Here we have a show whose setup feels very familiar but the motif and execution are what set it apart. Question is whether all the cogs in the wheel worked together well enough to deliver an overlooked gem of the Summer 2017 season. Let us find out as we take a look at Action Heroine Cheer Fruits.
Genres: Slice of Life, Comedy, Action
Themes: Tokusatsu/Live-Action Hero Show.
Number of episodes: 12
Plot Summary: Due to the popularity of a certain city’s “action heroine”, many districts across Japan have taken on their own local action heroines, holding various live action hero shows to promote their towns. Misaki Shirogane is a high school girl and niece of the governor of Hinano City, which is in heavy debt due to its dwindling popularity. After witnessing two of her fellow students, Ann Akagi and Mikan Kise, putting on an amateur hero show, Misaki enrolls them and other girls into the Action Heroine Project, in which they become local heroines and put on live shows to help revitalize their town.
As mentioned above the show’s setup is very familiar, “Group of girls come together to save a beloved establishment from shutting down or help the economy of their town grow through their activities”. It is TECHNICALLY an idol show but instead of being the standard idol team it is a group putting on a stage show about superheroes.
What makes AHCF special is it being about a (as far as I know) rare subject in anime/manga, the tokusatsu entertainment medium. Tokusatsu, long explanation short, refers to live-action shows about superheroes, super teams (super sentai for example) and/or giant monsters (kaiju). AHCF went for a super team with its show within a show. We get a pretty decent look at what goes into producing an independent tokusatsu show and all the obstacles it must face within the staff and the competition across Japan. There are also references to real tokusatsu shows fans of the medium will recognize along with other Japanese media.
Next up let us go over the show within the show, that being the tokusatsu series the heroines, whose group is called Cheer Fruits, end up creating, Hina-Nectar. Like other good Girls Club shows with a story that goes beyond them doing cute things, AHCF is primarily a character driven show. Even so, the progress of the series also tells its own story, showing the “fruits” (pun not intended) of the team’s labor. Whenever the girls are pumped the Hina-Nectar episode is epic. When they are troubled the episode is a poor one. It is also nice seeing how talented each cast member is both on stage and backstage via improvisation, ad-libbing and the like. It is pretty cool watching the girls’ quick thinking making the episodes better than planned most of the time along with the episodes getting better and better thanks to the added props and other cool stuff that enhance the viewing experience for audiences.
The animation is solid and has enough color to satisfy viewers’ eyes. The soundtrack is at its best during Hina-Nectar episodes and the OP and ED are cute.
Like I already mentioned the show is primarily character driven. Each of the nine girls follow a familiar anime girl archetype but are not restricted to just doing what said archetype demands of them so they are more than typical. They each also have their time in the spotlight. Some more than others. The amount of development is divided as follows:
- Just enough to get an idea of who the girls are: An(n), Genki, Mana, Hatsuri and Kanon.
- A little bit more than the others: Mikan (Kotori 2.0 to many), Roko and Yuki.
- Characters’ development connected to other characters. Genki, Kanon, Roko and Hatsuri.
As readers can see Misaki is the one who gets the most development of all and it is certainly an arc worth following, especially for peeps who can relate to her. Without spoiling anything let us just say her arc is a very emotionally deep one despite the show’s lighthearted tone. Not saying the girls who get less time are not interesting because all nine have neat to intriguing character development such as the bitter truth of the show business world and finding a talent you never thought you had before to name a few.
On to the yuri. There are some ships but the most prominent pairing, once again, involves Misaki. Her relationship with Roko gets plenty of focus throughout the show to the point that she may very well be the 2nd main character alongside Misaki. There is a third girl who oozes with strong yuri vibes but I will let readers find out who it is.
Update: On second thought…no. MisaRoko is not a ship. It is more than that. Much more.
Overall Action Heroine Cheer Fruits is a hidden gem of a Girls Club and Slice of Life show. While the setup is very familiar the execution and lovable cast are what help it stand on its own and shine. Getting to see what goes on in the making of a tokusatsu/live-action hero show and working on a stage play of sorts are both interesting. The nine heroines are all fun to watch develop on their own and together as seeing their hard work pay off on stage is most enjoyable. Highly recommended to Girls Club/SoL aficionados. Readers who are SoL, Girls Club aficionados AND Tokusatsu fans will get extra enjoyment thanks to the references. Everyone else who found what I said interesting can also give it a try.
PS: If my words are not enough then check out Marina-chan’s editorial on what makes the show intriguing HERE.