Starting in May of this 12 months, “Top Gun: Maverick” was promoted the world over. Though I’ve by no means seen a single film within the franchise, each time I logged on to social media these days, I couldn’t escape Tom Cruise. I really feel it essential to notice that the majority, if not the entire individuals I comply with, don’t care about “Top Gun” both. I’ve curated my feed towards anime, tv or video video games. But for some motive, this image of Japanese voice actresses in horse ears posing with Cruise swarmed my timeline. Coming from a verified Twitter profile with 1.4 million followers, I believed, “What is this account? Who are these girls, and why are they with Tom Cruise?” As I checked the replies, this edit of Tom Cruise working with anime women stood out as nicely. Given the context clues, I needed to guess that these have been the characters these voice actresses portrayed. But many questions remained. Thus started my descent into the lore of “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby,” what would come to be considered one of my favourite multimedia franchises.

So, let’s start by answering the predominant query: Why have been these women on the “Top Gun: Maverick” premiere in Japan? These actresses and characters come from the Uma Musume franchise, which I found was collaborating with “Top Gun: Maverick” with the intention to promote the film. It appeared to be an odd connection; from what I might inform, Uma Musume is simply cute anime women being cute anime women, whereas the tone of “Top Gun” is extra dramatic. One titular character, nevertheless, tied these two media collectively: Her identify is Mayano Top Gun. Her character has nothing to do with weapons, however she was chosen to advertise the film attributable to her identify. “Mayano Top Gun” continues to be an odd identify for an anime character, so I scrambled to Google her to assemble an understanding of what her deal was.

And right here, women and gents, is the place I discovered the twist of Uma Musume: Mayano Top Gun is a illustration of an actual Japanese racehorse. Every character within the Uma Musume franchise is a illustration of a racehorse, repackaged right into a happy-go-lucky anime lady. Rice Shower, Special Week, Vodka — these are all foolish names as a result of they’re horse names. In the universe of Uma Musume, racehorses of the previous might be reincarnated as horse women who then practice to be racers themselves, in addition to make buddies alongside the way in which. The consideration to element is wild — even the character’s personalities are loosely primarily based on every horse’s monitor document. For instance, Haru Urara (character) is extraordinarily enthusiastic but at all times loses races, much like how Haru Urara (horse) is well-known for her consecutive losses. If you may’t already inform, Uma Musume is sort of absurd, lovingly so.

The franchise itself is big, too: It boasts 1.4 million Twitter followers, two seasons of an anime sequence, dozens of recorded songs, a number of manga sequence and a cell recreation with over 1,000,000 downloads.

After watching the anime sequence and falling in love with the foolish horse women’ friendships, I leaped to obtain the cell recreation. Currently, the sport can solely be performed with a Japanese iTunes account (in case you’re considering taking part in Japanese cell video games you may learn the way right here), so it’s all in Japanese, however this translation information was instrumental in displaying me the ropes. The recreation’s essential purpose is to coach the horse women for his or her races — as you do that, you may as well be taught their character tales (that are fantastically voice-acted alongside 3D fashions).

Additionally, there’s a “gacha” mechanic — a flowery gaming time period for playing — in which you’ll be able to spend in-game foreign money to attempt to get particular version variations of the horse women. Your “gacha” winnings will strengthen your racing group, in addition to provide you with additional outfits and tales for the horse lady you obtain. Gacha is the principle moneymaker of this recreation: You don’t must spend cash, however many gamers extra devoted than I’ll seemingly drop a whole lot of {dollars} making an attempt to get a uncommon pull of their favourite character. I can’t lie — it’s actually thrilling; the animation that performs while you do a pull seems like a horse-girl race. Starting as hidden silhouettes behind racing gates, the characters every take their flip working out. I sit there every time crossing my fingers that I’ll pull a brilliant uncommon character, and on the off probability (notably 3%) that I do, the display screen is lit up with rainbow stars and a custom-made animation of that character. A victorious fanfare of trumpets sings, and I revel within the false actuality I’ve immersed myself in.

Within the breathtaking paintings, the absurdity of those horse women working is misplaced on me. I can solely root for them in full seriousness, tears coming to my eyes as I watch them sing their victory track. It’s meaninglessly joyous, one thing I like a lot concerning the franchise. Fans all the world over are in a position to touch upon its absurdity and nonetheless discover causes to adore the characters. What demonstrates this love most are the multitudes of translators that made it doable to get invested in Uma Musume, translating something from soundtrack lyrics to full in-game tales. It’s clear that the group is devoted to those horse women, and the expansive attain of the franchise can assist anybody change into invested. If you’re a gamer, you may delve into the cell recreation. If you’re a fan of dwell performances, you may watch the actresses carry out songs as their characters. If you simply need to watch one thing foolish, you may flip your mind off and watch the anime, the place the ladies’ banter can cheer anybody up. It expands up to now past its unique premise; there comes some extent the place tears come to my eyes as I watch them sing, and it turns into misplaced on me that they have been ever actual horses to start with.

After a protracted day of courses and work, I can go browsing to my cellphone and assist beloved horse lady Gold Ship cross the end line, blurring the traces between horse and human. It feeds into that childlike pleasure, that whimsical sense of creativeness that maturity so desperately begs you to throw away. Maybe I’ve an odd attachment to those characters, however who cares? I believe it’s enjoyable to search out pleasure in foolish issues, to have the ability to maintain on to that sense of childlike marvel and creativeness. Uma Musume captures that absurd creativeness completely, and I’m grateful to those horse women and their devoted voice actresses for preserving me grounded.

Daily Arts Writer Katelyn Sliwinski might be reached at

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