And with that, the curtain falls on the final performance of the Grand Prix. And that final performance did not disappoint, Iondai really came in and gave it their all despite the difficulty they knew they would have in overtaking St. Clavis. And overall, this final episode was pretty charming in its own way. I think it was a great wrap up to the series and left me pretty satisfied.
Now, I don’t think that Iondai’s performance was the most impressive of the competition. I know they really stepped up their game from the past, but in terms of overall enjoyment I still enjoyed St. Clavis’ performance better. It was very clean and crisp. Honestly, it gives me the same vibes as in Revue Starlight when Karen goes up against Maya. They are just an absolute powerhouse and it sends chills down my spine. That isn’t to say that Iondai’s performance was bad though, it was still solidly good. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’ve seen a significant chunk of their performance throughout the season so nothing really seemed new or fresh. Yeah, they did add all the jumps and Maeshima could skate freely, but at this point I really expected it to happen. Like Akimitsu said, they really just reached a point where they just had to do what they had to do. Why not go all out, rather than aiming for a solid second place?
I did enjoy that Shinozaki reached out to Maeshima in the end even if it was in his own way. Just the fact that he brought him back out on the ice was a really nice gesture. And quite frankly, I’m happy that he was finally able to express his feelings rather than keeping them to himself. Half of the frustration Maeshima had with him honestly could have been solved if Shinozaki was better at talking to people. Heck, a lot of the drama could have been solved if he would just talk to people. Still! I found it really nice that Shinozaki was able to articulate that he learned expressiveness from Maeshima. It really is like seeing two sides of the same coin. Shinozaki is all about skill and the beauty of the skating, where Maeshima is about freedom and expression. Both are important and should be recognized as important! Why fight when you could combine the two for the ultimate performance?!
I really enjoyed the fact that they kept us in the dark about the results of the competition until the end of the episode. Heck, I would have been just as happy if they didn’t tell us at all. Overall, I was pretty happy with the ending and thought it was a charming way to wrap everything up. I’m glad that we touched base with each of the teams again to see what they were up to at the end of the episode. I’m so proud of Himekawa for making it to the National Team! Good for him! And I’m honestly really surprised that I feel that way. Early on, he was one of those characters that I didn’t really care much for especially after he left the team. But after seeing how much he thrived in his own team, he grew on me and I’m just happy for him. Also, I’m glad that the coach, who did very little throughout the series, is returning to the competition scene but with a new found resolve. Also, it means that Sasugai gets to be the coach, or at least it’s implied. So good for him!
Overall, I think this was a fine ending for the series. Everything was wrapped up nicely and I don’t really have anything that I’m upset about with the ending. We got the victory, and we get to see what everyone is up to post competition. I think that’s always something that I look forward to when finishing up a series like this. I really do enjoy the “Where are they now?” segments. They left the ending kind of open for a second season, but I don’t really think we’ll get that since most of the conflict between characters has been resolved. Or at the very least turned into a much more healthy rivalry. If there were a second season, I think there would be a whole team that enters the fray, or potentially focus on a different team and how they want to grow. And so we reach a close on the series. Thanks for the story Skate-Leading☆Stars!
Skate-Leading☆Stars had a lot of potential from its premise. First and foremost it’s an anime about figure skating and second it introduces a new sport which incorporates a team element. By all accounts, I anticipate that a lot of people were going into this looking for the beauty and grace from Yuri on Ice while also enjoying those team connections and individual development that many other team sports anime provide. Unfortunately, it really fell short in both categories.
Now, I don’t want to discount it right from the get-go. There were some great moments and some good characters. A lot of the components were there to really amplify this series to move from fine to good, or good to great. The rivalry between all the teams was nice to see. I loved being able to see what every team valued. They all had different versions of what a performance should be and they all acted upon that. One may have been solely about the entertainment aspect while another was focused on cleanliness and skill and both are good! They got to show off all sides of skate leading! And that team element! I appreciate that need to rely on other people. You can be the best skater, but if you don’t have a team that can back you up then your performance really won’t be that strong.
And on the topic of characters, there were characters that I grew to love in the end. Like I mentioned above, Himekawa was one of those characters that I didn’t care much for in the beginning. He was kind of the brooding character, but once he left Iondai, he was able to skate more freely. He had a team that was truly able to support him. Noa was another character that I expected to push to the side. I don’t usually go for those over the top characters, but I really admired his drive to make the sport more accessible. I wouldn’t call him a favorite character, but I do appreciate what he was able to add. I loved Kubota’s character development even though it was only one episode long. I loved seeing his passion for skating and how good he was despite being a reserve character. He was really able to show how valuable he was to the team. And in the end even if he didn’t get to skate competitively, I think his episode was incredibly important. Unfortunately, he’s probably my favorite character for Iondai. And of course, I like Shinozaki as the antagonist. He’s obviously not evil, but as a hurdle to overcome he was pretty good, especially when he got riled up! But let’s also not forget about Sasugai! He was really the brains behind this whole operation. Quite frankly he carried the anime. If it weren’t for him and everything that he added, heck Maeshima wouldn’t even be skating and Iondai wouldn’t have grown as a whole.
So, there really were some great elements to this anime! But in the end, I really do feel like it all feel pretty flat. For something that had such a dazzling concept is was all… pretty boring. And the reason I felt this way is that nothing really felt fully fleshed out. If we were lucky to see any character development and they weren’t the main character it almost felt like a fluke. Heck, at the end of the day, I really don’t feel like Maeshima has grown all that much from episode one. He was super selfish and super self-centered in the earlier episodes and that definitely got toned down, but rather than making him see others perspectives I feel that they just had everyone bend to him. And in terms of developing other characters…. there was an attempt, but it just didn’t work out. Pretty much everyone on the team can be summed up in a simple descriptor: Teruachi is captain, Kiriyama is distrusting, Akimitsu is cute, Jounochi is the Jock and Yukimitsu is the manager who likes idols. There was so much potential to grow these characters, to explore who they were and how they fit into the world of skate leading or what the impact of skate leading had for them, but I feel there was just too big a cast to give them the spotlight they deserved.
As far as the plot and story… I would say that it’s okay. Just, for something that seemed so new, I don’t really feel like anything new was added on to it. By early to mid season, quite frankly I had gotten bored. While there were elements within each episode I thought was good, it was usually only a short clip or moment rather than a significant portion of the episode. I didn’t start getting reinvested until we made it to the Grand Prix and I think that’s only because I really wanted to see what the results would be. And unfortunately, the ending was pretty darn predictable from a few episodes ago. Sure, I was hoping for something different, but I felt like they were practically waving flags and flashing signs at us from early on for who the victor would be. Heck, even in this final episode, they practically let us know before Iondai started skating. And I think that’s fine. I just had to put aside who I wanted to win and at least I had enough heads up for that.
In terms of the actual skating… well… I felt like it was pretty non-existent until we reached the end. That was definitely something I wanted more of in every episode. But instead we usually only got brief clips of their actual performances. Now, when we did get to see a (almost) full performance I thought that they were pretty good! I loved the ones with the twins, Noa and the idols, Himekawa’s team and St. Clavis’! They all gave very good performances and it really encapsulated who they were as a team and what they strove for. I was kind of bummed with the performance of Iondai, our main team. I think it’s mostly because we’ve seen clips of it throughout the series. But they were mostly just close ups of Maeshima rather than the team as a whole. I wanted to see them go all out and…. I didn’t get that feeling which kind of bums me out. If I’m honest, it would be wise not to compare this anime to any other skating anime that’s out there. there were a lot more elements in play with the series and skating never really felt like the main focus. Which is unfortunate because skating was a big part of the series!
Alright, would I recommend this anime? Honestly, if I were given the chance to watch and experience this anime again, I would absolutely pass on it. It took so long for the series to really pick up and I don’t really think it’s worth the build up. I can’t even figure out a number rating to give this series. Like overall, the anime was just fine there wasn’t anything absolutely heinous about it but there also isn’t really anything to write home about. There was so much it could bring to the table, but it honestly feels like the guy who just brings a block of cheese to a potluck. Like… thanks for bringing something, but what do we do with this? In the end, I don’t think Skate-Leading☆Stars reached it’s potential and I think that’s kind of a bummer. But I’m not unhappy with the time I spent with it. I may forget about it in a few weeks, but I’m glad that even though it ultimately fell flat for me, that I got to experience all of its good elements as well!
Thank you for going on this journey with me!