Cheer Boys!! – Review
Original Air Dates: Jul 5, 2016 to September 27th, 2016
Synopsis: Haruki Bandou was born into a Judo centric family. His mother and father are professionals and his sister is a champion on the girl’s team. Unfortunately, Haruki’s never felt like he quite fit in, and after an injury puts him on the benches, Haruki loses all self-confidence. His childhood friend, Kazuma, decides this is the opportunity for the two to find a sport that will let them be true to themselves and introduces Haruki to Men’s Cheerleading.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Cheer Boys!! isn’t the prettiest thing to look at this season. It’s colors are often muted, giving a washed out look that can honestly be a pain on the eyes. It doesn’t help that towards the back half of its run the art dips significantly in quality, and at one point looks pretty god awful, bordering on Qualidea Code levels of unappealing. There’s a few highlights though, as Cheer Boys!! cranks up the budget and quality during the complex choreography sequences of the cheer leading performances. It’s in these moments, of which there are few, when the show looks phenomenal and while the colors don’t really become vibrant, the added fluidity and fidelity of the art makes these moments a true treat. But the art lows and highs aren’t what make or break Cheer Boys!! It’s the characters.
Linny: Even though it’s tagged as a sports anime, Cheer Boys!! is all about the characters themselves rather than cheer leading. Compared to a lot of other sports anime, while the cast do engage and interact mainly while practicing and performing cheer leading, there’s a very heavy emphasis on personal drama and character development. It’s not an unusual feature of sports anime but seeing how omnipresent and important it is in this particular show, Cheer Boys!! is best explored and watched as a character drama rather than as a sports anime.
Tom: As Linny described, Cheer Boys!! focuses less on the sport and more so on the team building and characters. It’s about the struggle of these boys coming together, understanding each other, and even themselves. It’s in that effort that Cheer Boys!! massively succeeds at depicting this large cast of characters and their evolution over just twelve episodes. It’s quite a feat and other sports anime with large casts can take twice as long and get half as far in their characterization. Our two main leads, Haru and Kazu get the most development, along with Shiro, a former cheerleader, and a few other characters who pop up amongst the mass now and again for their own mini arcs or to participate in others.
Linny: Not only is the cast well explored and developed, they’re also diverse in personality and characteristics. It’s also worth mentioning that the cast are all college aged with some characters even in their final years of schooling, which is a nice change from the plethora of young teen casts that dominate sports anime. The characters in the show vary in body sizes, skill levels, personalities and even nationalities which in turn offers viewers more choices to gravitate towards. However, there’s something a bit peculiar about how the show presents its non Japanese cast members, namely a Chinese professor and his son, named Chen who becomes a team member. They’re both drawn with very pronounced lips and have somewhat effeminate voices. This was most likely done to illustrate the fact that they are from a different culture with somewhat different physical features and habits but since the use of effeminate voice is often and unfortunately associated with negative connotations in a lot of media, it might give some viewers the wrong idea or even offend.
Tom: There’s enough diverse characters that you’re sure to find one or two who appeal to you and while the series normally does a good job of dodging stereotypes, offering wide enough and unique enough a cast that no one feels outright pigeonholed into a specific trope, Chen’s depiction borders on offensive and is perhaps only saved by the sheer quality of the catharsis he provides in the final episode as the team prepares to join the national cheer leading stage. On the flip side, signature fat guy of the Team, Ton, is portrayed exceptionally well.
Linny: For far too long, an overweight character in anime has been relegated to comic relief and a source of fat/food jokes. Initially, Ton seemed doomed to the same fate as he shows off his familiarity with secret menus and ability to consume huge amounts of food. However, such jokes are quickly done with and the focus instead is on his sincere efforts to do his best despite his weight and size. He is treated as just another member of the team, which is extremely refreshing and though there are some small digs at the fact that he is the only one in the team to have a gf, his weight is not the centre of attention. Furthermore, he remains more or less close to his original size even at the end of the series which makes the show feel natural and serious as compared to other shows where fat guys are often magically transformed into slender and muscular hunks. Sadly, not everyone on the team and in the show gets equal airtime or character exploration but seeing how many members there are in the team and knowing that the show is only 12 episodes, it would be somewhat silly to have expected it in the first place. That said, viewers who end up taking a shining to some of the less addressed team members might be disappointed by the minimal and rushed character arcs they get in the finale.
Tom: The larger development arcs, like Haru’s lack of belief in himself or Shiro’s ties to an unfortunate accident that continue to nag at him are very solid through lines, save for Kazu’s story which is hammy, melodramatic, and puts too much emotional weight where it isn’t really needed. Shiro’s plot can feel a tad over dramatic as well, but otherwise the series is very good at keeping everything down to earth and feeling real, something that many Sports anime seems to struggle with in its desire to make events “cool” and “eye popping.”
Linny: The push for the show to be a drama does indeed sometimes threaten to push it into melodramatic territory ever so often which can be offputting to those who prefer their drama to be understated or restrained. Thankfully, with such a varied cast, the focus shifts often enough that one does not get overwhelmed by the drama of one particular character for too long. It also helps that some of the issues such as struggling to fit in, getting over past mistakes, struggling to overcome your fears, etc faced by the cast members are likely to hit a note with most viewers. For those of you hoping to watch this show solely for the cheer leading content, you might be disappointed by how it often takes a back seat to drama. There’s enough discussion and display of cheer leading to please a casual viewer or one completely unfamiliar with it but maybe not enough to satisfy someone who wanted some amazing animated displays of it as the show relies on still images a lot for its final cheer leading demonstration, which one might have assumed would have been its greatest and most well done.
Tom: Cheer Boys!! has a unique origin, based upon a novel that itself was based upon the real life Japanese first ever all men’s cheer leading competitive team. It perhaps explains why Cheer Boys!! tone feels more mature, more grounded, and more relatable for older audiences compared to this season’s Days. It’s that adult, honest, and mature nature that makes Cheer Boys!! such an appealing little gem that appears to have been largely looked over. It’s a shame too, as outside of a few steps, and sub par animation, Cheer Boys!! is a solid series well worth it for audiences looking for something a little more mature.
Linny: Cheer Boys!!’ best feature is most definitely its older, grounded characters and story. If you’re tired of watching teenagers beating each other/villains up and in the mood for a realistic drama, try this series instead. Despite its sports tag, Cheer Boys!! is mainly about seeing different people coming to terms with their personal problems and learning to overcome or accept them. It’s no super inspirational tale and it can get a bit hammy, but it remains nonetheless a heartwarming experience as we watch these boys with different personalities and personal issues grow and come together as a team. They’re never shown or confirmed to have won any competitions so it’s clear that the focus is on their lives rather than their progress in cheer leading. If all that sounds appealing to you, give this hidden gem a chance.
Cheer Boys!! is available for streaming via Funimation.com.