Bakuon!! – 08

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Its christmas on Bakoun is a remarkably bike-lite affair. Sure, the girls ride everywhere from start to finish, but the motorcycle-splanation is mostly contained by the first act, where Hijiri gets her first taste of non-sidecar cycling.

And honestly, focusing on the girls and their warm friendships during the cold winter season sits just fine with me. In many ways, underplaying the bikes and over playing how unnecessary they are — how unpleasant it is to start them in the cold or to ride them in cold wind — only emphasized how close our 4 ladies (and 1 ghost) have become over the last 8 episodes.

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In act 1, Hijiri puts her life on the line to ride the world’s best selling bike, a simple Honda. It’s a slow, simple and rugged bike that gives workers the world over the affordable flexibly to move people and material. And since Hijiri is so green (she doesn’t even ride bicycles!) the little Honda’s durability is put to the test, crash after crash after crash.

At one point, Hijiri is so angry she gets a giant sledgehammer and goes to town, only to have the bike start anyway. It’s a cute scene, and I took it as a play on the reliability of friendship central to the riding club.

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Act 2 happens around the club’s christmas party/gift exchange. Rin and Hane take center stage, with Rin being called away by her pizza delivery work and Hane being the glue of the club dressing up as santa to deliver Rin a present. Jesus also makes an appearance.

Act 3 pushes new years into the mix and ends with a frozen dash to see the first sunrise. It too is Hane focused, but this time her luck is all wrong: she’s cold and the hand warmer has failed and she lags behind the pack.

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Verdict: I smiled at the puns, I basked in the friendship, I enjoyed the monster skull on Hijiri’s silly bike. Nothing spectacular happened but it was a solid, pleasant romp with the girls — and there was no exploitation to be seen.

Having gone back and rewatched the last 2 weeks that I missed, I have to say if you missed them, you didn’t miss much. (it was a 2 part school festival arc focused on the club’s costumed bike race) By far, this was much worthier of my time.

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Bakuon!! – 05

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This week’s Bakoun is simple enough – the girls come to the northern end of Hokkaido and accidentally meet their recently-dumped sensei, who tries to commit suicide and, failing that, rape them. Later, the girls ride back to the ferry and lament their time on the island is over.

Along the way, Rin shows us that she is pure of heart and won’t run over the red foxes, even if they deserve it. Also, Frizzy-chan is remarkably insightful, even if her lines are corny.

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Then the girls put on bikinis and sexy-wash their bikes for the episode’s final five minutes in the most WTF pandering moment imaginable. Roll Credits…

If you can pretend the final scene didn’t happen, episode 5 has a lot of heart. Rin hanging back to balls-out test her max speed, only to be thwarted by the foxes in the road, only to be reminded of her humanity by Jesus’ holy cup, all had an honest feel to it. Almost a moral message, even.

But that final scene…what the heck? Watching Hane sploosh soap on her breasts so she can deep grind her bike clean, foam billowing up her crotch – and then having Rin do the same? Really??

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Sure, It was funny in a totally awkward way but man, following such a sweet, heartfelt story about girls on the road, the ending cheapens the whole thing. Roll in the totally weird attempted rape scene by their teacher halfway through and I don’t know what to think.

Yeesh Bakoun, you can be really funny without sexualizing your characters, you know? smh

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Bakuon!! – 04

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For summer break, the girls decide to tour Hokkaido. Why Hokkaido? Well… Rin was there a long time ago with her dad and had quite an experience. They wrecked while trying to avoid foxes on the road, her dad got parasites from the foxes and she was sent home alone on a train.

For some reason this realization doesn’t dissuade Bakuon’s girls and so they set in for a long ride and a string of misadventures. By the end, their relationships are a bit closer. Also, Hane finds Jesus.

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This week’s theme is fathers. Sorta. Rin’s father obviously features heavily and his hilariously terrible parenting is repeatedly on display. In addition to their terrible Hokkaido trip of old, we later learn that he jack-knifed Rin into the air and she landed on the hood of a car… only to be BRANDED with a Sazuki logo on her butt.

Speaking of butts, Hijiri’s butler is like a father too. He gives her sage (and wacky) advice about Ducati bikes having souls, which apparently makes them terrible self-destructive things. They also share a tender moment where he fears his days are coming to an end — that they will end when his bike next breaks down — only for it to immediately break down. Continuing to smile, they wait for the family’s ever present helicopter to fly in a replacement and act as if nothing has happened.

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And father of all fathers, a Jesus of sorts makes an appearance. While Onsa and Rin leave Hane behind, and her gas tank is nearly empty, there he is by the road. She shares what little gas she has and they creep to a gas station and he tells her about Bikes in the old testament.

Then he teleports her ahead of the other girls. A ferry ride to Hokkaido finally ensues and the adventure ends with a glorious dip in hot springs. Roll credits!

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This was, by far, the funniest episode so far. The details were great: Rin’s uniquely terrible life shames, the fact the Suzuki logo was put on the car backwards, Lime wearing a helmet in the bath, the weird ‘masks’ the various NPCs wear for no reason, the X-Ray to reveal a bike under an old painting, and the reveal of the fox parasites!

More than funny though, the episode had heart. The various relationships, be it rivalry or love, all grew and they all had fun in the process.

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Bakuon!! – 03

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Now that she has a license, Hane needs a bike—and she knows what she wants: A Honda Su-Four. Despite Onsa warning her that owning a Honda is like being with one man for life (which Hane doesn’t see a problem with), it’s the bike she learned on, and it’s what she wants. And since it’s her yen, and the dealership has a nice pink one, a Honda Su-Four is what she gets!

The twist is that the dealership Hane visits first happens to be run by Onsa’s father. It’s not exactly above-board, what with drowned bikes and reset odometers, but Onsa is determined not to let her dad shove a lemon on her friend, so she does the servicing herself under Lime’s watchful eye.

The beautiful moment Hane mounts her lovely pink steed, the world goes all black-and-white and she is compelled to hit that tasty looking road. Unfortunately, there’s almost no gas in that steed and she ends up stranded. But still, that first ride looked really fun.

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Now that Hane has her license and bike, she starts going on rides with the rest of the bike club, which for now is just her, Onsa, Lime and Hijiri (and her chauffeur). They make it easier to communicate with headsets Hijiri installs in their helmets. But Rin snatches her helmet away before Hijiri can finish, so she can only send, not receive.

This results in a hilarious scene where Rin, understandably thinking no one is listening because she’s riding alone, starts singing a girly Katana song, and when she spots Onsa, launches missiles at her (i.e. flashes her headlight).

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Surrounding this episode is Rin’s reluctance to join the bike club, even though, let’s be honest, she really wants to. Her and Onsa have some complex moments, first with Onsa in tears of shame at the state of her father’s place of business (while conceding it’s put food in her and her brothers’ mouths), and here with her headset leverage over Rin.

But while they go at each other consistently, there’s still an underlying warmth, and obviously their shared passion for riding that links them, which is why Rin agrees to pose in a group photo—as long as her Katana is center stage.

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The final third deals with the fact the faculty of the school has found out about an unofficial, illegal bike club (though girls riding bikes, or helicopters in Hijiri’s case) aren’t prohibited. This leads to a stunning reveal when the principal meets with Lime and calls her senpai—clearly Lime is not a high schooler and hasn’t been for some time.

We flash back to when the Bike Club was official and the principal was one of the mechanics working on Lime’s bike in a race. One of her friends forgot a screw, so Lime’s bike blew up before the finish line, teaching the future principal a valuable lesson: don’t employ high school girls as motorcycle race mechanics. That being said, when Lime wordlessly (natch) promises to keep the girls safe, she gives her approval for the bike club to be reborn.

I was preparing to pull the plug on watching and reviewing this show after three eps, since it’s pretty one-note, and I’m probably going to stick to that position, despite this being a pretty strong episode. It all comes down to not having to many shows and casts to keep track of and making my mind a muddle. It’s got its charms, and the bike angle is unique, but the fact is it’s the weakest of the Spring shows I’m watching, so it gets the hook.

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Bakuon!! – 02

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Week two of Bakuon!!starts by delving into the past of Suzunoki Rin, whose father instilled in her a passion for motorcycles and in particular Suzukis. One Suzuki he always coveted was a Yoshimura-tuned 1135R Katana, but after he breaks many bones in an accident, the dream seems distant…until Rin writes the necessary essay extolling her passion for the bike and ended up getting it for her dad.

Meanwhile, in the present, Rin has her license and is about to take her dad’s old 400cc Katana for her first official ride, and her dad has the temerity to poo-poo the very bike he once rode, even as he’s riding a bike he wouldn’t have without his daughter. What a jerk! But hey, at least he didn’t die in that accident. That would have been a bit too dark… :/

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Speaking of dark, the dark, frizzy-haired Onsa just can’t seem to get alone with Rin, and Suzukis are at the core of their conflict. Rin is already satisfied that Onsa is an “anti-Suzuki Fascist”, and while Onsa wants to at least cultivate the fiction that she likes Suzukis (so Rin will join the club), far too often her big mouth gets her in trouble when she reveals her true feelings within earshot of Rin.

Of course, we can’t just have Onsa and Rin going at it every episode as Hane referees and Lime…just stands around not talking. Enter Minowa Hijiri, a rich girl who is obsessed with experiencing what it is to be bad; and what better way than to join a bike club?

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Hijiri makes an immediate impact on said club, suggesting that rather than bicker in the club room or thumb wrestle, they determine who is the most courageous, and thus forge bonds of shared danger, by playing chicken with their motorcycles, a la Rebel Without a Cause.

Of course, being a rich girl, she doesn’t actually pilot said bike (she’s unlicensed, besides); that task falls to her butler, Hayakawa, who sees these girls, particularly Lime, mean business and gives the challenge his all. Onsa and Rin break at the same time very early, showing how alike they are despite their different make preferences.

As for Hayakawa, he simply doesn’t break at all, plunging his Ducati 750SS Imola Replica and Hijiri-occupying sidecar into the river. But it’s all good, becaue Hijiri feels like a true delinquent.

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In “part three” of the episode, Hane completes her training and testing phase, despite the fact the school switched out older Hondas like Baita for newer model that won’t talk to her. Baita also reveals she used to be a man, but was “neutered” and thus became a woman when prepared for lower-performance school duty.

Hane’s four friends watch wearily as Hane seems destined to fail her exam, forgetting everything Baita taught her and being over-distracted by the silence of her new ride, but Hijiri devises the plan to cheer for Hane from a high vantage point, forcing her to keep her head up. It works, and Hane manages to pass, meaning next week she gets to ride. But what (Honda) will she choose?

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Bakuon!! – 01 (First Impressions)

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All it takes is a particularly steep hill on her way to school, and the sight and more importantly the sound of a motorbike being ridden by a classmate, for Sakura Hane to enter the world of bikes.

She doesn’t have a particular passion for the machinery, nor does she want to start riding because it’s badass and liberating. At least at first, her motives are purely practical: she wants to get up that hill.

Amano Onsa, the frizzy-haired classmate who introduces her and welcomes her with open arms to the world of bikes, is into bikes because she’s passionate about the machinery and thinks its badass, and furthermore thinks she is a badass for riding a Yamaha Serow Mountain Trail 225. She’s eager to convert Hane to her church.

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Naturally, since this is Japan, there’s a club for that. Only problem is, the sole member of the school bike club when Onsa and Hane arrive is an initially terrifying senpai wearing a Simpson full-face helmet, a la The Stig.

This girl, whose name is basically “Lime Kawasaki” because her ride is a Ninja ZX-12R, does not speak and has no seiyu, which is fine, because Uchiyama Yumi and Ueda Reina do fine enough work as Onsa and Hane, respectively, for Lime to keep quiet.

Lime holds her own with her actions. As Onsa goes off on some monologue, Lime puts Hane on the back of her Ninja and takes her for an exhilarating spin. During the ride, Hane gets that feeling, and from then on, wants to ride a bike of her own.

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That means getting her license, which means, among other things, having to learn how to properly lift a bike that’s fallen on its side. She masters that once she starts to hear the ranchy voice of the training school’s Honda CB4ooSF, “Baita,” and takes a shine to the durable, no-nonsense machine. Another classmate catches sight of the bike club in action and looks poised to join in on the fun.

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The club swells to four—I think?—with the introduction of Suzunoki Rin, who is absolutely obsessed with Suzukis, and worships every one they see at the dealership while the club is looking for a bike for Hane. Hane is fine with a Honda. Onsa and Rin share the opinion that Honda’s are competent but soulless machines of orthodoxy, they totally disagree on the coolness of Suzukis, creating an early rift.

Hane seems to bring Rin back into the fold, but just as Lime was the one who actually got Hane interested in learning to ride, Hane is sure to be the mediator between the strong personalities of Onsa and Rin, breaking up many a fight between her two new friends may be in her future.

Bakuon!! is a slice-of-life that’s very dense in details and procedures, specifically those of motorcycles. Like One-Off, it could be dismissed as another glorified commercial for various perfectly-rendered motorcycles currently for sale (though they’re not all Hondas this time).

But I don’t care. I like shiny machines that go vrroom…or in this case, bakuon, and while this episode felt a little overstuffed and drawn out at times, it was mostly just a lot of fun, so I’ll be watching next week to see what comes next for Hane & Co.

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