Diving into Fujoshi Territory?
What an honor it is to be here reviewing season three of Free! (Sorry, low-hanging fruit.)
Dive!! delivers a hearty dose of the classic sports anime-slash-fujoshi bait one-two punch. But though it strives for the heights of beloved shows like Yuri on Ice and the aforementioned Free!, things fall a little short in this rather workmanlike debut episode, “Dive to Blue.” Of course, it’s difficult to judge any show by its first episode, let alone sports anime which thrives on the build-up and eventual release of adrenaline. There’s still a chance Dive!! could pick up in the next few episodes. So far, though, everything is aggressively mediocre.
So far, everything is aggressively mediocre
Dive!! follows starry-eyed protagonist Tomoki Sakai (voiced by Kento Hayashi), a middle-school student and member of the Mizuki Diving Club (MDC). This episode lays out the beginnings of several plot threads in a dutiful sort of way – the MDC has slowly lost funding and support over the last year, and a shutdown seems imminent. Tomoki struggles with handling a girlfriend he never really wanted to be with while spending hours at diving practice every day exchanging longing looks with the club’s enigmatic star diver Yoichi Fujitani (Sosuke Ikematsu). (The gay undertones in this series are not so much undertones as screaming klaxon notes.) The episode ends with an introduction to Kayoko Asaki (Kaori Nazuka), the beautiful and hard-nosed coach who seems determined to save the MDC by taking one of its members to the Olympics.
The art and music thus far are nothing to write home about. Faces and movement are occasionally stilted and wonky, though nothing stands out as particularly bad. Some of the set pieces and backgrounds are illustrated with a welcome lushness, like the giant concrete “dragon”, or diving tower, which consistently seems to reflect the moving water patterns of the pool. The character designs are surprisingly toned-down – there’s no pink hair to be found here. Features like eye shapes and moles distinguish people instead, which is quite refreshing and shows a bit more effort on the part of the character designers. (The old trick of giving everyone the same face and differentiating them with unrealistic hair colors has started to wear thin in recent times.)
Regarding the writing, though, the characters seem like stock pieces pulled from a hat – there is not a single unique one among them. Then again, I don’t know that the target audience necessarily watches a show like this because they want something new, and some of the characters have more appeal than others. In particular, high-strung locker room gossip Sachiya Yoshida (Yusuke Kobayashi) brings comedic life to the episode with his dramatic outbursts.
Dive!! could pick up in the next few episodes
It’s too early to determine whether this show has any real worth, but it’s incredibly generic so far. Admittedly, after the tour de force that was last year’s Yuri on Ice, I find it difficult to feel any true investment in what seems to be yet another cookie-cutter piece of fujoshi bait. Still, Dive!! may yet reveal hidden depths (ha!) as the series progresses and the distant goal of the Olympics looms ever closer.