Hello! This review is brought to you by youthful energy and lots of exclamation marks. Bakuten!! (or Backflip!!) was one of the two sports anime that I wanted to keep up with this season, together with Sayonara, Watashi no Cramer. But man, it was a busy one with so many favorites and for the first time in a while, I had to prioritize because I felt overwhelmed. That meant holding Backflip off until the season end but finally, I binged it over the weekend. For my own convenience, I’m planning on omitting the !!’s throughout the post, but please read the series’ name energetically for me.
Backflip tells the story of Shotarou Futaba, who’s a baseball player in his 3rd year of middle school. When his team loses and he’s on his way back, he notices people doing handstands in the park nearby, literally right next to kids playing at the park. He’s weirded by them alright, but still aimlessly follows them inside the sports hall next to the place. Turns out these people are form Ao High’s, or Shoshukan Private High School’s, gymnastics club and Futaba is so mesmerized by their performance he sort of chooses his school on this whim. And this meeting with gymnastics is his first time actually wanting to dedicate his energy and time into, instead of just going with the flow.
The show uses the recipe we’re so familiar with but tweaks it by focusing the tried and approved structure on a rather niche sport: boys’ rhythmic gymnastics. Before I go into my thoughts on the production side of things, I have yet to get used to full 3D CG in anime. I am also not really educated on the technicality of it, so I might even be using the wrong terms so please correct me in the comments. I’m more than alright with backgrounds, objects, or vehicles, but I still want to see characters, especially faces, in 2D. For example, I went into Ajin with great excitement reading the synopsis, but couldn’t go beyond the 2nd episode. Backflip uses full 3D CG for the on-floor performances but still sticks to 2D during close-ups on faces or feet at times.
Now, as I’ve said I don’t know about the technicalities, and not sure about what can be considered as “well done”. If one of the criteria is that as an audience we shouldn’t be able to discern the two, then Backflip is not that successful, but it honestly worked for me. Another aspect I enjoyed that they made good use of was the camera angle. When it’s just one athlete on the floor, it’s easy to follow the choreography, but we’re watching the teams’ performances with 6 people and a sport that uses the given space to the full extent. Backflip’s camera movement resembles a drone’s; it goes high up, then dives onto the floor, swiftly goes through the athletes, focusing on their expressions at times, and pan out to show the full formation on the floor. This choice has made it very easy to follow the team and appreciate both the composition and the individual details. And, well, it looked cool.
Another detail that caught my eye was that the athletes weren’t in complete sync during their routine. Sometimes one of them would go into headstand a fraction of a second late, or another’s free leg would shake when holding his stance. And although these details are really tiny, they are visible enough to give performance a genuine tone, instead of making it feel like watching carbon copies moving exactly the same.
Loved the heavy usage of blues and warm purples to set the mood at certain points in the story. I mean, look at these gorgeous stills.
Character and interaction-wise, Backflip stuck to the usual tropes: earnest newcomer 1, genius but emotionally distant newcomer 2, the upperclassmen who are about to graduate so this is their last chance at nationals, the 2nd year who might as well be a yakuza underling, only women on sight are the manager and the coach’s wife whom he constantly quotes but no one is sure whether she really exists or coach is just tripping. Let’s also not forget a dash of family drama, the rival powerhouse, and past injuries. And while on the surface it works, there were times where the execution didn’t live up to what the series wanted to convey.
The most prominent one I’d point out is the gags and their execution. One of the running jokes in the series is Onagawa coming up with nicknames for Minato because he’s the ace, and Minato responding with “Don’t call me that,”. I think in one of the episodes this happened like 5 times, and Minato replied with the exact same phrase and nearly in the same tone. There’s a frequency and variety problem with the jokes, they are supposed to be funny and provide a pattern for us to feel “close” to them but sadly, it becomes a tad annoying.
I also thought that the interactions between the characters could’ve been written more appealingly. What makes sports anime a good one, in my opinion, is engaging and fun friendships. A series can go a long way if they manage to make the audience feel like they’re a part of the crowd. To me, Backflip fumbles a bit in this aspect although the characters themselves are kind of cute and had room to grow.
I was thinking of how bad I am with names, and the studio name ZECXS didn’t ring any bells so I wanted to check their other releases out. The way I was ashamed of myself for internally pulling an “I don’t know this studio so they must be new,”… They were apparently behind some of the shows I really liked: Fune wo Amu, Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori, Asagao to Kase-san, Aku no Hana and many more. Glad that I haven’t tweeted anything in the heat of the moment, whew.
All in all, I had fun watching Backflip. Sure, the series could do better in certain aspects or we could do without the totally random backflips done in not-so-appropriate places and times but I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time either. It’s a standard example of the genre, and the imagery of “soaring” that’s associated with the sport, together with gorgeous water or cloud animations and the scenery, conveyed the breezy and warm feeling you get when you’re outside. The open sky also serves to reflect and heighten the mood of the scenes.
What did you think of Backflip? Who was your favorite character? Let me know in the comments. See you tomorrow for my Friday BL corner, I’ll be reviewing a very sweet doujinshi I’ve recently bought. In the meantime, enjoy the gif of my favorite moment and the screenshots of skies I got from the series ~
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