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©2023 アニメ 「ウマ娘 プリティーダービー Season 3」製作委員会
I mentioned at the Uma Musume Season 3 premiere that the racing scenes could possibly be a potential weakness of this arc. They seem to be trying to be more pedestrian than the high-water mark of the ponygirls of previous Uma Musume entries. Sadly, that rudimentary approach persists as the third season enters its fifth episode. Some dramatic changes and disturbances are happening in the Takarazuka Kinen that will wrap up this week’s season. But the raw drama behind it is largely lost in the overly simplistic arrangement of the shots. The direction doesn’t take full advantage of the sheer speed of the horsegirls like the series has done in the past. It’s a disappointing omission for a series that was previously left unfinished thanks to some incredible production values.
So it’s a good thing that the ideas that power Uma Musume’s story are as strong as ever. Fundamentals are necessary in any sport and this anime is still very much about those fundamentals. It is presented in a way that cleverly tricks the viewer into thinking their choices are going in the wrong direction. This episode opens with another visit to Satono Diamond’s struggle against her curse but moves away from her after the OP, returning to Kitasan Black once again. It is a calculation in itself. This third season begins with a story that interrogates what the position of “protagonist” even means in a regularly rotating anthology rooted in being a pseudo-historical documentary. So even though Kita is the most frequently followed member of the story, the point is that everyone has their own story, even if the audience can’t be completely privy to it.
That shows in the central conflict that Kita is placed in this week’s film. Having finally overcome himself, our official hero horse has now found an outside opponent to overcome in the returned Duramente. Dura had to fight struggles more typical of the Uma Musume story. She broke both legs and had to work her way back from it. She has other people’s expectations of what she is aiming for. She even had her funny little comic entertainment routine alongside an older actor in Air Groove. Dura calls her “Groovy Sis” in dramatic bewilderment as she walks off the set of an absurdly awkward interview before the station is forced to cut to “Nice Boat.” It’s all great and I would watch an entire season featuring this character as the star of her own story.
However, no competitor in a sport exists in isolation. This episode’s climactic opening sequence about Takarazuka Kinen shows several other horse-riding girls; many were glimpsed in this season opener as seemingly important players. But the majority of them have yet to receive any explanation about their deal and are still waiting for some headlines that are probably coming soon. However, that doesn’t mean you can leave anyone out. Horse racing has the term “Dark Horse” for a reason. River Light’s surprise victory that robbed both Kita and Dura of victory was laughable for “Who?!” presents its timing and effectiveness in conveying the valuable lessons of this show.
If the racing itself isn’t as brilliant as before, Uma Musume’s combination of comedic and conceptual elements continues to be strong. There are a lot of fun lines that build this episode’s point about each other’s main character positions and not belittling the opponent. Kita’s rain-soaked confession to Dura ends with the realization that her future rival has no idea who she is. River Light’s surprising upset leads to her enthusiastically cheering her victory against the backdrop of our protagonists’ dramatic reconciliation. Yes, it’s all fun, but it also conveys how all of these horses are heroes in their own stories. After all, there’s a reason each of them got those little name tags at the beginning of the season.
In that spirit, Kita’s earlier conversation with Dura reinforced that even the toughest sport horse can’t be a “villain.” We learned nothing from Rice Rain in Part 2? “Making you laugh and making you think” is the basic aspiration of any enjoyable piece of entertainment. But Uma Musume continues to demonstrate that as a special power. This season turned Gold Ship’s Rubik’s Cube, a random joke, into a heartfelt symbol for tallying Kitasan Black’s growing achievements. Is that enough consolation if the anime can’t speed up the racing sequences as much as entries like Road to the Top ONA before it? For now, I think so.
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 the speaker next door. You can catch him around the blog as well Twitter although he doesn’t expect that to last.