Anima Yell! is the sort of show that seems destined to fly under radars. It’s understandable, in a way, since the series is remarkably low-key given the general thrust of comedy anime in 2018. The series has little of the out-and-out zaniness of something like its contemporary Zombie Land Saga or of Hinamatsuri from earlier in the year. It has even less of the bite and edge of something like Chio’s School Road or the conceptual weirdness of Cells At Work. With all that in mind, it might be easy to underestimate Anima Yell! but that’d be a mistake. The show might not exactly be innovating, but there’s something to be said for knowing what you want to do, and doing it well.
And what Anima Yell! wants to do is be a bit of a throwback. Not a very distant one, mind you, but rather than the current crop comedy anime, Yell seems to draw more from light schoolgirl comedies of the sort that were popular in the wake of K-On!. Heck, its even got that superfluous exclamation point in the title! Really though, Yell could’ve come out at any point in the past ten years and not felt terribly out of place. There’s never exactly been a shortage of these kinds of shows (and even this year it did have its peers, things like YuruCamp for example). Still, it’s been long enough since their heyday (I’d argue the golden age for this sort of series is a good ten years in the rear view at this point) that it’s nice to see one that’s just good, solid fun.
What makes Anima Yell! tick? As is the norm for this kind of series; the characters. Anima Yell! is about cheerleading, and subsequently, it follows the life and times of the Kaminoki High Cheer Association (and later the proper Cheerleading Club). The cast are broadly-written but charming. Cheer Association founder and main character Kohane is the ever-optimistic, beating heart of the group (she is also, as is tradition for these characters, not terribly bright). Then you have her foils; Uki, her serious childhood friend, and the outwardly-perfect but rather spacey Hizume. Rounding out the cast are blunt but nervy Kotetsu, and the also-serious Kana, who harbors a massive crush on Hizume.
As mentioned, these are not exactly deep characters per se, but they have enough personality that the jokes involving them land. When they interact, you care, and perhaps more importantly, you care about their individual struggles. Yell doesn’t quite have proper character arcs. It does, though, devote enough screentime to each girl’s personality to let them breathe. As such, the cast size of five main characters and a couple of seldom-seen B-characters seems just about perfect.
Jokes in Yell come in a couple core varieties. For one, you’ve got your straightforward character humor. While all the girls have their own personalities, they are all pretty funny, and the show has a penchant for amusing pull-faces that can get a chuckle out of the viewer without going so over-the-top that they’re grotesque (another point of contrast with the current comedy anime zeitgeist). It has, as the phrase goes, Good Faces.
Another simple trick in Yell‘s arsenal is wordplay. This is endemic to these sorts of comedies and there is really something to be said about the simple and pure humor of a character mixing up the words “cheer” and “chair”. There’s a fair amount of playing with language throughout and while (as is the norm) some of it gets lost in translation, it’s still pretty amusing. Lastly you’ve got visual gags and just flat-out weirdness. Some of this ties into what’s mentioned above (the faces, for example), but other times it’s just things like the show’s love of breaking out chibi segments whenever anything sufficiently silly happens. Or its tendency to give Kohane a bird beak when she’s acting particularly bird-brained.
None of this is to imply though that the show’s only strength is its jokes. Comedy can only truly succeed if you care about the cast, and there’s enough solid writing for that to be the case here. Kotetsu is a great example. She has a self-doubting streak, something that is very relatable to many insecure people, but it’s not to the point of being a simple stereotype.
Then there’s the way that the show occasionally, unexpectedly, handles more serious issues. The third episode features a minor character asking the cheer association to help her confess her feelings to an older person she admires. The audience might assume (as the cheer association does), that the admire-ee is a boy. But, as we learn near the episode’s conclusion, it’s another girl. The show doesn’t exactly dwell on this, but the characters react remarkably realistically. There’s a brief “oh!” moment, and then they all wholeheartedly support her. Kohane especially, giving the girl a little cheer in a very Kohane sort of way. It’s not exactly intense, but it’s the sort of thing that’s just nice to see, and little moments like this are what ultimately make Anima Yell! what it is.
Ultimately, little moments like that are what give Anima Yell! its magic. This kind of thing in general, really, is why Anima Yell! is worth watching. It may not be as flashy as some of its peers, but the show has a good heart, and it’s hard to not recommend something that’s just so relentlessly good-natured.