OP: 「初めの一歩」 (Hajime no Ippo) by Luck Life
「幕が上がる」 (Maku ga Agaru)
“The Curtain Rises”
Cheer Danshi!! is atypical as they come, and for that reason I have a lot of affection for what it has going for it. When looking through the Summer 2016 Preview, this isn’t one that sticks out from the crowd. On first glance the art style is plain and the premise seems like it’s appealing to the sports fujoshi niche, but this episode proved that both of those as misconceptions. It was hard to get a proper grasp of the story ahead of time given how difficult it is to get your hands on the source material, but this premiere proved to be visually satisfying and showed that it’s not like all those other sports anime (which, for the record, I usually love). This one feels like a more grounded story, and the fact this is being adapted from a novel (not a light novel!) is probably the reason why.
This episode doesn’t rush things, which is one of the reason it feels so atypical. Every scene takes its time and sees no need in rushing to make a point – characters mainly have conversations with one another, fleshing out their personalities and making their friendships (whether old or new) seem believable, and Cheer Danshi!! succeeds at that across the board. At the centre of it all is Bandou Haruki (Yonai Yuki), a main character who can’t be put into a single ‘box’. In this episode we learn so many things about him, and none are spelled out through excessive exposition or forced dialogues: he’s introverted but has a load roaring voice when he get passionate, he’s afraid of heights, and all his relationships with the rest of the cast feel genuine – like how a real person would react around those people. The most obvious pairing in all of this is with his childhood friend, Hashimoto Kazuma (Okamoto Nobuhiko), who is much more extraverted, cheeky, and unafraid to express his passions. Their back and forth established in this episode is off to a strong start, and gives me hope that the characterisation will remain consistent throughout this adaptation.
Another relationship worth mentioning are those with his talented sister, Bandou Karuko (Fujimura Ayumi), who outshines him in the judo department, but doesn’t stop him from cheering her on from the sidelines. It’s simply not his passion, and his turmoil with the sport is what sets him apart from his sister – and how good is it to have a brother/sister relationship in anime that doesn’t feel gross or pandering? The answer is: Very Good. There’s also the third member of the cheering squad (or is he the second?), Mizoguchi Wataru (Sugita Tomokazu), who could have been very annoying but ended up perhaps the most entertaining character of them all. Even though this is set in college – another one of the atypical qualities that stands out when compared to everything else airing this season/year/decade – he feels like that one kid in the friend group who just tags along but no one else really likes or pays attention to. Haruki’s uncertainty around him is exactly how I would be, so I found myself enjoying their competitive banter. All things considered, as far as establishing strong character relationships that seem believable and are still manage to be entertaining, Cheer Danshi!! gets an A+.
The most obvious thing here that I should mention is that this is about male cheerleading, which is as original as they come. There’s going to be an anime for every sport eventually – I can’t wait for cute curling girls doing cute curling things! – but this isn’t one I expected any time soon. I’m surprised this even exists in the first place, and I’m not sure if it’ll end up a financial success (unless we get more shower scenes), but at the very least I think we’re in for a college sports show that treats its characters like real people. It’s not the flashiest show of the season, but it’s pleasant on the eye and easy to appreciate so long as you give it room to breathe.