(if you care, spoilers for all of this anime follow)
Never been more glad to not be writing this blog under my real name. And no pictures because I’m not lewd. At least, no pictures that aren’t of Miyata, who is the best girl out of all of this. Because of character development and plot. You all think I’m joking about the plot, don’t you. I’m not. There is a seriously good plot in Keijo + exclamation marks, nothing unique, but a solid plot all the same, buffed up by the ridiculousness of playing its subject matter absolutely straight, with knowledge of battle shonens, it becomes a glorious descent into a ruthless anime parody.
The second show from fall 2016 I’ve caught up with enough to write a full review/piece of, I went into Keijo expecting to drop it outright. I don’t normally do this with shows, I don’t normally pick things up on a whim and therefore I have a low count for dropped shows. In fact the only anime I’ve ever dropped since getting into the community enough to care about the seasonal cours is Hundred which I only picked up because it looked generic, I wanted to see how bad a truly generic show could be in case I might like it ironically. I couldn’t even do that and only made it three episodes because I decided I was not wasting my life watching crap like that. Keijo only attracted my attention because of it’s… ahem, unique premise and I wanted to test just how bad that was. I expected something so dumb that I would not be able to make it through in a similar way to Hundred. I did not want to like this show. It has a mindbogglingly stupid premise, it should make you feel like you are the dirty men in the crowd watching these girls hit each other with their boobs and butts and everything on display – I’ve never got into wrestling for the same reason, whatever the gender of the performers. And I don’t like fanservice in anime, I don’t watch TV shows to be turned on, and unnecessary stuff in that department, unless it’s funny or legitimately part of the show’s plot, it just feels embarrassing to watch. I figured this and more would make me put the show right down.
So imagine my surprise when Keijo had both a well-rounded cast, girls of all shapes, sizes and with unique fantasy abilities, each fantasy attack taken as seriously as over-the-top shonen attacks are as well as an enjoyable set of episodes and plot and essentially what you have is an almost feminist-appealing (doesn’t pass the reverse Bechdel test through having precisely two named male characters who don’t speak to each other, while the messages are nothing but positive female reinforcement – which for clarity, is what I mean when I say feminist) shonen anime. It still, unavoidably, attracts the male gaze, but it doesn’t linger on the fact that its premise requires that and instead does everything it can to fight that through tone and the way it treats the application of each characters’ ‘ass powers’, it’s more about the girls as individuals rather than what they can provide to the camera. I know the difference, believe me.
See, the fanservice is not so much fanservice as something to laugh at, very few of the attacks are sexualised in any way and even if they are, they serve a plot point rather than just being there for the fans. In that, I’m thinking particularly of Miyata’s climactic finishing move, ridiculous and involving her bare breast exposed in front of millions of people, but is rooted in her judo background and doesn’t feel sexual in the way that other anime that slowly pans over their own girls’ assets feels sexual and embarrassing. Miyata herself was a great character whose journey from a sport she was really good at but didn’t enjoy to something she really enjoyed felt very relatable to me and her character design is really cute. Which is always the most important thing but yes, I loved seeing her on screen and rooting for her – such that the Jungle Gym episode where she had her big moment was my favourite of the series. And I almost always root for the speedster in any circumstance. Kaminashi was also a good lead character, her brash optimism and Kansai-ben made her endearing and she was, and this is always a strength, one of the most well-developed characters there.
The jokes are fast-hitting, from ridiculous attack names like Buttack on Titan (which forced me to stop the episode so I could laugh it out and recover before continuing) or Gate Of Bootylon (as a particular fan of Fate this one was one I was hoping to see ever since I saw it in the opening) to parodies of anime cliches like Kaminashi getting an accidental boob grab on one of her friends. The show even proved self-aware enough to surprise me a little with plot developments in some of the climactic fights. The example I’m thinking of here is in the final East-West fight, the fourth girl on Kaminashi’s Setouchi team not being a pushover and being quite a key player in the victory, despite having not had any decent screen time before, the expectation instead being that she’d be a sacrificial knockout as her brown-haired friend had been in Miyata’s fight. I haven’t seen many sports/true shonen battle anime but I’ve seen enough to be able predict where the plot is going if it’s a cliched show and this was at least above that.
And most of all, and this is the key reason why I’m defending it, I enjoyed it, in spite of myself. I didn’t enjoy having to watch over my shoulder in case someone found me watching it, but everything else, I did enjoy, the girls had a simple but enjoyable journey from beginners to a high-school victory, everyone supported each other and while there were heated rivalries on the Land everyone was pleasant and lovely to each other off of the pitch and each character had a diverse personality and so it felt like a really close college-age group of girls bonding over their sport. While I’ll take conflict in my shows as a necessity most of the time to do interesting things, it’s not the be all and end all. Shows where there is no real hurtful conflict because the characters are all nice people rarely fail to make me happy, because that is just cheery and what life can be like if you are a cheery person – and Keijo surprisingly, is one of these shows. Everyone is happy doing what they are doing and it’s infectious. This is emulated so well in both the OP and the ED. I normally watch those all the time anyway as anime music is one of the fastest way for me to get the ever-important chills, especially with a show I’m currently watching but both of them really emphasised how close and friendly the whole thing was, especially the ending images, which with the lyric ‘my best friends’ and a beautiful view over the Japanese town in which Setouchi school lies is something I could watch over and over again.
No, it’s not the most amazing anime, it has a basic plot and a premise so dumb it was doomed to never be among the greats no matter how they played it. However, the creators had the right attitude towards it, they knew exactly what they were doing, they played their cards right and created an anime that exudes good feelings and camaraderie while also being self-aware enough to throw in tons of bonuses for those who know their anime and can recognise even the most basic parodies. I’m not the most prolific anime watcher and yet I think I caught almost all the references so it’s a great place to start your parody series watching.
And let’s admit it, the fact that this exists, never mind whether it’s enjoyable or not, is cause for celebration. That it’s enjoyable too is a huge bonus.