A solid-looking addition to a rather crowded genre.
Well, I’m here getting over an incredibly bad cold and trying to get back into the swing of things, so its probably good to start out with a show I really enjoyed the opening episode of. Cheer Boys!! is about a pair of college boys who decide to try to form a men’s cheerleading team at their school. Haruki, our lead, is part of the judo team, but we learn he suffered an injury which has prevented him from fully participating in the club. It’s a tough situation for him, as he’s got familial tradition stacked on top of the usual feeling of being left on the sidelines – his family runs a dojo, his father was a very famous competitor, and his older sister totally outshines him in the sport. Despite his own internal stuggle, it is his friend, Kazuma, who comes up with the idea of starting a cheerleading team. Haruki is initially skeptical, even as he decides to resign from the judo team, but a visit to a cheerleading competition pushes him to give it a go.
Sports anime seem to be quite popular these days, particularly as those making them appear to have realized the financial possibilities offered by the pockets of fujoshi, and there are some points on which Cheer Boys!! feels quite of a feather (the struggle to recruit members!). That being said, as a whole this episode comes off as a break with much of the rest of the genre. It simply feels more substantial than first episodes in this genre typically do, perhaps because the original source is a novel rather than a light novel or a manga (there is a manga adaptation which just started in April in Jump+). Haruki and Kazuma don’t exist solely in the confines of their school, and Haruki in particular is situated within a fuller context which informs his feelings and decisions. The show does a very good job of showing rather than telling; I personally don’t bristle at info-dumping, but I also certainly recognize it takes more skill to work things in organically, and I appreciate when its handled as well as it was here.
That being said, I really don’t like the character designs. I realize that this is evidence of how warped from reality anime character designs usually are, but I don’t like the faces much – how the hell am I supposed to deal with eyes that aren’t the size of tennis balls??? The animation itself isn’t a particularly strong point for the show, and I have read some reviews where the writer stated that this took away from their ability to enjoy the scenes involving judo and cheerleading. Perhaps I’ve been ruined by watching beautifully-animated shows like Dance with Devils and High School Star Musical, but I don’t think the animation detracts from the sports-sequences at all.
Speaking of Dance with Devils… this has the same director, Ai Yoshimura! Talk about a big change in properties to be working on. But, actually, I really want to draw attention to Reiko Yoshida, the scriptwriter. She’s one of those people in the industry who is just about everywhere but whose name doesn’t tend to be brought up much in conversation. Even if you don’t recognize her name, you’ve probably watched something she’s worked on, as she’s worked on things ranging from Digimon Adventure: Our War Game (y’know, that one that Mamoru Hosoda directed and which he then basically remade as his own thing in Summer Wars?) to K-ON! to Scrapped Princess to Peach Girl to… well, you get the picture, although I’ll end with “to Yowamushi Pedal”. Really, though, you’ve probably watched something she’s worked on. And she’s worked on quite a few well-regarded sports shows, so based on that and this first episode, seems like she was a pretty solid pick for this.
All in all, even if you’ve been feeling a bit burnt out with all the sports shows over the past several years, Cheer Boys!! is at least worth giving a shot. Good to see the genre getting a little bit of variation even if it seems to be the only one likely to do so for at least a couple more seasons.
Also, Haruki’s parents are SUPER DORKY, go check them out!