What’s it about? Manaka is happy as a member of the embroidery club, but on a whim decides to attend a trial day for the school’s ice hockey team, taking her friends with her.
PuraOre! opens in the frantic final moments of an international ice hockey game, throwing the audience into some high-octane sporting action. Then, when the team for Japan wins, the… scene transitions into an idol-concert-style musical number, with the players dancing and singing on the ice. Decorative flame cannons go off, confetti falls, and the show transitions, again, to an ordinary school scene.
In the space of about six minutes, you can see these girls aggressively win a hockey game on the world stage, perform a perfectly choreographed dance, and sit down to talk about snacks in a club room. Now that’s what I call a genre mashup!
I wish I could give you any context for that opening scene, which switches so wildly from something that would be right at home in a sports anime to something that would be right at home in a Love Live. Is this a dream? A flash-forward, a vision of things to come? It doesn’t seem to matter.
In fact, there’s not a lot of rhyme and reason to this episode, which is a real shame. It’s the job of a hobby anime’s premiere (and this is listed as “slice-of-life” rather than sports, at least on Funimation) to show the protagonists getting hooked into the hobby in question. To throw the heroines into something new and to show that initial spark of interest, so the audience is inspired to join them week by week on their journey. But this first episode of PuraOre! just doesn’t have the emotional weight to pull this crucial work off.
It falls short with regards to a key element: conveying motivation. Why does Manaka want to try out ice hockey, and why do her friends come with her? They seem perfectly content hanging out in their embroidery club. We don’t even get a scene of Manaka complaining wistfully about wanting to try something more physical, and we certainly don’t get a scene of Manaka lighting up with curiosity when she sees the team playing hockey.
No, many minutes go by, and at the end of the day Manaka suddenly remembers that she was handed a flyer for the school hockey team. She pulls it out of her bag (where she forgot it!) and blithely suggests that it could be fun. Her clubmates chat about it a little, then decide, why not?
The thing that makes these “girls doing stuff” shows joyful is that they place the personal goals and passions of said girls front and center. The emotional pull is wanting to see these characters learn, grow, pursue things they’re dedicated to and interested in. Laid-Back Camp has a newbie rescued by a pro hobbyist, and once she’s been introduced to the world of camping, she falls in love with it and is motivated to try it herself. In Love Live! Superstar!! the protagonist loves to sing, but gets staggering stage fright; she first refuses the call of being a school idol, but is motivated to try it out because of her passion and because of a new friend who believes in her. The main character of Let’s Make a Mug Too is motivated to learn about pottery because it brings her closer to her mother. The music in K-On! is important because it’s the first thing the heroine has been motivated to learn and dedicate herself to.
It doesn’t have to be deeply complex, but motivation—characters wanting to try something for a personal reason—is what drives these series. Manaka pulling a hockey flyer out of her bag after forgetting about it for the whole episode, and saying “This looks kinda fun, I guess!” just doesn’t have the gravity. None of these characters cared about ice hockey before that happenstance, and there’s not a grand, inspirational moment that clearly draws them into the unfamiliar world, either.
Add in the fact that the song and dance is entirely the coach’s idea, and not something any of the students are signing up for, I have to ask… how did we get to that opening scene? Where does the energy for sports and idol performance come from if none of you really want to be here?
PuraOre! doesn’t quite have the energy and heart to pull off its attempt at a genre mashup. I suspect sports anime fans will be baffled and maybe even bored by the idol and slice-of-life elements, idol fans won’t really enjoy the sports scenes, and slice-of-life fans will find themselves tugged between hockey games and idol concerts when they’d rather just chill. Throw in the jokes about the female coach trying to vicariously relive the glory days of her youth through her oh-so-cute students (while the sole male character rolls his eyes) and the whole thing just lands flat on its face.
And, perhaps the most damning oversight: none of these girls seem remotely feral enough to make it in ice hockey. Where’s that Gritty energy in this thing?