Do you remember when Funimation proudly announced that they would stream Skate-Leading Stars two weeks ahead of the Japanese broadcast? That should be a big deal. It’s one thing to premiere a series a day or two earlier. That’s barely even news at this point. But half a month? I mean, wow.
Something was odd about their announcement, though. They didn’t mention a date. Two weeks ahead of when? I didn’t overthink it at the time. Details were probably still being ironed out behind the scenes. They’ll make another announcement when everything is finalized.
Turns out — no. Skate-Leading Stars was silently released three days after we reported the news. It took me so long to notice, that the next episode is almost out. I would have expected a bigger marketing push for one of the first new shows of the winter season. No one is talking about this series. Even Anime News Network, who goes all out with their preview guide, has yet to publish anything.
Does Gorō Taniguchi’s name not have pull anymore? He created Code Geass for fuck’s sake. Now he’s making an original anime full of hot guys on ice-skates. Am I missing something? I checked the Funimation app on my Apple TV and on my Nintendo Switch (which features their new layout). Nothing.
There’s no splash screen on the homepage. They don’t list it under the new or exclusive release section either. I had to look the show up with the search bar to find it. That’s wild to me. What benefit it is to the client to put in extra work to make an exclusive release deadline if Funimation doesn’t properly advertise the show?
Funimation made a post on their social media when the first episode came out, but it was quickly overshadowed by conversations about the best anime of 2020 and Nesuko from Demon Slayer’s birthday. I know that both of those are super important topics, but come on.
Skate-Leading Stars screeches into the station full blast with a train full of melodrama (that was a weird metaphor). Some kid is screaming at another kid that he’ll never figure skate again if he loses that night’s tournament. We don’t know who these kids are because context is for cowards.
Shoutmaster General’s name is Kensei Maeshima, and his parents died in a car accident two months ago. We know this extremely intimate detail because the announcer commentating Maeshima’s tournament performance tells the crowd. The boy he was yelling at is 11-year-old Reo Shinozaki.
Maeshima comes in second place, beaten by Shinozaki by only .30 points. Ouch. Before Shinozaki steps away from the winner’s podium, he tells Maeshima, “You’ll never beat me. You’re just wasting your time,” with the emotionless face of a serial killer. I will not be surprised if it’s later revealed that Shinozaki caused the car accident that killed Maeshima’s parents.
We cut to a few years later to find Maeshima in high school. He pretends that he didn’t use to be a hot shit figure skater, but everyone knows, and they’re tired of his shit.
Shinozaki’s professional career is beginning to take off. Maeshima does his best to ignore this while keeping good on his promise to never skate again. That is until a mysterious man asks him, “But what if you did skate again?”
Skate-Leading Stars is a lot better than I was expecting. With the radio silence from anime fans on social media, and Funimation’s marketing team leaving it to fend for itself, I was prepared to suffer through 23 minutes of boring garbage.
Instead, I got a mildly funny story about honor, knowing when to accept defeat, and how those concepts are stupid. It’s much more gratifying to embarrass your childhood rival because, honestly, fuck that guy. Is it petty? Oh yeah, but you should have seen the look on his face.
When I first reported on the early US release, I expressed concern about what it could mean for the animation quality. While the episode itself looks fine, the opening credits are alarmingly bare. Normally this is where animation studios showcase their best work. The opening sequence is their first opportunity to captivate the audience, so they’re usually bursting with color and energy.
Skate-Leading Stars opens with a mostly white text on a black screen. It’s pretty clear what happened; they ran out of time. It’s not that big of a deal. It can always update later, but it really disrupted the mood going into the first episode. A shift like that can be the difference between someone sticking around or not.
The ending credits and next episode preview are similarly minimal, but I’m more forgiving of that. If someone makes it that far, you already have their attention. The content of the episode will be what determines if they come back. It also helps that the “Oh fuck! The deadline is tomorrow!” approach they took with the preview was hilarious.
Considering the lukewarm welcome it’s getting from people online, Skate-Leading Stars is unlikely to be a hit this season. I enjoyed what I watched, but I probably won’t stick around much longer. At the very least, I’ll watch the next episode when it comes out tomorrow. With Yashahime: Half-Demon Princess taking the week off, it’s not like I have anything better going on.