Backflip!! – Review – Anime News Network

To be honest, Backflip!! is a hard show to watch again. Written, the story feels like a post-cookie cutterTo free! sports anime, with a young man coming across a team of eccentric but talented underdogs determined to finally make it to the big sporting competition. What sets it apart are small details, brief movements, a booming soundtrack, and the light but consequential choices the characters make. It all adds up to make a series that is truly something special, but in a way that is hard to describe in words.

When I started Backflip!!I was exhausted by this particular genre after forcing myself throughout skate stars and WAVE!! -Let’s go surfing!! Too many sports anime turned out to be advertisements for buggy mobile games or designed primarily to push character merchandise. Sports were an afterthought, filled with animation shortcuts or scripted in a way that specifically avoided showing more than a few seconds of tricky animation at a time. I didn’t want to invest my time or my heart in another show like this, so I approached Backflip!! with great apprehension.

But then I watched the first episode, and when they showed the full four-minute rhythmic gymnastics routine, non-stop, it became clear that it was something completely different. Turns out the show wasn’t made as part of a cross-promotion with a dozen other releases in different mediums, but as part of a project to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the earthquake. earth and the Tohoku tsunami. It takes place in Iwanuma, a city in Miyagi, the prefecture hardest hit by the earthquake. their rival team hails from Aomori, a neighboring prefecture with a particularly prestigious men’s rhythmic gymnastics team that performed in the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics. With a backdrop like this, how could- he Backflip!! be anything other than a labor of love?

Of course, the rhythms of the story are typical. Shotaro stumbles into rhythmic gymnastics, taking it easy but worried about whether he’s an asset or a liability for his more experienced teammates, most of whom are third-years hoping to finally make it to national competition. Interhigh. The team’s other freshman is hugely talented and not sure he’ll live up to it, and the older members are largely core archetypes, each with their own quirky obsession like the movies. of yakuza or bonsai. They have a powerful rival team consisting mostly of analogues to their own. When it seems like they’ve almost made it, there’s a crisis that casts doubt on their future and their ability to compete. There are absolutely no surprises to be found in the narrative.

Yet somehow, despite Backflip!!Strictly adhering to the formula, it really comes together into something special, a testament to the skill of the animators and the power of visual storytelling. Yes, Shotaro gets into rhythmic gymnastics surprisingly quickly, but it’s easier to suspend disbelief knowing that he’s been athletic since he was very young and has finally found the sport that’s right for him. Yes, Onodera is a typical otaku idol, but flashbacks showing him first with short black hair, then short blonde hair, before he reaches his final Pokémon evolution of long blonde hair with pink highlights gives a impression of how he has developed a sense of self and individuality over time. One of the show’s best episodes explains how their mild-mannered coach came to be who he is today after suffering a life-changing injury at the peak of his career.

In addition, rhythmic gymnastics is a particularly visually striking sport. Internationally, it is seen primarily as a women’s sport, with only women competing in major competitions. The male version is much more niche, mostly based in Japan and Spain with little presence elsewhere in the world. It dispenses with the instruments used in the female version, focusing solely on synchronized bodies moving through space, choreographed to music, the art existing alongside athleticism. It doesn’t require a degree of technical knowledge or outside storytelling to be enjoyed like most sports, as the backflips, headstands and throws are awesome no matter how much you know about point values ​​or techniques. .

Perhaps that’s why the staff chose to fully animate the competition segments without ever cutting out commentators on the sidelines, or more obvious shots of random air ducts. They’re mostly animated using computer graphics, sometimes with traditionally animated close-ups of the characters to highlight their expressions, emphasizing that, as easy as it sounds, what they’re doing is physically challenging. While that won’t satisfy CG’s most ardent haters, there’s clearly been a lot of effort to make them look like bodies with gravity-affected mass.

Outside of competitions, gymnastics sequences use little CG, instead using very smooth traditional animations, some of which may or may not have been rotoscoped. Here, too, the focus is on weight and movement and how much work it takes to make their movements seem effortless to the viewers. The characters don’t just spring into the air; they train, they wobble, they must find their centers of gravity to succeed – details that are mostly brought to life by lines and colors instead of three-dimensional rendering. Even in scenes where they’re just hanging out or talking, the characters’ acting is precise with attention to individual detail, making their exaggerated personalities feel a little more real.

And if what you’re looking for are sweet boys with over-the-top personalities and the moe they bring to you, Backflip!! will serve you well. Few bands are better at designing male characters to be as appealing as possible to female audiences than shoujo manga authors and the team behind Backflip!! enlisted Robicobest known in English for creating the manga my little monster, to make the original designs with great success. There’s an almost 80s look, with chunky puffy bangs and soft, curvy lines. The characters are great fun to hang out with, even though they’re stereotypical, and the cast has great chemistry. It’s a bit of a shame that development isn’t really evenly spread – Tsukidate, the bespectacled, bonsai-loving vice-captain, in particular never really has anything to do.

A perfect metaphor for the overall tone of the show is how he handles the lighting. It’s rarely dramatic or colorful, but careful attention to source and an extra layer of shading gives a greater sense of depth of field, which adds to the sense of characters moving through space. It’s subtle, but pushes the animation’s jaw-dropping beauty at key moments. Nothing about Backflip!! is flashy or new, but the level of care and subtle touches will set it apart if you give it a chance.

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