One day Haneru Tobitatsu, a middle schooler and massive fan of the world famous dancer Jey El who loves to dance and practice parkour, meets another dancer named Kanon Otosaki. Kanon is a skilled dancer in her own right, but is extremely shy about dancing in public, having to instead dance under a masked persona named Rhythm. Haneru and Kanon end up forming a dance team that Haneru gives an obnoxiously long name that gets shortened to Cool Crew.
After participating in a series of dance battles against a team of adults named Tribal Soul, Cool Crew joins together with Tribal Soul under their shared love of Jey El to form the team Tribe Cool Crew. Together the team strives to achieve their dream of dancing on the same stage as their idol. Does Tribe Cool Crew bring a dance revolution, or does it have two left feet?
The Mesmerizing Mizuki Mashiro
While all five members of Tribe Cool Crew are pretty good fleshed out characters, Mizuki is getting special treatment because she, at least in my opinion, is the character that embodies nearly everything about the series, both good and bad. She is the prime example of how the show has several hard working adult characters, even amongst the main cast. Up until a specific point in the show her daily routine saw her working two labor intensive jobs, practicing her own dancing, and helping others with odd tasks here and there, and she would do all of this on just a couple of hours a sleep.
Mizuki also is one of the many examples in the show of how dancing positively influenced their life. Before she started dancing, she was a portly, shy little girl, but through dancing she started to become healthier and greatly improved her confidence. As for the “bad” that I mentioned earlier, well I’ll get to that later.
The Road to Jey El Dorado
The main overall arc in Tribe Cool Crew deals with an underground dance battle tournament of sorts called Dance Road, which has dance teams having to engage in a variety of themed challenges with the teams that best overcome the challenge moving on to the next round. The ultimate prize is a chance to dance alongside Jey El. It’s a treat to see how the various recurring characters handle the challenges in Dance Road, as no two teams tackle them the same. The Dance Road episodes are spread out throughout the show and serve as a culmination point for the character building that went on between each round. Also, speaking of Jey El...
The Marvelous Mr. Jey
Jey El, interestingly, doesn’t really spend that much time on screen, and most of the time when he does appear on screen it is often in the form of flashbacks. Yet despite this, he is a rather intriguing character and is arguably the driving force behind the show’s narrative. Jey is like some kind of fusion between the dance moves, showmanship, and fashion sense of Michael Jackson and the philanthropy of Bono, with neither of their personality flaws. He goes around the world to war-torn and poverty-stricken regions, trying to help those in need and bring about peace through the power of dance.
There’s Dance Battles, and Then There’s Dance Battles
Around 3/5 of the way through the show a new dance trend is introduced called Crowd High. Crowd High is a style that focuses on sharp, aggressive motions, and while innocuous when done by an average dancer, the top practitioners of the dance in Tribe Cool Crew are somehow able to release waves of concussive energy. This in turn makes the dance battles against the best Crowd High dancers into something more akin to a fight in a shonen battle show, as can be seen in the header image to this review.
Well Developed Supporting Cast
Tribe Cool Crew has a rather large cast, and in a significantly shorter show the majority of the characters would end up suffering because of it, but thanks to the show’s robust 50 episode length, the characters get a chance to grow. This especially applies to some of the rival teams, specifically the Exlos1ve Machine Guns and Team Sakura (pictured above) who get several episodes to shine. But it is not just limited to rival teams, as the family and friends of both Haneru and Kanon also get some episodes focused on them as well.
A Show That Learns From Its Mistakes
Early on while I still overall enjoyed the show, there were many flaws in Tribe Cool Crew, especially when it comes to the music and dancing. Specifically, the show had this weird insistence to just reuse the same stuff over and over. What I mean by that is, whenever a new song and dance for the titular team was introduced (at this point in the show a new song meant the arrival of a new dance sequence) they would use that same song and dance for several episodes, and just that song and dance, until a new one arrived.
Eventually the show stops doing that, and we get a wide variety of songs and dances being used. On top of the variety, the complexity of the dances grow exponentially, going from rather basic looking street dancing to well choreographed dance animations. Now, about those songs and dances...
Music and Moves
I could try to describe the songs and dancing, but I know I would utterly fail, so I figured, why try bungling my way through talking about them, when I could just show you? So instead, here’s some of my favorite dance scenes from Tribe Cool Crew with some context when I can apply it.
First up, probably my favorite dance from the elimination rounds of Dance Road, Team Sakura’s dance from the Fight round. Their usual gimmick is dancing in perfect sync with each other (as if they were mirror images) but for this round, they decided to do a comedic interpretive dance “fight”.
Next up, the first dance scene from the Explos1ve Machine Guns. This was the scene that made me realized that it wasn’t going to be a cake walk for Tribe Cool Crew.
This next one is basically a triple threat dance battle between the Explos1ve Machine Guns, Haneru & Kanon, and Team Sakura. It’s the only effectively threeway match I can think of in the show, and it gives me a chance to let you see what I meant by Team Sakura’s usual dance style.
Lastly, I think this is my overall favorite in the series just due to its attention to the details of the circumstances surrounding the dancers. Minor spoilers here, but Yuuji (the boy with the green hair) badly hurt his right ankle prior to this scene. Their entire dance routine is built around that, with him noticeably rarely putting any weight on his right foot, and despite that handicap, they turn in a great dance routine. Plus this scene involves a battle against the two best Crowd High dancers in the world, so you also get a peek at what I meant by the dance battles against Crowd High dancers.
Warehouse of Booty
You know how Western cartoons like to include jokes that the kids wouldn’t understand at all, but adults absolutely would as a way to make a show bearable for adults to watch? I think I may have found the anime equivalent of that. What I mean is Tribe Cool Crew, despite ostensibly being a children’s show (it aired at 7am in Japan, for reference), there is actually quite a bit of fanservice in this show.
By that I don’t mean the usual showing people (usually women) in their underwear, but rather there is a lot of ass shots in this show. I mean a lot of them, and many times they aren’t just quick little in the corner of the screen blink and you’ll miss it shots, either, but instead ass all up in your face for a good solid one or two seconds, if not more. But the weirder thing is, this happens to nearly every major character, guys and girls, regardless of if they’re an adult or teen.
I don’t know if it was some attempt at equal opportunity fanservice or what have you, but it is a little bit weird. However, that being said I don’t think this negatively impacts the show, but rather is one weird as hell quirk that I felt I should give y’all the head’s up about. This is also where Mizuki embodying the bad in the series comes into play, as she is one of the most recurring recipients of this.
While he eventually gets better, for the first chunk of the show, Haneru is quite a bit annoying, mainly cause he whines a lot and has a bit of a temper. Thankfully he isn’t the sole primary focus of the show, saving the series from being unbearable during this stretch.
Easily the biggest hurdle to enjoying this show is becoming accustomed to the CGI used for the dance scenes. If you don’t get used to them eventually, you’re going to have a bad time. Take it from me, I hated the CGI at first, but over time grew comfortable with it. Now all these episodes later I can understand why they went with the CGI, because without the CGI, the show’s amazing dance scenes, basically the entire thing the show is hanging its hat on, is impossible without a massive budget. The CGI allows for the fluidity of the dancing and the wide variety of camera angles used in these scenes, and for that I am grateful for it.
The Heart of Darkness
When I said earlier that Jey El visits war-torn and poverty-stricken regions, I truly meant that. He goes to various hellholes, and because of that, there are occasionally some...darker moments to this show. Topics like starvation, assassination attempts, even using children as suicide bombers are all covered in this show.
And while I have to commend the show for having the balls to even go there in the first place, they most certainly clash with the otherwise happy, colorful, joyful tone of the series. That’s the primary reason that this is in this section rather than Fantastic, because it is so at odds with the tone of the rest of the show, but still, good on you for tackling some really mature things in a “kids show”.
I have to be perfectly honest, at first I wanted Tribe Cool Crew to be a bad show. I avoided watching it in the Fall 2014 season, because I thought it looked kiddie as all hell, and then was randomly assigned to cover it for the Crunchyroll Newsletter. So having to watch something I was actively avoiding just made me want to be vindicated for avoiding it in the first place.
But it never happened. The vindication I was looking for never came, because I was...having fun. Legitimate fun. Was it a deep, thought provoking series? Hell no. It’s a show about dancing solving all the world’s ills after all. It is inherently, really, really stupid, in the way only a children’s cartoon can be (like say substitute the dancing with the power of friendship in My Little Pony). But it’s the fun, kick back and relax kind of stupid. During the Winter, Spring, and Summer seasons it was a guaranteed safe port in a storm of overly dramatic, dark, serious series.
I have been watching this show for just over nine full months, the better part of a year. I have come to like the characters, flaws and all, and in the end I will just utterly miss this show. It was like a safety net I could always rely on being there, only now it’s not there anymore. Make no mistake, there are many shows that are objectively far better than Tribe Cool Crew, but out of every show I’ve watched this year, this is going to be the one I’ll miss the most.