The New Gymnastics Anime ‘Backflip!!’ Sticks Its Landing

Follow the journey of a beginner drawn into competitive high school gymnastics in this richly detailed and beautifully animated show.

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Zexcs Studios

Backflip!! premiered on April 9th, 2021 on Crunchyroll and is quickly becoming a new favorite anime show due to its stunning animation and its visual storytelling.

If you have ever watched the Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles perform her gravity defying routines, you may have wondered how it feels to soar and flip through the air — the thrill, the danger, and the rush of adrenaline. Countless children have signed up for gymnastics because of her.

In the new anime Backflip!!, a high schooler named Shotaro Futaba is similarly inspired to learn how to do backflips after watching the Ao high school team compete in a Rhythmic Gymnastics tournament. Called Bakuten!! in its original Japanese name, the show is currently streaming new episodes on Crunchyroll

Futaba is an extremely relatable protagonist; he just wants to find somewhere that he can fit in and excel. After he enters Ao High, he musters up the courage to attend the team’s practice. Though he has no experience, the team gives him a chance, and he discovers that he has a bit of a knack for aerobic movements and gymnastics. 

As someone who has performed in gymnastics for years, I was curious how they would show his progress from a beginner to an expert. I was glad to see the story does not fall into the cliché of making him naturally gifted. In fact, he fails at his first attempt at a backflip. When Futaba finally manages to perform a backflip on his own, it is inspiring to observe how he was able to learn from his teammates and correct his form and his mistakes. 

A significant part of the tension derives from whether or not Futaba will be able to catch up to his teammates. If he fails to do so, he could put himself and others in extreme danger. He only has a few weeks to learn how to do a handstand, a proper backflip, and eventually saltos (an aerial flip that can be done forwards, backwards, sideways, and with twists in mid-air). 

I was pleasantly surprised by the show’s in-depth analysis of gymnastics. Throughout the second episode, Futaba exhibits the typical mistakes of a beginner. He is inconsistent, either jumping way too high or way too far out of the boundaries. He often swings his legs to the ground when landing, causing his knees to buckle. Most importantly, he does not hold a hollow form leaning back when beginning and landing, in order to maintain his rhythm and momentum. Seeing how thoroughly the creators of the show researched gymnastics and the fundamentals of each movement was really satisfying, because it makes it that more believable.

Adding to the realism, the animation in every gymnastics scene is incredibly detailed and vivid. The zoom outs are absolutely stunning, and the fluidity of the movements are perfectly captured by the animators. Viewers can tell that a lot of hard work and effort has been put into every frame of this show. While I feel that the animation of the first episode felt a tad bit stiff or rigid, this is quickly corrected by the third episode, which features the first rival of Ao High, Shira High, a more advanced and synchronized team. This is extremely noticeable from how the animators highlighted their routine and focused more on the entire team’s timing being in sync. The opposing team was created to seem leagues ahead of the protagonists, which heightens the tension as competitions are fast approaching.

Another aspect of the show that stood out to me was how nostalgic and relatable it is for gymnasts like myself. For example, a small detail that I appreciated was that while competing, when the music is blasting and Futaba’s heart is pounding, you can still faintly hear the thundering booms of the springboards snapping as he soars through the air. It’s the small details like this which make Backflip!! such an exceptional show. 

While watching, I could remember myself as a beginner trying to learn as fast as possible for gymnastics competitions, as I was overly ambitious and eager to prove myself. Putting myself in Futaba’s shoes, I could understand his character and his actions, as he takes advantage of any opportunity that he sees in order to improve and to make his team proud. I definitely recommend this particularly heartwarming show, as it is a relaxing, feel good, slice-of-life anime.

Another aspect of the show that stood out to me was how nostalgic and relatable it is for gymnasts like myself. For example, a small detail that I appreciated was that while competing, when the music is blasting and Futaba’s heart is pounding, you can still faintly hear the thundering booms of the springboards snapping as he soars through the air. It’s the small details like this which make Backflip!! such an exceptional show. 

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