The finale is here. Chase the core, come on let’s go!
“Chase the core, seek your potential that you haven’t seen,” sings Takao Sakuma in the show’s opening theme for the last time. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived at the icy finale of Skate-Leading Stars. In this two-month-plus stretch, did the show reach its full potential?
In the final episode (“Sworn Friends”), the Ionodai crew skate it out for the last time as they close the free skate program of the Grand Prix Series. And mind you, they have big shoes to fill after record-breaking performances from Chutei University, Kogahara High, and the favorite to win, St. Clavis aka Ionodai’s so-called rivals.
For their finale performance, the Ionodai team take big risks hoping to reap big rewards. They altered their program and incorporated the mythical quadruple jump routine popularized by their coach Adachi and revived by Maeshima on the ice. While it was definitely something new for Ionodai, their free skate program—and this is a fair and honest assessment—doesn’t really hold a candle to the previous ones. It’s lazy animation at best and they don’t deserve that.
Still, as Adachi says, it’s “the spirit of challenge and never giving up” that makes the Ionodai stand out above the rest. And surprisingly enough, it’s that spirit that gets them that first place finish in the Grand Prix Series. That’s right—they won!
At the heart of this episode too is the two-is-to-one rivalry between Maeshima, Sasugai, and Shinozaki. It’s one of the weaker plot moments in the series (still is) and the lack of fleshing out made it unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. But we somehow managed to get a resolution and an amusing one at that. Let’s just say things between Maeshima and Shinozaki could have worked out better had they talked things over more.
As for the other characters, our beloved seniors—Terauchi, Kiriyama (this reviewer’s personal fave), and Yuki—begin their new journey in university, with some skate-leading on the side still. Himekawa, ever the ace, lands a spot in the nationals. Meanwhile, Adachi is gearing up for his own comeback. These are all lovely developments, but again, it’s hard to root for characters that never left the background and let’s admit it—the show did them slightly dirty.
But hold on we still haven’t talked about one brilliant character in particular. Funny because he actually opens this final episode: “The fool is me, the brilliant Hayato Sasugai.” Yes, even Sasugai gets his happy ending as Adachi passes the coaching gig and the club in his hands. And it also looks like the Maeshima-Sasugai dynamic is here to stay as well…for a next season?
Going back to the opening question, did Skate-Leading Stars reach full star potential? In the review of the first episode, this reviewer said that the show deserved a chance to prove itself different (and possibly better) from other similar anime. Despite having a lot of potential on its own, especially since this is an original, the show never really capitalized on that and instead fell on the pitfalls of mediocrity. There’s a lot to like about Skate-Leading Stars; it just doesn’t do a good job of showing you why.
With that said, Skate-Leading Stars officially draws to a close. It was an interesting and somewhat worthwhile run. If you like sports anime, then this show might be for you. But if you like good sports anime, the kind that makes your heart leap with memorable characters and a thrilling storyline, then you’re better off looking elsewhere.
What did you think of the finale? Do you want another season?
Skate-Leading Stars Episode 12 premieres March 28 at 10:30PM JST.
Official Anime Website: Skate-Leading Stars
Official Anime Twitter: @Skate_Leading