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I find myself at the most pressing crossroads with this episode of Uma Musume Pretty Derby Season 3. I know this show is based on the lives and times of real racehorses, but it’s not a subject that I’m knowledgeable, except for what I’ve seen recreated in anime form. So I can check the wiki pages to find out how things went for our previous riders, but so far I prefer to stay “unspoiled”. But then this week’s episode starts to get a little ominous for this season’s maned horse, Kitasan Black. It’s the kind of foreshadowing that Uma Musume has experienced before, describing her unfortunate loss and preparing for more challenging times ahead. I’m worried about what will happen to Kita, wondering if I can reassure myself that her career and this season will end with a bang or if I really have to brace myself for whether a horse tragedy is about to happen or not.
All of which is a testament to the sharp storytelling in sports programming that the Uma Musume episode continues to do. It’s a classic case of making it look like things are going too well before demonstrating how things can fall apart. In this case, however, that old pacing trick is enhanced by the way the series culminated last week: Kita, along with Dia, seemed to have reached the pinnacle of what they were striving for, with just a few victory laps, however ambitious, around the stage world awaits. Kita’s promise of a “Festival” was fulfilled as a metaphor by her cheering crowd, so why not make it more literal with an actual festival in this week’s episode?
The first half of this episode has the party like you only thought a grand finale could. The entire stable of ponygirls is on display doing their contractually required ponygirl jobs. Oguri Hat ate a bunch. Cheval Grand threw the ball hard. There’s a whole sequence of scenes that see established ponygirls, including Daiwa Scarlet and Vodka, dressed as butlers because this show especially caters to me. They even included the Mother of the Week special! Even if some parts of the exercise seem like cynical naked sales pitches for new gacha game skins (I see you there Halloween-themed Rice Rain!), you’re still guaranteed Expect to have at least one legitimate giggle or “D’awww” moment at some point. point throughout all of this.
The enthusiastic description of Kitasan Black’s Best Day builds some narrative purpose, even before the punishment is received. The continuation of the character’s story is solidified, especially hearing Duramente now sees her as a true rival. Kita reiterates how she’s aiming for that larger, global stage, and nearly the entire series gathers around to cheer her on. At this point, how could they not?
The recounting of racing seasons means that the passage of time is always the deciding factor for Uma Musume. But at this point in Kita’s career, Season 3 makes that time period more meaningful than ever. It’s only been ten episodes, but the way Kita and Coach narrate her progress clearly shows her growth. It’s perhaps also enhanced by the way viewers have followed Kita since she was a foal. But the satisfaction of stopping along the way begs the question of how much further she has to go. The episode goes on to detail an unnamed equestrian girl dropping out of school after going as far as she could in her career. Kita’s mysterious cold, which she forced herself to overcome so quickly, rang out like an omen of cruel fate. Even Trainer seems to sense something is going on, torturing his colleagues and the audience by not revealing his true anxiety about letting Kita take the world stage. He was worried, and in the end he was right.
Kita’s loss here is one that was easy to predict just because of its pacing. This is another course that Uma Musume has run before, but that doesn’t lessen its impact. Kita pushing the limits to fight his illness can only get worse; I know that because I’ve watched a season or two of this anime before. The Race ominously withholds its soundtrack, marking everything as Wrong even as the audience (both within and outside the series) still cheers in vain for Kita. She tried repeating her push to get more speed, which had helped her a lot before, but the move wasn’t getting her anywhere. It is a tragedy in its seemingly apparent weakening of ability.
Here, season 3 feels like it’s setting up for the big drama that defined its predecessors. I can’t say exactly how it will play out without spoiling the story of my own horse Kitasan Black. I hope horsegirl Kitasan Black is okay. That this episode made me this nervous, even after all the filthy fanservice in the first half, means it must be doing something right.
Uma Musume Pretty Derby Season 3 is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is excited to be back at the mane event and hopes he won’t have to be next door. You can catch him around the blog as well Twitter although he doesn’t expect that to last.