Here we are taking a look at an anime not many knew what to expect from when it premiered, especially after the first two episodes. Well I am here to help give newcomers who were somewhat turned off by the first two episodes but hoped for it to get better deep down. This is Uma Musume -Pretty Derby-
Genres: Animal Girls, Comedy, Racing, Sports, Tournament.
Themes: Horse Girls, Kemonomimi
Number of episodes: 13 + 3 Episode OVA Spinoff (BNW no Chikai)
Plot Summary:In a world very much like our own, great race horses of the past have a chance to be reborn as “horse girls” – girls with the ears and tails of horses as well as their speed and endurance. The best of these horse girls go to train at Tokyo’s Tracen Academy, hopefully moving on to fame and fortune as both racers and idols. Special Week, a high school horse girl from the countryside, has just transferred to Tracen, and she’s determined to fulfill her promise to her mother to become the best horse girl in Japan. On her way to school, she takes a pit stop at the race track and instantly falls in love with Silence Suzuka’s style, becoming determined to race on the same team as her.
First of all let us answer the question of what kind of anime Pretty Derby is. It is not a het harem idol show centered around a male trainer with some racing here and there as some detractors who gave up immediately would have others believe. It is at its core a competitive track and field (or in this show’s case derby) sports anime that on rare occasion remembers the mobile game it is from has idol elements. The show follows leading ladies Special Week, Silence Suzuka and their fellow athletes from Team Spica along with their rivals Team Rigil having fun during their spare time and training their pretty bodies off when it is “Go time!”.
Let us briefly talk about the fun times. The horsies do their thing like having casual and competitive conversations, eat a lot (some more than others to the point of blessing viewers with precious pot bellies like Special up there) and having personal fun times with their destined beloved to name a few activities. The rest of their time is spent training both their upper and lower bodies hard for big races. This being a sports anime viewers can expect our heroines to go through many physical, mental and emotional trials and tribulations from the unpopular “fear of weight gain” (which in this show is handled much better than in idol shows or other anime episodes with that trope) to losing confidence in one’s ability to be a winner. The show has lots of fun in casual moments and takes itself seriously when it needs to. Similar to other anime where stuff like historical figures, animals, vehicles, weapons, soda cans etc. are turned into cute and sexy girls each horsie is based on real life professional derby horses and several of their career paths is a combination of real life race results and original material.
Also like the aforementioned shows there are many other horse girls besides the lead horsies from Team Spica such as the ones from Team Rigil like Hishi Amazon up there and others. Some of them get enough time to show their coolness while others show up once in a while or are background characters. The usual for shows like this based on media with large casts.
The main attraction for many who stuck around were the intense races. These is further enhanced by the quality animation that greatly captures the sense of speed as the girls run with all their might to the finish line. Like I said above the show at its heart is a track and field sports story centered around running. However, because it is an anime there is of course some kind of supernatural ability. In this case the horse girls having the power to tap into the Speed Force ala the DC Universe Speedsters but not as advanced. Some of the horses have that ability to achieve superhuman speeds and seeing them go full throttle is quite the sight. Every single race in every single episode delivers heart pounding excitement…provided the viewer is into seeing hot girls running at an almost breakneck speed. The adrenaline rush during the races is off the charts! Also because this is an anime viewers get to hear the racers’ inner monologues while planning their strategies. The soundtrack along with the OP and ED are nice, especially during races.
Before we get to discussing the horsies’ roles let us briefly address the elephant in the room for the Yuri Nation.
When it comes to the trainer named Trainer (I call him Trainer Guy) one would initially believe him to be a het harem lead. On the contrary, the relationship between him and Team Spica is strictly professional. In fact, the sole crush he might have off screen is a human woman. Anyway when not checking out potential new Team Spica members’ leg strength and getting brutally kicked for it he takes his job as seriously as he can and guides the girls to victory the best way his training methods can achieve. Basically he is not so bad. Just gotta put up with his bad habit.
As mentioned above most of the horse girls, especially the lead duo, have physical and emotional obstacles to overcome. Special Week is not a prodigy who wins all her races. Far from it. She goes through many struggles to try and achieve her goal to become the #1 Horse Girl in Japan. The same goes for Silence Suzuka. Despite being a incredibly talented racer she too is not flawless and has her own demons to combat. Now although they are the ones who get the most character development that does not mean their Spica teammates do not get any. On the contrary they all have a character development arc, just not as in-depth as Special’s and Suzuka’s. The others’ are simpler but still effective for viewers who pay attention. Unsurprisingly what all the girls’ arcs have in common is yuri shipping gold…that’s both figurative and a literal pun. So much to work with on the show to the point of not needing goggles at all. Like I said before each horsie has their significant other.
Overall Uma Musume -Pretty Derby- surprised the heck out of me. I came in expecting a fun show with some nuisance I could tolerate and ended up with one of my favorite anime of 2018. Most of the horse girls are fun to watch, the story is a really good sports anime with the lead duo having their ups and downs, the races are heart-pounding and intense, the animation is nice and no goggles are needed for Yuri fans. Also the few horse like traits the girls have besides their ears and tail is that they eat a lot of food with carrots mixed into them and they put on horseshoes on their shoes before each race giving them galloping sounds when on the move. So long as viewers do not give up early and can tolerate horse girls along with some familiar trope subplots found in idol shows such as weight issues then I highly recommend the show.
PS: Pay close attention to Special’s family. Viewers who saw a certain Antarctic anime will understand what I mean.
PPS: The breakout star of the show is unarguably Gold Ship. Why? Because viewers will have no idea what she does next. She is unpredictable in the best ways. There are only two recurring traits with her. One involves a certain brain game and the other her…other.