Maeshima and Sasugai finally get into the skate-leading club! Wait…what? Himekawa left the club?
After a moderately thrilling match-up on the ice rink, Maeshima and Sasugai finally get into the skate-leading club despite them actually losing. It’s all thanks to the saving grace of Captain Terauchi (Kiriyama still hates Maeshima’s guts though). But the celebratory mood is short-lived because Himekawa makes a shocking exit, not just in the club, but also in Ionodai High. What happens now?
In Episode 4 (“Inspiration”) Maeshima and Sasugai, together with Terauchi and Yukimitsu Mochizuki (voiced by), get to the bottom of Himekawa’s sudden withdrawal by visiting the new school he transferred to—Kogahara High. The episode also sees Maeshima trying to ace his badge test to qualify for skate-leading competitions. The key word here being trying. It’s a mish-mash of different characters and arcs in this episode, but did it deliver the goods?
Right off the bat, this is the weakest episode so far. Mind you, this is only Episode 4 and we have twice as much episodes left for this season. And the reason why the series is already starting to teeter of its course is because it never had a clear direction to begin with. This was an impending problem back in Episode 2 yet the series somehow managed to regain balance in Episode 3 because it capitalized on the hype and momentum of the match-up.
There was also a set goal—for Sasugai and Maeshima, especially, to get into the club. But then, what? That only covers a few episodes—what’s the long-term goal? One may argue that it’s Maeshima and Shinozaki reuniting on the ice rink, but we’ve hardly even seen the latter thus far in these episodes. It’s hard to see the clear picture without the necessary pieces.
The Himekawa arc (who knows how long it’s going to be?) does offer some insight into what sort of obstacles await Maeshima he starts skate-leading training for real. For one, he needs to refine his techniques to better suit a team formation. In his skate-leading badge test, Maeshima is paired with Noa Kuonji (voiced by), a celebrity among figure skaters in Japan. Long story short, he struggles to keep up with his partner just like in the club match-up. It was really funny to see Coach Sasugai in hysterics over him once again.
The series at this point can benefit from fleshing out its other characters. We get a glimpse of the parental dynamic between Captain Terauchi, the designated dad, and Yuki, the doting mom, during their visit to Himekawa’s school. Same goes for Kuonji, who seems very much a colorful fella, and he gets along with Maeshima…to an extent.
Lastly, going over the more technical side of things, the animation, in this episode at least, is not the best. There were certain expressions that felt stiff and didn’t line up with the voice acting (which is superb, btw). However, the skating sequences look nice and smooth enough, if only from afar.
Overall, as mentioned, this was not the strongest episode in the series so far. It’s a bummer because last week was really promising. The series needs to set its sights on a clear and thrilling goal for Maeshima and the gang if it wants to succeed both on and off the ice rink.
What did you think of this episode? Leave a comment below, and let's discuss!
Official Anime Website: Skate-Leading Stars
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