Narenare -Cheer for You!- Episode 1: Sky High



P.A. Works has always held onto a wealth of creative and unique ideas, series that you won’t find anywhere else. Narenare -Cheer for You!- episode 1 is a stellar example of that, and how they’ve opted to take it to the next level. Full of wild and different appeals and approaches, the team behind this anime are aiming to set themselves apart from even the creative standards of P.A. Works as a studio. Through cheerleading, parkour, Japanese-Brazilian YouTube videos, and a handful of other subjects, Narenare seems to be doing a surprisingly good job at that, so let’s take a look at what it offers.

First and foremost, the story in Narenare -Cheer for You! episode 1 is impressively strong, though still expected. Through a prologue sequence following a (somewhat) botched cheer routine, a group of girls that was previously inseparable have become fractured, each struggling with their own internal conflicts. Though they’re separated out, and we spend most of our time on main character Kanata Misora, you can get a rather strong feel for the struggles that each have expressed. In Kanata’s case, it’s her difficulty with moving past what happened to her friend Megumi Kaionji (voiced by the lovely Miku Itou). Through the episode, we see her desire to stick by her friend and make her happy, but as the episode meanders about, she finds it in herself to leap forward. It’s a creative piece that effectively sees a single arc conclude itself within the episode, but that conclusion is used to propel the series forward with a justification. We know what happened and what went wrong, we know where things stand, so the question is now: where do they go? It’s really great narrative work, in my eyes, and it’s wonderfully complemented by the stylistic intensity on display with Narenare -Cheer for You!- episode 1.

Speaking of intense style, there’s two areas that stand out within this first episode. The “less” interesting is the solid CGI work at the start of the episode with the cheer squad. I’d expect nothing less out of staff that have experience with this sort of thing (see: series director Koudai Kakimoto), but even still, there’s some pretty solid work in here. In particular, this little transition between a 2D close up and the CGI model is really impressive. It’s creative framing and choreography that Kakimoto had to properly think on to create, and it works out really well. It’s a great way to prolong a cut and sort of trick the viewer into thinking they’re still in the same dimensions.

Of course, that sort of trick wouldn’t work without Naomi Nakano’s off the walls color design. That’s a name you might recognize as they’re doing color design for both Sakuna and Wistoria this season. Yet, Narenare -Cheer for You!- episode 1 looks nothing like those other series. Not that they’re bad, but more so that Nakano just went absolutely crazy with the colors for Narenare. And it works really well, in my opinion. It adds an intense degree of personality that makes it feel like it almost dilutes the stronger characters introduced in this first episode. Alongside that, it also allows P.A. Works to (most likely) work in real location photography as backgrounds for the episode. A very easy example is the temple that Megumi resides in. Though I’ve yet to find it, the exterior seems far too real to be entirely fictional. Either way, Nakano’s color design is like a large flashing light for Narenare– something along the lines of, “Hey! Look at all this color over here!”, and it works really well. Especially since Nakano keeps the colors changing constantly. Yes, even the line art. It’s really unique work that gives the series something to lean on visually.

Though it’s like Narenare -Cheer for You!- episode 1 really needs to lean on anything. It’s got a strong story, it has very standout characters, and it’s got impressively good animation for being 1 of 3 P.A. Works anime airing this season. It’s a really impressive feat with how many flips and somersaults and other tricks and movements are in this first episode (particularly the latter half). I wouldn’t say that P.A. Works has historically struggled with animation or anything of the sort, but for being such a busy season (even though they completed each series in advance of airing) it’s still quite the achievement that’s worth praising.

And the center of that praise is certainly the cold-yet-caring Suzuha Obunai. Her movement in the anime is full of contortions, twists and turns, parkour, and even some gymnastics. I think it’s a very unique way to express Obunai’s disposition and interest in a way that speaks to their personality. For example, Narenare -Cheer for You!- episode 1 uses Kanata’s running as a way to express herself, and then subverts that with the massive leap she takes towards the end of the episode. It’s a very creative way to visually develop and express a character, and I think it works really well. Not everything has to be said, but neither can it all be said in the first place. Obunai’s own intermixing of practices for her unique way of moving around is a great example of that.

Narenare -Cheer for You!- episode 1 certainly has tough competition- both in this season and in general with P.A. Works’ catalogue. Even still, it really successfully sets itself a part. It doesn’t aim to be the single greatest anime ever, but in its attempt to single itself out, it carves out a niche in your heart to occupy. The strong characters, the intense and unique colors; it wants to be a unique experience unlike much of anything you’ve seen before, and it hits its mark within the first episode.

And because of that It has everything that makes a great P.A. Works anime, all in the package of a single episode. It has me intensely curious as to what it might be able to explore with 11 more episodes. Though at the same time, it’s got so much personality in this 20 minute slot that I’d be fine if it stayed like this. Sure, the cheerleading might be missing, but when everything else is so strong and creative (I mean, a chase sequence in a series like this?) it’s hard to argue that you still need more. So if it wasn’t clear, P.A. Works continues their near-limitless hot streak with anime originals and stylistically strong work that puts them off in their own fun-filled world (which can also be read as: check out Narenare -Cheer for You!- episode 1).

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