PuraOre! Pride of Orange made its debut this fall as the first ice hockey series in anime history. While there are a handful of ice hockey manga that have been published in the past, most have gone widely unnoticed. But with sports anime finally breaking into the mainstream thanks to series like Haikyuu! and Ace on Diamond, Pride of Orange had a wonderful opportunity to bring forth a new type of fanbase to the medium–hockey fans.
It’s no surprise people were shocked by the announcement of the anime given that ice hockey is one of the least popular sports in Japan. On the other hand, the sport is one of the top-five most popular sports worldwide. With over two billion hockey fans across the world, surely there’s a target audience for an ice hockey anime. Unfortunately, Pride of Orange is proof that it takes much more than a large worldwide fanbase of a sport to reel in an audience.
The Main Positive – Sound Design
In the 12 episodes that we received, Pride of Orange had its positives. While these positives are few and far between, they are noticeable and deserve the credit. One of them is the incredible sound design.
Akiko Fujita, sound director for Pride of Orange, did a wonderful job of captivating the many sounds ice hockey fans cannot get enough of. From players skating up and down the ice to the loud clap of a high-powered slapshot echoing throughout the arena, and everything else down to the thump of the puck hitting the goalies’ trapper, the sound design was perfect. If you closed your eyes and listened to all the sounds during the matches in the series, you would think you’re listening to a real game while standing right near the ice.
It doesn’t surprise me that the sound director for series such as Jujutsu Kaisen and Dorohedero would bring nothing but the best for the very first ice hockey anime in history.
Big Moments Had Beautiful Animations
It’s no secret when watching Pride of Orange the animations can feel underwhelming at times, especially during a game. But other times the shots and animations are beautiful. It’s definitely hit or miss but when the music starts to pick up the pace you know you’re in for a cool shot like the one below. If the series had more of these kinds of moments the games and scrimmages would’ve been a lot more exciting to watch.
Another positive for the series is the voice acting. Despite having a mostly rookie cast, the voice acting was rather solid. Four of the seven main characters for the series had voice actors playing their very first anime role. They sold the emotional moments well and played their characters’ personalities rather great – and we have written about the cast list before.
The last positive was the explanation of the rules. While this positive is a small one, it was still nice that the series explained some of the rules of girls ice hockey, no matter how basic they were. It’s a good thing to include these little moments for those watching the series that have never played, or watched, ice hockey before. Haikyuu!! also did a wonderful job with this and now it seems everyone who watched it has a general understanding of the rules of volleyball. Pride of Orange definitely did a solid job explaining things to a certain extent because viewers came away with that same general understanding but for ice hockey.
Pride of Orange’s Negatives
Some, including myself, expected this series to be a great introduction of ice hockey to the anime world. But it’s upsetting to say Pride of Orange felt more like a slice-of-life anime with a hockey theme rather than being an actual sports anime. The introductory of the series even had the main cast relaxing after school…in their knitting club, which still had relevance later on in the series.
It felt like an anime that didn’t know what it wanted to be during some moments. At times, it was like watching Yuru Camp. But instead of camping for fun, the characters played ice hockey instead. The only difference is that Pride of Orange has a little more drama and emotion.
If Pride of Orange focused solely on the characters and their growing love for hockey, rather than spending their days working at a spa for their grandparents and their friends, the series could’ve developed into something that would draw viewers in. There was no need for a beach episode where the girls played volleyball in order for Kaoruko to find “her voice” as the team’s goalie (she’s the soft-spoken character of the group).
Some Moments Fell Flat
While the voice acting during big moments was solid, the build-up for these moments felt extremely rushed. During episode three, one of the main girls (Mami) transfers schools and leaves the team. What could have been an emotional moment later on in the series ended up becoming an odd source of inspiration that died down immediately, or so it felt like. In the series, the two (Manaka and Mami) were childhood friends. But we’ve only known Mami for three episodes. So the emotional departure just felt awkward and forgetful as the series went along.
And as the series went along, everything felt more rushed. While it seemed like half the team was still learning how to play hockey halfway through the series, the next thing we know they’re in a regional championship match. One thing that great sports anime do is build up the hype for an upcoming big game. It’s anticipated as much as tournament arcs in shonen anime. But Pride of Orange tremendously failed in doing this. Not only that, the opposing team supposedly recruited a new player that was ridiculously talented and we received zero backstory on her. So her impact on the story also felt non-existent but was shoved to the forefront to make up for the lost time. (Upcoming spoiler warning in the next section.)
Season Finale (Spoiler Warning)
I cannot stress enough how disappointed I was to watch the ending only to see “to continue the story, make sure you play the game!” at the bottom of the screen in the very last episode. Did I expect Pride of Orange to be a long-running series? No. But could the story and the characters have grown even more in a second season possibly making the series better? Absolutely.
And to top it all off, instead of having a party to celebrate a big win, the characters went full-fledged idol mode and did an entire routine at center ice, one that their coach oddly had them practice multiple times throughout the series. It was an ending that didn’t have any sort of hockey feel to it at all. But at least we got a picture of both teams meeting at center ice for the traditional handshakes. So that was something.
PureOre! Pride of Orange – Overall Wrap Up
When all is said and done, PuraOre! Pride of Orange wasn’t set out to be the grand opening of ice hockey for the world of anime that many of us anticipated. That’s just the unfortunate part about it all. The series had a real chance at leaving a great mark in the history of anime as a whole, not just sports anime, and it simply came up short.
Pride of Orange is a series that was shared across social media with many hockey fans around the world, old and young, that never watched anime before. My only hope is that this series didn’t turn those same people away from watching anime anymore.
But if you want a comfort anime that revolves around a group of friends learning to love a new sport entirely, PuraOre! Pride of Orange is a solid choice. Overall, it’s an okay series and it’s an easy binge-watch. Any anime fan or ice hockey fan can easily find solace in the wholesome moments and uplifting positivity of the series.
PuraOre! Pride of Orange is currently streaming on Funimation.
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