A sports anime like any other? Sure, the sport is an invention of the original mangaka, but at moments I came close to forgetting as I watched Keijo!!!!!!!!
The premise, simply tantalizing. For the male reader, that is. In a keijo race, players stand on a floating platform called a Land. Using only their butts and breasts, players attempt to force each other off their feet or off the Land, and the last standing wins the race. What’s more, this is as nationally popular as horse racing and other betting sports! And as heavily male audiences cheer on their picks among the contestants, young women look on with awe, and dream of being keijo athletes themselves. Enter Nozomi Kaminashi. Aged 18, fresh out of high school, and filled with dreams of becoming the next Prize Queen—the greatest player of the era, and a title ensuring great wealth—she enrolls in Setouchi Keijo Training School, a boarding school where she’ll hone her skills and ready for the professional level! Actually, the blatant financial motive is one of the things I liked least. Across shonen and sports anime, the conventional dream of becoming Hokage or Pirate King, making Nationals or the Christmas Bowl, is well known, and it lends a character nobility when he or she the laurels of victory for honor foremost. Here though, you can almost see the yen signs in the girls’ eyes, and their love for keijo feels tainted when they mention the money they dream of making when they’ve gone pro. Keijo!!!!!!!! gives the spotlight to several Setouchi students as they work side by side at becoming winning athletes. Although professional keijo typically features six competitors, with just one survivor taking the prize, Setouchi has an “only Land” philosophy, meaning students should take any bad feelings among themselves to the Land in a keijo race, and leave them there, so to develop lasting friendships as they enter the world of a usually non-team sport. Along with Nozomi, who comes from a poorer family she hopes to help out with her winnings, former judo prodigy Sayaka Miyata, shy Kazane Aoba, and clumsy Non Toyoguchi form a sort of core group as they room together in Room 309, also known as the Sweet Room, rumored to be for students who barely passed the entrance exam! after an introductory scene, there is little of home life in the Sweet Room, which feels a waste given, but at there simply isn’t much time for portraying everyday dorm life.
There is an overt hierarchy for Setouchi students, with the best members in an Elite Class, whose dining space is literally above that of the regular class. Spurred on by envy over a superior menu, the Room 309 girls apply themselves in the classroom and, more importantly, in physical training, and class exchange matches against current elite students, where victory means admission to the Elite Class!
A warning: Don’t watch this anime unless you really like girl’s butts. Even fanservice lovers may find Keijo!!!!!!!! rather much. I love the physical training in fighting and sports anime, and the rigorous regimen reminded me of the Dragon Ball episode devoted to the Turtle School’s rigorous routine before the World Martial Arts Tournament, but... here there is an awful lot of staring at butts... healthy, fit butts, tightened a workout that includes by hundreds of butt figure 8s. Later, there’s even harvesting turnips, tied to... Yet not all the students’ hips are the same: one girl’s soft butt proves able to deflect a foe’s attacks, while another‘s “Butt of Vajra” is rock hard! In true sports anime fashion, despite the real-world setting, others can do things with their behinds that are simply magical. Nozomi first performs her signature move, the “Vacuum Butt Cannon”, by accident (this can shred opponents’ swimsuits much like Dress Break in High School DxD; strangely, players can even undress themselves without breaking the rules, and sometimes do, ostensibly to perform techniques; nudity is concealed by a white light). She is thrilled by the edge it may give her, but her instructor initially forbids her performing the move—it may leave her injured, and unable ever to play again. Pressing her determination to master the move, which creates a shockwave by violently twisting the hips—the anime is subtitled HiP WHiP GiRL—she is given a special bathing suit that restrains her with reinforced rubber, an aid in teaching her body to use her butt more efficiently. At least one technique seems an homage to another anime; I can’t imagine “Butt Gatling” didn’t draw inspiration from Monkey D. Luffy’s move, though next to this, One Piece attacks seems plausible. Given the center of gravity, the chest plays a lesser role in keijo races, although some girls, inevitably, have greater upper body assets to use than others. All this makes for some very awkward play-by-play, as observers explaining the course of a race for our benefit sometimes sound like they’re speaking not of sport, but of sex. They never act as if something’s off though. This is a very serious show, if the music is to be believed.
I could go on, but Keijo!!!!!!!! is set up as a very complicated and technical sport in a short time. One thing that impressed me was how attractive keijo would be to sporting goods manufacturers. Seeing all the Lands covered in branding, I could just see Nike and Adidas executives whispering “Yes, yes...” as they thought of the equipment sales. But one thing that would make keijo hard to popularize would be the safety element. The Lands often appear made of rigid plastic, or even to be jungle gyms where a footing would be hard to maintain. Injuries would be hard to prevent without protective gear, which would ruin the visual appeal. Further, at least one group of female fans, Keijo Portugal, really is trying to make the fictional sport a real one—but the results are disenchanting, to say the least. Part of it is surely the nearly impossible physiques of many anime girls, but an equally big obstacle is obesity. Most contemporary women have not in any shape to be playing keijo, and make it look good.
That, though, may just be because they haven’t gone through the training regimen outlined in the anime! While some of the gags were too much (the butt-shaped cloud that concludes the ending sequence, for one), the thought of a sex-specific sport, to be mastered by a lot of exercise focusing on a much-liked but often unsightly area of the body, is a bit reassuring and attractive right now.