How does somebody take the most ridiculously fan-service-y thing on the planet, yet walk away with a hit amongst all genders around the world? The answer, my friend, is how it is presented. You see, anyone can craft an anime and just have it be filled to the brim with nearly every part of the female anatomy in the face of its viewers. It's when you take such a thing, concoct a coherent storyline, and keep the show at a mostly serious tone when you've gone the extra mile for the sake of quality. And that, dear readers, is what KEIJO!!!!!!!! was able to pull off.
Yes, we all laughed and hollered when we first saw the trailer for KEIJO!!!!!!!! Even I was excited to bear witness to this madness that the anime realm is presenting. After all, 2016 had been the year of smart, well-written, and top-quality anime the industry has churned out in years, so of course we should reward ourselves with some goofy smut. That's when this series showed both its fangs and surprising brain power, and fans were seemingly tricked into watching yet another smart program.
Okay, perhaps "smart" isn't the right word to describe KEIJO!!!!!!!! Being self-aware is one thing, but to describe an anime where its main focus is on a sport consisting of athletes only using their breasts and bottoms as "smart" would make just about anyone cringe. Even as I type this, I know calling this show "smart" is doing myself more harm than good, but what other word is there? You can't call it clever, nor is it bold by any means. And that's when the right word came to my mind: witty. What KEIJO!!!!!!!! does with its premise and tone showcases a level of wit that most fan-service-filled anime wishes it could accomplish.
So after this lengthy battle of how to arguably call this show somewhat intelligent, what is KEIJO!!!!!!!!? The fictitious sport of keijo consists of players battling it out on floating platforms using only their chests and rear ends to duke it out. In order to win, a team must either knock every opponent off the floating platforms or simply take them out of commission. Newcomer Nozomi (Lynn) aims to become the most successful player, in order to get her family out of poverty. With her best friend Sayaka (M.A.O) in tow, the two dive into the fast-paced world of keijo.
Upon entering the try-outs, Nozomi and Sayaka soon find that they're surrounded by some hefty competition. Soft-spoken Kazane (Kaeda Hondo) has the skill to copy other opponents' techniques, whereas Rin (Rie Takahashi) can fire off multiple butt attacks like a Gatling Gun. These powers get stranger the deeper you go, with various forms of hypnotism, wedgie-infused judo speed, and even aura taking shape of mythical beasts showcased by combatants. It's when Nozomi discovers her own technique, the Vacuum Butt Cannon, when her luck on the platforms falls in her favor.
For the most part, KEIJO!!!!!!!! is a pretty standard sports anime story-wise. A newbie enters their favorite sport with the passion to be the very best. Obstacles are thrown in their way, but after a hard-fought battle, they find a means of coming off on top. Except, you know, this one's about a sport involving boobs and buttocks, which is pretty kooky, to put it mildly.
It's when this show takes this level of absurdity and cranks it to eleven when things gets rather interesting. Instead of bearing witness to a sport involving gymnast-leveled balance & perseverance, you're treated to a super-powered showdown that would seemingly be more fit for the likes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Even training techniques, one of which involves Nozomi pulling turnips out of the ground with her hips, are presented with such zaniness and -- dare I say -- tension.
What makes KEIJO!!!!!!!! work the way it does is that it treats its subject matter so seriously. The female combatants never feel embarrassed being out there duking it out, with determined pride pushing them towards a needed victory. Even a moment of seemingly pervertedness is presented with both heavy tension and grave importance. It's the way original manga creator Daichi Sorayomi and script adapter Takao Kato treat the anime's world that makes it both enjoyable and fun, in the same way a film about Abraham Lincoln killing vampires can be showcased in a somewhat serious light.
A lot of credit to this show's presentation has to go to animation production company XEBEC (Love Hina, Tokyo ESP). With a few fan-service-filled shows already under their belt, they were more than well-prepared to take on Sorayomi's original work. Battle sequences are presented with such heavy detail, with every drop of sweat and hit landed looking simply marvelous. Characters are wonderfully expressive, showcasing a fine dosage of individuality between competitors.
As the highly-energized Nozomi, Lynn captures a feisty attitude that also provokes a strong can-do attitude that pushes her character towards her athletic limits. M.A.O's Sayaka roars with passion in competitive mode, showcasing a softer side when cooling down in-between matches. Takahashi brings forth a level of cuteness as Rin, amplifying the craziness of her attacks during battle. Meanwhile, Hondo's Kazane has a sort of slyness in her tone, whipping out the biggest maneuvers with a Dio-like level of confidence.
A pretty standard sports soundtrack comes presented via composer Hayato Matsuo (The World God Only Knows, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure). While it helps to elevate the tense keijo battles, there's not that much in the score that helps to elevate it above the rest of the sports anime that have aired in the past year. Opening theme "Dream X Scramble" by AiRi is a lost fragment of late-90s pop punk, with Travis Baker-like drums and All-American Rejects-inspired guitar riffs. It's a fun song, but it might be well forgotten a year from now. Ending track "Fantas/Hip Girlfriends!" by Lynn, M.A.O, Hondo, and Saori Ōnishi (who plays Non Toyoguchi) is standard pop idol harmonization and, while not bad by any means, lacks a sort of originality in its arrangement.
It takes real talent to bring to the table a truly ridiculous idea, play it straight-faced, and somehow make it one of the most entertaining things of the season. KEIJO!!!!!!!! not only accomplishes this, but does so in a way that it appeals to every living person on the planet. This tale of sporty boobs and butts may not be perfect by any means, but in its own way, it manages achieve what it sought out to do. Despite its off-the-wall fan-service, KEIJO!!!!!!!! is a fun, enjoyable, and exciting "sports" anime that knows how to plant its tongue-in-cheek in all the right ways.
I look forward to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
Final Grade (not an average):