Well this was not what I expected when I saw the cover art.
Most sports animes have a character joining an existing team, but in Cheer Danshi, the main(?) character, Haruki, is part of the creation of an all male cheerleading team-or at least the attempt to create one.
Haruki is part of a judo family, his sister is a star, his parents own the dojo, it is expected. Haruki injures his shoulder and cannot participate until he is healed. So he quits. He revealed to his best friend Kazu, that he was relieved to be injured because he felt like he would never live up to his family’s expectations.
Kazu is also on the judo team, because he joined with Haruki, so before Haruki quits, Kazu does. The typical ‘why did you do that!’ argument ensues and Kazu proposes they start a cheerleading team. Haru is very reluctant, and when a third male shows up to join, they find out Kazus backstory. His parents met while cheerleading, and his mothers enjoyment in cheerleading is something he admires. They attend a cheerleading performance and at that point Haru is hooked.
Its a lot like Free! In that they have to recruit members; at least in this episode. None of the characters have experience in cheerleading so it may include a lot of montages of falls and successes, very Bring It On!
Now there are subtle hints of shounen ai. The art style reminded me of Super Lovers, last seasons BL series (season two whoop!!) The two characters, Haru and Kazu had very touching moments.. But they are best friends. Im sure by tomorrow there will be KazuxHaru fan art online. If it did take a turn in that direction, I think Haru would turn Kazu down. Their relationship as it is, is Haru is depressed and directionless while Kazu is taking his indecision and using it to pull him in the cheerleading direction. He would be the seme. But I think it will just be little hints every now and then, all headcannon of fans.
In the beginning I thought Haru was the main character, but as the episode progressed, Kazu became who was focussed on. It is his idea for the team, it is his backstory and he is behaving very main-character like.
Okay so the actual cheerleading that happened was when the 3 members of the cheerleading group, Kazu, Haru, and Wataru, were watching SPARKS, the mixed cheerleading team of their university. The movements in the routine were beyond fluid. I don’t know how it was done, it did not look CGI, but it looked too… fluid. Like it was just so smooth and clean. The details weren’t all there, but it made up for it with that smooth movements and dynamic feel. The screen was over brightened, like badly. There was too much pastel-white color light coming from the sides, making only a small bit of concentrated color. It was probably done to create dream-like filter, but it just looked over exposed.
There was a lot of slow motion incorporated into the movements as well, seeing as it is a sports anime(yes cheerleading is a sport). The backgrounds in general did not move, even with people looking mid-conversation. This was used in a lot of scenes, and its one thing with a nature background, but it looks bad with people unmoving in the background. The background had a small amount of blur as well, drawing your focus to the characters who are speaking.
There was one blunder, where Kazu was speaking but he was blurred , it was Haru who was in focus. The way the characters walked was stiff. The motion difference between SPARKS cheering and Kazu and Haru turning a corner is worlds apart.
Aside from those two small issues, I enjoyed Cheer Danshi. The emotions on Harus face was captured well, the pain, the sadness, the apprehension about joining an all-male cheer team. The animation and detail of characters eyes were important to the animation team(in my opinion) and its shown in the consistent quality.
The anime did not pull me from my seat or draw an emotional reaction, but it is only the first episode. With the inability of the characters cheerleading skills, I am anticipating a lot of montages of them practicing to try and get the viewer to become emotionally invested in them, as well as some comical scenes where the characters feel stupid. But that’s how they learn. Lets go on this journey with them!