Haneru Tobitatsu is a hyperactive middle schooler with a passion for dancing. Inspired by his idol Jey El, the hottest star in the world of dancing, Haneru practices outside Memorial Hall every day after school. Unbeknownst to him, his "secret" practice sessions are being watched by Kanon Otosaki—her true identity being the famous online dancer, Rhythm—who also frequents the same location for practice. When Haneru finds out about this, he shows an immediate interest in teaming up with her.
Slowly realizing the joy of performing with others, the duo makes their way into the world of street dancing, where they meet Kumonosuke, Mizuki, and Yuzuru, ultimately forming the dance group "Tribe Cool Crew." As they face off against tough competition, they strive to one day realize their dream of sharing the stage with Jey El.
We should all feel some level of appreciation for Crunchyroll at this point. When I started really watching anime, the popular things were licensed, most of the late-night otaku shows were fansubbed (if not a little late sometimes), and more pertinently, if you were into kids shows, you could count on the big, long-running franchises - your Pretty Cures and Jewelpets - to be subtitled eventually, depending on the demand for such things. Nowadays though, while not everything will get picked up, Crunchyroll does seem to try their best to pick up as many things as possible to serve every possible audience they can every
single week. Tribe Cool Crew is one of those weird little kids cartoons that probably would have never seen any exposure in the English-speaking (and Spanish-speaking, and Portuguese-speaking) world had it come out at a different time, but for the past year we have been thoroughly graced by the joy of this show almost every single week, and I couldn't be happier.
For most people, Tribe Cool Crew's premiere was mostly heralded by everyone watching and subsequently sharing the dancing scenes and music that seemed to be the main selling point of the show. Those scenes look like cell-shaded CG, and they are, but they are also a bit more than that. They are actually all made using motion capture using real dancers, as you can see on Sunrise's official channel. This has a whole bunch of advantages - namely, range of body movement and camera angles are essentially limitless thanks to this technique, and Tribe Cool Crew takes full advantage of both of these things. It does look a little cooler in real life, but that seems to come down more to the limitations of motion capture than anything else. I will admit that the number of songs and variety of dances used throughout the anime can feel small at times, especially the beginning, but as more groups are introduced and the plot becomes more involved, these problems become much less apparent.
In case you aren't familiar with what Tribe Cool Crew is actually about, though (and I don't blame you), the basic premise is as simple as you might expect from Sunday morning children's television. The fifty episode series follows our group of young street dancing friends who all admire an extremely talented foreign dancer. Named Jey El, this mysterious performer is world famous for his charitable acts and bringing happiness to the downtrodden through his dancing. Luckily for our protagonists, Jey El is looking to expand his influence by finding talented dancers all over the world to take under his wing via a series of challenges collectively titled Dance Road. The titular group, Tribe Cool Crew, spends essentially the entire show participating in this competition to find the dancers that will not only be able to finally perform alongside their hero but also help his long-term cause of bringing people together through their art.
Tribe Cool Crew isn't a group of idols, though, nor a bunch of geniuses like in many anime about music and the arts. Our protagonist is Haneru, a plucky and suitably tiny middle school boy whose main joy in life is dancing. He mostly does this alone, until meeting the much taller and insecure Kanon, who initially only dances under a mask and a pseudonym online until meeting Haneru. They are quickly introduced to the older and more experienced three members of their eventual dance group - Kumo, the break dancing tough boy with a heart of gold; Mizuki, a kind and rebellious girl with a surprising past; and Yuzuru, the portly and wise jack-of-all trades. They are pretty much nothing alike aside from all being really nice people, but their love of dance and what it means to them both individually and collectively slowly but surely brings them together
In fact, the diversity of this group in terms of age, body type, and even socioeconomic status is one of the most immediately apparent strengths of Tribe Cool Crew and what allows its narrative to branch out to explore so many ideas. The overarching narrative about Dance Road is the glue that holds everything together, but the dynamic between the members of the group and their individual problems are the wheels that keep the story spinning. The show isn't afraid of using episodes between major plot beats to delve into more personal subjects that flesh out the cast, push them forward, and eventually express a resounding empathy for their issues in a way that people of all ages can appreciate on different levels. In one instance we may suddenly be given an episode that talks about Kanon's wealthy and important parents not only pushing her away from expressing herself via dance, but from really growing as an individual at all. In another, we could see how Kumo's responsibility to helping his working-class family puts multiple barriers in front of his less profitable aspirations - physical, economic, and even mental. Thanks to the wide variety of characters, there are a whole plethora of interesting things to potentially discover, and Tribe Cool Crew is not only not afraid to address those things but also entirely eager to unpack them for all they are worth.
I also mentioned body type, and I really can't stress that enough: from the very beginning, Tribe Cool Crew never sets a standard for what a dancer should look like, and in fact embraces the possibilities that come with having so many different kinds of characters. Haneru's size is a sour point for him, but he learns how to stand out despite being so small; similarly, Kanon is frequently embarrassed about her height, and through her friends and dance finds acceptance and even appreciation for her body. Yuzuru is introduced as confident in his ability and never feels limited by his weight. The cast beyond the main group is similarly diverse - muscular, lanky, a certain character in a spider monster costume - and the show uses all of this to its advantage, giving us an abundance of dance styles that show off everything they have to offer and more.
Not that it is all so serious; another part of Tribe Cool Crew's appeal is that it is also entirely willing to be wonderfully silly when the mood calls for it. This comes up in both the one-off episodes and the Dance Road plot, too. For example, about halfway through the show, our heroes are introduced to a seemingly malevolent form of dance named "Crowd High", which proves to be an effective but worryingly mysterious way to win over audiences. Without even knowing the specifics of why this is, though, the show plays it up as the evil, antagonist dance in a variety of absurd yet fun to watch ways. Black and red circles dramatically burst from the dancers as they make big movements, you can repeatedly hear a voice say "what" exactly like Lil' Jon, and a main feature of the Crowd High songs is literal gun cocking and firing sounds that accentuate beats in what amounts to possibly the coolest but least subtle musical decision ever.
Luckily for everyone, the fun ridiculous bits also come in various other forms, usually to cool down between intense plot-relevant stories. Possibly the most talked about one is an episode that almost singularly involves a character named Master T having strange hallucinations about his least favorite food, pickles, and it is as bizarre and entertaining as it sounds. We are also introduced in the most straight-faced manner possible to a family of people who may or may not be actual tengu, and there are dance-offs against evil dancing robots on more than one occasion. There is even an assassination attempt and a conspiracy or two thrown in there for good measure, all carried with a delicate balance of heaviness and absurdity. The best thing about all of this, though, is that Tribe Cool Crew manages all of these things while paying close attention to its tone so that, at the end of the day, everything still feels like it came from the same quirky anime.
And that is really the key to what makes Tribe Cool Crew succeed - it wears many hats, exchanging them as it sees fit and on whims, but it never betrays the positive and fun core that pulls it all together. This anime came as a huge surprise to me, but never stopped being appealing and finding new ways to improve, bringing me a short half hour of happiness every week for the past year. I'm sad to see it go, but I am equally glad that it exists as something that I can point to when people want something new, different, engaging, and memorable. I'm sure I'll be recommending it to people for years to come - including you.
Ah, yes. Tribe Cool Crew. That kid's show about dancing. Good times... Wait, what? "It looked stupidly cheesy and probably terrible so I didn't even give it a try?"
Well, in a way, you may be correct in your judgment, but I wouldn't write it off as such so quickly. Most things have their merits. And in this review of mine here, I'll try to give my own assessment of its clear, definitely existent strengths and its lower points.
In general, the plot is exactly as you'd expect it: it's about a group of people who set out to be good enough dancers to share stage with
their idol aka Michael Jackson of Dancing one day; a typical plot for the young audience this is targeting. Said plot moves itself forward with the inclusion of a top secret dancing tournament to pick out the best dancers of a generation supported by MJD himself, which our group of characters ends up participating in. It paces itself on stages/challenges from the tournament that happen periodically, and various shenanigans in between, attributing it the 50 episodes it has: surprisingly, the plot does not suffer from the inclusion of that many episodes as much as you'd think.
This is because these episodes are mainly used for the great, great thing we call characterization. You know, that one thing people should really stop forgetting. Surprisingly enough, the kid's show about dancing accomplishes something a lot of more mature anime neglect to begin with: exploring the character cast from their personalities, to their backgrounds and life styles. If anything, I'm pretty sure this is the first anime I've seen where each character's social and/or economic class is an integral part of their characterization and frequently shown so you can better understand how they, well, live.
Our main characters come from a variety of backgrounds, and it really helps you relate to them when you see their lives playing out. Haneru is a fairly typical kid protagonist, you know, that one boy who's kind of hot-headed and reckless, but also cheerful and ultimately has a good heart despite the immaturity. He's really into dancing and loves hoppin' about, idolizing MJD a whole lot (I do know his name, but I wanna roll with the much more convenient MJD), fueling the story further with said passions. In most kid's shows, that's about all Haneru would ever be, and he'd probably be that static yet loved by everyone throughout the show. However, what happens is that various aspects of his life are explored, making him a better executed version of the archetype: we are made aware of how he's the only son in a fairly low to middle class environment, with more honest, kind, if simple-minded parents; we see his daily routine both at home, at school and where he spends time afterwards; we get to know a bit of his past and of his previous interests, even to the point of how that ended up interfering with his friendships and how he goes about things from it; most of all, the previous point is not only adressed, but used to help not only his character, but the show in general.
And I didn't even go into much detail about Haneru beyond the more generic parts of him. Sure, he still isn't all that super unique (though striving for a unique, 'quirky' personality isn't what you have to do to have a good character), being a spirited kid protagonist and all, but he still is a very valid main character that I could get behind because unlike other spirited kids who would fill the protagonist position, Haneru had a good amount of details ingrained into his character in a way that makes you see how he would be that way, therefore making him better than your typical spirited kid. It's in this addition of depth in unusual amounts throughout that Tribe Cool Crew shines, since it brings out characters that would've been greatly forsaken for being generic or nothing special otherwise. As a result, it becomes a more unique show.
Either way, very early on, Haneru meets a shy yet convicted girl named Kanon, who's just as passionate about dancing as him despite her shyness. In much the same way, we see (we get SHOWN this, not even told! 'Show, don't tell' is very much present in this show when it comes to portraying these character's lives!) that Kanon lives in a pretty middle to high class household and attends a somewhat prestigious all-girls shcool, which isn't at all portrayed as being super terrible or anything like that by the way, making her mannerisms, mentality and life style in general be not much like Haneru's (or basically the opposite). The development of Kanon, who is shy, reserved and lacks self-esteem and self-confidence despite her passions is focused on a whole deal, so it's not even like she gets overshadowed by Haneru or anything like that (a lot of anime tend to do this to their main female characters or vice-versa for some reason); she's rightfully one of the protagonists.
The main character cast doesn't end here, however. The two kids, which were at first their own group, are eventually joined by another group (forming Tribe Cool Crew) just as passionate about dancing and MJD, comprised of three adults: oh yes, the kid's show about dancing has only two kid main characters and three adult ones! And they are just as greatly-handled, as their background and personality are explored throughout the episodes that surround the main tournament plot. The stoic, responsible, convicted Kumonosuke; the more outgoing Mizuki; the elegant, yet odd Yuzuru: they are absolutely great characters, and I'm honestly not expanding upon why they're so great because I've given examples of how well Tribe Cool Crew handles its characterization already and don't want to overwhelm you with 4 paragraphs explaining their background and overall awesomeness.
However, I will definitely go on to tell you that hanging out with the group that is Tribe Cool Crew is a ton of fun: these five characters work incredibly well off of each other, and their team dynamic and relationship they hold is absolutely great. Let it be known that seeing these five happily interact would always put a smile on my face, and so would their antics. If I could, I would've collectively put Tribe Cool Crew in my favorite characters list, but it unfortunately doesn't quite work that way. Another thing worth mentioning is the variety of body types present in the dynamic that is Tribe Cool Crew, especially since this is about dancing: Haneru happens to be fairly short, while Kanon is really tall; Kumonosuke is well-built; Mizuki is fairly agile; and Yuzuru actually happens to not be what anyone would call 'slim' (the sugarcoating is real in this one). And yet, they really make this agglomerate of different body types and different personalites work in this anime: Yuzuru freaking kills it on the dance floor, and you better believe it!
These great qualities in characterization, believe it or not, are not just verifiable in the main cast: along the way, we meet a variety of different supporting characters, which are mostly other dance groups Tribe Cool Crews gets to know at some point, but they can also be just classmates or acquaintances from someone in the main cast. Though it was already surprising the attention being given to the characterization of the main cast, it was even more amazing that a good chunk of the supporting characters were also focused on at some points and given attention when it comes to their characterization: you get to know how the supporting characters live and their mentality, as well; in most shows of this sort, this would be neglected (because it's technically unnecessary). The fact that Tribe Cool Crew went the extra mile to actually explore a fair part of the supporting characters is something I am definitely thankful for.
Sure, some characters might've been annoying, and others unfortunately got the short end of the characterization stick (we did get to the end of the show without knowing a single thing about a select few characters), but that's like looking a at speck of darkness in an almost completely well-lit room: it's already amazing the show ended up putting so much characterization into it to begin with. Not to say that there weren't certain episodes of Tribe Cool Crew that accomplish nothing but heightened silliness you'd find in kid's shows, which were indeed the weaker episodes: those were more or less filler in every aspect of the word since they didn't even contribute to showcase the friendships of Tribe Cool Crew (and were instead meant to just be silly).
Besides, in general, the story has a fair amount of strange points: for example, you'd think you're in modern Japan by... everything you see around you, but supernatural and sci-fi like elements are also haphazardly added in as if it were no big deal (as much as you make the characters react to it and make me have a laugh out of it, it doesn't mean you can just include it without an explanation!). What, you don't think the dancing pros would be the ones to hold this super high technology? The tournament definitely was treated in that 'it's super secret and super amazing' sort of cheesy, over-the-top way, which I guess you should be expecting from a kid's show, but the fact that this astounding technology is being used for the creation of top-secret dancing facilities that provide sometimes almost impossible challenges was admittedly hard to take. My suspension of belief can only go so far, but it's like the anime always wanted to make you roll with anything it showed. The weird supernatural elements get especially random at the filler episodes, mostly because you just get the feeling the creators were messing around with the show and put that stuff in for shizz and giggles as none of those elements get an actual explanation and ultimately have no purpose beyond making for the center of said episodes. Cheesiness also abounds in other aspects: from auras of light to dancing robots (and not-so-rare 'by the power of dancing' resolutions), Tribe Cool Crew is definitely the thing you shouldn't watch if you can't take oddness in general. It's with these strange parts that Tribe Cool Crew feels really unique, but neither in a positive nor negative manner: it's just odd and silly and ridiculous in these aspects. To say they majorly hurt the story would be an exaggeration since it was never all that riveting to begin with, but it would perplex me even while already far into the anime.
Even so, there are aspects of the plot of Tribe Cool Crew that are surprisingly serious and maybe a little dark, too: the anime likes somewhat tackling themes like the conditions of poverty present in third world countries (and the effort to do something about it), corporal greed, the dangers of being a celebrity caring for certain issues, and so on and so forth. This is honestly the last stuff you'd think of reading about the kid's show about dancing, but I'm not kidding when I tell you the plot actually has deeper layers to it: I would not dare spoil said layers and how all its themes (there are more) are incorporated into this whole ordeal, but I'll at least tell you it wasn't all that bad for a show with such a young target audience. Not only that, but the drama surrounding these deep parts, and the plot twists coming along with it are actually handled fairly well. You end up feeling for the characters involved, even though they weren't even the ones you spent 40-something episodes getting to know. It wasn't at all what I expected out of this show, but I welcome the bold choices with open arms.
... However, alas, a kid's show is a kid's show, so the cheesiness was definitely still there, even when going into more serious stuff like this. The themes I wrote, for example, aren't explored very deeply, and the resolutions for them along with the conflict of the show get dumbed down to the power of dancing (which is expected of the kid's show about dancing, but still...). Not only that, but the show's slightly shorter run time than normal crippled the pacing of the final episodes/climax, making it slightly faster than what you'd like for so much content; the anime definitely needed an episode or two to draw it out a bit better. Even so, I was satisfied with the ending (or maybe you could call it the epilogue but it is still all in the final episode), which took a surprisingly mature route when it came to Tribe Cool Crew as a group and overall friendship. I mean, before that was really cheesy stuff, but darn it, it was enjoyable cheesy stuff and the ending did not disappoint me!
Anyway, I should just go on to adress the part that you're probably wondering about: the dancing. Mind you, I personally have no interest in dancing and don't know much about it, so I wasn't all that invested at first. Then, when I started caring about the characters, I did start being invested in their dancing. I'll start with the positives: the fact that a variety of dancing styles were presented in the show was a good thing, and it never did get its focus away from its theme of dancing; there would practically be a dance sequence every episode. I'd mention the diverse body type thing again, but I won't and will instead just move on to say that the dancing you see is in 3D models in which the people behind the show traced the moves of real dancers and applied them to said models. It looks... awkward. Or, uh, bad. You... get used to it. Since the anime is in 2D, the transition's sort of jarring, especially when you have colorful backgrounds making you feel like you're in a different universe and an overall lack of expressive capability (as in, showing the character's emotions all that well) with the models while dancing.
The 2D animation is also fairly cheap: a lot of corners are cut with this anime about dancing, though the dancing in itself is not that bad. Every crowd or people you see beyond significant characters will assuredly be a still image, always. It's understandable since, well, this is just the kid's show about dancing, but it was also unfortunate since I really wish it had animation as good as its other qualities, especially since dancing involves motion. The art style is fairly unique, but not too otherwordly or anything like that: it's got a strange thing for making the tips of the fingers and the like a darker shade than everywhere else, but eh, art style quirk, I guess.
I personally find the music to just be okay: it fits the show with its more, uh, 'hip' tunes since it's not like it's about ballet or ballroom dancing (it's more about hip hop stuff). I found myself humming along with the opening of the show, which I really like since I get to see most of the characters together in one shot. The music it does have is definitely overused though, which is also another shame: it's a show about dancing and yet the variety of the music to dance to is really low; it's a Mermaid Melody-like situation, especially noticeable at the filler episodes (though Mermaid Melody had it worse since singing was its shtick).
However, the voice acting was pretty nice: I really liked the performances of the voice actors for the main characters, as the voices fit perfectly and the delivery of the lines in general was fitting for everyone in general. If I had to point out a complaint or two, it would be that the voice actresses voicing some of the boys did make me wonder about their gender even though it was seen as obvious by the characters in the anime; they've gotta sound a bit manlier, please! The voice for one of the supporting characters was also fairly annoying, but you can manage.
All in all, I had a great time with Tribe Cool Crew. The first few episodes will get you a bit doubtful, but believe me that out of most of the anime I was watching, Tribe Cool Crew was literally the one I would look forward the most to watching the newest episode, and it would be especially helpful after suffering through episodes of the more terrible anime of certain seasons. I was legitimately tempted to write more than once that Tribe Cool Crew was basically the only thing I was enjoying while it was airing, because that was the sad (because that means not a lot of anime were very good) yet surprisingly neat truth. I go the extra mile to rate it an 8 out of 10 because I do believe that for what it is, it's worth that score; I went far with this anime. If anything, I'm surprised that I've only written a review now, since I've finished it months ago.
Anyway, while cheesy, ridiculous and fairly random, it was also an anime that would make many bold choices, earning a very unique and strong identity for it. Its plot is what you'd expect and what you wouldn't at the same time, and it carries a fairly lighthearted atmosphere in general; it's got its focus right on dancing and doesn't forget its target audience. Even so, it's got some of the best characterization and most unique ways of going about it on a moderately big cast of characters I've seen in anime that I know of, which is a clear strength on its part that I wish other anime would have in spades. It makes sure to give importance to the people involved in the story, and isn't afraid to explore parts that are considered serious, even if it wasn't on the dark level someone like me would have wanted.
It has a serviceable plot, great characters/character relationships, and it was overall a greater ride than I expected from the kid's show about dancing despite the weaker aesthetic aspects, so I can only hope Brave Beats holds up to it (as it's a kid's show with dancing by the same people). I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, since not everyone can quite get through this sort of show with its cheesy parts, but if you're someone who prefers lighthearted or campy things and can enjoy stuff for a younger target audience, you should definitely at least try it out. If anything, you can always watch it ironically if you feel like making fun of its silly parts, but that's about it for people who'd be better off checking out Tribe Cool Crew.
Don't be misled by the art style, thinking that the show is more directed towards a younger audience. The show starts off seeming like a kids show about street dancing, but as you get further and further into each episode you start to see the show itself steering into a slightly more mature tone. Granted, the show itself does not reach levels of maturity that are too violent or sexual for children, but rather it makes it more enjoyable for viewers who are older in age.
The dancing segments are extremely unique. As in, I myself have certainly never seen a show animate dancing quite
like Sunrise or BN studios does in this show. The scenes involving dance appear quite slow at first, but as the story progresses we see each dancer character learn new techniques and trains more; choreographing more complex and appealing dances as a result. This gradual development of each characters adds to the enjoyment of the show overall.
The art style, like the rest of the show, is very unique. The different body types that are given to each character make it more interesting to see how they change their dances in accordance to their physique. The show make use of very vibrant colours, which are appealing to look at during the more lighthearted segments of the show. The art style also gives off a powerful and heavy feeling with darker colours during the more ominous and grave parts of the show. The studio also puts the effort into background and stock characters, which most shows do not. While you might see copy and pasted character models to fill an audience or a crowd in other shows, Tribe Cool Crew intricately designs a diverse cast of background characters as well. From ethnic diversity to individual fashion styles, the Tribe Cool Crew studio made sure that no two audience members were drawn or designed the same.
Each character is likeable in their own way, and each one gets their fair share of detail as well development. The cast is also very unique. I don't mean that as in each character is unique within the show, but rather there are very few characters in the show that fit into a traditional anime 'trope' or 'stereotype'. Truly, you never really know what to expect from these characters because of their uniqueness.
Personally, the soundtrack for Tribe Cool Crew is by far one of the best tracks I've ever heard in my life, this is no exaggeration. I absolutely loved each song that played in the show, and the dances fit each track almost perfectly each time. I never found myself feeling sick or tired of what might be one of the catchiest soundtracks I've ever heard.
Initially, I didn't expect much to come from the story of Tribe Cool Crew. As I proceeded further into the story, I saw it gradually becoming more dramatic and entering a slightly darker tone.
The show was amazing, from beginning to end; the strongest points in this show are its soundtrack and animation. I wouldn't say that this show has many weaker points, but if I had to I would say that story progression early into the first half of the show was rather slow. I absolutely loved the unique diversity of the characters and their growth throughout the show. The dance segments definitely had me tapping my foot and bobbing my head to each beat. The dances are extremely complex, but not impossible; making it a more interesting and interactive experience to a degree. The show has everything from comedy to drama and action. The lighthearted show is definitely a hidden gem amongst anime, and certainly one of the most underrated as well.
It's a lively, fun musical anime but not in the usual sense. Instead of being an idol anime about singing and the pressures of being a celebrity, it's a fun story about a couple of middle school kids with a passion for dancing. I'm writing at the time of episode 5's release and the story is good thus far and you get what is advertised. As for the art it's nothing to marvel at. It's its own unique drawing style that feels very Saturday morning cartoony, and maybe I've been spoiled by all the other great recent releases with great art, but this show's style
didn't really impress me (not to mention there are these 3D dancing sequences that look like they were done in MMD) The sound is as good as you would expect it to be from a musical anime, there's a lot of Hip-Hop and Techno in it and if you're not a fan of those genres then you won't really find a lot from this soundtrack that you like. That said, most of the tracks are very dancy and catchy and are definitely good within the definition of their own styles, albiet a tad generic. As for the characters they have some good depth to each of them, all of them have their own motivation for dancing and unique personalities. I can forsee some strong character progression out of this show as it goes on, and we already have seen some just 5 episodes in. Overall it's a really fun show with a colorful art style, unique and relatable characters, catchy music, and is a blast to watch. Not to mention its a breath of fresh air from all the Kawaii~ desu desu idol anime that's constantly getting pooped out by studios. I'd definitrly reccommend it, but I won't guarantee that you'll like it.