Alright! It’s time for a road trip to figure out why Himekawa left with next to no warning. And then it’s time for the fan favorite training camp episode to take a straight to the opening of the Grand Prix competition. Things seem to be moving quickly even though I find it hard to find any actual development among most of the skaters. Still, perhaps the animation once we get into the competition will carry this series out through the end.
At the end of episode 3 the team finds out about Himekawa’s sudden transfer to another school, which… conveniently opens up a Lead position on the Iondai team. As much as I’m a fan of the team retrieving their old teammate or finding out why he left, I’ve confirmed that I’m just not a fan of Maeshima and that became especially apparent in episode 4. He’s so loud and aggressive, he’s not a team player and just like last week he really doesn’t face any consequences for his actions. Anytime it seems like he’ll be put in his place, something comes along and practically gives him anything he wants. Yeah, he didn’t get Himekawa back on the team, but as soon as they return back from their trip, he’s not mentioned at all. They don’t talk about his skills or how to incorporate the feeling of skating with him into their own program. Instead, they just say, “See you at the finals” and that’s that.
It’s not even an upsetting separation because we barely knew anything about Himekawa in the first place! If anything, he just served as a jumping board for Maeshima’s realization from the Badge Test and skating with Noa. What does it mean to skate for yourself and to not just be pulled along by someone else? It’s a good line of thinking! It really does make characters have to think about why they want to skate. I think it’s perfectly valid for Himekawa to separate from the team because he didn’t feel like he could do his own skating; that he felt like he was just being pulled along, but when it actually plays out… it turns out rather lackluster and honestly buried under all of Maeshima’s yelling. Despite all of this, I’m sincerely hoping that in the future, Iondai and Himekawa’s new team do go up against each other and we can see his skating to the fullest. What is the best performance he can give when he’s in control?
But it seems like it’ll be a little while before we reach that moment because Maeshima now has to take the Badge Test for Skate Leading. I’m pretty indifferent to how the actual test played out, but I do thoroughly appreciate Noa’s honesty about being a tv personality for Figure Skating. Like yeah! He’s got a big ego and can be kind of obnoxious with it, but at the end of the day he’s bringing acknowledgement to the sport. It doesn’t matter how many times he’s thrown under the bus or makes a fool of himself. He’s using his power to bring attention to the sport and that’s honestly super cool of him! Especially since he acknowledges it! And honestly, with that honesty I do want to see him succeed. He adds that flashy aspect to the sport, so I do wish him the best in the competition. Plus, he decided to form a team with an Idol group! That’ll probably add some flair and flavor to competition which might be a welcome addition depending on how the actual competitive skating episodes go. So best of luck to you Noa!
Then comes episode 5 where I personally think Kubota absolutely stole the show. In just this single episode, I’m more invested in him and his growth than I am in watching Maeshima succeed on the team. It’s harsh to say, but we’re reaching the halfway point in the series and I still don’t feel like I’m on his side. Perhaps, he’ll have a change of heart in the coming episodes, but I’m not going to keep my hopes up. Also, just as a shout out, I thoroughly appreciated the training camp dog. 10/10, I think all training camp episodes need a dog from now on.
With episode 5 I’m just a fan that they gave us insight into another character. Kubota is an all-around agreeable guy, he respects his senpais and really does try to do the best that he can. But he’s not a starter despite being someone who never took a break and that wears down at him. He starts to doubt himself and the value that he can provide for the team. But thankfully with a few carefully placed words by his superiors and coach he’s able to have the confidence to challenge Maeshima for his spot as Lead. And genuinely for a moment I thought that Kubota had a chance! He’s so solid in the fundamental and has genuine awareness for what’s going on around him that he’s able to take that into consideration for his teammates. Maeshima on the other had is so focused on his own feelings when skating he’s unaware of where the rest of the team should be. And yeah! Maeshima does have flashier skills so it would make sense that he could earn points in that department, but I’m once frustrated that he isn’t actually hit with any consequences for his lack of awareness.
Essentially, Kubota skated incredibly well in the first part of their little one-off competition. He was tight and consistent where as Maeshima was making broad sweeping strokes without any care about where others would be and Maeshima recognizes it! He recognizes that Kubota is better than him when it comes to the team skating. But all it takes is a simple “Learn it” from Sasugai and bam he pulls it together for the win? Hmmm… not sure how I feel about that. I like Sasugai, I like that he’s kind of underhanded and tends to pull the strings for Maeshima, but if that’s all it takes… why didn’t they just have Maeshima and Kiriyama have a competition with each other where both of them skate with Kubota? I think that would have reached the same conclusion… or even just having Kiriyama skate with Kubota and having Maeshima watch and be inspired??? Or is he only able to grow and learn things if it’s in a competition with another?
And yeah! Kiriyama and Maeshima had their own little thing in this episode…. well, it was pretty one sided. They fought, the captain told Kiriyama to get along, he tries to get along, Maeshima hears something from Kubota and bam, apology. Now they’re going to get along going forward. It… feels like such an unfocused story thread that I would have much rather it go across multiple episodes while the two figure out their differences. And there is the potential for that, but seeing as we’re entering the competition portion of the series… I think we’re going to start focusing less on the members of Iondai and more on the team’s that they are facing. Part of me is really hoping they’ll let the Iondai grow during these matches, perhaps even as monologues as their skating, but at this point I don’t think they’ll be adequately able to even articulate why each member is aiming to win. But we did get it with Kubota in this episode, so I shouldn’t discount them just yet. And hopefully we’ll get a little more from everyone else – even if it’s just the classic “I really want girls to like me!” That can be well done if fleshed out properly!
Initially, when I watched episode 4, I definitely came out of it and thought “…. wow, I’m bored” which is kind of disappointing. As mentioned earlier, I’m not super invested in our protagonist, which is unfortunate because all the other team members seemed to be reduced to one trope or don’t really get the chance in the spotlight. But thankfully episode 5 was a little bit more engaging to me. They gave me another character to be invested in and someone that I want to see do well. Yeah, he’s probably going fade into the background in the coming episodes… but I’m happy we got the chance to see some of the struggles other members are going through. Overall, I hope that we’ll see the growth in the team once we hit the competitions and I hope that we get to experience the other characters on a deeper level. But until then, I’m just excited that we’ll actually see the first Skate Leading competition of the series in the next episode! I hope they all perform spectacularly!