The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Anima Yell! ?
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How was the first episode?
Anima Yell! clocks in as this season's requisite “high school girls in a club about _____” property, with the blank in question being cheerleading this time. Our heroine Kohane Hatoya is so inspired by seeing a cheerleading performance that she vows to become a cheerleader in high school - unfortunately, her high school doesn't actually have a cheer club. The irrepressible Kohane thus resolves to start her own club, and begins recruiting members, starting with the girl who actually inspired her - the melancholy Arima Hizume.
The thing I personally found most entertaining about Anima Yell! was the sharp contrast in behavior between Kohane and Arima. While Kohane's silly expressions and general attitude were all perfectly in line with slice of life expectations, it often felt like Arima was trying to counterbalance that by conducting a one-person sports drama, focusing on traumatic past cheer experiences and melodramatically declaring that “my days of cheer are over!” It was pretty funny watching a show where the two leads seemed determined to exist in different shows altogether.
Unfortunately, that was basically the only funny thing about this episode. Anima Yell! spends most of its running time constructing tiny gags, but its sense of humor is far too mild and one-note to really earn any laughs. The show finds the similarity of the words “chair” and “cheer” hilarious enough to reprise that particular gag four or five times, and the visual tic of giving Kohane a little beak when she's acting silly doesn't really add anything, either. This is one of those shows where someone will do something mildly unusual, another person will declare “that's mildly unusual!”, and that's a scene. Additionally, both the dramatic pacing and comedic timing felt stilted throughout, with many jokes petering out seemingly before they even reached their punchlines.
Anima Yell!'s aesthetics fare better than its writing, fortunately. There were a number of striking backgrounds throughout this episode, the show pulls off some nicely expressive faces for its jokes, and I was particularly impressed by the effective use of sound design, which made Kohane's initial fascination with cheerleading feel totally understandable. However, with both Kohane's lighthearted material and Arima's more melancholy stuff feeling underwritten, I didn't really have much to engage with on the whole. Probably a fine watch for high school club genre enthusiasts, but an easy skip if you're not a fan.
I probably won't ever watch another episode of Anima Yell!, as I have little interest in the premise, a “cute girls do cute things”/sports anime hybrid. However, I do have to give its first episode props for attaining the one thing it absolutely had to have in order for this concept to be successful: a lot of genuine heart.
Sure, Kohane is your fairly standard genki girl, and showing heart comes with the territory. However, mere enthusiasm does not equate to the kind of heart I'm talking about. She doesn't just push her limits, as so many shonen action heroes do. She recognizes that to prove she's genuine about her commitment, she has to both overcome her own fears and convince Hizume that being special isn't going to isolate her. “If you're special, I'll do my best to become special too!” is cheesy but still a great line, and it's exactly the kind of thing that Hizume needed to hear in this case. That Kohane was doing it all despite her obvious nervousness only gives that scene more impact.
The rest of the first episode, which is your basic club recruitment story, doesn't impress as much. On the downside, Kohane can be loud and brash to an obnoxious degree, and her habit of causing misunderstandings because she keeps mispronouncing “cheer” as “chair” gets old pretty fast. However, she also takes her hard knocks and carries on. The supporting cast so far is a little stronger, with Uzi being the loyal friend who gives off faint whiffs of romantic interest and Hizume showing that there's actually some depth to her reasons for not being involved in cheer anymore. The opener shows that Uzi is going to get dragged into the Cheer Club despite her protestations, although I'm slightly interested to see how the timid girl in the class introduction scene gets drawn in too, leaving another girl to act as a past rival of Hizume's.
Most importantly, the series successfully exudes the cute factor it needs. Cheerleading is something that I've always found more athletic or sexy than cute, but the first episode makes it work.
Given how Kohane describes cheerleading in Anima Yell!'s premiere, you have to wonder why there aren't more anime about it: “a wonderful sport where you can support people by cheering them on!” Isn't that just the most anime kind of activity you can imagine?
As far as this particular cheerleading anime is concerned? It's fine. It's colorful and mostly decent in its animation and direction (save for the eerie, doll-like faces of the cheerleader Kohane meets at the top of the episode), and there's plenty of cute n' friendly shenanigans to be had once Kohane ropes her best friend Uki into helping her form a cheer squad for their new high-school. Some of the jokes wear a little thin after a while, especially the running gag of Kohane constantly mispronouncing “cheer” as “chair”. It was kind of funny the first time, but the gag loses its punch the third or fourth it shows up.
My biggest issue with Anima Yell! is actually the same problem I had with Ms. vampire who lives in my neighborhood, which is that Kohane's persistent effort to make friends with the former cheerleader Hizume and start a cheerleading club with her crosses the line into being obnoxious. It's an old cliché, the resistant character who has turned their back on [insert passion here], but eventually gets broken down by the heroine's stubborn refusal to give up on them. That doesn't make it any less irritating to watch Kohane repeatedly annoy Hizume, stalk her, and otherwise badger her into submission about joining the cheer squad. It deflates the warm, fuzzy feeling your supposed to get when Hizume eventually does come around to Kohane's plan when it feels like she's only doing it because this weird girl that jumps out of trees and keeps screaming about chairs just won't leave her alone.
That's hopefully a one-time hurdle that Anima Yell! failed to clear, though. Moving forward, I expect this series to be perfectly acceptable candy-coated fluff. It's not going to blow anyone's socks off, but it's ticking all the boxes on the genre checklist. I personally don't have much interest in either the characters or the subject matter, but I can see this show appealing to anyone who needs more Cute Girls Doing Cute Things in their fall lineup.
I'm starting to think that Laid-Back Camp has permanently ruined this kind of premiere for me. Having the upbeat rookie drag the reluctant veteran into a school club is a plot point as old as time itself, but it feels significantly more obnoxious after watching the way that series gave its characters room to do their own thing. So, while Kohane seems to have all the right motivations in trying to recruit Hizume for her fledgling cheerleading club, the whole “I'm not leaving you alone until you say yes” schtick just gets on my nerves. It's definitely a subjective complaint, but it's not my only gripe about this show.
Anima Yell is clearly aiming to blend the sports and slice of life genres with its easygoing approach to cheerleading, and that's perfectly fine. The pacing feels about right for that particular combination, but the writing suffers from needless repetition. It hammers home every significant aspect of the characters' backstories and personalities, to the point where it echoes lines of dialogue that were spoken just a few minutes earlier. By the end of the episode, I had lost count of the number of times the script stopped to remind us that Kohane likes helping other people. These are not difficult concepts for the average viewer to grasp, and that tendency to over-explain everything doesn't bode well for Anima Yell's ability to tell a compelling story.
The characters themselves are fine, though they do seem overly generic at this point. Apart from her fear of heights, there's little to distinguish Kohane from any number of other friendly, pink-haired airheads. Uki serves reasonably well as Kohane's sassy but supportive friend, and I give it about a week until Kohane convinces her to join the club. Hizume's backstory is arguably the most interesting at the moment, if only because it's the only one with any dramatic substance. The sports genre is littered with characters who were ostracized by their middle school teams for being too darn talented, but at least that's a potential starting point for a more engaging character arc. It looks like there's a shy girl and a girl with some sort of interest in Hizume waiting in the wings, and those five together should make for a well-balanced, if unremarkable, team.
Anima Yell seems to have its act together on the visual front, with a suitably bright color palette and some pretty solid character animation during the opening cheerleading sequence. It also appears to be steering clear of gratuitous fanservice, which is a relief given this sport's built-in potential for sleazy upskirt shots. If all you're looking for is a standard-issue show about cute girls doing cute activities, it seems competent enough to fit the bill. Personally, I've seen too many other series do this same thing better, so I doubt I'll stick with this one.
I was very torn between a 2.5 and a 3 for this show because heroine Kohane is so damn annoying while still absolutely having a heart of gold. Ultimately I decided on the higher rating because for all of her issues and her inability to speak below a yell (which will probably help her in her chosen sport), Kohane truly does mean well. She's determined, caring, and a hard worker, and that helps to make her a much more palatable character than if all she had going for her was cuteness and pink hair.
The story itself is fairly familiar. Kohane, who has no real direction in her life beyond “helping others,” discovers cheerleading by accident and realizes that it's pretty much everything she wants in a sport – (apparently) non-competitive, cooperative, and with the goal of helping others to do their best. That the uniforms are cute and the dancing and acrobatics impressive are the icing on her cake; Kohane becomes obsessed with impressive rapidity. But wouldn't you know it, her new high school doesn't have a cheerleading squad, so now Kohane has to round up four other girls to make her dream happen. It's way too convenient that Hizume, one of the girls she saw before, just so happens to also be a first year at her school, and it's totally expected that Hizume is actively trying to put cheer behind her.
This is where we run into a problem. Kohane really can't take a hint or a firm “no,” and begins what Hizume clearly feels is a harassment campaign to try and get her to join. The fact that Hizume really does want to go back to cheer but is afraid to because she was bullied out of her old team eventually makes this more okay (kind of), but the fact that for most of the episode Kohane is basically stalking Hizume is troubling and more than a little annoying. It does lead to a couple of amusing moments, though, such as when Hizume calls Uki Kohane's “guardian” or when an old woman Kohane is helping across the street asks, “Are you a pervert, little girl?” That Kohane does eventually turn herself around and begin working on her own issues is a good sign, however, and I'm hopeful that going forward she'll mature into a less irritating character.
In the meantime, this feels like a slightly more exciting Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show than we normally get; in fact, it may be a full-out sports show, although I'm inclined to think it'll land somewhere in the middle. The animation for the dancing looks smooth and the characters are all distinct and distinctly cute, so if you can handle Kohane's constant barrage, this episode makes it look like Anima Yell could be very appealing.
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