HomeAnimeANIME/FILM REVIEW | A Strong Start to a "New Era" for "Uma Musume"

ANIME/FILM REVIEW | A Strong Start to a "New Era" for "Uma Musume"

ANIME/FILM REVIEW | A Strong Start to a "New Era" for "Uma Musume"

Since 2018, the Uma Musume franchise has conquered mobile gaming, the anime scene, and even the occasional idol concert realm in Japan. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Cygames would aim to bring those horse girls to the big screen in high fashion. But what’s even the bigger surprise is the tone the film takes, one that somewhat contradicts the bright and cheerful aspect of Uma Musume. Yet in doing so, Cygames demonstrates why it takes its beloved franchise seriously.

The title — Uma Musume: Pretty Derby - Beginning of a New Era — is just that. Nowhere do we see the likes of Tokai Teio and Kitasan Black, and the first protagonist Special Week has but a mere blink-and-you-miss cameo in the opening credits. Instead, the film focuses on Jungle Pocket (Yuri Fujimoto), the latest horse girl aiming to be the best. She joins a team run by Trainer Tanabe (Kenichi Ogata), an elderly coach who’s had his share of bronze and silver-winning competitors, but never gold. Jungle Pocket aims to be the horse girl to do that, but she has a big obstacle in the way: Agnes Tachyon (Sumire Uesaka).

At first, Agnes seems like a worthy rival to Jungle Pocket, with their first race ending with victory for her. When not in racing mode, Agnes is at her computer, looking at stats and keeping eye on her weakened ankle. Where she and Jungle Pocket differ is in the way they aim for the top, with Jungle Pocket using passion and strength, and Agnes Tachyon statistics and science. This mentality is showcased strongly during the second race, as Jungle Pocket is surrounded by color and Agnes Tachyon is engulfed in numbers and statistics when at their peak speeds.

For the first time, Uma Musume can claim to have a character that’s close to a villain. While Agnes Tachyon seems like a crazy horse girl who’s in it to win it, it’s during the second race where we see her taunting Jungle Pocket. As Jungle Pocket reaches out to shake Agnes’s hand, the victor responds by walking farther away from her. In doing so, Agnes mocks Jungle Pocket, as if to say, “You’re only getting further behind.” With her sadistic eyes and smile — on top of Uesaka’s incredible vocal performance — Agnes Tachyon is a character that’s easy to detest!

But then, Beginning of a New Era does something nonchalantly cruel, resulting in Jungle Pocket possibly never besting Agnes. Although the situation allows her to jump ahead in the stats, the fact that she’ll always be 0-2 against Agnes eats at Jungle Pocket. It plays with her psyche, to the point where it almost gives her a nervous breakdown. Uma Musume is no stranger to the stressful aspects of sports, but this is the first time we see true mental anguish on display here, thanks to Fujimoto voicing Jungle Pocket with wild ferocity.

Thankfully, the hero of this tale has Tanabe by her side. While not as spunky as the Trainer-san from the main series, his words and mentality hit Jungle Pocket deep. He’s a man who has seen all and trained all, with his words and advice coming off more sage-like than your average pep talk. Voice actor Ogata plays the character with heart and care, which aids in Tanabe being a lot more lively in spirit rather than action.

On top of the emotional aspect, Uma Musume has never looked more gorgeous visually. Cygames Pictures brings a plethora of details to the crowds, the training sequences, and even when the film (and its characters) needs a moment to breathe. But as one can imagine, it’s in the racing sequences where the studio shines. Just as the recent Haikyū!! movie captured the feeling of being in a volleyball game, Beginning of a New Era goes all in to show exactly what it’s like to run amongst the horse girls. You will not want to blink when we see a race through Jungle Pocket’s eyes, with the animation bringing forth pure adrenaline around every corner.

Although Cygames has had its own animation studio for a while, this is only the second Uma Musume project they’ve helmed on their own. (Season One was done by P.A. Works, whereas Studio Kai took over for Two and Three.) Their Road to the Top mini-series showed great potential of what Cygames Pictures is capable of, but Beginning of a New Era demonstrates just how gorgeous this series could be. After watching the film, one hopes that they take over from here on out for the franchise.

If this truly is a Beginning of a New Era, then Uma Musume are starting things off on the right foot. While it leans more into the serious side of things, one cannot help but be enthralled by the races and character determination. It’s wild that a show about horse girls of all things has evolved into something far bigger than this reviewer ever expected. But that’s Uma Musume for you, and Beginning of a New Era shows why these fillies can and will unleash one delightful surprise after another.


Uma Musume: Pretty Derby - Beginning of a New Era is now in theaters in Japan.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. Born & bred in Boston, he achieved his biggest dream yet by making the big move to Tokyo, Japan in Summer 2023! For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@b3crew.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)