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In Skate-Leading Stars EP9, the side characters shine, but not enough to brighten this dull plot

Guaranteed a spot at the nationals, the Ionodai Skate-Leading Team sits back as the Grand Prix Series enters its final stages—featuring some very familiar stars.

Himekawa and Kuonji
It’s ace skater Izumi Himekawa vs idol skater Noa Kuonji.

Unfazed by their runner-up finish against rivals St. Clavis, the Ionodai Skate-Leading Team are in high spirits as they rank fourth overall in the Grand Prix Series—practically a shoo-in for the nationals. That is why the team—including Maeshima—migrate over to the back seat in this episode as the remaining schools battle it out in this last stage of the series.

In Episode 9 (“One-Lead”), it’s figure skating idol Noa Kuonji of Yokohama Super Global High School versus Kogahara High’s Izumi Himekawa, who you may know as Ionodai’s former ace. They and their respective schools are the frontrunners for the sixth and last spot in the nationals. Who will it be?

It was a nice change of pace to feature the other skaters in the series. Not that we’re tired of Maeshima or Sasugai, or the others. But given all the drama in the past couple of episodes, we needed a breather. Plus, they’re already nationals-bound, anyway—they need a breather.

All eyes on Noa Kuonji and his team of idol skaters.

We first met Kuonji back when Maeshima was applying for his skate-leading badge. From the get-go, he was introduced as this bubbly, idol-like character, but his skills on the ice weren’t exactly revealed. By contrast, we already have an idea to Himekawa’s talent as he’s been carrying the “Ace” trademark all this time.

For Kuonji’s skate-leading team, aka Mi*Leon, they brought something to the series that we haven’t seen yet, or at least not enough: the hype. Besides skate-leading, Mi*Leon is also an idol group (go figure) and their final performance was an all-out spectacle. It actually had the energy of real idol groups. The skating sequences was also quite nice here, and the only time the animation in this series is not so-so.

Over at Himekawa’s team, unfortunately, they got montage-d. Why you got to do Himekawa dirty like that? Anyway, it would have great to see the Ace in full-form, but we have to settle with some cool-looking poses instead.

It’s all fun on ice, but it’s nothing without a good story.

While this wasn’t a bad episode, it’s hard to care for the characters and more so, the storyline. We are thrusted into different scenarios with these skaters, but we never really stay for long to get invested in them. At this point, this reviewer’s just waiting for the Grand Prix Series to end to see where the story goes. And story-wise, Skate-Leading Stars isn’t doing so much beyond the expectations of your typical sports anime. Kuonji even said so himself: When did figure skating become such an aloof sport? Maybe he was referring to the series in a meta sort of way.

But hey, maybe the show will end with a banger in the last three episodes. And even if the characters won’t leave much of a lasting impression in the long run, let’s hope their performances do, anyway, especially in the nationals.

Skate-Leading Stars Episode 9 premieres March 7 at 10:30PM JST.


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