Keijo!!!!!!!! – Review
Keijo!!!!!!!! was Tom’s Personal Pick of the Year in our Anime Awards.
Original Air Dates: October 6th, 2016 – December 22nd, 2016
Synopsis: Nozomi Kaminashi is a fantastic gymnast, and in an effort to keep her family out of poverty, she’s decided to become a competitor in an all new women-only sport, Keijo! where girls battle each other with their chests and behinds to knock the other off a floating platform and into the waters below. Victors can expect a huge cash prize, but does Nozomi really have what it takes to make it big in this busty new world?
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Keijo is undoubtedly what most Ecchi should all be striving for. It’s a series that isn’t just about the fan service or just about appealing to the male gaze, and manages to bring enough justification and enjoy-ability to its offerings to prevent it from feeling like smut. It rides a well done balance between it’s male gaze offering and narrative justification for its presentation. It keeps itself feeling fun without dwelling on the girls bodies with ogling male characters, and even better the girls themselves rarely feel uncomfortable in how much they’re showing off, giving them an air of confidence, and avoiding a more lecherous, perverted feel that gives many Ecchi anime a bad name. These women feel powerful, even if they’re wearing little more than string bikinis, but also because they don’t appear to be exploited or suffering from unwanted advances or attention.
Linny: There’s no denying that Keijo still isn’t for everyone. There’s enough stripping down and the premise itself is so eye raising that there will be plenty of people who cannot get past that or just aren’t comfortable with the content. However, for anyone who is more tolerant of or enjoys ecchi content, Keijo!! manages to be more than just cheap and sleazy fan service. The show puts effort into being more than just an exploitative parade of writhing and moaning female bodies. There’s a lot of thought put into the insane and ridiculous battle moves for the girls, and as painful and unreal as those techniques are, they most certainly are creative. However, word of warning that the show is mainly and mostly silly fun through and through so don’t think too much about any of the content..especially if you are a female viewer as some of those attacks in the show are downright nightmare levels of pain to pull off if you think about them.
Tom: It’s that insane level of creativity and parody that keeps Keijo feeling fresh and fun. It’s absurdity is all its own and for those in favor of comedy based upon “wtf did I just watch?” Keijo offers that in spades, keeping that ludicrous level of escalation rising and rising. It’s something you can’t take seriously, but it doesn’t want you to in the first place.
Linny: Matches can be a lot more unpredictable than one would assume and there are cases where you might find yourself completely engrossed in the sport rather than the T&A…which there is still plenty of. For a show with such a strong note of fan service, the show happily features girls of all shapes and sizes from fat to thick and muscular. And for bonus points, while there are some jokes cracked at the expense of the overweight instructor, she is not restricted to being a punchline and is shown to be capable and fit. Similarly, other girls with un-ecchi bodies are treated as real characters and serious keijo players and not just put there to be mocked or deliver a joke.
Tom: Make no mistake, the fan service is there. Creative angles, tight shots on the girls assets, there’s little doubt that the male gaze is often serviced for the viewer’s pleasure, but thanks to Keijo’s overall atmosphere, dynamics, and tone it rarely feels outright sleazy or uncomfortable, managing to strike a balance between soft-core visuals and an engaging narrative. It’s a step in the right direction for the genre as a whole.
Linny: When it comes to characters, many sports anime fans should be able to draw parallels between Nozomi and the protagonists from other shows. Just like a classic shonen sports lead, Nozomi is full of wonder and awe for the sport she’s getting into, full of energy and enthusiasm. While she is somewhat ‘unskilled’ compared to her peers, she is of course eventually revealed to have a lot of latent talent buried within her.
Tom: Keijo’s entire cast is enjoyable, quirky, and fun, but never really grow beyond what are essentially tried and true classic shonen archetypes. There isn’t anything explicitly wrong with sticking with the common molds, but for viewers wanting something a bit more unique, these characters don’t feel like they stand out all that much. Maybe part of that is due to the adaptation, which apparently cuts away a lot of backstory, flashbacks, and time spent fleshing out its cast. But that desire to cut away manga content in an effort to squeeze the story down into twelve episodes creates other issues: namely a certain character popping up in the final episodes who we’ve basically never met before.
Linny: Sayaka Miyata is Nozomi’s best friend and a fellow Keijo player. She is shown to be somewhat withdrawn, preferring to avoid the press despite their adoration for her for coming with a pedigree. She is another character that gets quite a bit of growth and though there are others who also show growth , Sayaka and Nozomi seem to have gotten the majority of it, which isn’t that surprising. It’s clear that the show is struggling to juggle its large cast as during the final match in the finale, we are introduced to a teammate of theirs who we had to struggle to place or recall as having seen before that episode. It is a bit disappointing that the show does such a poor job of establishing a character that does play quite a vital role in parts of the final showdown.
Tom: Unfortunately Keijo’s animation bounces between decent/slightly off and eyepoppingly impressive. There are times when Keijo looks absolutely incredible. The girls designs are stunning, the fluidity of the animation intense, and the artwork on point. But sadly Keijo isn’t always that perfect. Especially as we hit the finale and much of the series’ finale episode lacks that polish that made Keijo such a pleasure to watch. It’s not to say Keijo ever looks bad, or at least not for more than a handful of shots, but that overly impressive art takes hit after hit, and by the end rarely rises back to the glory it once held.
Linny: It’s hard to ignore the dip in quality, especially when it happens in the all too important final episode. Not only does the animation falter, but there is also a glaringly obvious animation mistake where Nozomi clearly has a certain body part exposed in one shot which is then magically covered up in the very next.
Tom: Keijo concludes shortly after the girls complete their schooling for this competitive sport, a decent end place, although begging for a sequel that is increasingly looking like it just isn’t in the cards. But in that effort to give Keijo’s 1st, and perhaps only, season a suitable conclusion a huge swath of content was cut from the manga. There’s a plethora of content that better explains its characters, their training, etc. that hasn’t been animated. Hopefully fans can look forward to experiencing it in the manga’s release, should its localization get announced.
Linny: As someone who doesn’t abhor ecchi, but also doesn’t particularly care for it, Keijo!! was an enjoyable experience. It’s no masterpiece but it’s not pure thrash either. It’s best watched by those who are at worst, neutral to ecchi and fan service because there’s still too much of it in the show to be appealing to anyone who has issues with such content. The show is pretty innovative with its sport and its absurdity is its main source of humour. If you like your ecchi to have some actual meat to it, Keijo!! will likely end up on your favourites list.
Tom: Keijo!!!!!!!! does what few Ecchi have really managed to do: become something that extends beyond the Ecchi fandom its aimed at. With the way it approaches its fan service, integrates it into the story, and depicts its characters Keijo exists as something with a wider appeal, a wider scope. More Ecchi could learn from Keijo’s example and should. It’s unfortunate in my eyes that a second season seems like a long shot, as Keijo is easily the single top Ecchi to come out this year.