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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2014 World Cup – KUSO!

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Well, Japan was aggressive, hogging the ball a whopping 75% of the time and out-passing something like 5-to-1, but none of their shots went in the goal. Even though Greece was a man down, they seemed to be playing for a hold, which would net them at least one point, and not trying to win for three, while depriving Japan of two more.

After their scoreless draw, Japan and Greece share the dank basement of Group C. All is technically not lost, but Japan missed a crucial opportunity to control their own destiny, and it doesn’t bode well that they weren’t able to deliver a decisive blow to the weakest team in the group.They play Colombia next Tuesday, and they’ll be playing for pride…and a very slight glimmer of hope.

2014 World Cup: “Jitaku iku katsu ka”

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“自宅行く勝つか” is as close as we (with the help of Google) could get to saying “Win or go home”, which constitutes Japan’s remaining choices.

Beat Greece, and they’re still in Group C contention. Lose, and they’ll be eliminated (and we’ll only have one more post here commiserating their quick exit from the tournament, for those of you who don’t care about soccer).

The match starts at 6PM Eastern, or 7AM in Tokyo. Blue Samurai will be looking to play more aggressively, having only managed one goal by Honda Keisuke against Ivory Coast, which just fell to Group C leader Colombia 2-1.

Photo by Javier Soriano / AFP Photo

2014 World Cup: 100 Seconds Short

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At the end of a football-packed day in which Greece fell to Colombia in the first Group C match, Japan got an early goal by Honda to take a 1-0 lead that they couldn’t quite hold, as Ivory Coast equalized and took over the lead in a second half offensive burst in which both goals were scored within 100 seconds, the fastest interval of the tournament so far.

Japanese players and fans alike wore their hearts on their sleeves, as one should at such an event: alternating between the rapt elation of the goal and the deflated dejection of ultimately falling short of a victory.

Now Japan looks to even their record and gain some points against Greece on 19 June. Greece looked physically and mentally up to the task but seemed to lack the creativity to overcome Colombia’s set pieces. We’ll see if Blue Samurai can keep their hopes of advancing alive in what is still an open Group.

Photos, clockwise from top left, by Jamie Squire, Mark Kolbe, Jamie Squire, and Keith Tsuji, Getty Images.

One Off – 04 (Fin)

Having formed Poco Poco, Haruno, Anri, Sayo and Rie aim for their first official concert in the Spring. But when Cynthia announces she’ll be returning to Australia in just a week, they accelerate their plans, and finish the song in time for Cynthia to watch them perform on the stage at the inn. During goodbyes, Haruno tells Cynthia she’ll be the one to visit her next.

Support is not really something you ask for. People give it on their own when they see you working hard. Strangely, the one being supported ususally doesn’t notice. But that kind of invisible strength is very important.

That’s sage advice from stargazer/children’s book author Kageyama to Haruno, who didn’t want to ask for support when she isn’t even sure of her goal. That support comes in the form of Cynthia leaving, motivating the initially lethargic Poco Poco into creating a song, practicing it, and performing it in the limited time they have. As Haruno says, no matter what happens, the short time they spend crafting the song and singing it is a memory none of them will soon forget.

The important thing about climactic songs is that with all the build-up, they’d better be good, and the one Poco Poco sings is very nice: a light, breezy song about starting something and trying hard, and isn’t too sugary. It’s also very nicely performed by the four seiyus. One Off was a great end-of-year surprise that we decided to bite into, and we weren’t disappointed. It turned out to be much much more than just a showcase for Honda motorcycles – though it excelled at that too.


Rating: 9 (Superior)


Motorcycle Cameo:
The owner of the Motoya bike shop and cafe gets his vintage CB750 running again, using some parts he had to build. It’s regarded by some as the first “superbike”, and certainly looks an absolute treat in yellow and black.

One Off – 03

A large group of stargazers arrive at the Niwa inn, and Anri, Sayo and Rie volunteer to help out. Haruno is open to singing Anri’s song when she finishes it, but balks at an all-out concert. After being browbeaten by Cynthia, she changes her mind, only to drop the issue again. The night of the stargazing, her friends ask her about it again, and after chatting with one of the stargazers, she agrees to do a concert after all.

The overall theme of this episode is “little by little” – taking small steps, taking your time, being patient in order to achieve achievable goals. Take the picture of the Rosette Nebula Haruno’s dad hangs on the wall. It’s a long-exposure photo, taken under ideal conditions. The village is ideal for stargazing, but the brilliant red color is not visible to the human eye, ina telescope or not. It’s just a dense cluster of stars. But even that can’t be seen in the city.

But to Kageyama, one of the stargazers, it’s enough that she can see a hint of it and get lost in thought under the stars. Even after her ride to the sea, Haruno is a little more receptive to trying things like singing, but is still afraid of exerting energy if it will only result in failure. Her daydreams are overambitious, but none of them are as impossible as she mopes about. Ultimately, she decides to give a concert a try, and the group she and her friends form has the appropriate name “poco a poco” – little by little.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Motorcycle and Car Cameos: Rie’s brother has a PCX Scooter. Kageyama rides a Shadow 750 (pictured). There’s a third-gen CR-V in the Niwa garage (that D-pillar is unmistakable), and one of their customers drive a Stepwgn.

One Off – 01

Shiozaki Haruno lives at the Niwa inn in an picturesque but small village, enjoys riding her Honda scooter, and dreams of one day living in the big city. She and her high school friends meet Niwa’s new hire, an Australian woman named Cynthia B. Rogers who has traveled the world on her sport bike. Haruno envies Cynthia’s adventurous spirit and laments her lack of motivation or will to do what she did.

At first we thought this OVA series would be one big pretty advertisement for Honda Motorcycles…and it is, but thankfully it’s also more. (Side note: being owners of three four-wheeled Hondas ourselves, and having family with five more, we can attest to the quality and dependability of their wares. Where’s our sack of cash, Honda?) This is by the director of Tamayura ~Hitotose~ and it’s one big pretty slice-of-life, with the lovingly-rendered Honda machines complementing rather than overpowering the proceedings.

This episode oozes quality from start to finish: the backgrounds, character design and voice work and music are all top-notch and pop through the screen. And the message is simple: “amazing is relative”. Haruno is impressed and even jealous of the action-packed life the eccentric gaijin has led, while Cynthia finds awe in simple things Haruno takes for granted: the beauty of her village, the tea, or a bowl of rice with a fresh egg. Both are right, but while Cynthia is experiencing both worlds, Haruno feels like she’s on the outside looking in. We’ll see where her restlessness and Cynthia’s influence takes her.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Motorcycle Cameos: First of all, everyone rides Hondas. Haruno rides a Giorno, a European-styled scooter. Her friend Sayo rides a Little Cub, a version of the most-produced motor vehicle in history, the Super Cub. Her friend Anri rides a Benly. Rie rides a bicycle, but dreams of owning the cute-but-tough Zoomer, also known as the Ruckus (114 mpg!). Cynthia rides a red CBR250R (pictured). A CB1100 is being tended to outside the cafe.

Introducing Car Cameos

We here at RABUJOI are a bit mad…we don’t just love our anime, we love our cars too. And aside from Initial D (which we’ve sadly never gotten around to watching), and other series where the cars are the focus, the majority of anime have treated cars merely as props or part of the background.

Well, it’s a great time for anime fans who also happens to be able to identify the year, make, and model of any vehicle they come across. Thanks to the now-widespread use of accurate CGI vehicle models, specific makes and models are appearing all over series in which cars play no sizable role. Cars are rarely hand-drawn anymore (it’s more expensive), which means they’re no longer made-up. They’re real.

For most of 2012, whenever we spot one (or more) of these “Car Cameos” in an episode, we make a note of it in our review. In less than three months, we’ve amassed quite a collection. It’s a nice cross-section of the Japanese automotive landscape with Toyota dominating, followed by Nissan. Curiously, we’ve yet to spot any Hondas, but we have seen a fair number of foreign (i.e. non-Japanese) models.

We’re pretty sure we’re the only anime blog that does this, because truthfully, who else would bother? In any case, you can now access our “Garage” of Car Cameos by clicking the tab up top, or here. We’ll be watching to see if any of the cars we’ve owned (all Hondas, incidentally) ever appear in future episodes.