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The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
Extreme Hearts

How would you rate episode 1 of
Extreme Hearts ?
Community score: 3.1

What is this?

Hyper Sports, which use extreme gear as support items, have become popular hobby competitions among both children and adults. Hiyori Hayama is a high school singer who has nothing to do with Hyper Sports, but a certain incident sets the story in motion.

Extreme Hearts is part of a new project from writer Masaki Tsuzuki and streams on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

Well, wasn't that a welcome surprise. I have to admit, after hearing this anime was going to be mixing sports and idols, I was expecting it to be something like PuraOra! PRIDE OF ORANGE, where the girls play a full game of hockey and then quickly change gears to do a concert (as if anyone would have the energy for that). However, that's not what we're getting here. Instead, Extreme Hearts is about a sports competition for idols; it's basically a big PR show that singers with athletic talents can enter for a shot at wider recognition. So despite its use of sci-fi tech, the fact that competitions in this vein already exist in Japan gives this show an odd sense of realism.

This is bolstered by the incredibly personal story we get in this first episode. Hiyori is a struggling musician whose career has stagnated, a walking example of the unfortunate lesson that talent and hard work alone simply aren't enough. Luck is a huge factor, and it's clear her agency wrote her off the moment she wasn't an instant hit and supported her in name only.

However, if this episode makes one thing clear it's this: Hiyori never gives up—not when she only has a single fan and not when she's down by seven in a soccer game. And so when her ex-manager gives her a Hail Mary of sorts by suggesting she enter Extreme Hearts, she gives it her all. That tenacity makes Hiyori instantly likable. It's impossible not to root for her and want her to succeed.

The other side of the story, Saki, is what happens when you give your all in team sports and no one else does. It's about the loneliness you have and the jealousy directed your way when you outgrow your teammates in terms of skill. But like Hiyori, Saki finds someone as driven as she is—someone she wants to support just as she was once supported by Hiyori's song. Moreover, her presence on Hiyori's team should make the story more than a little interesting going forward. After all, Saki and Hiyori's roles will be reversed once the idol aspect comes into play. We'll just have to see if she can put 100% into singing the way she did for soccer—or if a lack of talent will make things all the more difficult.

James Beckett

If nothing else, Extreme Hearts definitely has heart. Maybe too much heart, in fact. It's the kind of show where, if the only thing you care about is seeing a bunch of girls succeed in a series of completely insane sporting competitions with nothing but the power of friendship on their side, then sure, it might be an okay way to kill twenty minutes every week. But if you intend on overriding your heart and using your brain to think about the story for even a moment, you're going to have a bad time.

Take the whole central premise of the Hyper Sports , for instance. It is a conceit that suffers from the same unbelievable leap in logic as Megalobox did, which is the fact that, outside of the needless sci-fi spectacle, there is no practical or sensical reason to enhance competitive sports with ridiculous performance enhancing equipment. Boxing with big robot arms is essentially just boxing, and Hyper Baseball is literally just baseball, except a thousand times more expensive and dangerous. It defeats the purpose of physical competition, and it introduces a layer of societal and professional complexities that have to be balanced with the exact right tone, or else the whole house of cards comes falling down.

The key difference between Megalobox and Extreme Hearts, however, is that Megalobox is a masterpiece that uses its silly sports conceit as a vehicle to deliver compelling drama and social commentary. Extreme Hearts is…whatever the opposite of that would be. The sports angle is really poorly executed for one, with the climactic soccer game coming across as a slapdash mess of nonsense. I'm not a sporty guy by any means, but I'm pretty sure that you can't just have your two pals from up in the bleachers randomly acquire uniforms and jump onto the field in the middle of a play without completely disqualifying your whole team.

The drama angle is…better, I guess? I do appreciate that Hiyori and Saki are two kids that are struggling with the very grown-up realization that, no matter how big you dream, and no matter how much you practice, you might still end up kind of sucking at the hobby or career you pursue. Never mind how the inane soccer game in the second half kind of deflates that nuanced storytelling; the biggest problem with the non-sports side of Extreme Hearts is that it's boring. This is cheap teen drama 101, and it's being directed with all of the pizazz of an antidepressant infomercial.

In other words, Extreme Hearts may have gumption to spare, but just like in the world of professional—I'm sorry, I mean Hyper Sports, gumption won't get you very far if you don't actually have the talent or skill to back it up. Sorry, kid, but you're just not cut out for the major leagues. Pack up your towels and go on home.

Rebecca Silverman

Extreme Hearts could, I suppose, grow into the girls' sports show that we've come so, so close to getting but never quite did. But first it needs to figure out how to work around its dreadfully gimmicky premise. Fortunately, the single most baffling part of the first episode is gotten out of the way relatively quickly: when aspiring singer Hiyori is dropped like the proverbial hot potato by her label, they, in the same letter, suggest that she enter the entertainer section of a sports competition. It seems very out of left field, although I can sort of see where the thinking might be: if Hiyori makes a name for herself in a popular arena, then maybe people will be willing to give her music a chance. Still a bit of a slap in the face, since it's basically telling her that her music isn't good enough on its own, but it's apparently a slap Hiyori will weather if it means getting closer to her dream.

And once you've swallowed that bit of plot, you may be ready to down the entire plate: that there exists a competition in “hyper sports” where players don “extreme gear” in order to compete at a ludicrously enhanced level, with the caveat being that it's like the triathlon of ball sports, with each team expected to be able to master and compete in all the sports. Since many of them require very different skills, it's probably best not to think about it too hard, nor about what on earth the technology level of the story's world is. Apparently CDs are still a thing, but you can also hire robots to play on your hyper sports' team while Siri/Alexa/Cortana runs your voicemail and classrooms have whiteboards rather than smartboards. It's a mishmash, and one that ignores an awful lot of what I'd call common sense issues, such as why, when you're playing with gear that can allow a baseball to shatter concrete, no one would wear any protective gear, or why dodgeball would be an included sport.

With all of this, it's a good thing that a solid relationship is building between Hiyori and Saki. Saki's aghast at Hiyori deciding to take up hyper sports, at least in part because she had a bad experience playing soccer, and she's concerned about the toll it could take on Hiyori emotionally. She's still supportive, even if she can't quite bring herself to show it until three-quarters of the way through the episode, but she's clearly working through her own issues in a healthier way than I expected. By the time she and her childhood friend Sumika join Hiyori's team, there's potential for them to be a solid unit, and that could go a long way towards saving this series from its contrived plot points and occasional awkward animation. It may be worth another episode to see if that starts to happen, but the risks may outweigh the potential if it leans too hard into its less plausible elements.

Nicholas Dupree

I'll give Extreme Hearts this much: It earns the first half of its title. This premiere was definitely extreme in two ways: extremely boring, then extremely dumb. Despite being an original work, it has all the markings and gaping flaws of your typical hastily-made mobile game adaptation. There's both a premise just convoluted enough to require too much boring exposition, and practically interchangeable characters who have to straddle the line of idol and sports anime, seemingly because that's what marketing demands.

That latter detail is the extremely boring half. Despite both Hiyori and Saki expositing their sad backstories of failed idol/sports dreams, there's nothing to their characters to make them actually compelling. There's no personality to their dialogue. Their designs, along with the rest of the cast, are so featureless you'd expect them to be background characters in any other show. Sitting through their flat, angsty speeches about how they never want to give up on their incredibly simple dreams (play soccer, be a singer) was a chore that dragged this already uneventful episode to a crawl. It's lifeless, ironically heartless melodrama that can't even be intense enough to be accidentally funny.

Then we get to the actual gimmick of this show, which is where things get extremely stupid. Using high-tech equipment to enhance regular sports is a pretty familiar concept, and there's nothing inherently wrong with its implementation here, but every new detail we learned about Hyper Sports just made it seem dumber. Why do the competing athletes also have to be singers – who presumably put on victory concerts like Uma Musume – when the tournament is entirely about traditional sports? If Hiyori is a down-on-her-luck aspiring singer, how can she and her friends afford to rent out a quartet of AI players to practice with and fill out her team for a month? Why would you let a single player register if these are all team games and they'll be playing against actual humans? Why were Sumika and Saki able to join Hiyori's team in the middle of a game with no warning and substitute in while the ball was still in play? It's a cascade effect where every new addition makes it worse.

It reeks of a cheap premise cobbled together because they need something marketable to set this apart from the countless identical multimedia projects out there, and combined with the flat characters there's basically nothing left to keep your interest. So congrats, Extreme Hearts, you've managed to be a bad idol show, bad sci-fi show, and bad sports show all at the same time. Truly extreme.

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