Action Heroine Cheer Fruits is a very fun ongoing show. It focuses on a group of girls living in the fictional Hinano City, as they create a local tokusatsu show in order to represent their town. Cheer Fruits is watched by a very low number of people, which is a shame given how well it’s been handled. It’s not a show that boasts an amazing production or the most originality, but it’s doing a very good job at using what it has in order to tell an interesting story with tokusatsu elements.
Tokusatsu is a famous genre, though the term sees less use in the west. Describing works that use large amounts of special effects, it’s most well-known for series like Godzilla, Super Sentai(Power Rangers), and Kamen Rider. Tokusatsu has been incredibly popular over the years and has had a large effect on anime, but that’s not the topic of discussion today. What’s interesting is how the show uses tokusatsu elements to show heroism.
Tokusatsu is a genre that is quite clearly fake. While children may become legitimately invested in these stories, it’s never expected that they truly believe Godzilla is destroying Tokyo. I suppose this is a trait which is shared with anime, but it’s particularly important here. Tokusatsu acknowledges its own fakeness and makes no major attempt to hide it. We see this in the first episode, as Mikan and Akagi fight each other in very simple costumes. Neither the children watching nor the girls themselves believe that they’re the heroes they claim to be, but that’s not expected of them. Unlike in Samurai Flamenco or any other superhero anime, these girls know they’re only putting on the costumes of heroes. There’s no sense that they’ll try and become real superheroes because that’s obviously absurd. This is a representation of the real world.
And yet, the show does a great job of showing how the girls are heroes. Not superheroes of course; they can’t actually transform and fight monsters. But in performing as tokusatsu characters they temporarily become real heroes, real sources of inspiration. Much as a kid might be compelled to work harder when she sees the Pink Ranger fight on, the attempts by the girls in Cheer Fruits are legitimately inspiring.
There are many ways in which this true heroism manifests itself. The first is fairly cliche, but it is notable. At the end of the first episode, Akagi and Mikan are recruited to officially start the town’s tokusatsu group by Misaki, a relative of the city’s governor. As we see fairly often, the city is facing the issue of declining population, tourism, and revenue, so Misaki has the idea of starting a local hero group, a concept which has recently grown popular in-story. As time goes on the group quickly expands as more girls are interested in helping with the project. On its own, this would be significant heroism. Fighting to save your town is something worth celebrating, even if it’s done by selling merch for a rip-off tokusatsu show. But the show does a great job of personalizing the heroism of its characters, taking it from good to great.
Misaki wants to revitalize the town in order to avoid a merger, but she has more reasons than that. She’s frustrated that her late grandfather’s plans to revitalize the town didn’t work out, especially since he was vocally looked down upon after his death. In the first episode, we see how disappointed she is that no one comes to the local production, as they’re all watching another city’s tokusatsu show instead. It’s clear that she really loves Hinano City and wants it to become a thriving town again, even if she has to use slightly underhanded means to achieve that goal.
Roko is Misaki’s best friend, though it’s hard to argue that their relationship stops there. They’ve known each other for a long time and Roko is well aware of how Misaki felt after her grandfather died, so she obviously wants to cheer her up. In the past, Roko has seen how Misaki put up with her own misfortune in order to cheer Roko up, and it hurts her that she can’t return that favor. At the same time, Roko is jealous now that so many other girls are flocking around Misaki and getting her attention. She’s hurt that she hasn’t been asked for help in the hero project despite being right beside Misaki. Eventually, she’s given a villain role, but she doesn’t care. As Misaki says, Roko acts as her prince, her hero, coming in need when no villain could be found.
Mikan just wants to make her little sister happy. She tried really hard to bring her sister to the showing of a more popular hero which was unfortunately canceled. It was at that point that Mikan decided to put on another show with Akagi, launching this entire series in the process. Mikan is a shy and nervous girl who you wouldn’t expect to become a tokusatsu actor, but she does it anyway for the sake of her little sister. She knows she can’t truly replace the hero her sister wanted to see, but she still tries her best.
Every character has motivations like this. The only exception is our main character, Akagi An, who participates out of a desire to be like the tokusatsu heroes she admires. But that’s reason enough. Admiring a hero is good enough reason to become one. That’s pretty apparent from the much more popular My Hero Academia, and it’s not an idea that anyone seems to argue.
To be clear, the heroism of these characters does make a difference. During their shows, we often get shots of the crowd, and we usually get to hear them talk afterward. The older fans are pretty cynical, comparing the girls to other tokusatsu shows and criticizing certain elements of their performances. The kids, on the other hand, absolutely love these shows without fail. And that, I believe, is the true demonstration of heroism in this show. Tokusatsu is mostly made for kids, so if you can make them happy then you’ve done enough. At this point, they haven’t saved the town and they haven’t done everything they want, but they’re already heroes. The on-stage heroes, the villains, and the ones who do the background work. All of them matter and all of them demonstrate the true power of a hero: to inspire other to do better.
Now ultimately, this is just another town revitalization show. So far I really enjoy it, but it scratches a few specific itches for me that it won’t for others. I don’t expect most people to view this show as a masterpiece, and I obviously can’t say how this show will go. Maybe it’ll ruin everything I love about it right now, I dunno. But for now, it’s doing exactly what I want out of a show focused on heroes. Heroes needn’t do anything more than inspire, and that’s what the girls in this show do. I wish more heroes could do the same.