by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Cheer Boys!! ?
What genre of anime is Cheer Boys!!, anyway? It's definitely not the sports anime I thought it was, as weeks of disappointment over its lack of cheering have shown. But while this show gets low marks for athletics, there's no denying that all the threads of drama it's been weaving together have gradually paid off in big ways. This week's episode balances a massive cast while carefully training the spotlight on two of the cheerleaders' engaging and relatable struggles.
It's time for qualifiers, and Side-Ponytail Anime Mom (who you may have seen in her roles in Attack on Titan, Fullmetal Alchemist, and others) has a big breakfast waiting for Kazu and Haru. But the mood is soured when Haruka (side note: what kind of parents name their kids Haru and Haruka?) refuses to eat with her brother. The Haruka arc has been quietly going on in the background for ages, and now we're figuring out what's behind her bad attitude: Haruka has been on a losing streak. The knowledge that Haruka is soldiering on while Haru quit to join the cheer squad after his own judo struggles is enough to drive her brother to distraction. This comes to a climax when the entire qualifiers' cheer routine occurs off screen, with Haru (and the audience) wondering what the heck happened. It's really the death knell for my hope that this anime is going to use cheerleading as anything but a plot device to further the drama.
Fortunately, that drama is pretty good, as indicated by the second focus of the episode. While Haru agonizes over Haruka's struggle, Sho is also dealing with a sisterly relationship gone south. We knew that Sakura, the woman Sho dropped during a routine, was the coach's sister, but other than that, she's been two-dimensional. This episode reveals her to be a passionate woman with a fiery temper and a fierce loyalty toward Sho. The mystery of the Sho fan videos is also solved—Coach has been sending them to Sakura. Seeing these two make amends after what was clearly a lot of physical pain on Sakura's part and mental agony on Sho's is a big payoff after so many weeks of focus: first as a mystery shrouding Sho's standoffish attitude, then as the revealed cause, and finally as Sakura's story too. The addition of a brand new character, Domoto, who served as a mentor to them both, is less effective. The strongest parts of Cheer Boys!!'s story are the ones it spent weeks laying groundwork for. The hidden meaning of “circus” and the true reason for cheerleading are just extra fluff.
The show looks so-so, the cheering is nonexistent, and I've made amends with that, but where are the other 14 main members of this cast? This episode gave them even less time than usual, opting to introduce new Sparks boys Domoto and Hanasaki instead. It's great to see how the supporting cast has managed to still differentiate themselves using catchphrases and basic reactions (like dealing with nervousness about qualifiers in 14 different ways), but I wouldn't call any of this actual character development. I miss wacky Wataru. I miss the wackiness in general; Haru leaving practice in a Santa suit and a somber expression is just one example of the quirky mood that has faded in place of the drama in recent episodes.
Cheer Boys!! is not the sports anime I came here for, but it's a pretty decent drama. As the season nears its end, I look forward to seeing where it focuses its limited resources.
Cheer Boys!! is currently streaming on Funimation.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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