It’s tournament arc! After a hard training day’s work, the Ionodai High Skate-Leading Club begins their journey to the nationals—can they skate all the way to sweet victory?
The Grand Prix series is here! After a tumultuous journey full of clashing egos, shocking exits, and—thankfully—character growth, the Ionodai High Skate-Leading Club enters the highly-anticipated tournament arc. Here's a road map to the nationals:
In the Skate-Leading Grand Prix series, 16 schools vie for a spot in the nationals: Ten of those qualified via the preliminaries while the six came from last year’s finals. Each school will then compete in three lottery-based competitions around the country, with the six top-scoring schools advancing to the Grand Prix finals and are seeded next year.
After coming in at fourth place last year—and with the exciting addition of Maeshima—can the Ionodai skaters skate all the way to sweet victory this year?
By far, this is the best episode in the series and the most emotionally-charged. Episode 6 (“Indecision”) is the climax of everything the previous episodes set up before: from how Maeshima’s unbridled energy plays into a team effort to the high stakes of the Grand Prix series, especially for the team’s senior members. Everyone is pumped and got their heads in the game, but perhaps none more so than Sasugai.
It is already a proven fact that no one is a skating nerd as much as Sasugai, and even the club's coach—a retired and accomplished skater, by the way—acknowledges that fact. And in this episode, the Sasugai genius is on full display as he does the quick maths on their opponents’ performances. But his calculations are not without risks, as it turns out towards the end of the episode (more on this later).
We also finally get some proper skating action, albeit sparingly. The only full-blown animated sequences were from Ionodai and Chutei University, the home of the synchronization twins Hajime and Susume Ishikawa. In the previous episodes, the animation was so-so, but in here, when it’s good, it’s good. The animation strengths of the series lie in its close-up angles. The skaters and their moves are elegant, satisfying, and surprisingly detailed.
The music also complemented the skating sequences quite nicely, even though it was only just Pachelbel’s Canon throughout. Maybe it’s one of the rules in these competitions. Still, it would be nice to hear some original scoring like in the last performance in this episode (more on this in a while).
But while there are definitely more highs than lows here, there are some loose plot ends at risk of fully untangling. The Maeshima and Shinozaki faux-rivalry is lazy at best and has done nothing for both of these characters. It's either the series kills it or finds a more sustainable direction for them.
And the other thing is the bond between characters, especially for the Ionodai skaters. Usually, in these tournament arcs, there is some emotional breakthrough in a team—they realize the importance of teamwork, how much they actually like each other, etc. But the bonds here are not emotionally compelling enough. Because Maeshima, Kiriyama, Terauchi, and the others have not formed solid relationships yet, it's hard to care for them as a team, especially at a crucial time such as a competition. Maybe this is just the author's qualm, but only because he wants to see the team in good harmony.
Lastly, the episode ends in a huge cliffhanger. Somehow it was to be expected, but…gah! Still, it's great that Skate-Leading Stars is back to building back the hype from the first episode. Next week definitely can’t come soon enough.
What did you think of this episode? Leave a comment below, and let's discuss!
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