Main race is over. Some win, some lose. But if you aren’t satiated by the thrill of horse girls racing, be glad to know there are special extra episodes, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby – BNW No Chikai for you to bet extra money and quench that gambling thirst. Oops, I mean fulfil the excitement of watching these horse girls locked in close battle derbies. As its name implies, Team Spica isn’t going to be the main stars of these special episodes but a group of horse girls remembering their promise to run together always. That promise is put to the test when they have a fall out. Nothing like a little drama to put that friendship back together again via a big race, eh? Oh the power of (horse) friendship!

Special 1
Team Spica continue their usual training. Special Week is aiming to run at Summer Dream Trophy because she made a fool out of herself at the Winter Dream Trophy. Before the race started, she was talking to her rival and before you know it, they flag off and she was stranded. Trainer comes in with good news for his girls. They will be supervisors for the cultural festival! Uhm, actually doesn’t that mean he drew to short end of the stick? We see Team Spica going around to supervise, partially I feel it’s an excuse to introduce some of the other horse girls that will not make their cameo any more. But the focus is on Biwa Hayahide, Narita Taishin and Winning Ticket (the trio collectively known as BNW). They notice their strained relationship. When they go talk to Rudolf about it, she shows them a clip from the Japan Derby. A very close race between BNW that was eventually won by Ticket. It solidified their friendship-cum-rivalry. But now what? She is organizing a relay race between them. Team Spica isn’t particularly interested until Rudolf mentions the winning team gets free sweets for the whole year! You bet they’re going on a recruitment spree! While Hayahide accepts, Taishin and Ticket are not interested. I know some of Team Spica is desperate but resorting to dumb tricks that only make a fool out of themselves? Definitely not working. Timely reminder that Suzuka is currently away overseas so she calls Special Week to keep in touch. Hearing about this problem, this reminds them about the time Trainer lectured them about their rivalry during their training camp’s mock race. It gave them a lot of motivation. Now Special Week knows what to do. And that is to say the same exact lines from Trainer to Ticket! Word for word! So what happens when she finishes? Ticket not impressed… Oh sh*t… Better think fast… Because this is so comical, Ticket starts laughing. So it’s revealed perhaps their strained relationship originated from a race where Hayahide and Ticket was running. They were supposed to win but lost. Yeah. That. Taishin was out on an injury. Anyway, Special Week now in her own words mentions about her unfulfilled promise to Suzuka but she still loves her and hopes to fulfil that. Can the same be said for Ticket? With that, the next day Ticket joins them to help recruit members for the relay race.

Special 2
Scarlet goes around to interview the teams. Ticket’s team is doing fine. Even got the motto for motivation: Sweets into our mouth! Hayahide’s team are very technical. In a serious strategy meeting now, huh? Taishin’s team… Yeah, everybody is all over the place. Even if they put up some fake delusional spirit, it’s more of style than substance. And with special effects! The clincher: They don’t even know where Taishin is and think this is okay to get them running for the relay race! Scarlet wants to report this to Rudolf but seeing she has already given a good impression to the press, oh yeah, everything is going perfect! Scarlet finds Taishin who is just being a zombie to her Smartphone. Talking to her, looks like she’s not interested. Yeah, some trauma flashback. Whatever. Taishin still won’t enter and is considering retiring. Scarlet then tells Narita Brian about this and in turn she talks to Hayahide and Ticket. Yeah, remember those good times together? Later Brian talks to Taishin. Still won’t change her mind? Brian mentions about her own devastating lost that made her think deep she wanted to quit. She gives Taishin a charm and hopes she’ll come. Everyone’s waiting. Race day is here and Taishin is nowhere to be seen! Scarlet getting close to panicking. Better set out and look for that girl. Don’t want to fail spectacularly in Rudolf’s eyes. After all, she promised her she’ll see to it this race’s success till the end. And yeah, Broye is also attending this event. Don’t screw up now. How not to because Hayahide and Ticket are even cool about making Sun Visor as Taishin’s substitute! They think this is really going to fool everyone, huh? The relay race begins and I guess that’s why it’s a relay. So we have time for some drama and for a certain someone to make it… Anyway, this race isn’t confined to the stadium but across town. That’s why it’s just weird that they have to run through a train crossing?! It feels like Special Week got the raw end of the stick and needs to wait for the train to pass???!!! Some call it unfair, some call it strategy… Of course the anchors of the teams are BNW. They are interviewed about their chances so they hijack the mic to tell Taishin to come run. This is her place to run. Everyone’s waiting for you here! Yeah, enough to change her mind and start running back. Good thing she’s watching the TV, eh? And meanwhile another race is going on: Oguri Cap trying to finish 1000 bowls of ramen???!!! Damn, she’s eating faster than the ramen can be replenished!!!

Special 3
Thank goodness it must be a short train since Special Week is able to make up time. Because it won’t be fun if they turn it into a 2 horse race. As the interviewer interviews the leaders, Hayahide and Ticket try to change the topic. However she tries to interview ‘Taishin’ and is stumped she is staying silent. She is even going so far as to unhood her. It’ll be over if Sun Visor is busted. But thankfully Taishin arrives in time. I’m sure everybody is confused about Taishin not being at her starting position but what the heck, the real deal is here so let’s continue with the race. However there is another emergency. Hayahide suddenly becomes sick. Probably searching for that charm during the rain was the culprit. Oh Taishin, too late to blame yourself and trying to take responsibility. It’s already done. With Hayahide unable to run, Rudolf makes an announcement that the race will end when the relay reaches the anchors. That will be the finish line. Everyone is disappointed. But don’t worry. We’re not here to cheat your money. Because Brian will step in to replace Hayahide. She is after all her sister. Technically her name still covers for her team. So we see a very close race between the trio that has Taishin winning, Ticket in second and Brian coming in third. However! The judges start deliberating. Because Gold Ship went off course and accidentally took a short cut, hence Taishin’s team is disqualified. So does this mean the win goes to Ticket? Nope. When Special Week missed passing her sash to Vodka, Vodka took something else to replace it. Disqualified! So it’s Brian’s win? Also nope. Because McQueen is accused of blocking her opponent’s path. So… Nobody wins?! Yeah, Rudolf confirms it. Damn, is this the most disappointing race? But don’t worry. Even though BNW was unable to make their full proper appearance here, be happy to know they will be racing in the upcoming Osaka Hai race! I guess everybody can overlook this farce and look forward to this one. Probably Oguri Cap is the only legit winner after finishing her thousand bowls. Yeah, she looks like super pregnant… Finally we get to see BNW race together at Osaka Hai. Another close fight between the trio that has Hayahide winning. Great race. Won’t lose next time. But of course.

Run Of The Mill But Keep Running
Luckily I didn’t bet any money on any one of the teams so I didn’t lose. Haha! Anyway, these extra episodes don’t really add anything much to the main storyline as seen in the TV series. Because with Suzuka away overseas, it’s like the rivalry between her and Special Week is put on hiatus until the former returns. With that, they focus on BNW and if you’re a casual viewer like me, you’re wondering why the heck? Who the heck are they? Well, not like it is going to make any difference if they focus on other horse girls. Because again there are loads of other horse girls introduced here that don’t matter that it makes you wonder if it is actually relevant or not. I don’t remember if they are introduced in the TV series and even if they were, they’re just insignificant at least as far as this series go. My conspiracy theory is that there are many great race horses throughout the years in the Japanese horse racing derby. So in order not to have a few being left out, hence their cameo here just for some sort of tribute. There, here is the name of your favourite horse personified as a horse girl in this anime. Happy? Now, be gone!

Back to the main BNW trio themselves, I fail to see anything that would have made these special episodes, uhm, special. Sure, they have some sort of failure in the past. Hey, you can’t win every damn race you enter, right? One failure was enough to give Taishin some trauma and then it strained their relationship. Then plot convenience commands that they should get back together for the greater good because there are lots of fans who are still supporting her and them. Also probably lots of other people betting lots of money on her! Haha! So Taishin, you’re still young and healthy, don’t you even think of retiring after one moral zapping race lost! If I had to bet on one of the team, I would have chosen Ticket, because you know, it’s in her name, baby! With a name like that, how could you lose?! Oh wait. She didn’t win… Thank goodness I’m not addicted to gambling in any forms. Especially horse racing. On a trivial note, initially I saw the title as BMW! It would have been weird if those horse girls had that automaker’s speed and power for a race… Too weird.

Overall, fans of the series as well as the game should appreciate these extra episodes better. Casual viewers like me won’t find anything special and wonder what the fuss is all about. We’re probably here just to see the novelty of so many different horse girls and the strange racing cosplay because it is mind boggling how Hayahide, the one whose outfit looks so heavily dressed is the one who won the Osaka Hai race. I still believe if the horse girls wear appropriate attire like human female athletes, they would have run much faster. And Hayahide might have won by a few centimetres instead of a close photo finish. Just saying. Well, I also sometimes believe that even if you win, you still have to go out and win in style. Same for those who lose. Hey, at least you lose in style. Everybody wins. Horse girls win because they get to race with each other again. The fans win because they are entertained by all the horse girl racing action. Sponsors win because it brings in more revenue. Punters win because they made money from all the bets. Uhm, except maybe those who bet on the wrong horse and lost heavily. BNW: Bet, Nit, Wager…

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

September 9, 2018

What could be more exciting to see horse racing? Unless you love horses and races (or just a flat out gambler), I don’t think anyone would be interested in seeing horse racing. But leave it to anime to turn that around and make it ‘interesting’. Yes, you don’t just see horse racing, but horses anthropomorphized as cute girls running on race tracks! You might be thinking if we wanted to see cute girls running, why don’t we just watch a 100m or 400m athletics meet? That’s why they are horse girls… Anyway, I was sceptical at first to watch Uma Musume: Pretty Derby for this reason. But learning that this series was created by Cygames, the one who made the awesome Shingeki No Bahamut as well as the pretty average Granblue Fantasy, I decided to give this a chance. It’s not like there is going to be a twist in the plot of horse girls turning into heroic characters and slay the evil resurrected dragon. WOULD THEY???!!!

Episode 1
Special Week arrives in Tokyo keen to make her dream to become the best horse girl in Japan come true. Being the country bumpkin, she misses her stop. Don’t worry, she can run the rest of her way there. At the racetrack, she is enthralled by the beautiful and popular Silence Suzuka. Rumours of molesters in the big city might be true. Some guy starts feeling up Special Week’s legs. Never stand behind a horse when it kicks… Special Week is annoyed he keeps following her but don’t mind, the race is about to start. As expected Suzuka wins it. More leg molestation by that dude. Sure he doesn’t have leg fetish? The other special thing about this race is that the podium winners will hold an idol concert with the winner being the centre. Special Week is so awed with everything that she realizes she is late for the school she is supposed to transfer to, Tracen Academy. I guess there were some horse girls are kind enough to let her in. Special Week introduces herself in class as we are so introduced to some of the main ones like Haru Urara, Grass Wonder, El Condor Pasa and Seiun Sky. Then we are briefed with the race system of the many different kinds of ranking races with G-I being the ultimate. When asked what team she wants to train with, Special Week wants to be with Suzuka. Lucky her. There is an entrance test for Team Rigil, the strongest team in the school in which Suzuka is in. The winner gets to join the team. Special Week takes this chance to race. We see her determination and special skill of boosting her speed in the closing stages of the race, impressing a lot of people. Just when she thought she won, it is El Condor Pasa. As Special Week laments her loss, she is kidnapped by Gold Ship, Daiwa Scarlet and Vodka to their room. Special Week is shocked to see that molester. Call him Trainer and he is the trainer of Team Spica. Here is another shocker. Suzuka also just transferred from Rigil to Spica today since they don’t understand how she runs. Say what? You mean running fast just wasn’t enough. Okay. Technicalities, I guess. With everyone having their own dreams, Trainer wants to help Special Week achieve hers and since the Twinkle Series is starting next week and with enough members, he is going to make her debut run. So soon?

Episode 2
Special Week must be special lucky for Suzuka to even be her roommate. Special Week is summoned to see the student council president, Symboli Rudolf who is a Triple Crown winner. I’m sure we don’t understand the school’s motto of “Eclipse first, the rest nowhere” for now. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense. Rudolf assigns Tokai Teio to tour around the school. Then back to more rigorous training for Special Week. Is playing Twister is legit because how does this help in opponents bumping into you during the race? Maybe you have to be stretchable? Fuji Kiseki who is the dorm head, tells Suzuka to take care of Special Week since she grew up without any other horse girls her age. So now she gets special treatment too? When Trainer has a meeting with his team, the plan is to have no plan! Just run the way she wants to run. That night when Special Week looks nervous, Suzuka talks to her. She finds out she has 2 mothers. Her natural mother who is a horse girl who died shortly after giving birth and her adopted mother who is human. As they were both friends, mom adopted her as her final wish and raised her as her own child. She also trained her to be a competitive horse girl and Special Week’s promise to her is to be the best horse girl. Special Week makes her stage debut and is obviously nervous. As she has forgotten her bib, Trainer has Suzuka give it to her. A chance to talk about pressure and fear. It helps eases her anxiety. At the starting gates, Special Week gets intimidated by the opponent next to her. Probably her delinquent looks and crude way of talking scared her so much so Special Week makes a slow start. So we see her starting from the back of the pack before using her special boost to pip the leader and win the race. She is amazed with everyone cheering for her. I know, everybody loves a winner. Of course this means Special Week now gets to be the centre of the idol concert. One problem: She did not train for this and so she just stood there like a rock!

Episode 3
Other members of Spica also win but they too didn’t practice dancing and hence their concerts all end up in shambles. Hence Trainer has them train singing with Teio. She is a good karaoke master. With Trainer acknowledging Special Week as the only one who can win the Triple Crown in their team, her first race for that is Yayoishou in which she must win the Satsukishou which acts as its preliminary race. The unique thing about this track is that the final stretch is an uphill battle so she is going to need a lot of willpower. The opponent she needs to watch out most is Seiun Sky. The race starts with Special Week doing well and Seiun Sky is leading. Running up the hill part, she uses all her willpower boost to pip Seiun Sky and win it. As they celebrate, Teio drops a shocking announcement that she wants to join Spica. Originally from Rigil, she talked to Rudolf about it and that her goal is to be like her and she wants to have fun running. You mean she can’t do that in Rigil? Rigil more like Rigid… More training for Special Week and with a few wins under her belt, the mood and motivation are good. Suzuka even gives her specially made boots as a gift. That’s not all, as Satsukishou is a prestigious G-I race, she must also dress the part. Yup, time for to see what kind of cosplay our horse girls will don. Honestly, it looks pretty tame if you compared it to other teams. As the race starts, as usual Special Week is propping up the back but manages to slowly pass her opponents. Seiun Sky starts to pull ahead and Special Week does her specialty but finds she cannot close the gap. Even during the uphill, she still cannot catch up. She maintains her lead to win it with King Halo coming in second and Special Week finishing third. I suppose when you’re on a winning streak and then you suddenly don’t win, it’s a real bummer. So with Special Week yelling out her frustrations about being arrogant, Trainer does the same with her about not training her better. He tells her to use her loss to get stronger. She is going to beat Seiun Sky in the next race, the Japanese Derby.

Episode 4
Special Week is so down that it’s obvious. Yeah, it’s making her clumsy too. Then a wakeup call. She gains weight. Time to train harder. On a side note, Urara is doing well in her derby match and El Condor Pasa dominates her race. When other horse girls learn of Special Week’s troubles, they agree to help her on her diet. Time to put away the temptation and prepare for Sparta training. That includes high diving. Because you need guts! Trainer reviews Special Week’s run and he realizes her flaws. So he goes to see Hana Toujou, the trainer for Rigil to request a mock race between Special Week and Taiki Shuttle who is the fastest short distance horse girl. Basically a sprinter? As Special Week is still worried, Suzuka is even more worried. Because she put on weight (ouch) so her clothes can’t fit (ouch) and might hurt herself. Trainer advises her the usual: Don’t think. Just run. She’ll learn much more in the real deal than training. The race begins with Taiki Shuttle sprinting ahead. But Special Week manages to keep pace thanks to running in her slipstream. Then the uphill part as Taiki Shuttle starts pulling away. Special Week then notices her running rhythm and adjusts to it. It seems while running uphill instead of taking bigger strides, run in smaller steps. This enables her to catch up but Taiki Shuttle is still fast. In the end, Taiki Shuttle wins by a whisker. Special Week might have lost but she looks happier as she had fun running. Spica watches El Condor Pasa run in some race and win it. Hana announces that in order to get her to the global stage, she will be running in Japanese Derby too. El Condor Pasa challenges Special Week to run against her.

Episode 5
In order to help Special Week overcome the uphill obstacle, she trains to run up steps of the shrine. Meanwhile Mejiro McQueen still hasn’t join a team and Teio suggests she join Spica because Gold Ship threatened her with a pile driver if she failed to do so. McQueen remembers Gold Ship harassing her but it always backfires. She relents but might change her mind after Trainer molests her thighs. However with Gold Ship being close to tears, McQueen falls for this bait and will just sit in for now. The Japanese Derby is here. As it flags off, King Halo and Seiun Sky take an early lead while Special Week and El Condor Pasa are running in the middle pack. Seiun Sky then surpasses King Halo until the final uphill stretch where Special Week’s training pays off. Using her stamina and mini strides, she manages to overtake Seiun Sky and turning her into a frustrated horse girl. However this is also where El Condor Pasa sprints ahead. Man, this has got to be the longest final 50m stretch as Special Week tries her best, pushing herself to the limits and not giving up as she keeps pace with her rival. Conveniently her teammates are seated right at the finish line and using the spirit of friendship power, Special Week has some power boost to catch up with El Condor Pasa. But it is a close finish and it requires a photo finish. A tie! Joint winners! Uhm, I guess there is no provision to say there needs to be a special runoff to decide to winner. Yeah, the crowd is happy about it, even more so with them hugging each other. Lesbian horse girls, crowd loves it. But I think Special Week wins because she is somewhat the centre in the idol concert. And who the f*ck is that third place horse girl in that concert? You mean it wasn’t Seiun Sky or King Halo taking third place?

Episode 6
Special Week writes to her mom to update all that she is done. This includes Spica doing well and winning many of their races, McQueen officially joining Spica, some weird beach training and finally it’s time for the Twinkle Series Fan Festival. Highlights include Rudolf killing it as a butler café, McQueen taking her fortune and it says bad luck (oh, you know who), a doughnut eating contest won by Oguri Cap and Suzuka at the weirdest moment revealing she can’t run with them next year because she is trying her luck overseas. That is why she needs to win races in Japan in which she has been doing recently. Special Week is happy for her but it’s not surprising she feels sad too. Later Suzuka talks alone to her about her reasons for that. She has always had fun running and didn’t want to give up on that every time she raced or trained. That’s why she opted out from Rigil into Spica. She’s having lots of fun right now and wants to run in more races. Trainer talks to Hana and knows the problem she is facing with Grass Wonder. She is one of the top stars in Rigil but due to a nagging injury, this is going to hurt a lot more people than her if this persists. In this next race, Mainichi Okan, Suzuka will face off with El Condor Pasa and Grass Wonder. As the race starts, Suzuka takes the lead. El Condor Pasa plays catch up as usual. On the last stretch, it becomes obvious that Grass Wonder cannot keep it and thus it becomes a 2 horse race. El Condor Pasa is stumped that she cannot keep up with Suzuka’s pace and in the end Suzuka reaches the finish line. Suzuka is so focused that she didn’t know she crossed the line after a while. El Condor Pasa is sad this is her first loss but has to admit that Suzuka is in a class of her own. With Spica dominating, Hana is not pleased Rigil is on the slide. But does Trainer have to rub it in?

Episode 7
Special Week loses to Seiun Sky again in Kikkashou. She makes a promise with Suzuka to run together but looks like they have to push forward that date because after the Japan Cup, Suzuka plans to go to America. Hana continues to train Rigil as they note how Suzuka has become a different horse girl ever since joining Spica. Usually there are strategies and tactics while running a race but for Suzuka, it is like she doesn’t care about all that and just runs the way she wants. Trainer has Spica do some strenuous training to find some inn. Thankfully they reach there by night fall. Suzuka takes this chance to tell the rest about her American move, shocking them. Special Week pleads to Trainer she wants to run with Suzuka in Japan Cup. This means a member of the same team will lose but it all boils down to running with her. During the Tennoushou race, Suzuka takes an early lead and starts to make a huge gap. El Condor Pasa and other horse girls are shocked that they cannot catch up. Suzuka continues to increase that lead until something very wrong happens. She starts slowing down and runs in a very bizarre manner. Everyone is shocked as all horse girls zoom pass her. Suzuka didn’t finish. El Condor Pasa won the race but nobody is happy. Nobody. Suzuka wakes up in hospital and it seems her left foot is fractured. This is due to all the intense training and she never let it up. While her feet will heal and she will run again, it is not known if she could run at top speed again like she did today. Blasting the gloom and doom away is of course Special Week who reminds about their run. Suzuka always keeps her promises, right? So look forward to that! And with her teammates supporting her, this is just the beginning of their next stage.

Episode 8
Special Week has been visiting Suzuka every day and trying to cheer her up. But I don’t think that is to blame for her losing Japan Cup. Looks like her dream to run with Suzuka will have to wait a little longer. Suzuka has healed enough for discharge and go into rehabilitation. They have a special New Year party as they watch Winter Dream Trophy that Rudolph participates and wins. I guess it’s special since the winner only gets to sing solo. With their renewed vows, Spica train and work hard. Special Week gets more motivation with El Condor Pasa writing her a letter telling that she is doing well overseas. In the Takarazuka Kinen race, Special Week is up against Grass Wonder. It is obvious that Special Week isn’t running at her best as she keeps thinking about Suzuka (as this was one of the races she won). Because of that, Grass Wonder finds it disappointing and zooms past her. She easily wins and in the aftermath asks Special Week if she has given her all. Time for reflection and depression. Got even time for that? That’s where Trainer comes in to remind her about her true goal. It wasn’t just to run with Suzuka. It’s to become the best horse girl in Japan and have her mom watch it. Remember that? She’d better. Because Trainer says she is going to win all her races in autumn. Wow. That’s really a massive load of confidence or foresight.

Episode 9
El Condor Pasa calls Special Week to cheer her up. But after putting down the phone, Special Week returns to her worrywart look. Trainer takes Spica for a training camp at the beach. Rigil is also there but Spica won’t be in the same luxurious hotel. It’s a rundown inn instead. Trainer splits Spica into teams and wants them to practice. They will hold a match with each other in the end. We see the horse girls train hard but it looks like Suzuka still has some ways to go. El Condor Pasa calls Rudolf to tell she met Europe’s greatest horse girl, Broye in which they will be running together in an upcoming French race. The match Spica will compete is triathlon. They’re not interested till Trainer says the winning team gets free buffet at Rigil’s hotel. Off they go! During the race, Suzuka and Special Week prop up the rear. Suzuka is still weak and Special Week wanted to help only to be told off by Trainer. Is Special Week really going to stop and help in the middle of a race? Is this Suzuka’s best? What about their promise? If they want to help each other, they should become rivals. His dream is to see them run and fight each other to be top. This motivation has them running like the wind as they zoom past the front pack. They regain their confidence to run but all that tension turns into a joke when they can’t stop to navigate a corner, went straight and crash into the sea. It was really a good laugh. At the end of the day, all of them get to eat the buffet. Everyone watches on TV the French grand prix. El Condor Pasa makes a great start and takes the lead. Not surprisingly, Broye makes her move and pips her to victory. I know everyone is screaming (like El Condor Pasa could hear) for her to go faster or even ‘escape’ but how can she do so when Broye is running even faster than her? Why are the Japanese horse girls so sad? They knew she was up against the best in Europe and were they really hoping for a miracle? Not this time. El Condor Pasa calls Special Week and excitedly talks about her experience. But that soon turns to tears after realizing how painful it is to lose. Yeah, you win some, you lose some.

Episode 10
El Condor Pasa returns to Japan to train more. We see a very motivated Special Week training hard and eating hard. It’s like she has this Duracell battery imbedded into her. Hence the next race we see her much sturdier and everyone is impressed of how well she has improved. But then she falls flat and finishes 7th. What a bummer. Trainer believes she has been secretly training instead of having proper rest. Hence he has the team rest until the next race. This means Special Week has to go back home. Mom must have gotten the memo and won’t let Special Week run at all. Mom has created a scrapbook of all events and races Special Week appeared in. She isn’t sure if she can be the best horse girl in Japan but she is going to try her best. Mom gives her a horseshoe charm she made for her. Special Week will use it in her upcoming Tennoushou race. She lets Special Week do a bit of night training. The break is over as Spica returns and do more training. Special Week and Suzuka renew their vow to win races and race with each other as rivals. Tennoushou is here and it has been a year since Suzuka was injured in this race. Although Special Week is running in it, Suzuka will not even be watching as a spectator as she has more important stuff to do as her rival. Training? The race begins with as usual Special Week at the back of the pack. Then as expected she start speeding up until she is ahead of the pack and holds on until she wins it. Seiun Sky and King Halo are not sad that they lost since the stronger their opponents, the stronger they will become. But make sure Special Week doesn’t always stay ahead of you or you’ll always be second best.

Episode 11
Big news! Broye is going to run in Japan Cup! Why? To show everyone she is the strongest horse girl. Yeah, she’s going to show you Japanese horse girls why European horse girls are better. This means Special Week has to practice harder and also this is Suzuka’s comeback race. Broye tours the race ground and even does a demo run. Her time shows she is way faster than Rudolf. French horse girl can understand what Japanese journalists say but choose to reply in French? Where’s the damn translator?! They don’t have the luxury of subtitles like us viewers :). Snippets of hard work and training. Even El Condor Pasa gives Special Week some advice and wants her to win. Suzuka enters the race a day before Japan Cup. She is given an ultimatum by her rival, Sun Visor. You know how in such situations they will always have to eat their words, right? As the race begins, Suzuka is as expected at the back. Everyone thinks she is still injured and Sun Visor is disappointed. But in the last stretch, Suzuka initiates her secret move. Not really secret. She just runs faster than everyone else. She never looked back since and crosses the finish line well ahead of Sun Visor. So Sun Visor not congratulating her and promising to beat her the next time, that’s like being a sore loser? Suzuka returns to her happy friends and rivals who prepare to celebrate her victory. And now it’s time for the main course, the Japan Cup. Showdown between Broye and Special Week. You can disregard all the other participants.

Episode 12
Broye might sound arrogant and confident in winning (more press conferences for her?) but I guess this is what to be expected from a champion. She’s not disrespecting her opponents. Special Week’s mom is also here. Coincidentally she bumps into Trainer and Suzuka. She asks if her daughter has a chance to win. Wait. I know winning is everything but I thought at least she would ask if her daughter is going to give it all (even if it sounds like a no brainer because mother believes in child). We also see Special Week gets lots of support from her friends. The real race is here but before that, Broye pecks Special Week on the cheek, sending the crowd into shock. Is that some sort of declaration of challenge? Well, it could have been worst. I mean, a French kiss… Special Week has learnt some French words from El Condor Pasa but apparently she didn’t Google it to double check so her cocky statement offended other French horse girls. The race starts with Special Week propping up the back. Broye is following close behind her to observe her move. So when Special Week begins her sprint, Broye also does so. However Broye starts sweating that she cannot gain an inch from her. In the end, the power of support enables Special Week to win! She is the best horse girl in Japan! And possibly the world too seeing she beat the best. But it boggles me if Broye couldn’t even catch up, was her super practice time a fluke or did Special Week break that record? Anyway, everybody is so happy with her win so we don’t care about it. It seems Special Week will only do a solo concert. Apparently French horse girls don’t have idol concerts and they can’t speak Japanese. So be double thankful for Special Week’s win, you idol fans out there! Before she starts, she is interviewed and her speech of wanting to make dreams come true and giving those who cheered on her dreams too, led to lots of tears flowing. Now the Tokyo EX Winter Dream Trophy is around the corner. We have an all-star cast for this ‘battle royale’. Special Week, Suzuka, the other Spica teams, El Condor Pasa, Grass Wonder, Oguri Cap, Fuji Kiseki and Rudolf are among the names. But wait. No Seiun Sky or King Halo?

Episode 13
Special Week writes to her mom on the great achievements of everyone in Spica. Suzuka won all her G-I races and went to America. But I guess what she did there wasn’t important because now Special Week is at the airport to pick her up from her return. With Winter Dream Trophy approaching, there is a big party and press conference. Trainer remembers his own struggles where he was left depressed and devastated when horse girls quit, thinking he wasn’t serious in training them. Only Gold Ship remained. After seeing Suzuka run, he got motivated to get back up and started recruiting. And look where Spica is now. More rivalries and revelries between the horse girls. Before the race, Spica wants Trainer to say a few words. The usual. Don’t think. Just run like they always do. In this big derby of 18 horse girls, Suzuka makes a strong start by taking the lead. Then in the final stretch everyone catches up for an intense final battle. I suppose Trainer is the most anxious because he doesn’t know who to root for. Can he root for everyone? But yeah, there can only be one winner. In the ultimate f*ckery, because f*ck, don’t tell me everyone crossed the finish line at the same time! This would be more than just coincidence because I will suspect fixed game! Well, I’ll be damned because all of them are featured in the idol concert. Giving AKB48 a run for its money… I want to think winners and losers get to sing onstage for this concert too… And prevent fans of certain horse girls getting targeted if ever there was a clear victor. During the concert, Trainer spots a new potential horse girl being awed with everything. He feels up her thighs. Expected horse kick. He asks about her dream and she’ll definitely achieve it if she doesn’t give up.

Horsing Around – Pretty Derpy
And so they lived happily ever after, running and racing and singing with each other. Wow. Life is such bliss for these horse girls. They make it look like it is so easy being a racer and an idol. Uh huh. They must really have the stamina to do all that with a smile and still have the strength to live their lives. Oh right. Who am I kidding? There are horse girls. Horses, damn it. They should have stamina that would allow them to gallop for miles and kilometres. But I’m just pondering with all our featured horse girls in the Winter Dream Trophy being so powerful because the narration said it’s like they’ve won races and hold so many crowns of so many races, I wonder if they will continue to dominate the racing scene and obliterate every other horse girls. Unless they’re just village champs, get what I mean? Otherwise they’ll go out there and dominate the world! Not fair to point out what happened at Suzuka’s short exploits in America but I guess she coming home isn’t just to fulfil her promise with Special Week but I am thinking more of the lines that there is no place like home.

There isn’t much plot to begin with. With Special Week being the main focus, it is predictable that it is mainly going to be about her starting as an amateur with dreams of becoming the best horse girl in the world (but of course, which horse girl doesn’t harbour this dream but because she is main character, she is one of the lucky few who got to live out her dream), becoming a dark horse and then a local hero and favourite who will become the best at the world stage while technically still remaining as herself. A few struggles in between, some few obstacles in between, becoming stronger physically and mentally, nothing that our horse girls cannot overcome because the power of horse friendship.

I can’t also say that I am very impressed with the character development because it feels pretty predictable and cliché. Though, I don’t mean that in a bad way. The main focus is on Special Week and Suzuka. They have their bonds but I just don’t feel that they are particularly close enough. Special Week feels a bit like a retard for comical purposes and Suzuka as the other end of the pole as emotionless. But when they put their minds to it, they become formidable. The other downside about the characters is that there are too many of them! Even more if you want to count all those that are just irrelevant. I know that the horse girls are taken after and are personifications of real life race horses in Japan. So by featuring a lot of them but reducing them to just minor and unnecessary background characters sometimes feel like they need to pay homage and tribute to these certain horses but sorry since you aren’t main character, that’s all the time you get. Yeah, I don’t even remember their names.

Therefore for horses like Urara, I don’t even know what the heck her role is besides her ‘running joke’ of going and returning from trips of races in other areas. It’s not like she is in Spica, Rigil or any of the other nameless teams at Tracen. I also noticed that if you observed closely at Tracen, there is one glutton horse girl who keeps eating and shoving her face with food in the background. She is named (like any other horse girls who are introduced, their name will pop up on the screen) but I can’t remember seeing how insignificant her character is. As for other horse girls, for example Spica. This is what I summarize them as: Boring irrelevant rivalry between Scarlet and Vodka, Gold Ship’s constant harassment over McQueen, McQueen coming from a famous pedigree but nothing more is shown about her achievements and Teio with her dreams of becoming like Rudolf seems like a distant dream that Special Week achieved hers already. What the heck is Sun Visor’s appearance for? Only one episode as Suzuka’s rivalry and that’s it? Feels redundant.

Trainer is being a good and nice guy but mostly feels irrelevant because otherwise watching horse girls train themselves without a proper trainer would feel just weird. You know that when they get lost, at least there is someone who will guide them back on the right path. But I have a feeling that he really doesn’t have a plan. Every time he tells his horse girls the same thing of not thinking and just run. Well it’s good in a way because sometimes the best strategy is not to have one. At least in their cases. It’s just running and run faster, right? So with him telling this every time to his horse girls, don’t they expect that this is what he will most probably say? Maybe they hope he’ll actually say something different, huh? Hence with Trainer and his no-plan strategy, it is like as though the master is trying to make the student think to come up with an answer when he himself doesn’t have the solution. And he’ll go along with whatever the students come up with.

On a trivial and very unfortunate note, the real Special Week passed away while the series was still running. It feels like an irony that the show that made it its main character and for that main character to just pass away, it just feels sad. Because of that, I was wondering if Special Week winning against Broye was some sort of tribute to the real counterpart, making it even more special for those who have close ties to that real horse beauty. RIP, Special Week. Your legacy lives on in the anime! At least for those who don’t know you in real life. But something feels fishy (or horsey?) because if Special Week can beat Europe’s best horse girl, she can’t beat the rest from Tracen?! This is assuming all of them crossed the line at the same freaking time in the final episode’s derby!

If you want to talk about the races in the series itself, personally I find them boring. Therefore I see them drumming up typical anime style drama and tension just to hype up some excitement. Which isn’t really exciting in my books. Yeah, blood needs to be spilled and characters need to die for me to be considered exciting! Woah! Such a bloodthirsty sadist I am. The races follow this somewhat and predictable pattern. The supposed winners whom you could predict and get it right for 90% of the time would usually make a slow start or prop up the back of the pack. In the final stretch, they will exert all their power and make a final dash to the finish line. I wonder if they run on extra friendship power because that seems to be the booster always. There is no real magic so there is hardly any variety to see other than the horse girl running faster. That’s why they added in a lot of other effects to try and make it super exciting but I did not buy into that. No wonder in certain ways, the final episode’s Winter Dream Trophy felt something a bit lacking. That’s why they wasted time dedicated more screen time showing other non-racing stuffs.

So whenever they pass some random horse girl participant who often spout “Muri!” (technically means “Impossible!” but translated as “I cant!” for accuracy), I keep thinking how the heck these other participants even get to participate in the race. I mean, they are horse girls. They’re supposed to have stamina, right? As they reach the end or being zoomed past by our main characters, you hear them complain this line. I mean, I know you horse girls won’t win but how the heck did you get in the front in the first place? Did you sprint like 100m sprinters and use up all your energy but forget there is a few 100 more metres to go? Yeah, that kind of attitude will not let you win races. But in the true spirit of sportsmanship, we often see the winners being humble and the losers being gracious. No wonder the crowd loves them all. I’m wondering if a horse girl wins a race, what kind of prizes does she get besides bragging rights. Don’t see them winning money or cash prize. No jockey, so that’s one less problem. I suppose enough for them to keep racing because this isn’t a dark series where bribery and fixed racing is rife. It’s all about the passion of running!

The one thing that kept me boggled during such races is that the outfits they wear. Because they look more like cosplayers than anything! Sure, they are supposed to look good (that’s why it’s called Pretty Derby, I guess) and I agree on that. But some of the outfits that I see them wear are just freaking wind resistance. No wonder they can’t win. That kind of outfit is not even conducive for running! Oh well, if you can’t win races, might as well look good while running. This is the big reason why I say Broye CANNOT beat Special Week! I mean, take a look at Broye’s outfit. Basically a prince charming outfit with a fur cape. A FUR CAPE!!! How does that not let her being dragged down by wind resistance?! No wonder she lost. And Special Week must be smiling and be thankful for her win. Merci. But I still find it amazing that even after the race, the outfits are not messed up one bit. Are they put together with special glue and material?

But in view of this, now that I look back at it, there is no fanservice whatsoever! Despite their weird costumes, there are no sleazy shots or even bouncing boobs just to attract that male demographic attention. So maybe that is why this series works in a way. They didn’t have to resort to such underhanded tactics and can still go on to make a pretty decent story. I’m sure it would have been distasteful but remember, these horse girls were taken after real horses so don’t want to disrespect them. Oh by the way if you’re asking, Trainer’s thigh molestation doesn’t count as real fanservice. That’s sexual harassment!

Aside from what is seen in the anime, there are other mind boggling questions that I want to ask especially about the horse girls. One of them includes: How the f*ck do they breed?! Okay, I accept that in this world there is another intelligent species of horse girls. But like in its name, they are all only females. Who the heck fathers them?! They have mothers but no fathers! If they are being fathered by real horses, OMFG!!! IS THIS CONSIDERED BESTIALITY!!!! This is f*cking weird just thinking about it. Even weirder than porn! Besides, with horse girls in this world, are there even real horses?! Surely you don’t see them in the city but it really begs the question. Yeah, what do people ride on before modern transportation? Thinking of how they sit and ride on horse girls is just weird. Very weird. The more I think about it, the weirder it gets. Hence…

This thought just came up. Do horse girls have the same rights as humans? Or are they just animals with some human rights? Because if that is the case, can I have a horse girl as a girlfriend AND pet???!!! Oh sh*t! Again, this arises the beastiality question if one tries to perform something kinky when making out with a horse girl. Yeah, what kind of offspring while you get if a human mates with a horse girl… Very curious questions… I wonder if our relationship would also be stable… Haha!!! Also, imagine if weird rich girls instead of wanting a pony as their present, they want the best and cutest horse girl. So awkward…

Another weird concept I want to question is: The horse girls’ ears. Yeah, they have a pair right on top of their head. Actually I never noticed this until they started talking on a phone. The landline one. Because I noticed the receiver is long enough to reach their mouth and to the ears on the top of their heads. At least this dispels the question or any oversight that those ears are useless and only for decoration. But this also begs the question if they also have human ears on their side. I cannot ascertain this as all the horse girls conveniently have hair long enough to cover their side. Imagine if they have no ears there… I would look like horror! And if they do have ears, it makes me ask a new question if they can really use both sets of ears. It would be awesome if they could. Also to note, as all the horse girls have different hairstyles for differentiation, can I say that this is their mane?

Do horse girls who have serious injury and cannot recover be put down? Thank goodness for Suzuka recovering (and Grass Wonder too) and of course I believe injured horse girls will be forced into early retirement instead of being put down. But how come I don’t see any old horse girls becoming trainers? Why are the trainers humans? This means, how long is a lifespan of a horse girl? Don’t tell me they all die shortly after childbirth! That would be too tragic. Besides, seen any old or retired horse girls around? Do you even know their parents?! Sheesh. This is getting even more worrying the more I ask.

Art and animation feel average but I’ll give them points for putting in the detail and do not slack during races. Because it is during that animation where it gets hell to animate. You know, when they run, their arms moving back and forth. Now you know why animators save a lot of time, energy and money animating anime series like Naruto, when they run, their arms are unanimated and we all believe it because of that aerodynamics crap. If not for the different hairstyles, I think I might get confused with their generic looks. Like Special Week and Teio look close to each other thanks to that white strip of hair they got. Thankfully their different outfits and other accessories also help. I always somehow keep thinking El Condor Pasa is a Zorro wannabe… This anime is made by P.A. Works but since I’m not into furries (can horse girls be considered as furries?), I didn’t really see their trademark gorgeous bishoujo art style here as seen in Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari, Shirobako, Sakura Quest, Glasslip and True Tears. But I guess better to have horses anthropomorphized as girls than the other way round. Yeah, talking horses with makeup and dresses would be awfully weird.

There are lots of seiyuus lending their voice due to the many characters but the only one I recognized is Rie Kugimiya as Sun Visor. The rest of the main casts are Azumi Waki as Special Week (Mai in Toji No Miko), Marika Kouno as Suzuka (Yua in Hinako Note), Minami Takahashi as El Condor Pasa (Megumi in Shokugeki No Souma), Machico as Teio (Serina Nishiyama in Sansha Sanyou), Saori Oonishi as McQueen (Aiz in DanMachi), Kouji Okino as Trainer (Tetsutetsu in Boku No Hero Academia), Azusa Tadakoro as Rudolf (Chtholly in SukaSuka), Megumi Toyoguchi as Hana (Revy in Black Lagoon) and Akari Kitou as Seiun Sky (Kaho in Blend S). Broye who speaks all her lines in French is voiced by Haruna Ikezawa (Yoshino in Maria-sama Ga Miteru). Since I don’t know nothing about French, I can’t say id her French is authentic or just another of those ‘Engrish’ type. But to be fair, she is born in Greece! Although raised in Japan. Not sure if she is halfie either.

I never really think of this series to be an idol one. Sure, there are a handful of idol bits but that is not given its prominence unless otherwise. So there are quite a few songs in this series. Aside from the typical upbeat opening and ending theme, Make Debut and Grow Up Sunshine respectively (both sung by the members of Spica), there are special ending themes that are slower ballads to pull those heartstrings and work up those feels like Arigatou Kamisama by Special Week and Silent Star by Suzuka and Find My Only Way by Spica. Then there are those idol-like songs like Endless Dream, Koi Wa Derby and Nanairo No Keshiki but I’m not really attracted by them.

Overall, not a bad series but if you do not place too much expectations, this series is still enjoyable in its own right and even without the need of putting in any blatant fanservice (even the swimsuits during the beach training is very modest and nothing sexy nor revealing). The plot and characters might be predictable and cliché but also satisfying in its own pace in seeing how the characters grow and bond. I won’t be betting that this series would get a popular following. Sure, the game and the anime itself will have their own set of fans but if you’re talking mainstream, not very likely. Unless an upset occurs. But for these horse girls, they are more than happy for us viewers to watch and cheer them run. Once they’ve achieved their dream, they know that they can gallop away into the sunset knowing that they lived their life to the fullest and giving others hopes and dreams. Unless I bet on the wrong horse, then all my future dreams are dashed while they dash to the finish line… It’s still a race after all and the winner still takes it all.