by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Cheer Boys!! ?
It's been a couple weeks of mediocrity, but Cheer Boys!! is finally getting its groove back. While the animation is never going to be anything to write home about, the visual quality has shifted from “distractingly bad” to background noise. That frees up this former novel's story to explore an increasingly dynamic group of characters. With last episode's tension abating, the plot bounces characters off one another not only to differentiate them, but to deepen them. Cheer Boys!! has become a story with heart, brought forth by a team of varied, motivated, and thoughtful characters that I love to spend time with.
Since my episode one review, I've agonized that 16 main characters was simply too many. Even Love Live! and similar idol shows that thrive on larger team dynamics know better than to be that ambitious. However, Cheer Boys!! has the advantage of being based on the work of an award-winning novelist, and it shows in this episode's deepening character development. Where we used to lean on grouping similar characters together, individuals are now coming into their own, to the point that I was able to recognize Gin even after he dyed his hair back to its natural color for job hunting. Now when characters are shown together, it's not because they're necessarily similar to each other, but because they've developed a rapport. Look at the unlikely pair Hisashi and Ton—one a cheerleading perfectionist, the other a slow stunt learner. No matter how little any two characters have in common, their devotion to cheerleading is consistent, and that's what makes up the message of this episode. Even if some members are on different levels of progress, they're all equally devoted to the Breakers' success.
“The Dawning of a Bond” succeeds in some of its smallest, humblest moments—details you could almost miss. Did you notice that Sakuma, who reveres Kazu, even has a photo of Kazu as his chat icon? Then there's Kazu's forced smile as his oldest friend Haru begins to suspect that the laid-back captain is hiding something from the team. There's the goofy team retreat, where each member's fun-loving tendencies come out, culminating in Hisashi's unlikely alliance with Ando in cheering “Let's go Broccoli!” Here are two of the show's most polarizing characters— obnoxious Ando and holier-than-thou Hisashi—and their ability to appreciate and bond with one another makes them more endearing to viewers. If even this pair can look beyond one another's abrasive exteriors and recognize each other's' strengths, surely we can too.
So the animation isn't great, but we've certainly cut back on more unfortunate-looking frames. One of the ways this has happened is montages, showing nothing but still drawings of the team practicing and improving. For a sports show, it's remarkably immobile. Not to mention, this is the shortest training camp montage I've ever seen (the same way the cheerleaders had a very short montage-full summer a few episodes ago). It makes you wonder how much more of these small moments of team building we'd see if Cheer Boys!! was more than one season long. Still, I think this is a good problem to have—I'd rather see a show that packs in too much personality and character development than too little.
Cheer Boys!! is currently streaming on Funimation.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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