Kouya Madoka is a professional photographer who is troubled by a horrific experience in his past and is unable to capture people. When his editor assigns him to cover a Super GT race, he meets teenage racing driver Haruka Asahina, who is competing in the supporting F4 series.
I should probably start by saying that I was born into a family of Formula One fans and hence know far more about auto racing than any normal guy should. The racing angle was then the huge draw for me with Overtake!, and I was startled by how irrelevant it is in this first episode. That’s mostly a good thing, because it allows us to devote more time to character-driven storytelling, which is far more crucial to the overall quality of a show. The format of focusing on a protagonist close to the sport rather than the competitor themselves is a fantastic approach to freshen the weary sports anime template, and TROYCA incorporates some really good character animation tics that do a lot to sell these people as humans rather than caricatures.
Nonetheless, there’s something curiously uninteresting about the whole thing. Part of it, I believe, is due to the bland visual design – while the characters look clever and animation nicely, the rest of the landscape appears very subdued and dull. This is especially true of the racing moments – I get that CGI is a must in order for the program to exist at all, but it still looks awful. Also, Kouya’s sudden crush on a character in his mid-teens seems…creepy, at least with such little context so far. Overtake! Although it appears to be a safe bet and a significant improvement above standard sports anime fare, there is no compelling hook or spark that makes this must-see TV just yet.
Overtake! follows a well-worn formula of anime episodes in which it’s around half vague character drama and half extensive explanations of a specialized sport or hobby. TROYCA injects some life into the character animation, but any conflict or interest fades once the team owner begins to explain the differences between F1 and F4 and the racing laws. There may be something here about recovering your enthusiasm for something after having lost it, but if the show tries to convince me to be passionate about racing, it will face an uphill road..
I don’t know anything about motorsport aside from the three hot and heavy weeks I spent with 2016’s Motorsport Manager, a PC sim in which you ran a motorsport team (either GT or F1). You had to create your team’s car, hire (or fire) drivers, build a pit crew stable, and even negotiate sponsorship deals. This vision had an irresistible fascination, akin to the ones I have about the mecha genre, which, at its best, likewise organically melds engineering and human drama. The primary message I received from the game was that what happens off the track is just as important as what occurs on it.
So far, Overtake appears to be doing a better job than most at communicating the attractiveness of both parts of motorsports. The first episode contains a little too much technical jargon and exposition for my tastes, but that’s to be expected. At its core, this is yet another “newcomer discovers their new favorite hobby/profession/craft and wants to ganbare their way to becoming the best at it” type of animation. We’ve seen it with brass instruments, airsoft, and even woodworking, so it’s only natural that semi-professional motorsport will get its time. At the end of the day, I believe what will determine Overtake’s staying strength is its ability to blend off-track moments with on-track ones. To be as entertaining to watch as more typical sports anime, both the character drama and the real sports must be there. I’m not sure I’m sold on the cast yet, who all cover the standard gamut of recognizable anime archetypes. Haruka, the stoic and arrogant wunderkind driver who poses as the story’s deuteragonist, deserves special attention. I absolutely despise this archetype of character in sports anime, and how he’s handled will have a big impact on my ability to stay committed. Hopefully, the elder Kouya remains the main character and we don’t have to cope with too much annoying adolescent angst.