OP: 「超天界カミダイオー」 (Chou Tenkai Kami Daiou) by Fuchigami Mai
「いきなり超天界!」 (Ikinari Chō Tenkai!)
“Suddenly, the Heavenly Realm!”
When I saw this on the Summer chart, I had this impulsive desire to see what it would be like as I was under the assumption that it would be a “so bad it’s good” show. After all, a show about magical girls for promoting cities named Action Heroine Cheer Fruits opens itself up to being picked apart for sharing common threads with other more shameful fare or guilty pleasures. The title alone made me anticipate how bad it could be, and how many minutes it would take before the show jumped a hundred sharks. To my surprise, Action Heroine Cheer Fruits actually had a great first episode!
Although it shares the main message of promoting a small town with Sakura Quest, the show owes a lot of its identity to Love Live! with the ever expanding group of cute girls inspired by television stars to pursue a career like theirs. Instead of idols, however, we follow the concept that cities across Japan have local heroes where actors and actresses perform sentai stage shows while they promote local brands and destinations. Akagi An (Itou Miku) lives and breathes the most famous one, Kami Daioh, going so far as to be able to memorize her movements and shows by heart. However, Hinano City has no such heroes in their town, so when the governor’s niece, Shirogane Misaki (Ichimichi Mao, aka M.A.O.), catches onto the idea that they could help boost the town’s dwindling popularity with local heroines, she doesn’t know where to start…until she sees a show An’s new friend Kise Mikan (Yamazaki Erii) created for her little sister. From then on, An and Mikan are enlisted by Misaki to help form a local heroine group and promote their suburban town.
The first episode is much easier to digest than it seems, which can be a double edged sword. It’s your typical story of high school girls who want to be stars, but it’s as engaging as its predecessors with a premise that is fascinating to learn about, yet makes sense. I spent a while on the wiki page for local heroes in Japan to learn that they are well-established in several cities to promote products, local scenery, traffic safety, and films among other things. It’s interesting to see what it means for An to be so invested in Kami Daioh that she has her merchandise, knows her routine in-and-out, and bought the same ginger soda that she gave a promo for during her TV performance. The anime shows enough attention to detail and fascination with local heroes that it’s entertaining to see how influential these programs are to the town’s youth. I feel like it pulled me into it the same way Ballroom e Youkoso got me enthralled in ballroom dancing in its first episode. It does what every first episode of a show like this should do; introduce the subject matter like it’s the greatest thing in history.
It also helps that it has a good sense of humor. Peppering in clips of An spending entire classes sleeping during the montage to create a replica of the Kami Daioh shows was a great way of showing where her priorities lay. What I appreciate the most about this episode is how the straight person, Mikan, turned out to the funniest. The moment where she was agonizing over what to do after she lied to her little sister about taking her to a real hero performance after Kami Daioh cancelled her appearance at Hinano City was priceless. In fact, many of her reactions to the conflict she constantly finds placed on her lap make up a bulk of what makes the show funny.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Action Heroine Cheer Fruits, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked the first episode. Not sure if it will gain as much traction in popularity compared to everything else this season, but it’s worth giving a shot if you enjoy watching cute girls setting goals and working towards their dreams, or if Sentai stage shows are something you’ve been curious about.