by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Cheer Boys!! ?
Things you won't see in this episode of Cheer Boys!!: cheerleading. But we're used to that, right? Over these last eleven episodes, I've gone through stages of denial, bargaining, and finally, acceptance that this is never going to be a sports anime. But after another week of the same tired jokes, the precarious sixteen-character balancing act, and absolutely zero sports, is it OK to be a little disappointed? This episode's drama was far from original, and even three revolving mini-stories weren't enough to keep it afloat.
It's almost Valentine's Day, and Haru has two different girls on his mind. The first is his sister Haruko, who is still on a losing streak in judo. Haru quit the judo team without even telling his sister, but it takes a lot of guidance from the other little brothers on his cheerleading squad for him to come up with the novel idea of apologizing to her for it—eleven episodes later. The story comes full circle when Haru skips practice to cheer for his sister at her tournament, just like he did in the first episode. Sure enough, she starts winning again! The reason I'm disappointed with this development isn't only because anyone could have predicted it, but because it's overly tidy. I deeply appreciated the way the show didn't make Kazu's grandmother get magically better when his friends came to support him. Haruko's losing streak feels more artificial for getting resolved so easily.
The second girl on Haru's mind is Chihiro, and Cheer Boys!! has been encouraging us to ship that particular pairing for weeks. Chihiro and Haru have had plenty of one-on-one conversations and even exchanged cellphone numbers, so it feels a bit like the show is pulling the rug out from under us by revealing that, surprise surprise, she's Ton's girlfriend! You'd think she'd have mentioned to Haru that she was dating one of his teammates. I've been regularly upset with the way Ton's girlfriend is treated like one long running gag, like it's a shocking thing for a heavy guy to have somebody who finds him attractive.
Also not funny—gay panic. At first I was really impressed with Haru helping Sakuma make Valentine's Day chocolates for Kazu. It seemed like after a few missteps, the show was ready to not make a big deal out of somebody being gay, and since Sakuma's avatar in the team chat is literally Kazu's face, he shouldn't be surprised, right? Wrong. Kazu is very surprised and more than a little obviously unhappy, which feels out of character for the Breakers' reliable team captain, who has previously always put on a brave face for his team in every situation. It's odd that while a little fujoshi fanservice is the norm for most sports anime, the cheer boys treat being gay like a disease they might catch. I'm not saying they need to pander to the ladies, only that you'd think male cheerleaders would be a little more comfortable with their identities.
No cheerleading, no engaging drama, and I've given up on critiquing the art because it's not worth it. All that's left are a bunch of great characters that I've come to like in spite of everything else. At their Valentine's Day dinner, they manage to squeeze some dialogue in from some of my favorites, notably Wataru, to demonstrate how much they've grown since the series began. If only fewer of the cheerleaders were less involved in predictable drama and flat jokes.
Cheer Boys!! is currently streaming on Funimation.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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