by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Cheer Boys!! ?
Now that there are seven main characters in Cheer Boys!!, the team has a minimum number of members to start practicing routines. This was good on a narrative level, because it gave the show more time to explore these still-new characters. From an unusual sport choice to a university setting, this show breaks out of the box in several ways, but it still maintains a core value of bonding and friendship. Production values and visual direction continue to suffer in this episode, but the characters' growing trust and closeness adds depth to the show.
Sho is using all of his gymnastics knowledge and about half of his contempt to teach the other six how to be expert cheerleaders worthy of doing stunts. But at the same time, it feels like he's holding something significant back from the team. This is especially recognizable to Haru, who's also holding something back from everyone else. At first, it's difficult to pinpoint the origin of Haru's anxiety, which seems to come from a general sense that everything is spiraling out of control. First it was just him and Kazu messing around, and now it's seven people who meet regularly, want to collect dues, and obtain official cheer uniforms. But soon, it's apparent that Haru's worried about his role as a flyer, or “top” as the Japanese terminology goes, and he jumps visibly every time he overhears the word out of context (an especially rewarding part of the episode). After all this, it turns out that Haru is afraid of heights.
It's great to see how kindly the other teammates take to Haru's confession, and much of the episode focuses on helping him get over it. There's a sliding scale here with fear on one side and trust on the other. That's the lesson gleaned from the boys' visit to the Meishiin Women's Cheerleading Team practice: even unmuscular flyers can stand up straight if they really trust the people holding them there. As Haru begins to open up to his teammates, even inviting them to his sanctuary on the roof, he becomes better at cheerleading too. Meanwhile, Sho continues to resist his teammates' help, and as a result he does not grow at all this episode. This focus on trust and friendship is such a familiar core value of sports shows, and it's fulfilling to see it here.
Visually, this episode was just okay. For a show that focuses so much on motion, it cuts a lot of corners. Sho's creepy drawings were better animated in their stunt work than even the girls' cheerleading team, which was shown mostly through stills. But nice background art, emotional voice-acting, and a peppy soundtrack keep this from being too noticeable.
By the end of the episode, the team has come up with the name Breakers that we see in the ending theme. This conversation about breaking down boundaries and stereotypes is almost second-hand embarrassing—in a good way. Haru, and now Sho, may be holding stuff back, but the rest of the characters are excessively outright with their emotions, so putting them all together results in almost too much optimism, energy, and cheerleading pep. When these bombastic personalities clash, bond, and comfort one another, the heart of the show shines through.
Cheer Boys!! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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