By Hugh David.
And so the twin evolutions of sports and ecchi anime reach an apotheosis of sorts in new show Keijo!!!!!!!! aka Hip Whip Girl from XEBEC. Everything about this show at first seems perfectly in keeping with the sports show tradition, as well as the studio’s usual quality thresholds. Former Judo champ Nozomi turns 18 and is now eligible to join the new all-female sport (and source of national betting) Keijo, the classic “sensation sweeping the nation” that sports show/film narratives are traditionally made up of. A typically cheerful, motivated, friendly lead, we learn a lot about her as she and we meet the more experienced players and fellow newcomers. The sport itself is a child’s party game akin to sumo making contact only with specific body parts, where the players need to knock each other off the “road” or out of the “ring”, in this case It’s a Knockout-style floats in a swimming pool. It’s those body parts that have caused controversy, and the ecchi rears its head (so to speak) – the rules require only buttocks or breasts to make the strikes…
As with other recent shows such as High School DxD or Lord Marksman & Vanadis, Keijo!!!!!!!! is to a large degree a show that could exist without the “sexy” aspects and be a perfectly solid representation of its genre. The combat starts off like most sport competitions, but increasingly the special moves verge on the supernatural; change the contact points from breasts and bums to actual useful appendages such as hand and feet, change the clothing for more practical uniforms and with the range of characters and motivations this would be nothing more than a well-made, if unoriginal sports show with an all-female cast. The animation is decent, fluid and colourful, making good use of more abstract images for certain moments, the character designs pleasant and the backgrounds and foreground detail well executed. The music does the job expected of it, with the opening and ending being memorable enough with some style. Even the plot device by which Nozomi could burn out physically early on if she pursues the special move she is naturally capable of performing adds a surprising touch of credibility with regard to contact sports.
Yet the fact remains, this show is about a popular sport, followed by the public, bet on, televised, featuring girls in swimsuits beating each other up with their breasts and buttocks in ways that would be painful were it not for the fact that the entire thing is so unrealistic it constantly provokes gales of laughter. And that’s the key to recognising the approach adopted here, especially given the utter lack of male characters beyond a couple of one-dimensional types. The almost magical use of fatty tissue to achieve clothes-shredding, balance-tipping, conscious-losing strikes, combined with the all-female character roster and distinct sapphic elements, are without doubt all played for comedy particularly suited to the antics of many a modern cosplayer. This is Carry On for the YouTube/Instagram/Snapchat generation of anime fan, and in that respect it may well surprise everybody as to who the actual viewing demographics turn out to be, instead of the one aimed for.
The SimulDub (English language dub) of Keijo!!!!!!!! is streaming weekly on FunimationNow in the UK and Ireland.