I would like to conclude this recent look at sports anime by first making an observation. Comedian Ross Noble once said that a man could have sex with another man, and that would be less gay than a man who enjoys roller-blading. However, there is an anime currently being broadcast which I think tops even this. This column will try to prove that a man can enjoy roller-blading and that is less gay than a man who is part of an all-male cheerleading squad. It shouldn’t be difficult.
Cheer Boys!! was originally a novel by Ryo Asai, which was turned into an manga in April 2016 and an anime in July 2016. It is a series that has its ups and downs, but main feeling you get from watching it is unintentional laughter. This series comes across as so unintentionally camp that when these guys do their thing, you cannot help burst out laughing.
The series begins with Haruki Bando, a sociology student at Meishiin University. He used to play judo, but he decides to drop out after he gets an injury. His best friend Kazuma Hashimoto has decided to form a new sports club and wants Haruki to become a member of it – namely an all-male cheerleading club, as he wants to follow in the footsteps of his late parents (his mother was a cheerleader, and his father her coach).
Haruki reluctantly joins, but soon the club starts to gather members: Wataru Mizoguchi, a business student who makes bizarre quotations and cannot handle his drink; Koji Tono, a rather chubby guy who is still capable of pulling off some good moves; Soichiro Suzuki and Gen Hasegawa, who are very athletic and are mainly in the club to try and attract women; and Sho Tokugawa, the team’s strict mentor – who has terrible fashion sense. After a lot of hard work they eventually get together the basic team structure, and name themselves “Breakers”, claiming they are breaking misconceptions and barriers.
There are positives about Cheer Boys!!, one of which is the setting. Nearly all of the sports anime I have covered in past columns are set in high schools and follow guys in their aged around 15-18. Cheer Boys!! is set in a university and thus all of the characters are adults. This leads to one definite positive. As mentioned time and time again, the main audience these sports anime get are women who tend to find the guys sexy, and who often fantasise about the guys in the shows being gay. Unlike all the other sports anime, Cheer Boys!! features characters who are all over 18, and thus there is no trouble when it comes anything underage.
However, because you get so used to people thinking that all these sports series have secretly homoerotic undertones, you cannot help but watch this series in particular and think that everything in it is gay. You are combining this already established phenomenon with a sport that usually seen as being only performed by women. Before this series began the only male cheerleader I knew was George W. Bush, who when he was at college cheered for a team called the Nads, and who had shirts printed reading: “Go Nads!”
Because you have the mix of gayness and the very feminine sport, almost everything in the show comes across as camp, especially when the team actually practice and perform. You can’t help but snigger when the team shouts out phrases like: “We are B-O-Y!” At the same time though, you do feel a bit guilty when doing it.
The team may think they are trying to break misconceptions, but it doesn’t seem like it. The message that actually seems to come across is: “Yes, it is good for men to take part in cheerleading, but you are still going to look gay doing it.” It is going to take a long time before those prejudices to break, but if a show like this helps, then we should be glad that it exists and is helping to do something about it.
Cheer Boys!! is streamed online at Funimation.
Links to all the previous columns in “The Beginner’s Guide to Anime” can be found on Ian Wolf’s personal blog.