Cheer Boys!!
Episode 5

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Cheer Boys!! ?

It's finally time for the Cheer Boys to get in gear for their first public performance. And yet, this episode is anything but hyped up or tense. This week's story is told in a series of brief vignettes taking place over the course of two months, so there's plenty of time to adjust to any inevitable setbacks. As we grow more familiar with the cheer boys, and they grow more comfortable with each other, this is turning out to be one of the most relaxing shows I'm watching all season. Just like the rigidity of high school gives way to the unregulated freedom of college, this sports anime set in a university environment is refreshingly unstructured and chill.

This week is the calm before the storm—the show is giving us one more episode with our seven core members before expanding to everyone shown in the opening sequence. I really appreciate that. There are several occasions in this episode that cement the team dynamic, which will certainly continue as the Breakers move forward. Kazu has encouraged the team to learn the routine his late parents did for their first college performance, in a move that is certainly cathartic and full-circle for him, and his team is happy to oblige. The climax comes on a hot, irritable night where each member dissolves into a domino effect of self-pity, each insisting that he is the team's weakest link by airing his own insecurities, resulting in a vulnerable moment of realization that everyone is equally worried about bringing down the team. The perfect resolution to this moment comes from the team's most neurotic member, Haru, with a stern “Don't give me that crap.” Since we follow Haru around most often and spend a lot of time in his head, it's cathartic to have him be the one to break up the pity party and remind everyone of their unique value to the team.

This episode has a really gentle ambiance, showing us places that have become familiar to both the characters and the audience. With soft, warm background art and chill music to convey a lazy summer mood, there's never any doubt that the cheer boys will meet their routine goal with time to spare. When they're sitting around Wataru's living room watching Kazu's parents' cheer routine, the camera angles make it feel like you're in the room with them. The same holds true when they're sitting around eating shaved ice at their regular diner, and when they're turning Haru's most sacred space—the roof—into a place where all seven of them can feel comfortable working together. It's really an echo of how I remember my college days, at least the non-exam-cramming parts—an endless stretch of freedom and a relaxing change of pace after the rigorous march of high school. The only deadlines are the ones these college kids set for themselves. Two months to master a cheer routine? Of course they can do it!

This show isn't about trying too hard, as Sho's awful, ebullient drawings (and tangentially, the so-so show art) indicate. We don't worry about Haru because at this point, it's hard to tell what he's so worried about. Instead, this show offers space, time, and plenty of it. Sure, when Haru does a cheer in Chinese class, and when the Breakers do their routine entirely in broken English, it's second-hand embarrassment to the max. But these somewhat cringeworthy cheers capture the spirit of college as a time for experimentation and discovery in an environment of the students' own making, and the result is a show that's totally easy to watch.

Rating: B+

Cheer Boys!! is currently streaming on Funimation.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist

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