My Action Fruitness is of no use here! Run like school girls!
Action Heroine Cheer Fruits was bound to fall under most viewers’ radars. It had a goofy name, colorful magical girls that could scare away some audiences, and there are already enough big name anime in the season to place a higher priority on those. At first, even I judged it based off of how it looked, and expected it to be so bad it was funny based off of the title and the cast of girls with bright, technicolor hair. However, this first episode blew away those expectations immediately with how much dedication its cast of characters had towards creating a magical girl troupe for their town.
The premise throughout the remaining episodes play out like Love Live with An, Misaki, and Mikan gathering up friends and acquaintances at school to help them form their group, rank high in popularity, revitalize their town, and sell that sweet merch. However, the series’ fascination with Tokusatsu help to narrow the scope of their progression to more realistic heights, create a sense of intrigue as to what steps the girls have to take to put themselves on the map, and make the anime stand out as one of the few to tackle the subject matter of the regional Tokusatsu industry. There are numerous anime where hero shows are set up on the roof level of department stores or local festivals, but Cheer Fruits takes it seriously enough that it makes it look cool to work on such productions.
Cheer Fruits was also effective in making the best use of their time by ensuring they are able to place a heavier emphasis on the group’s progression within a 12 episode time-span. As they add more members to their group who all specialize in specific parts of production, their stage show becomes more and more sophisticated to the point that they are able to chart high enough to gain attention from the high profile actresses that An fell head-over-heels for as a magical girl fangirl. The previous three had only been able to stage a tribute act for An’s favorite magical girl, Kami Daioh of Kamiari City, but every new girl brought enough of what they needed to create the Action Heroine Project with the Cheer Fruits. Roko has the connections for where they can stage their shows, Mana knows how to create costumes and merchandise to maximize profit, Genki is the master director of their productions and helps come up with the audio software they need, Genki’s sister Yuuki is their lead singer for the theme song they have, Hatsuri has the pyrotechnics and fireworks down to a T, and Kanon uses her expertise in gymnastics to act as the Cheer Fruits’ antagonist.
With each show they put on, you can tell they are getting better at what they’re doing, are learning from any mistakes they make along the way, and know the right methods of playing to the audience’s emotions. It’s awesome to see how far they’re able to go with the small budget and the young cast they have, and to see them come up with intricate choreography, special effects, and an overarching plot that keeps audiences on the edge of their seat is impressive. The anime portrays the long process of planning it takes to plot out the mythos, characters, and staging of each installment in their stage show in a way that makes it rewarding to see the
cheer fruits of their labor pay off.
The progression in the show is also through the impressive amount of growth much of the cast makes throughout the series. Akagi is a static character as the Tokusatsu fangirl of the group, Kanon mostly grows through her rivalry and budding friendship with Akagi, and I don’t remember as much of Hatsuri’s or Mana’s episodes, but the series gives most of the main girls justice in showing us how far they’ve come from the beginning. Mikan initially has little confidence in her abilities as the scriptwriter for the Cheer Fruits’ performances, but over time, we see her gradually become inspired by just how important the Cheer Fruits are to their young audience, and seeing her fans and her fellow cast members revved up for more of their adventures gives her the boost she needs to trust in her own capabilities. Genki is able to find her own strength as the show’s director, and doesn’t let her physical impairment get in the way of her fiery dedication to making sure every aspect of the show is perfect. Her sister Yuuki is equally dynamic as a former pop idol who goes from being paranoid about how others feel about her to giving it her all to ensure that the Cheer Fruits have a singer that can helm their theme song.
Misaki’s character growth is some of the best as her past starts to take a toll on her, and it takes the motivation from her closest friend Roko and the encouragement of her new friends to get her to find the inspiration she had within her. I admittedly got a little emotional when Misaki was watching the livestream of the Cheer Fruits performance at her low point only to find that they’ve improvised a part where the girls speak in-character about how much Misaki means to them. To see her tearfully clutching onto the phone with her stream as she hears the girls ask her to return was a strong way to give Misaki the inspirational pull she needed to sprint her way back to them.
It isn’t the most original show, and owes its structure to other “cute girls form a group” anime that have sprouted up within the past decade, but Cheer Fruits‘ Tokusatsu-centric theme and emotional core helps the series stand out above many others. While other anime within this niche lose steam quickly by the halfway point, Cheer Fruits keeps the momentum going, and even gets stronger as the episodes pass. It was a very cozy series to marathon, and I would’ve liked to have seen it get popular at some point. In a perfect world, there’d be a second season and a wide following, but we can only hope that it’ll eventually get some love soon. For those who haven’t seen it, I’d definitely recommend watching Action Heroine Cheer Fruits for an anime with laughs, friendship, and the invigorating power of local produce.