by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Cheer Boys!! ?
In my inaugural Cheer Boys!! review, I worried over the show's rapidly swelling main cast and whether it'd be able to keep its narrative thread while juggling so many characters. Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong. The storytelling of Cheer Boys!!, complete with satisfying character development and a well-paced plot, is the heart of the show. What this episode lacked in quality art and animation, it more than made up for with story.
The cheer team found six willing members just like that, but the seventh is going to be tricky. Sho is a talented gymnast, but he's prickly, and he has a lot of misgivings about the lot of “amateurs” trying to pass themselves off as cheerleaders. Now it's up to our boys to convince Sho they mean business—by mastering a back handspring, every single one of them. This is only the third episode, and already Cheer Boys!! has a massive cast with six main characters trying to recruit a seventh, plus several notable side characters like Haru's sister. The genius comes from the way the narrative juggles their stories and makes them fit.
In the scene where Gen monologues on the way his childhood friend Ichiro has always been effortlessly good at everything, Haru is reminded of his sister and her superior judo skills, so he can echo back exactly how Gen feels. There are so many threads tying the cheer boys' stories together besides the superficial “they're all in a club together.” There's also time to focus on just one character's story in each episode, this time with Wataru. Over the half hour, we receive several hints that Wataru is making friends for the first time, like when he geeks out over the cheer team's group chat. Later, when he succeeds at a handspring, he basks in his friends' shared celebration of his accomplishment—“I've always been running alone. I always felt out of place.” It's a moment that serves a dual purpose: to magnify one member's personality in a sea of characters and to share an intensely relatable sentiment. I was close to tears when Wataru said this, because who hasn't felt alone before?
However, all of this beautiful narrative is framed with so-so art and animation. For an episode about back handsprings, there is remarkably little animation of gymnastics moves. A lot of the time, the boys are shown in still images mid-handspring. The art is not especially detailed either, and sometimes the boys' faces look a bit unusual. On the other hand, the settings of this show are strong. Already the team has familiar haunts, like the local curry place and the campus quad where they publicly practice their cheers. More effort has been put into character design than actually rendering the characters, and I love the way everyone expresses themselves through their clothing—the perks of this being a college show!
Now seven main characters have been introduced inside three episodes, but all of them have distinguished themselves in such noticeable ways that I'm not at risk of mistaking anyone for anyone else. Chalk it up to good character design, good character development, and a story that gives everyone their moment in the sun. Even if the art quality is low, the narrative depth couldn't be richer.
Cheer Boys!! is currently streaming on Funimation.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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