Theres a few sports anime this season, but this ones a lil different.

Haruki belongs to a judo family, although he’s never particularly liked it. His sister Haruko is phenomenal at the sport and receives a lot of support for it, however he is eventually forced to quit when he injures his shoulder. His close childhood friend Kazu also quits – because as far as he’s concerned, he and Haruki should be together and besides, he only started judo when Haruki introduced it to him.

The two friends want to start something new, and Kazu – perhaps inspired how the usually shy Haruki becomes loud and energetic when cheering on his sister – wants to make an all-male cheerleading club. His rationale for this is that, although there are all-female teams and mixed teams, there are no all-male teams, and he’s long admired the sport as his late mother was once a cheerleader. Their attempts at recruiting members to the club even land them a member straight away in the awkward Wataru, who is eager to try something different.

While Haruki is unsure at first, he eventually warms to the idea after seeing a mixed team performing in person.

This might be my favourite out of context screencap for this season.

It’s easy to dismiss Cheer Danshi as the latest fujoshi-friendly attempt at riding on Free!’s coattails, but the interesting thing about it is that it’s actually based on a true story. Even the uniforms of the cheer team the boys will eventually form (judging from the opening), ‘Breakers’, are identical to the uniforms of the first all-male cheer team at Waseda University – ‘Shockers’. I’m not sure what the exact fact:fiction ratio of the rest of the show will be, but I think that’s pretty neat.

Possibly the best thing about the show in my opinion is that it’s set in university. As soon as I realised this it was like the clouds parted and a holy light shone on my monitor accompanied by the sound of angels. Honestly, this one fact alone is worth major brownie points with me and sets it apart from all the other sports club type anime we typically get. Not only do we get adult characters (which is honestly a relief to be honest), but their interactions with each other and the people around them reflect this. It’s a much more laid back environment to set a show in and gives so much more freedom that I really don’t know why more anime aren’t set in universities. (okay that’s a lie I know exactly why, because schoolgirls. sigh.) Gushing about that aside, there’s a lot of other things I’m pleased to see. The cheer team looks like it will have a lot of characters and they’re honestly pretty diverse. A lot of them don’t look like your typical fujoshi checklist characters (looks like the cute chubby dude is in the next episode, too) and that’s great. I think that Cheer Danshi has managed to do what it seemed like Shonen Hollywood tried and failed to do – create characters that look more like regular people than the ultra-bishounen multicoloured or cartoony types you typically see in anime aimed at women. (Well, there is the pink-haired boy, but he’s cute, so whatever.) It does make me wonder if this will negatively affect its popularity, and I really hope not. The conversations the characters have feel relatively natural and we’re able to get a good sense of the relationship between them already.

In this episode we only really meet three of the boys – Haruki is shy and somewhat plain, but rather adorable, Kazu is at the moment the archetypal childhood friend who has enough guts for the two of them, and then there’s Wataru. Wataru can very easily be compared to Rei in Free! – he even has glasses – but the key difference is that while Rei acted ridiculous and somewhat embarrassing, he often got embarrassed himself pretty easily. Wataru does not, and does absolutely everything with a completely straight face. He’s kind of like a blend of Rei and Sakamoto Desu Ga‘s Sakamoto in that regard, with none of the latter’s cool factor. In other words he was my favourite character in this episode.

There are downsides, of course. The episode itself seemed like it took a little too long to get to the point, and the animation, while passable, is not really as fluid as you’d want a show that will contain a lot of movement to be. This doesn’t really bode well for future episodes, especially when even the OP is somewhat lack-lustre. The plot flow of the episode seemed a little weird to me personally – as though each scene didn’t seem to transition to the next that well.

In all its a decent start and worth keeping an eye on. It’s a pleasant surprise that has a lot more substance than what people may have expected, especially in a season so laden with fujoshi titles. It has the potential to be a lot of fun, so let’s hope.

Poor Haruki, so embarrassed.

Out of 5,