Hello and welcome back to Otaku Thursday! Today, we’re going to be talking about–no–not a new anime from summer season, but about spring 2021 anime–because there’s just one thing I never got to talk about on this blog yet. And that, my friends, is Bakuten--aka Backflip–aka there’s such a thing as men’s rhythmic gymnastics?! Sign me the fuck up for this anime! Yes, today we’re going to be visiting Bakuten, without further ado–let’s get into it.
So Bakuten—Bakuten is an anime that Star and I decided to watch together this season because we both thought that rhythmic gymnastics would make for an interesting sports anime. And–well, we were kind of right. But seriously, I was excited because I had really enjoyed last year’s regular gymnastic anime– Taiso Samurai. I had been hoping that Bakuten was going to be just as good–though I knew it would be focusing on a much younger cast and that, of course, it would focus specifically on rhythmic gymnastics. We start off the anime with our home slice Shotaro who sees the members of the rhythmic gymnastic club perform and gets absolutely taken with their performance. This is where his journey begins! After this moment, sensing a new passion, Shotaro immediately signs up or the club upon getting into high school. Another newbie also joins as well–Misato, who was the golden boy of his middle school’s team. So far–classic story. Novice newbie meets talented newbie on sports team to help them fly to new horizons.
The story overall, is cute. Now don’t get me wrong. I like Bakuten–Star and I have really enjoyed this show, but in terms of it being anything special…it’s really not. While I will admit that the rhythmic gymnastic focus is absolutely welcomed and the performance sequences are a delight to watch, the rest of the show is a little…bland? Don’t get me wrong–I like the school setting and seeing them live together and having character backstory and development…but for some reason, none of it feels memorable. I think the problem is that I wish there was more–more time to spend fleshing out the cast beyond Misato and Shotaro, and more time to really show the team bonding. Because *spoiler alert* at the end, they raise the stakes by pointing out that it would be the last time the seniors could compete, and perhaps the last time they had a full team. By this point, we know that they had really never made it to nationals because they lacked the man power to score high enough (needing a team of six and not four), but the emotional appeal of this being the last time they could all compete together…wasn’t as powerful as I’ve seen pulled off in other shows. Maybe because I feel like, while I love how the team supports each other, this anime has very much been the Misato and Shotaro show. So I like the other members, and I like them as a team, I just don’t sense the same closeness of their group as other team-oriented anime.
Another weakness in this show…is what the fuck is going on/the purpose of their rival school? We get introduced to them, but I honestly can’t remember any meaningful interactions between them. Maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention, or perhaps I’ve watched so much sports anime it didn’t phase me–but I wish there was some more development between the rivalry there. Right now it feels like they are just obligatorily there to be better than our boys.
But let’s talk good things about Bakuten–number one: I love the dynamic between Misato and Shotaro. It makes sense the show spends so much time with them, because I think their relationship is so wonderfully explored as they become very close friends that honestly seem to lift each other up. It’s not just the one way, Misato helps out Shotaro, but rather Shotaro makes it easier for Misato to actually open up. I don’t know, I love them. They are great together–their conversations are some of the best sequences (aside from the performances). Another good thing? Some backstory with their coach that becomes relevant. I personally just like when coaches get some spotlight to them. I also enjoyed how the reveal of the coach injuring himself and ending his career early becomes a threat for Shotaro towards the end of the show. Because it really resonates as confliction for the coach who has literally been where Shotaro was–injured but daring to compete, and his anxieties are pretty damn clear.
Lastly, as I said before, I loved watching the performances. I normally hate CGI and 3D models in mostly animated shows, but I actually liked the way it was used here. The sequences are always given a dark background with only lights shining on the stage and the athletes. This, thankfully, takes away the stark contrast of drawn backgrounds and CGI characters. The shots are also constantly moving and interesting, meaning that it doesn’t show the CGI faces of the models too prominently–making transitioning between the movement and the close-up animated shots not as jarring. So overall, the use is very smart and visually interesting. Which is hella impressive.
Was Bakuten anime of the season worthy? No. But if you read my top five anime of Spring 2021, you already knew that. However, it’s still a good time and something I would recommend watching just to see some unusual sports anime (Tis this year for it). This anime really gave Star and I an appreciation for men’s rhythmic gymnastics (which we didn’t even know was a thing). We’re really looking forward to the movie that was just announced for Bakuten, so brace yourself for a review of that once it’s released and we’ve watched it! Anyway, that’s all for now. Til next time~