If sports anime were ice cream flavors, Bakuten!! would be cookies and cream. Not something to push someone out of their comfort zone, but solid and enjoyable nonetheless. The story begins with a newbie gymnast and follows the Ao High team into competition. As the show goes on, we meet rivals, get some training camp action, and learn character backstories. Again, a fairly standard sports show, but it has enough of its own flair that made it really dope. A vibrant and fun cast, colorful visuals, and compelling drama.
The visuals need to be judged in two sections: the CGI performances and everything else. By “everything else” I mean the incredible practice sequences that beautifully transport us into blue skies and water. Throughout the show, the use of blue and white signify Ao and Shiro High. And I like a good blue sky and water, even gratuitously. But I was very invested in these scenes since they connected me to the character’s feelings of freedom and flying.
Now to the CGI performances… At best, I was not a fan, but I can appreciate what they tried to do with it. Clearly they weren’t able to animate the entire thing in 2D, so they made every attempt to utilize the 3D aspect with sweeping cameras, insane lighting, and different angles. They also tried to mask it using lenses and filters. I could appreciate their efforts, but in the end, the models were just not great. And unfortunately it took me out of the experience by how jarring the switches were. When I could get over the switch, the performances were extremely hype, some in part by the music.
The sound of this anime is extremely similar to both Haikyuu and Run with the Wind. Unsurprisingly, the music composer (Yuki Hayashi) is the same and many of the VA cast is the same. If you’ve seen both of those anime recently, the similar sound components make this show eerily seem to be in the same universe as those two. (Particularly Run with the Wind… maybe it’s the dorm thing?) I’m also starting to think that Hayashi can only write one type of soundtrack. Still, the tracks were extremely hype, and his tracks were well suited for the choreography, given that it was his initial artistic background.
In a sports show, the vibe of a team can make or break the anime. The team in Bakuten did not disappoint. Their collective and individual struggle, though certainly dramatized, were relatable. Additionally, though I criticized the similarity of this VA cast to other sports anime, their experience with each other made the banter feel genuine.
Through the past year or so, I’ve watched about one sports anime a season, and Bakuten is definitely one of the better ones. If a show can serve my interest in hyping up sports, cozy team vibes and in general cute anime guys, I call that a win.