What They Say:
Catch an exciting new take on the high-flying team sport, inspired by a real all-male squad in Japan. When Haruki Bando and his friend Kazuma leave judo martial arts, no one would have guessed they would turn to cheerleading! Rocking the college campus with a killer routine, these amateurs manage to draw in a crowd and enough new members to compete in regionals.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets the 5.1 treatment, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is obviously very much dialogue driven with a few areas of competitive cheer being the action and that makes for a simple but straightforward mix. The dialogue dominates with some good placement and handling of multiple characters on screen as it moves among them while the bigger moments of the competition and other outdoor sequences has a more spacious feeling to it. Both aspects handle their respective material well and is essentially problem free. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format with the second disc also having two full-length OVAs. Animated by Brain’s Base, the series has a really good real-world design to it with lots of detail that gives it that lived in feeling. It doesn’t overcompensate with really vibrant or lush colors but keeps things almost a little drab in some ways. But that choice fits well for the setting and it lets the more vibrant areas of the competitive side shine more with the costumes and the like. Colors have a very solid feeling throughout with no noticeable breakup or other problems, resulting in a clean and appealing look. The high-motion sequences look very sweet but the show takes advantage of the fact that a lot of this is dialogue driven with some bits of physical comedy here and there.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the case artwork. Unlike a lot of these o-cards, this one doesn’t come across as more vibrant or colorful, which captures the color design of the show well. The focus on the two primary characters is nicely done while mixing in several others in various poses behind them with some fun expressions and an engaging look about it. The back cover carries the same background to it but without the black border and that lets it feel a little lighter, though still not terribly vibrant. The character artwork is nicely done while the summary of the premise covers everything accurately. The extras are clearly listed as is the episode count and the small shots from the show highlight the overall design as well as can be. The rest is the usual with a solid technical grid that breaks down both formats while the case artwork has a reversible cover that shows off more of the Japanese release artwork.
This release has a solid selection of extras, though I always dislike classifying OVAs as extras. The base material is here as we get the clean opening and closing sequences that every release trie to have. We get an English language cast commentary for the fifth episode as well. The first OVA is episode 5.5 which is a kind of recap piece and easily ignored if you just watched the series. The other is a twenty-six minute OVA that essentially works through various shorter stories with a whole lot of gags and the like. It was interesting in how different it was from the main story as it let them all be a bit more human and silly, but it also did a few more “wild” things that didn’t feel like it connected quite as much.
Based on the novel by Ryo Asai that came out back in 2010, Cheer Boys!! has had an interesting life. It spawned a four-volume manga that ran in the shojo magazine Cookie for a few years and a shonen manga series that ran for two volumes. The anime adaptation landed in the summer of 2016 with Brain’s Base animating it and treating it well with a quality production. Competitive sports shows aren’t all that common overall and I enjoy a lot of what does get produced since they delve into a range of different things. Focusing on a series about an all-male squad of cheerleaders was definitely different and you can imagine it going a lot of different ways. Thankfully, it largely plays things seriously but falters under the weight of a too-large cast and a sense of far too much progress considering their skill.
Delighting me from the get-go, however, was that the series takes place in college with kids ranging across the ages and not just freshmen. The focus is on Haru, a young man who has been doing judo for years along with his sister but just isn’t feeling it. What shakes up his life is that his childhood friend Kazu has a dream of an all-male cheer squad because of his own family history. It’s not exactly an easy sell for Kazu to achieve this as Haru is willing to help promote it but little else, but there’s an infectious energy that comes into it as it progresses, with the first member of the more rotund Ton who tries his best and works hard, and then a slow and steady stream of others. I think the size of the squad approaches sixteen overall and there’s lots of little stories mixed into it, though most of the cast is simply treated by their character traits, like Chen’s poor Japanese as the Chinese member or just some of the creative hair designs for some of the members.
At its core, it’s about Haru and Kazu and their journey here to find what they want to do. The guys set up the squad well enough and there’s an obvious conflict with another mixed group called the Sparks that are more offended by what these two are doing more than anything else. And honestly, you kind of have to back the Sparks members on this to a degree. Haru and Kazu set all of this up and push forward with little experience, no coach, and just a dream of going to Nationals like every competitive sport show. But when you have a group like the Sparks with members that have been pursuing this their entire lives it becomes easy to see why they’re dismissive or frustrated by what the two are doing. I won’t say it denigrates their efforts but it does minimize it with how they feel, so it’s understandable. Haru and Kazu are pursuing things without really thinking through part of it, which is admirable, but it creates a natural and expected riff. There are other ways the Sparks members could handle it, but they don’t factor into the show in a big way other than through a few dialogue interactions that impacts the spirits of the new team, which ends up being called the Breakers.
The series works a pretty decent pattern of progress as more characters join up and bring different things to the team, from style to dance moves and even a coach along the way. It’s all fairly natural but it has the problem in that only a couple of them really warrant any serious attention and that’s really just Hisashi. And only him because he’s just such a curmudgeon throughout it on how he goes after people with their in his view lesser commitment. I understand where he’s coming from but it’s so bad for team harmony in many ways that he becomes a very frustrating character to watch because he comes across as just angry and bitter. Which in a series about cheering, well, that doesn’t help much. It’s a dampening element on the storyline but also one that doesn’t not work. Add that in with some less than engaging stuff in the third act section involving Haru not being too thrilled with all of this anymore and some back and forth before heading to the Nationals and it’s all fairly by the numbers.
Sadly, that’s what the show comes down to in the end as it’s a by the numbers production that’s a little overstuffed with characters. I really liked the early episodes with its pacing and what it was introducing but as it started piling on characters that became largely nameless, it lost some of its allure. I also felt like I was more aligned with how the Sparks members were feeling about this and that the Breakers members were going too far, too fast, and achieving too much considering their start and absolute lack of skill. Heart can take you far, there’s no doubt, but Cheer Boys strained credulity for me a fair bit. For fans of the show this is a very easy pickup as Funimation’s dub hits all the right notes, the encoding is spot on, and there are some very appealing extras that you can’t get through streaming that completists will want. The show felt like it could have been more than it was and just falls short.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 5.5 – The View We Seven Shared, OVA – Various Boys / Easy!! Warm-Up Dance with the Cheer Boys, Episode 5 Commentary, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 7th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.