Back in July, before the summer season of anime started, I was assigned to pick my most anticipated anime of the season. I chose Cheer Boys!!, somewhat to the surprise of my editor. Now that the season is over, I must ask whether that choice was correct or not.

As I originally stated, my reasons for choosing Cheer Boys!! were completely logistical. I’ve never read the original manga and had no initial emotional investment in the series. My reasons for making my choice were threefold:

    1: It focuses on a less popular sport, which tend to be of high quality–as the creators want to make it appealing to people unfamiliar with the sport.
    2: It looked to be about a group of people who are support characters. They are heroes by helping other people be heroes. An interesting route to take.
    3: The gender reversal opens up a lot of opportunities for interesting plot points.

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Looking back on the whole series, it turned out to be very different from what I expected. Cheer Boys!! was a story of growth. It was about characters who all wanted to break out of the shells they had created for themselves, with coming together as a cheerleading team serving as a vessel for them moving forward.

In terms of technical points and terminology, by the end of the series, I had far more respect for cheerleading than I ever had before. There wasn’t a huge amount in the way of facts and factoids other than positions, roles, and the knowledge that it’s really hard. Still, seeing the characters drive home the importance of training, cooperation, and trust made me appreciate the sort of things that cheerleaders make seem effortless on the field.

My assumption that Cheer Boys!! would be about people who are support characters was dead wrong. In fact, there were very few points during the story where the Breakers actually came to support anyone other than themselves. And yet, that was the point of the whole thing. A lot of stories in anime are about coming to accept who you are. Cheer Boys!! did not take that route. From start to finish the series is about not being satisfied in a complacent, safe little corner of life, but breaking down walls to grow and evolve as a person and not to be satisfied with the easy route. There is enough variation in the characters that a viewer can easily find someone in the cast to serve as a proxy of themselves and obstacles may face.

The issue of an all-male cheerleading group hardly came up from the perspective of gender roles, which was refreshing. I had expected the topic of guys doing what is generally perceived as a female-centric activity to come up, but throughout the series it was never a focal point.

Despite the series pretty much subverting all of my expectations, it was still a very solid series throughout. I thought it would be a story of cheerleading laced with character episodes. Instead, it turned out to be a story of character growth laced with cheerleading. Either way, that’s not a bad thing.

Cheer Boys!! can be viewed with English subtitles on FUNimation and AnimeLab (AU/ZN).

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