That sad girl is me while watching this show
English: Action Heroine Cheer Fruits
Japanese: アクションヒロイン チアフルーツ
Season: Summer 2017
Length: 12 ep. x 24 min.
Japan has a problem. And I don’t mean the birth problem.
That problem is rural decline. As more and more people move to big cities (namely, Tokyo), they take with them the economic base of the rural areas.
What is the solution? Local action heroines.
[Warning: Spoilers Ahead]
If you first thought was “Huh?”, you are not alone.
Action Heroine Cheer Fruits is set in a town called Hinano (陽菜野市), which, as far as I can tell, is not based on a real town. The Hinano city/prefecture is looking to tear town its performing arts center/concert hall. The reason: its 3000 seats are rarely filled. The catch: the building has a special meaning to Shirogane Misaki, our blue-haired student council president AKA leader type, whose grandfather built the hall when he was the governor of the prefecture. Misaki’s aunt, the current governor, gives Misaki an option; if she can fill the hall, it will be saved.
I should talk about characters here, but it’s hard getting over my lack of enthusiasm; they are all, well, one-dimensional. There’s a little bit of back story for each girl revealed as the show progresses, but mainly all I remember is how conveniently-useful their roles are in the action heroine group.
First up, we have Akagi An, a sporty type who loved action heroines since she was little. She’s the passion of the group, I suppose.
Next up: Kise Mikan, the script writer.
Her creative juices flowing
The student council president, Misaki, and the vice-president and her yuri coupling, Kuroki Roko, serve as the producer and lead villain actress, respectively.
Then we have Aoyama Genki and Midorikawa Mana, who just literally happened to see a recruitment poster and signed up together. Genki knows A/V production and serves as the director as well, while Mana is great with costumes.
A few other characters joined the group in the nick of time, just as they run into trouble procuring talent for a specific thing. For example, when the group needed special effects to spice up their performances, they found Momoi Hatsuri, a construction/explosives expert (SAY WHAAAAA).
Careful, she has a “Hazardous Materials Engineer License”
And when the group needed a singer to provide live songs to entertain the guests, they learn that Genki has a sister, Aoyama Yuuki, who recently left a famous female idol group (a parody of AKB48) due to stress or something to that effect and returned home to become a hikikomori.
Her joining the action heroine group is perhaps the only character development in the entire show.
And last but not least, when our spunky lead feels down, her ex-rival in gymnastic competitions shows up to spur her on:
Shimura Kanon, the stereotypical ojousama type with the blonde drill hair and persistent belief that she must win at everything, literally transfers schools just to be with her rival and ends up joining the action heroine group.
The characters is half of the problem right there; it’s hard to conceive that such a multi-talented group of girls would just happen to go to the same high school in some small town and would all (excluding Yuuki) willingly join an action heroine troupe. Talk about a contrived plot.
The other half of the problem is the lack of attention to the logistics that make such a group performance possible. As the show progresses, not only does the number of actresses in the performances increase, the quality of production and stage props do as well.
From being the butt of niconico jokes to…
…fancy background props, fog special effect, and fast-changing costumes?
Well, never once did they explain how they got the money to do all these things. The action heroine group isn’t a school club, so no school funding there. It’s not officially sponsored by the government either. There are hints of product placements in the action shows,
but it’s never explicitly mentioned in the anime either. And although a few of the girls come from rich families, they never once suggested that they funded all these extravagances. All the props and hardware and costumes that got upgraded are just… there, as if willed out of thin air. For a show that’s supposed to be about putting on action heroine shows, its lack of attention to the backstage side of showbiz is disappointing.
I guess I should talk about the actual plot a little. An, the girl with a passion for action heroines, originally put on action heroine shows with Mikan because she wanted to be just like her favorite action heroine. The government girl caught wind of this and wanted to leverage the action heroine shows to save the town’s concert hall. But somewhere down the plot line, it instead became about competing against other local heroines (including An’s idol, who’s the dominant number one) for popularity across Japan. There’s literally a national TV program that ranks the various local heroine groups week by week, and our group of heroines actually got depressed because they fell in the rankings one week.
The smartest thing anyone said in the show
Talk about losing sight of your original objective.
They finally doubled back to the concert hall plot towards the end as the group rehearses and performs at the concert hall, but it’s all solved speedily and happily.
While the theme is somewhat fresh among anime, Action Heroine Cheer Fruits couldn’t write itself an interesting set of characters. If you are interested in the town-revival theme, Sakura Quest is the must-watch show, followed by Locodol for a similar performance-art take on town promotion. Action Heroine Cheer Fruits is such an underwhelming take on it that it’s more akin to the run-of-the-mill high school girls group performance shows like Love Live! than Sakura Quest.