The Best Racing Anime you'll ever see: Uma Musume Review – UNOTAKU Anime Blog

Back when the Spring season originally started, Uma Musume was memed in the anime club I’m at as being “just another beast show” and one that would fizzle out of popularity and quality very soon, I tried the first episode anyway expecting a train wreck, what did I get in return? One of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Period. There’s a lot of reasons as to why this show is just so fantastic and I have noted down most of them in this review of a show that defied all odds, all expectations and gave us one hell of an epic anime. The show that I gave an 8 which was pushed to a 9 in its fourth episode and a 9.5 in its second half, this is the might of Uma Musume. Let’s begin. Original Review published June 17, 2018 on AniList

Episodes: 13

Aired: Apr 2, 2018 to Jun 18, 2018

Genres: Slice of Life, Sports

Studios: P.A Works

Historically Accurate

First off, one thing the show was excellent in doing was the way it accurately portrayed the original history behind the horse girls. To those of you who are unfamiliar, the names of the horses aren’t made up, these are real life Japanese horses who raced in the ’90s and have been anime-ified as being horse girls while maintaining a 95% historical accuracy rate. Why 95%? It’s because one of the horses had a dark backstory which was toned down in the anime, although you’ll see it, it won’t be as dark as the harsh reality was which is pretty much understandable because Uma Musume isn’t such a show in the first place. Nevertheless, apart from that, from start to finish, Uma Musume maintained a healthy accuracy rate (in fact, it’s 100% in terms of who won and lost the race) throughout its entire run. Pun intended.

Despite its accuracy, most of the people who watched the show may obviously not have knowledge of the original Japanese horses and their races, so this helps to bring suspense to the table, but this is not all. Uma Musume knows a lot of things, and it knows damn well how to control the element of surprise as well as the suspense it brings with it. What am I talking about? You can never predict who’ll win in the race, not even when the race is going on. You might think this is easy but if you look at most sports anime they don’t have as much suspense or any suspense at all because they always show the main characters as Shounen as possible who will work hard and defeat the opponents no matter how difficult they are to beat.

Blurring the lines between realism and fiction

What Uma Musume makes us realize (that most other sports anime don’t) is that hard work and teamwork alone won’t give you the win you think you deserved. It shows us the harsh life lesson that hard work doesn’t always get rewarded and you won’t always win, and this is shown by making the protagonists lose at times. “Is that all? There are a few anime that show the team of character lose” you might say. As with most things in life, losing isn’t the end of the story. It’s what comes after that. The lessons you learn from it, Uma Musume knows and shows just that, such as by characters coping with their loss, starting to work even harder, not be too overconfident and take proper measures and be grounded. Beware, if you expect this anime to be all wins and celebrations 24/7 you’re in for a surprise. This seemingly kiddish show (I really feel sorry for those who think that) has a lot of lessons to teach, like friendship. In particular, we got to see the friendship of Special Week and Silence Suzuka build up. At first, Suzuka was admired by the rookie Special Week but after becoming roommates it all changed. For the better. Making new friends, interacting with your friends, having fun, this is all the joy of friendship and we saw all of this excellently shown by Progressive Animation Works (or P.A works to you acronym fans).

The Spirit of Friendship

On the other side of the spectrum friendship also brings with itself, rivalry. And this was also evident although not as much. We saw Special Week and Silence Suzuka cheer each other on along with challenge each other from time to time. This is very important to show since most friendships have these (to those of you without friends, please find some and discover the joy of friendship and rivalry) and this ends up as yet another plus point for the show, rivalry isn’t always hating each other, it can also mean friends battling each other for who comes out on top and having a nice laugh about it later. That’s friendship. That’s rivalry. No. That’s friendly rivalry. Or wait. That is the true spirit of friendship itself, isn’t it? Apart from having someone to challenge we also have the hardships. What happened to one of the two was horrifying and though it wasn’t as dark as the reality was it still left a crushing impact on most of the viewers and many were devastated (or at least the characters in the anime were). That’s where the hardship struck. The friend rushed in tears to save her best friend and neither could function properly since they were so worried about each other. This is what hardships in friendship can be sometimes. And we should support our nakama and try our hardest to overcome the obstacles that lie ahead.

Coming back to the previous point of suspense, we got suspense because we saw our favourite characters lose. When we see someone not maintain a 100% win rate, we start to get tense when we see their next race because there’s a possibility that they might lose, and this is evident in every real life sport (and a few anime). No team will lose forever, no one will win forever, both will happen to everyone albeit in different ratios. And another important thing is that victory isn’t always achieved with working alone, or to be more accurate, it mostly doesn’t work. Victory is gained through teamwork, and no, not the Shounen type. Teamwork is helping your friends do better, share your ideas, cheer each other on, encourage friendly rivalries. These are all what makes us achieve victory, and although we can’t always win we still learn important lessons and realize that we had fun working with our friends. And this spirit is what people should follow.

The bridge between fun and competition, not to mention fantastic animation

Uma Musume didn’t show us everyone working alone, despite being an anime about racing, a primarily single-person sport, it showed us how all the girls helped each other gain the edge and have fun racing. This is what Special Week embodies, this is what sports should embody. Sports is fun and when it stops being fun, you quickly drop out and this is what was evident with Silence Suzuka. She couldn’t find racing fun and Special Week taught how to have fun while racing.

On the topic of racing, we cover the artstyle as well. P.A Works knocked the ball out of the park with this one (been a long time since I made a sports pun). The bright colourful palette cheered me up and the animation during the races was much like the rest of the plot, serious yet cheerful. Uma Musume might show it’s characters being playful and lazy at times as with every sports person outside the field but when you step into the field finally, it’s a battle. And P.A Works knew it, which is why the races themselves are taken very seriously. You don’t see hilarious stuff happening while the race is going on. You see the characters fixated on that finish line and have to keep moving forward, which is pretty reminiscent of P.A Works’ name itself, to move forward. Think of it like a two sided dish. One has the playful nature of friends meeting each other and messing about and the second, which has everyone become serious because of the situation and obstacles ahead. If it wasn’t obvious, the artstyle even while they’re racing takes a serious yet excellently designed turn.

And speaking of the races themselves, I’ve never enjoyed watching a race where people run. Car races and the like are fun but P.A Works made running enjoyable, which is also a huge plus point to the show. Despite its unique aspect and nature of the show (horse girls based on real horses racing), Uma Musume does a fine job of making its premise easy to understand, heck it’s TOO easy to understand. Just run as fast as you can while making sure you don’t waste stamina. Train too hard and you lose, train too less and you’re unprepared. Finding the balance is what’s necessary. And this concept may feel simple because it is simple, it’s surprising how many anime haven’t done this as easily. To cover another good point and to make another pun about the anime’s plus points, we have the pacing (:P). Surprisingly, it’s not fast paced. The pacing is done such that it’s easy to understand what’s happening without having to go back and on the other hand it doesn’t drag on. We saw a race in most episodes and it was a breeze to smooth over them without issues.

The problem

A large cast left me concerned since I thought not everyone would get development and unfortunately this was what I found as a problem in the anime. The show was too focused on Special Week and Silence Suzuka to focus on even the other Spica horses, let alone Rigil. I felt we could have seen much more if this show was a 24 episode series since that could mean we’d see development for them as well. Another problem I felt was that at times Uma Musume felt repetitive. This was in the earlier stages of the anime, namely it’s first 4 episodes before it went with one proper varied formula and stuck to it. As a final point, yet another positive one, the show had a fantastic soundtrack. Apart from the catchy OP and ED, the BGM (or background music to those who don’t know) hyped me up and oh the music that played when the races were on, especially the way the tone of the music went even higher in the last corner of the race. It left chills on my spine. Never been so hyped for such a show before.

Conclusion

So overall, Uma Musume is a show that started off a bit slow, but it later (after the third episode in fact) steps up and excellently continues it’s run to the finish. It teaches us lessons about friendship, hardship, rivalry, loss, teamwork and whatnot, and still manages to hype over its viewers with it’s brilliantly done racing segments and soundtrack. If a bright cheery anime with important life lessons is your type of anime to watch, then Uma Musume will be sure to leave you satisfied and wanting for more. Although the anime was mainly for marketing and engaging interest for the Uma Musume mobile game, the Anime’s quality itself far surpasses what people would expect, all thanks to P.A Works.

The Spring season had a lot of interesting anime but only two came out on top for me. Hinamatsuri and Uma Musume. If this review gauged your interest in trying out the anime, please do so, for you are in for one heck of an awesome show at the Starting Gate!

P.S: Without spoilers, that last episode has got to be one of the most legendary ones I’ve ever seen. Why? It’s one hell of a FANTASTIC send-off to a lovable series. It embodied everything that made the show great from its previous episodes. The final race and the end credits made it feel like I was watching a big budget anime movie, and that’s exactly how the artstyle was, but it was EVEN MORE EPIC in the last episode. Uma Musume is definitely a show I’ll miss a lot. Pretty sure you’ll never see a show like this ever again! What a show! What a finish! This is UMA MUSUME!

Read the original review: AniList Review | MyAnimeList Review

A fairly young otaku to Anime no Sekai, I’m a part of Unotaku since July ’17. Apart from rambling on anime or watching it, laughing my head off to Stephen Colbert and brushing up on Sheik and Marth on Smash Bros are what I love to do everyday. I must warn you however, like my writing, my Smash Bros skills might be unforgiving at times 😉

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