ANIME REVIEW | Spirit of Hockey Sieves in "Pride of Orange"
For decades, hockey fans have waited for an anime series to call their own. Since that time, baseball, soccer, basketball, and volleyball have had their time in the animated spotlight. Even fake sports like Keijo and badminton have been given more respect than the actually game that just screams to be animated! Finally, we were given hope with news of a hockey anime that focused on an all-girls league: PuraOre! Pride of Orange! Is it everything we wanted?
Well, to quote the in-show fans of the main team: “Dream on!!!”
To understand Pride of Orange, one must know of its origins. The series is part of a multimedia project by DMM Games (Touken Ranbu) and the advertising company CyberAgent. A mobile game is due to be released soon, and this anime is to serve as a way to build up buzz for its impending release. However, unlike 2018’s Uma Musume: Pretty Derby, this animated tie-in does absolutely nothing to excite those interested in the game. In fact, it does the complete opposite.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s first talk about its premise. PuraOre! follows a group of high school embroidery club members in Nikko, Japan. One member gets word that their local ice arena is holding free hockey lessons, which the rest of the girls want to take part in because…um…no real reason. The town team, the Dream Monkeys (a play on Nikko’s famous Three Monkeys), is looking for new players, and their coach Yoko Matsunaga might’ve found them in their girls doing tryouts.
Just a couple of problems, the first being that none of these girls have ever played hockey before. While Matsunaga attempts to teach them, she also tries to force in idol dance moves in the guise of stretching routines. It’s here where the coach’s true plan to mesh hockey and idol performances starts to be revealed. And as soon as you read that sentence, I’m certain that most of you are uttering, “What in the everloving fuck!”
As Pride of Orange continues, a lot less focus is placed on actual hockey. Sure, it might talk about hockey here and there, but rarely do you actually see the game being played. Instead, you are “treated” to shots of the girls free-skating on the rink, acting all cute when not in “game mode”, and talking about their feelings. Even when a hockey game goes on, most of the time is spent showing a character not on the ice or flashing back to when the girls were kids for some inexplicable reason.
Episode Seven was the moment where it became clear that PuraOre! cared nothing for hockey. The girls take a vacation to Okinawa, and the time spent here was more focused on cute swimsuits, beach volleyball, and other oceanside activities. Not a single frame or character discussion in that episode was spent on the art of hockey. While episodes like this are served as good breaks from the normal storyline, it doesn’t help that there was legit nothing shown in the first six episodes to warrant this break.
You could replace hockey with any single thing here in Pride of Orange, and it would be the exact same show. It could’ve stuck with the girls’ days in the embroidery club or some other hobby. The anime could’ve been a plain slice-of-life that follows these characters’ daily lives. They could’ve done literally anything else, and the end result would be the same!
But instead, DMM Games went and told everyone that PuraOre! was going to be a hockey anime; nay, the first-ever hockey anime! And I have the urge to get myself a good lawyer and sue their pants off for both falsifying information and slander, because this show bears no resemblance to what hockey is all about! Where’s the intensity? Where’s the excitement? Where is the hell's Denis Leary chain-smoking his way through countless monologues about the awesomeness of this sport?!
What should’ve been anime’s first step into the world of hockey is instead just another installment of “cute girls doing cute things”. If done right (like in Kin-Iro Mosaic or Is the Order a Rabbit?), this anime subgenre can be very good. But alas, not a single one of these wannabe hockey players have an ounce of interesting character development or personality. Everyone here looks like a Love Live! reject, only they lack any soul or heart. They’re dull, uninteresting, and have left me unable to remember any of their names because they don’t deserve to reside in my brain whatsoever!
And these girls are supposedly going to beat Canada in the future?! Excuse me, but Canadians are born with the knowledge of hockey right out of the womb! You expect me to think that Canada would lose to a bunch of tee-hee-ing milk crates who knew nothing of the sport until they just so happened to stumble on an advert?! What kind of delusional mentality do the creators & writers of PuraOre! have?! Are they gonna beat Russia next?!
Perhaps the only positive thing about this anime is C2C’s animation. Having experience with sports anime from their work in the underrated Harukana Receive, the way they showcase Pride of Orange’s world is great in many areas. As someone who has been to Nikko, they really captured the town and its beauty well. And whenever they do show some sort of hockey being played, one can admit that it looks good.
However, someone needs to explain to them how physics works. No idol group can dance on ice like the Dream Monkeys do. If a troupe were to attempt to pull off dance moves on the ice like they did, they’d be falling and cracking their skulls in no time flat. Not only is it dumb, it’s also irresponsible!
The voice cast doesn’t sound enthusiastic enough to be taken seriously in PuraOre! It’s not that they’re terrible; it’s just that they sound confused about the premise of the show. One wonders if any of these cast members have actually watched a hockey game before, much less stepped onto an ice rink. Nevertheless, they sound like cute girls doing cute things, so I guess that’s what the director wanted.
Its soundtrack, composed by MONACA and Yohei Kisara, is very bland. A couple songs work during the more calmer scenes, as the city of Nikko is shown in all of its beauty. But other than that, nothing really stands out in the score. However, it’s not as bad as the other part of PuraOre!: its shoeing-in of second-rate idol music.
Whoever decided to mix up the idol music scene with the viciousness of hockey should be locked in a penalty box forever! Hockey games are always filled with the sounds of Motörhead, Ramones, Metallica, and Zombie Nation’s "Kernkraft 400". Under no circumstance should idol music be mixed in with a badass sport like this! There are no cute pop songs to be heard at any face-off; in fact, nothing’s cute about hockey! (I mean, have you seen Gritty?! That orange bastard's pure nightmare fuel!!!)
And that, dear readers, is why this anime is so frustrating to deal with! When we asked for a hockey anime, we wanted something that was akin to Slam Dunk, Captain Tsubasa, and Haikyu! Instead, we have been given something that’s nothing more than a poor advertisement for an idol mobile game that’ll have its servers shut down within a year of release! It appears that when we made our hockey anime wish, someone had the bright idea to use a monkey’s paw!
PuraOre! Pride of Orange is an insult to everything hockey stands for. It lacks the excitement, the adrenaline, and even the brutality of the sport. Hell, it can’t even do “cute girls doing cute things” right, settling on boring characters with one-dimensional personalities. The wait continues for a proper hockey anime series, as Pride of Orange deserves to be forgotten and thrown into the bargain bin of every Dick’s Sporting Goods store across the nation.
Final Grade (not an average):
PuraOra! Pride of Orange can be viewed on Funimation, and has been licensed by Funimation. Episodes 1-9 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Funimation.