by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Cheer Boys!! ?
After an abrupt and unplanned recap episode, I had high hopes that an extra week of development would make for an especially great latest installment of Cheer Boys!! Instead, the show decided to push itself to hard mode by more than doubling the size of the main cast. With that handicap in place, it's truly remarkable that the show manages to not only continue, but deepen, the storytelling and emotional threads it has been unraveling since episode one. On the other hand, I wouldn't call the art or animation anything more than average, and actual cheering was noticeably absent from the episode.
"So many new members, and so many strong personalities!" After just one public cheer routine, the original Breakers are now outnumbered by their newbies. There's the three Yankee guys, the former ballerina, two actual breakdancers, a guy with an afro who Wataru dubs “Outstanding Broccoli,” a pessimistic wet blanket in an “Earnest” shirt, and (possibly) the Chinese teacher's son. Kudos to Cheer Boys!! for not simply relying on different types of moe (except in the case of Saku-chan, an obvious shota), but you can see a different kind of shortcut in play here: groupings. The Yankees don't have their own personalities; there's simply no time to differentiate them. Same with the breakdancing brothers—they could easily be just one person. Even the original Breakers can't tell them apart!
Fortunately, the episode isn't really about the newbies, except as a bloc. I have no idea how long this anime is going to run, but I laud the choice to keep the new characters as background, brought out for the occasional gag. The true emotional center of this episode is Haru, and that's a constant that's never really gone away. The newbies have a purpose to show how far Haru has come in asserting himself as he instructs and directs them. There's a clear arc of emotional development in this episode, too. When the cheerleaders see the judo team coming up the street, Kazu subtly guides Haru away so he doesn't have to face them. Later, when the judo guys make fun of them being male cheerleaders, it's Haru who stands up and defends their sport. Even better, the judo guys back off real quick. Haru's newfound courage has certainly inspired Sho to come out of his shell and reveal the painful episode that made him shy away from stunts. It's yet another great example of this series' investment in character development. Their new coach Takagi makes it clear that mental state is just as important to training as physical, when she passes out diaries to the team with a provocative personal message for each boy. This is a sport that's already rife with mental anxiety—there's a comment every single episode about how they're cheerleaders even though they're boys. The journals are there to help them through it.
There are some low points in this episode, like the series' first gay panic moment as Gen asks a newbie “Wait, did you join because you're into guys?” with terror. It's about as funny as the early jokes about how Ton is heavier than the others, if you catch my sarcasm. It's also telling that the visible cheering exercises, like planks, are easy on the animators. It's fitting that Cheer Boys!! is based on a novel and not a manga or anything more visual. This series' strength is always going to come not from its visual flair, but its emotional depth.
Cheer Boys!! is currently streaming on Funimation.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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