By Meghan Ellis
Blurring the lines between “cute guys” and “sports” anime, Cheer Boys!! exploded onto summer screens in much the same way as Haikyuu!! did back in 2014, right down to its enthusiastic use of title punctuation and perfect uniform designs, this time for a male cheerleading team. Bring it on!
But while it’s got the same sporty style, Cheer Boys!! hits it out of the park with serious substance. Beware of writing the show off as just another pseudo-sports-with-gorgeous-guys effort, because aside from the slightly goofy opening theme it’s clear that this show wants to tackle deeper issues; like finding a place where you belong, or dealing with the expectations of those closest to you.
It’s often that young people in universities begin to have these intense bonding experiences, finding they suddenly belong to a tighter-knit group than their high school compatriots. Set as it is in a fairly ordinary Japanese university, I think Cheer Boys!! has the potential to really offer something different from the normal sports anime style, following the lives of athletes once they’re already past the often-used awkward high school stage. There’s some fantastic anime out there about the antics of university clubs – Genshiken, Honey and Clover, and Nodame Cantabile are but a few – but Cheer Boys!! has huge potential for mischief. Add to this the social drinking that’s popular in universities the world over, and it’s a perfect formula for a show that relives many of the awkward and undeniably relatable escapades of the undergraduate.
With the characters themselves described as “slightly odd and cute”, there’s no way the show shouldn’t get to grips with some of the wonderful eccentricities of Japanese university life, from recruiting new members, to surprisingly thrilling discussions of budget allocation, to the hallowed club room decoration and club-wide parties. As it stands now, with no school uniforms or strict dress codes sorting the cast into easily defined tropes, we’re given more insight into the character’s personalities, and the first few episodes see the beginning of a well-depicted friendship develop between main club members Haruki and Kazuma. For me, how that relationship develops will be a key element in Cheer Boys!!’s continued success, as a show that seems to value the importance of a good solid friend in a difficult time.
Beyond the first few episodes, if Cheer Boys!! is going to have sticking power, it’ll be in the way additional cast members are introduced and built upon. Having an eclectic mix of unlikely friends is a crucial element of most university- and sports-based anime, mirroring as it often does the real life phenomena of the melting pot of higher education culture. For the show to maintain momentum, each cheerleader should really have a distinct, developed persona without straying too far into idol-anime archetypal territory – and if it does go there, it should definitely stick with the “slightly odd and cute” mantra to bring something new to the table. After all, there’s nothing wrong with poking a bit of fun at fans’ dearly-held persona preferences!
For now, I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on how the unlikely cheerleaders in Cheer Boys!! plan to win over the hearts of female sports anime fans from the Iwatobi Swim Club.