Fanfare of Adolescence, the horse-racing anime from studio Lay-duce, was certainly one of the more unique titles in the Spring season of 2022. And while we have already had horse-racing-themed series in the past like the Uma Musume project, it felt like his anime would be somewhat different. First off, the sports aspect was enticing as horse racing is quite popular in Japan (mainly due to the gambling aspect) and the premise of an elite high school, filled with young talents was also promising.
And so, with great optimism, I added this series to my watchlist this season, expecting to broaden my consumption of sports-related anime. And yet, eight episodes after, only one question still lingers: where’s the sports?
Horse-Racing Is Just a Secondary Agenda
Eight episodes into Fanfare of Adolescence, it becomes clear what it was all about: a way to talk focus on Yu Arimura, a former idol from the group Mr. Doctor, in his journey towards becoming a horse jockey. But instead of showing the reality of horse racing and sport in general, what viewers were given were shallow dialogues to show the other jockey students’ various conflicts. Which, to be honest, are not tied properly to each other and often feel disjointed.
First off, there was no proper explanation as to why Arimura himself, a well-known idol, would even want to become a jockey. The inspiration was at best unclear. Apart from these symbolic visions of a horse silhouette galloping through the wind, the motives remain unclear, and no clues have been laid either.
Interestingly, while horse racing doesn’t seem to be the focus here, there are moments in Fanfare of Adolescence that are so bad character-wise that it puts the show on an almost cringey end. For instance, the prominence of forced English is so overwhelming to the point that you have to pause the show every time it bombards you with yet another scene like this.
The characters as well are not so great either. We have Shun Kazanami, who claims to know what horses think (I mean, how? at least explain), Shuki Kyouriki who is revealed to be actually a Mr. Doctor superfan, and Amane Grace, the stereotypical English boy, who has a weird past of running from country to country for some unknown reason. As much potential as their dialogue has, the shallow character development of these characters, unfortunately, kills the essence of the series itself.
All Idols, No Horse-Racing
Despite Fanfare of Adolescence brandishing itself as a horse-racing anime, the premise was far from the excitement of equestrian sports. Instead, it was more of a “reverse idol” series and just a mundane show about random aspiring jockeys who have their weird aspirations to become pro-jockeys in the future.
With the series being focused on Arimura’s journey from idol to jockey, the story kind of went sideways while trying to juggle too many things at once. Let’s talk about Naoko Saionji, the head of Arimura’s agency that handles Mr. Doctor, and the tight grip they have on the former members.
Somewhere around the 5th episode, we got to see a dark side to Arimura’s journey. After an injury, Saionji tries to stop him from getting back to horse racing and even threatens him saying that if he does not comply they would be filming a documentary about his jockey journey and implying he is still signed on with them.
The documentary, which has been filmed since day one by Tako Kitami, will allow people to rally behind the agency’s call for Arimura to return to the agency. What we see here are themes of agency blackmail, intimidation, and verbal harassment of a young man and it shows the dark side of the idol industry, where talents can be victims of intimidating deals.
Thankfully, those worries are set aside for now. In episode seven, the agency agreed to hold a mini-concert for Mr. Doctor at the horse-racing school in exchange for Arimura’s return to school. And despite Saionji directly firing Arimura in public and being forced to pay the agency’s penalties, Saionji leaves the premises–perhaps with the thought “any publicity is good publicity”.
Is There Still Hope for Fanfare of Adolescence?
While the storyline is lackluster compared to other sports-related anime titles this season (Birdie Wing, Love All Play, and Ao Ashi), there is still a glimmer of hope for the series, now that the blackmail arc has been set aside. And with only five episodes left, I’m wondering if they will manage to redeem themselves as a proper horse-racing series viewers are expecting. The training arc that just started airing is certainly promising, but with only 5 episodes of the season left it is questionable if they will be able to pull it off.
Story aside, Fanfare of Adolescene’s opening theme Move the Soul by Japanese boy band JO1 and OUTSIDERS by JO1’s Junki Kono and Tadashi Yonashiro, as well as Sawano Hiroyuki–are such a bop. Reminds me of the rise of anime series’ themes sung by boy bands, such as Pleasure by WARPS UP, and was used as the opening theme for Fruit Basket: The Final. But for now, sadly music alone could not save this series’ lackluster storytelling and unappealing animation.
Fanfare of Adolescence is available to watch on Crunchyroll and Ani-plus Asia.
Images via the official website
©Fanfare Anime Project