Cheer Boys!! – Mid Season Review
Original Air Dates: Jul 5, 2016 to ???
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.
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: As Cheer Boys continues its unique tale of an all male cheerleading team, it does a good job of balancing its character drama while dispensing basic cheerleading knowledge for the viewers. The audience is told enough to have a grasp of the working of the sport while enjoying the character drama developing onscreen. The show does a great job of highlighting the personalities of its main cast members who are diverse, not only in personality but physical appearance as well. The diversity is especially noteworthy as the team has a overweight member but he isn’t restricted to being a source of fat or food jokes. Yes, there are still a couple of jokes revolving his appetite but he is shown to put in just as much effort in the physical activities onscreen, pushing himself to do his best.
Tom: While Cheer Boys’ is indeed a sports anime, the story feels more personal, as our heroes like Haruki and Sho struggle to come to terms with their own inner turmoil. Like Sho’s personal failure on a previous Cheer Leading team, or Haruki’s struggle to find a path for himself rather than following in his family tradition. Compared to say, Days of this season, the focus is more on these characters coming to understand themselves than working as a team. That aspect is there, and there’s plenty of focus on learning the ropes, but there’s a strong undercurrent of personal discovery and growth.
Linny: There have been moments when the personal drama can come off a bit convoluted or vague, the majority of it is played out naturally and at a pace that doesn’t drag on. Cheer Boys!! addresses such a wide variety of issues through its characters that its likely the viewers will empathize or sympathize with at least one of them. From the pressure to live up to family expectations, living in the shadow of a more talented sibling or trying to overcome your past failures or personal phobia, every character has inner demons they want to defeat. Since the show features an all male college aged cast, none of them go into over emotional rants and their attitudes are portrayed in a more mature manner.
Tom: The driving force of Cheer Boys’ story is Haruki’s personal growth, coupled with the teams struggle to gradually become more competitive. The show briefly touches on the new ground being broken here, the idea of an all men’s Cheer Leading team, but it’s far less pronounced than you might expect. It mostly comes about in acknowledgement or surprise from supporting characters, or outright mockery from even smaller players. But those moments are fleeting and the show is far more concerned with Haruki’s personal struggle and the teams efforts to actually improve as Cheer Leaders.
Linny: The comedy in Cheer Boys!! is handled with dignity. While there are several slapstick moments present, they are played out quickly. The show even uses its humour as side gags to feature cameos of future cast members. There’s a serious lack of fan service, which might disappoint some viewers, but makes the story feel serious and not just another attempt to create a legion of drooling fan girls. The one thing that’s bothered me about the humour is that some of it feels like it might cross into culturally insensitive or just downright strange. For one, the team members keep making fun of their coach for having a giant forehead, going so far as to refer to her as O.G i.e One Giant Forehead. I personally didn’t think it was that giant and I couldn’t understand the team’s obsession. Then there’s the case of their Chinese professor who has been given an extremely effeminate voice and mannerism, and so has his son. Is there a Japanese preconception that Chinese people are effeminate? Is it a subtle dig at them? Or is it just a peculiar creative decision? Or maybe, since this show is based on an actual all male cheer leading team, they happened to have effeminate Chinese teachers and members? If you know the answer, feel free to tell us about it in the comments.
Tom: Cheer Boys’ biggest highlight in my mind is its cast. While the cast does indeed keep growing, with over six new characters introduced in episode six alone, their varied personalities keep the proceedings feeling lively and fun, particular with our core seven. Each character has their own quirk or shtick, which is often amusing, providing plenty of comic relief. It’s fair to criticize the series for this at the same time, as most characters bring only one or two styles of humor to the table, but thanks to the personal growth we talked about earlier these people don’t feel like stagnant characters just waiting to deliver their one comedic quip an episode, but people we’re actively rooting for. My one fear is with these most recent cast additions is we’ll be over saturated with characters for the remaining half the season. It’s fine if the expanded members of the team are little more than window dressing, a way to bolster the ranks of the team, because otherwise they’ll end up detracting from the main cast and it’ll be difficult to service all the characters properly with development and growth.
Linny: The show definitely did right by its initial cast of seven, giving them each defining traits and growing personalities. That’s an impressive feat in and of itself as some series are barely able to give their main protagonist such character and this show gives that to all seven of its primary cast. Of course, like Tom has already mentioned, the group has burgeoned into a team about twice its original size in its most recent episode so it seems unlikely it will be able to continue giving each and every new character the same treatment and it’s best it never try to, given its short episode count.
Tom: The biggest draw to the roster is Haruki. Haruki’s struggle is relatable, especially to anyone who’s had parents or siblings that expect certain feats of them as they’ve aged. Haruki’s journey speaks to family pressure and ‘destiny’, encouraging you instead to move out and make your own way in life. To find a path that suits you. Haruki’s only one character amongst many, but there’s little doubt that he’s the center piece, especially when looking at the position he holds on the team. If you don’t take to Haruki’s personal journey however, there’s probably large enough a cast, and enough of a focus on building up the team from a technical standpoint, that Cheer Boys could still be a fun watch.
Linny: Haruki does make for a relatable and likeable lead because his issues have a universal appeal when it comes to dealing with family pressure and expectations. His issues are always discussed in a realistic manner and handled with maturity. Watching him admit his inability to follow his sister’s impressive lead and his parents dreams for him is a moving experience. The best part of it is how it shows not just him but everyone else doing their best to face their inner demons or their personal issues. It’s an encouraging indirect message to the viewers that, no matter what they may be facing, the best thing is to take a positive step towards change, no matter how big or small that step may be. At the same time, the show doesn’t hammer in the drama extensively, moving quickly from beat to beat so that if the drama isn’t appealing to the viewer, they do not have to sit through extended sequences about the exact same thing over and over.
Tom: Unfortunately Cheer Boys’ one big black mark is its art. The art is very muted, low animation in a number of sequences and drab colors that give everything the ever annoying washed out look. It’s only during the bigger cheer leading dance stunts that the animation shoots up in quality, and while those scenes can be impressive, they’re few and far between. It’s not to say Cheer Boys!! is ugly, but sitting next to other anime of the season it’s far from a looker.
Linny: I, on the other hand, felt like the show did a great job using a rather unique animation approach to its opening and ending with extremely eye catching pastel colours. The opening animation and music really gets you pumped for the cheer leading parts and gives the entire show an energetic vibe to kick things off. However, if you are a more observant viewer then yes, you will definitely notice that the show has some rather stilted animation. Character’s expressions can be drawn a little wonky in some scenes and even the cheer leading sequences might seem like its trying to save on animation through the clever use of camera angles.
Tom: Ultimately I’ve found myself completely enthralled with Cheer Boys!! week to week. Of the three sports anime I’m following this season Cheer Boys!! offers what I feel are the best, most enjoyable characters. It’s subject matter is unusual, giving it a unique feel amongst the many other baseball, basketball, swimming, and soccer anime that litter the medium’s landscape. I strongly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys large ensemble casts of characters.
Linny: Cheer Boys!! has continued to delight and enthrall us week after week and deserves to be given a chance by anyone who is on the lookout for a show with a large but well defined ensemble cast and a story that deals with personal growth and determination. Despite its sports tag, it is not just another fan girl feast nor is it an over glorification of a sport for those that are usually turned off by the sports theme. It’s got heart and it’s got comedy, making for a well balanced show. If you only have time for one sports show this season and prefer one with a more mature cast and story, then Cheer Boys!! is the show for you.
Cheer Boys!! is available for streaming via Funimation.com.