Umamusume: Pretty Derby is a thirteen episode anime series produced by P.A. Works. It was directed by Kei Oikawa, and written by Akihiko Ishihara and Masafumi Sugiura.
Umamusume: Pretty Derby aired during the spring 2018 season of anime, and is available to watch on Crunchyroll.In its quest to turn everything into cute anime girls, Japan has turned its eye towards race horses. Umamusume focuses on a horse girl who goes by the name of Special Week, as she strives to be the best horse girl in Japan.
All of the horse girls are named after horses from the real world, and the events that take place during the anime are inspired by actual races as well.
As for the horse girls, there are loads of them. This is an anime series with loads and loads of characters. However, it does a fairly decent job of giving enough focus to a central group of characters whilst allowing the supporting cast to have their moments to shine.
The main character here is Special Week. She arrives in Tokyo with a dream of becoming the best horse girl in Japan, and ends up joining Team Spica in order to pursue that goal. Her team supports, none more so than Silence Suzuka.
Special mention has to go to Gold Ship, who many consider the best character in her show, and for good reason. She’s definitely one of the more eccentric characters, and her behaviour towards a certain other horse girl is a lot of fun to watch.
When it comes down to it, Umamusume: Pretty Derby is a sports anime. It does throw in some minor idol elements with the winners of each racing performing a live concert afterwards. There are plenty of idol shows out there, so having a greater focus on the racing part helps make this show stand out.
Even better, the show absolutely manages to nail the races. They are always thrilling, and it is never really obvious who will claim victory. Things can pretty intense at times, too, which just makes them really compelling.
Being a sports anime, that means that characters will have to deal with things like injuries and coping with loss. Thankfully, Umamusume doesn’t take a cue from real world horse racing for when it comes to injuries, as that would make this a much darker show.
There are times when one of the horse girls is about ready to give up, maybe after a crushing defeat or not being able to perform her best. Part of the joy of watching Umamusume is seeing the girls overcome those kinds of situations, usually with the help of their fellow team mates.
There are plenty of races to cover – some even happen off-screen. It’s unfortunate, but having every race actually onscreen would make this anime series a lot longer. Regardless, the show easily captures the thrill of the races.
It’s not all positive, though. One point of contention is the trainer, who is only known as ‘Trainer-san’. His introduction leaves a sour taste in the mouth, what with him just groping Special Week’s thighs out of nowhere. He does get kicked in the face as a result, but first impressions should not go like that. His method for recruiting Special Week into Team Spica doesn’t exactly help his case, either.
The trainer does start to redeem himself as the season goes on, as he is very supportive of the horse girls on his team. He does his job as trainer, and that’s what matters in the end.
Umamusume: Pretty Derby‘s opening and ending themes are pretty good, and there is a specific track that plays during races that really helps to add to the atmosphere as the horse girls gallop their way towards the finish line.
Special (heh) mention has to go to Special Week’s family. Funnily enough, her family situation is somewhat similar to Shirase Kobuchizawa’s from A Place Further Than the Universe. Special Week’s dream is to become the best horse girl in Japan, and she is proudly supported by her two mothers. Admittedly one can only be present in spirit, but it’s very likely that both proudly watch over their daughter.
Umamusume: Pretty Derby is a compelling sports anime, with thrilling races and enough character drama to keep things interesting. Special Week’s journey to become the best horse girl in Japan is a very enjoyable watch.