What’s it about? After being captivated by a cheer demonstration, Kohane enters high school determined to join the cheer club—unfortunately, her school doesn’t have one. Looks like getting a team together will be her first big challenge!
Every season there’s a club or sports anime starring cute girls who do cute things. And every time it’s a struggle for me to review them, because this genre is generally Not For Me. That being said, I think I can pretty confidently say that if the “cute girls do stuff” genre is your thing, this has a few obvious points in its favor.
The foundational factor is that the show takes cheering seriously, repeatedly commenting on how athletic the cheerleaders are. When high jumps are performed, the girls are wearing shorts rather than panties under their skirts, so that the focus is on their skill rather than fanservice. While a lot of what draws Kohane to the sport is the allure of being able to support others, the writing centers around the idea that this is a sport, requiring just as much physical prowess and trust in one’s team as soccer, tennis, and so on.
I don’t think I have to tell anyone reading this review that women-dominated activities are often treated as easier or more frivolous than comparable ones dominated by men, so it was nice to see that, as of this premiere, Anima Yell! acts like a sports show rather than a cheesecake one. Likewise, there’s already an emphasis on the trust and communication necessary in a sport where you’re flinging your teammates up in the air.
Humor-wise, there’s a heavy influence on fourth-wall based humor, some that hits (cheer veteran Arima wondering how anyone could’ve possibly known she used to cheer right before doing a lift move on a student trying to reach something) and some that doesn’t (a running joke about Kohane saying “chair” instead of the loanword “cheer” that’s run through the ground and into the molten core of the earth).
The general tone is extremely chipper, which became so exhausting that I kept finding other chores I desperately needed to do in order to get away from Kohane’s relentlessly genki spirits for a minute. If you’re not charmed by cute, perky anime girls being awkward, the majority of this episode is going to be a looooooooooooooong sit.
In the “just kind of baffling” corner, it’s no surprise that the show contains elements of yuri meant for shipping but probably not canonical acknowledgement; what is weird is that, aside of one flustered conversation with Arima, most of it involves Kohane’s friend Uki (EDIT: who sure does read like her sister, including being referred to as her “guardian,” but readers assure me is in fact an unrelated friend). Lot of blushing, lot of jealousy, lot of pseudo-parenting because Kohane is borderline-incapable of taking care of herself.
The script also makes sure to unload Arima’s Tragic Backstory here in the very first episode: turns out she was Too Special, Too Good. And while a message about how good teammates inspire one another to push themselves and celebrate each other’s successes is a valuable one, I’ll admit that the angsty flashbacks pulled more incredulous laughter out of me than pathos. SHE CHEERED TOO HARD. SHE WAS TOO ANIME PROTAGONIST.
(Because students in Japan don’t have to deal with overwhelming pressure to succeed that they feel they can’t live up to, with a connection to high suicide rates among that age group or anything. No no, it is The Specials who are being brought down by the “underachievers.”)
Really though, this is a harmless show. These nice, archetypal girls are going to get their team together, and learn things about cheering, and they’ll probably win a competition, and it’s all going to be at the very least adequately executed. If you’re missing Harukana Receive, this might fill that hole in your heart.