I originally wanted to watch Action Heroine Cheer Fruits because it looked kind of similar to Love Live! School Idol Project, an anime that I thoroughly enjoyed. However, Action Heroine Cheer Fruits is actually very similar to Love Live in a lot of ways, too similar in my opinion. Let me just shed a little light on how similar. There is a group of high school girls that want to save a building in their town so they create a performance group to try to do so, they add new members along the way and end up with a group of nine girls, all with fun different hair colors. Two of the members of the group are the student council president and vice president. Occasionally the girls' parents and little sisters are included in the story. Some of the struggles the group has along the way include finding a place to practice, finding a venue to perform, coming up with a name and unique group concept, and making an original song. During one episode they go on a trip to the beach together to try to get some inspiration for their next performance. They are also compared against other groups and can see their ranking on a website. They have cute color coded outfits that they perform in, and some of the performances include song and dance. In the last episode one of the members struggles with her decision on whether or not to leave the group, but ultimately comes back because of the power of friendship.
Anyone who has seen Love Live will see how very similar Cheer Fruits is to Love Live, it was almost comical in some parts; Mikan has basically the exact same personality and haircut as Kotori Minami, and there's even a different group where the main heroine has the catchprase "Niko Niko Ninja." Personally, I refuse to believe that these are all just coincidental when there are things as blantant as that.
However, to be fair, there are some things that are different in Action Heroine Cheer Fruits compared to Love Live. In Cheer Fruits the girls don't form a school idol group, it is instead more like a drama club sort of thing where they write and act in plays where they are heroines and villains. I thought that was an interesting concept, although I thought it was never really explained well why this was a thing that so many other towns were doing, every town seemed to be expected to have their own heroine group, which just struck me as strange more than anything. A couple other original things I liked was that there was one member of the group, Genki, who used a wheelchair or a cane, I thought that was a welcome addition. I also liked Roko lived in a train with her dad and they were able to use a train platfrom to practice and perform at.
The story was fairly slow and predictable. In the beginning Misaki figures out that the town cultural center, which her grandfather built, is going to get torn down because it's not being used very much for performances and the audience turnout is low. So she wants to save it, and yes, of course, it gets saved at the end. (Just like Love Live...) Any other conflict that was brought up during a specific episode was almost guaranteed to be solved in that same episode. Mikan has stage fright? Solved almost immediately. Yuuki is paranoid and anxious? Solved as soon as she joins the heroine group. They can't practice at Mana's place anymore? Well that's super easily solved. It just seemed like nothing was ever a serious problem and there was never a lot of tension because of that.
As far as characters go that's probably the weakest point of Cheer Fruits. Having a nine character main cast is difficult, Love Live didn't even handle it perfectly, but Cheer Fruits handles it worse. Almost all of the characters, perhaps excluding Misaki, Mikan, and Roko, can be summed up in about two traits. Genki, smart and tech savvy. Hatusri, obsessed with Misaki. Kanon, ultra competitive and at first is an enemy of the group. Mana, business savvy. Yuuki, former idol and good singer. An, super energetic and enthusiastic. The other three more fleshed out characters were more fun to watch. Mikan struggles with writing scripts sometimes, and also feels like she isn't contributing to the group. I liked that she had more of that internal conflict. Roko and Misaki's relationship was fun to watch as well, they had a complicated past and that sort of carried over into this story as well. Other than that the relationships between the girls aren't explored nearly enough. Most of the nine get very little backstory or dedicated screentime, and that was dissapointing to me, I wanted to get to know everyone better. Most of the dialogue in a group setting could have been said by any girl, it wouldn't matter, none of them have enough unique personality.
I understand that with only 12 episodes, it's difficult to make 9 fully realized and fleshed out characters. HOWEVER, with the amount of screentime that the performances are given, I think they could've made the performances more montage-y and spend more time with the group and their relationships with each other.
Ultimately, for anyone interested in this I would recommend watching Love Live! School Idol Festival instead. Action Heroine Cheer Fruits doesn't offer enough of its own originality to merit watching it, almost everything done in this show was done better in Love Live. Not to say Cheer Fruits didn't have its own touching or comedic moments and solid animation, but in the end, its not enough to put it even on a similar level to Love Live.