stuff as they dash and jump around. Even if you just watch it for that and don’t follow along for another season, it’s worth trying just to see how you feel about the Stride matches. This is one to keep an eye on, and it could be the next big sports anime if they take what they have, and really hit their stride with it (pun intended).