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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Triage X – 01 (First Impressions)

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Black Label, a secret group of vigilante surgeons, some of whom may still actually be high school students, fight back to remove evil from the body of their City. With guns, cool motorcycles, and bulletproof helmets.

But their coolest dude appears to be living on the edge, not following the rules. Little do they know, he’s talking to the childhood ghost of his dead friend.

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Also, his body is made from parts of that dead friend’s body, from when they were both blown up by terrorists who bombed a medical conference…

Triage X is a stupid, exposition-you-to-death, juvenile show pumped full of boy toys and boobs to look at. Except it’s heavily censored.

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You may like Triage X: if you enjoy the secret lives of high school students with big breasts who fight crime after school. If wait for the BluRay, you’ll even get to see a fair amount of those boobs too.

It’s not drawn badly but it has a 90s feel to it that reminds me of BurnUP and other ‘extreme’ cop and robbers shows. For better or worse, the vehicle and weapon design got plenty of attention.

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You may want to skip Triage X: if high school angst, love triangles, and having plot and characters endlessly expositioned at you isn’t your cup of tea.

Most likely, you’ve seen something similar before. Worse, so much is thrown at you in the first episode that I found no ability to empathize with any of the characters specifically. I didn’t even realize one of the high school girls wasn’t part of Black Label at first.

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Honestly, I don’t see any reason to follow this show. It isn’t terrible-looking, but the censorship ruins it’s base-appeal, and the so-evil-it-hurts villains are as over-designed as they are dull. Dull dull dull.

bleagh…

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Rolling Girls – 06

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RG wraps up another arc with its zany blend of over-the-top, stylized action and painfully bland soft J-rock, and the titular Girls manage to go the extra mile for their latest warring factions, but like the Always Comima mission, for all its glitz, the show has simply lacked the same magic as that episode two battle between Maccha Green and Shigyo Kuniko.

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There are lots of reasons for this. Unlike Nozomi during Himeko’s dad’s hospital bed speech, I was never all that emotionally invested either in the father-daughter conflict or the Aichi-Mie one. The whole reason the two countries combined was flimsy, so it never made much sense why they had to find some kind of middle ground, especially considering how different their cultures were. While it’s kind of sad, why not live and let live? The show’s only answer is “because we said so.”

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When Nozomi decides simply taking the stone and moving on isn’t an option, they try to build their own shachihoko, which inspires Himeko to get back into it, during which time she remembers that despite the pressure to succeed or surpass her dad, she still loves simply doing it for its own sake.

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On the track, Dandy, who turns out to be a former racing legend, inspires Tomoki to get back into the race, whereupon he beats his vice-captain fair-and-square, who retaliates by blowing up Tomoki’s bike with missiles. But Tomoki gets that feeling back, the feeling he’d lost after all those easy wins.

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Rolling Girls exhibits its signature elaborate disregard for physics and load weights, and while the animation is appropriately fast and furious during the race, it simply didn’t get my blood pumping as much as Macha/Shigyo duel; though your mileage may vary.

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In the end, the shachihokos get to the top of Nagoya Castle in the most ridiculous way possible, pedaled up a disintegrating ramp on a disintegrating bicycle powered by Tomoki’s shonen will. Father and daughter make automotive and food-based mods to the shachihoko that mostly satisfy everyone, Aichi and Mie alike.

But even this moment of triumph feels a bit too neat and tidy, with time, space, and gravity being warped so much the participants in the story are lost in the chaos. Perhaps I’m just running out of gas with this particular show. There’s plenty to look at, most of it exceedingly pretty…but this week left me pretty cold.

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Rolling Girls – 05

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The Rolling Girls’ next mission comes from a letter asking for help bringing peace to “Mie-Aichi”, also known as “Aichi-Mie”, a new country made up of those two very different prefectures united around the fact that both claim to be the birthplace of a certain kind of regional food, but both former prefectures have vigilante groups that constantly battle each other, while all the public roads double as racing circuits.

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In the midst of such a large conflict is Uotora Himeko, prodigal daughter of Aichi’s master carpenter, the one repsonsible for the city’s famous “shachihoko” fish sculptures, guardian gods that protect the roofs of buildings from fire.

Himeko is back after getting bored with playing around on the road, just when every shachihoko in town explodes. The Mie Motors vigilantes are suspected, and while there isn’t proof, the Aichi tenmusus want to duel them on the circuit to determine who rules the country once and for all.

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The Tenmusus’ captain, a tough dandy and cafe owner, tries to keep the peace, but the young pups are getting restless, and he has to rely on his absurd brute strength to keep the Mie Motors’ vice-captain at bay (in a running gag the vice-captain is constantly revving his engine, so you can never clearly hear what he’s saying). Negotiating peace seems like a tall order for Nozomi & Co.

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The Old Aichi townsfolk, however, are more concerned with getting all the shachihoko repaired. The only problem is, Himeko’s stubborn dad claims he’s lost all feeling in his arm and is thus no longer able to create. This puts the onus on the long-estranged daughter to do the work. When she was a little girl, she wanted nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps, but girls grow up and the paths they want to take change.

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It’s a tough spot for Himeko, made worse when she learns her dad’s arm is actually fine, and that he was faking it to make her take on the responsibility. She pays him back with words harsh enough that he slaps her, an action he instantly regrets but only pushes her away further.

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Meanwhile, the Rolling Girls have determined that Suzuka Tomoki, the captain of Mie Motors, reigning circuit champion, and only “Bike Taxi” in town, sent them the letter asking for help, in Himeko’s name (the fact he called the country Mie-Aichi instead of Aichi-Mie gave it away).

But when he zooms by to drop off a fare, the girls don’t have a change to catch his attention before it’s taken away by his loose-cannon vice captain, itching for a battle. Tomoki won’t allow one, but when a squad of Tenmusus arrives, they clash with vice-captain’s squad anyway.

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In all of this, Tomoki and Himeko both seem to be caught up in things far bigger than they are. But these two share a past, and perhaps they share a future in restoring peace to their joint country.

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After all, Tomoki seems to have the equivalent of a moonlight stone, and while shachihoko sculptures are merely symbols of peace, symbols are powerful things. Himeko may be rusty, but she and Tomoki may be the ones who help cooler heads prevail over hot ones. But first…dinner!

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Rolling Girls – 04

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Being plopped in the middle of a whole new setting with an entirely different political system and set of customs was as overwhelming for me as it was for the Rolling Girls last week, which at times threatened to rival Gundam-G levels of Proper Noun Onslaught (PNO). The crucial difference being I eventually understood Rolling Girls.

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Turns out Thunderroad’s second-in-command Noriko wasn’t taking the girls to be executed, but breaking them out, and letting them crash at her lovely house, where Yukina had actually been before when she had longer hair, glasses, and cuter clothes.

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The fact remains, they’re only safe for now; if and when they’re caught, they will be tortured and if found guilty, they’ll end up in the cut, where butlers and maids serve around the clock without rest. It’s a cosplay cafe HELL, and when the reality of their potential fate starts to weigh on them, tempers flare.

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Nozomi prefers to stay and clear Chiaya’s name; Ai thinks that’s foolhardy. Their spat is interrupted by Chiaya, who feels bad that this is all happening because its her stone that ended up lost. In other words, the group hits its first rough spot where nobody is in agreement what to do.

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Of course, we the audience know that’s all moot, particularly when Thunderoad decides to only sell Momiyama one stone: hers, not Chiaya’s. She races to Noriko’s to deliver it back to its owner, but trips on one of the city’s ubiquitous Roombas, and the stone slips of of her hand, off a balcony, and into the dense city night.

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Nozomi, meanwhile, calls home to tell her mom she’s alright, and not hanging out with any boys. The call is both practical and touching, then interrupted by Noriko’s mom insisting on re-spraying Nozomi’s bike, which she really doesn’t want.

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The girls then settle in for the night in the room Noriko gave them, having their first sleepover as a group…

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…then inexplicably change back into their street clothes to receive Thunderroad. They either thought it would be disrespectful to be in their jammies/underwear, or assumed she was coming to arrest them…or the animators messed up! Either way, Noriko and the girls alike are surprised to find Thunder apologizing to them for suspecting them…and for losing Chiaya’s stone.

She also points out what I thought had been obvious: the stones give their owners superhuman strength, speed, and stamina.

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A city-wide search of all Roomba’s progresses, but then a report comes in that one such Roomba has been rigged with a bomb that’s going to go off in five minutes. The people who sent it out—disgruntled Comima security guards—didn’t know it had a bomb until they read the note it came with…after launching it. Oops.

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No biggie; the heart stone eventually pops up, and even though Nozomi doesn’t notice it, Thunder’s crow Garm does, and flies it to her so she can power-up in-transit. The Roomba grows limbs and starts evading her, eventually landing cruelly in the afro of her beloved Rickshaw statue.

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Rick assures her it’s okay, as he was never a character to put his life above others, and Thunder brings her sword down on the Roomba, detonating it in a brilliant explosion. In the end, Thunder did the right thing…except for selling her own stone, which was supposed to be her first step towards retirement.

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Noriko, the Girl’s gracious host this whole episode, then confesses to being Dynamite Bombers; a group she invented out of thin air in order to give Thunder a reason not to retire, so much had she enjoyed serving with her. Thunder agrees not to retire, but installs Noriko as the new captain, preferring to serve as an ordinary solider so her delusions and greed don’t overcome her again.

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Chiaya, exercising the very opposite of greed, is impressed enough by Noriko’s gesture, and grateful for her hospitality, that she gives her stone to her. They’ll find other stones on their travels, and right now Noriko needs it more than her (though the Dynamite Bombers don’t exist, so I don’t know who her other enemies are).

After a call to her mom, the president (who wants her Home This Instant but is in no position to be making demands, considering she seemed to be more interested in the stones than her daughter to that point), Chiaya rejoins the others on their trip across Japan, substituting for Maccha Green, and they all realize they like the same band Ai happened to be humming.

While singing “It’s a nice day” over and over again makes for a lame ending theme, the closing montage of their adventures in Hakone and Fuji add some nice texture.

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Rolling Girls – 03

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Rolling Girls episode two was going to be a tough act to follow, and not even a visit to the towering “Always Comima” in Tokyo (which looks like a massive Big Sight) can keep the show from coming back down to earth.

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That being said, it was still a charmer, with the hastily-assembled titular rolling girls off on their first adventure with no time wasted. It’s funny watching Nozomi gradually come to realize that she may have fallen in with a bunch of weirdos. Ai, Yukina, and Chiaya’s very different styles and quirks keep the ride interesting.

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They arrive at a Tokyo on high alert after the Moonlight Stone (which they call a “Drom Beserker”) belonging to their local vigilante group’s Best, Thunderoad, comes up missing and assumed stolen by the Knights of the Twin Towers’ rival group, Dynamite Bombers.

The painted, washed out city vistas look pretty, but they lack the visual oomph that a fully-rendered bustling cityscape would provide. But then, perhaps our “yokel” girls from Tokorozawa are so overwhelmed by their surroundings they’re filtering out most visual information.

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When they show Chiaya’s stone to two passersby, they trip their “security charms” and have the girls arrested. They’re brought before Thunderoad and her pet crow, who Ai immediately challenges to a fight (the girl, not the crow) and is promptly defeated by a devastating forehead-flicking.

Still, Nozomi manages to smooth things over to the point Thunder gives them till sundown to find her stone, and she’ll give theirs back. She may have a future as a peacebroker after all.

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Back home, Nozomi’s parents worry about their daughter’s first big trip abroad, but all they can do is hope she’ll be okay and come back safe. That’s all Masami can to do, since without her stone and in the shape she’s in, she wouldn’t be able to help Nozomi.

As the girls comb Tokyo in vain for the stone (leading to Nozomi inexplicably vomiting), we cut to the Tokorozawa capital, where the president seems to be hoarding the damn things. We also learn that Masami may be “beyond recovery”,  and Chiaya is the president’s daughter, which explains how she got her hands on a stone and is looking for more of them.

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We also learn that Thunderoad wants her berserker back so she can sell it to one of President Misono’s buyers, so she can buy a life-size rickshaw figure, presumably to sit in and laugh. In a country of cosplayers and collectors with very exacting tastes, such a specific goal makes sense.

Even when she finds the berserker she lost (the crow hid it in the rickshaw boy’s afro), she still has to part with both her’s and Chiaya’s, since she accidentally overbid on the damn rickshaw, and must now pay double!

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When the Dynamite Bombers attacked, Thunderoad originally asked the buyer to delay the transaction, but she ultimately had to choose between being the Best who protects the city and fulfilling her rickshaw figure dream.

She picks the dream, not only giving up her stone but Chiaya’s as well, in a clever reversal of the “do the right thing” trope. Here I thought Nozomi would use that stone to kick ass. Now it will join the others President Misono has gathered, to be used as currency to pay for undisclosed “peacebroker activities”. It’s a very fishy business.

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Rolling Girls – 02

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Alright, I’m calling it: Rolling Girls’s second episode is the Best Episode of the Winter so far; beating Saekano – 01 by a hair. So it’s fitting that it’s called “The Center of the World”, because that’s where it felt like I was for nearly twenty-five minutes.

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It was, quite simply, The Complete Package: an addictive blend of Kill la Kill’s hypercaffinated, escalating battles and back-stories; One Off’s motorcycles and attractive character design; Zvezda’s ‘Power of Youth’ element; and finally, Amagi Brilliant Park’s eclectic collection of lovable characters, punchy dialogue, and a story that’s equal parts Swiss watch and Rube Goldberg machine.

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All of those shows I listed that remind me of this had their flaws, but RG manages to avoid most or all of them. Frankly, if there were any, they’d bee quickly lost in dizzying yet controlled pace of the action. Things seem on the edge of flying completely off the rails, like the roller coaster of non-combatant hostages.

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But rather than do that, RG rearranges the coaster’s track and keeps the ride going. Considering just how much was thrown at my eyes and ears, it’s a wonder I can tease out a simple synopsis, but that’s the beauty of controlled, well-organized chaos.

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So here goes: Nozomi learns Maccha Green is Masami, and Masami created the persona so Nozomi wouldn’t risk her life trying to save her like she did in the past.

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Only this week Nozomi and Shigyo end up dueling so fiercely, they end up taking each other right out of the peacebrokering game for two months. But while the battles get more and more intense and ridiculous as the episode progreses, they also gain more and more thematic resonance.

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The shit that goes on is simply unreal, but nothing comes out of left field, even what seem to be the most absurd occurances. Masami’s secret weapon is the Ramen Vomit Stream (from their eating contest earlier) that comes up after Shigyo beats her up, and a man wearing a croccodile mask gets accidentally punched. How do you confuse that face for Nozomis?!

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Particularly impressive is when Masami gets some shots in on Shigyo, it seems to conjure up long-lost memories for Shigyo, about how she once idolized and trained to become a superhero she learned was a fraud when he appeared in a magazine unmasked. The amount of visual information is stunning, and while it sure looks like a mess in these many many screencaps, it just wasn’t.

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The show also making use of every cubic inch of the space the two are fighting in, with the Giant Maccha Robot (which was only a giant inflatable dummy, but still fooled Shigyo last week), springs a leak when a big bird tries to steal octopus balls from smaller birds perched on it.

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Masami seems to have more pure dumb luck on her side, both with the vomit and with the blimp crash landing right where Shigyo stands. Masami’s toughness is also on full display, as she’s able to shield Nozomi from the blimp in the nick of time, despite having just taken a crushing blow from Shigyo.

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Getting back to that full use of 3D space, when the duel reaches the level in which all the non-combatants on both sides are simply blown away by the sheer force of the Bests’ attacks, we get to see it from Nozomi’s POV.

But as we said, the battle eventually does end—off-camera, ironically—with the two combatants laid up in the hospital for a couple months. As Masami can’t protect her in there, Nozomi figures it’s time to protect her, and decides to be a peacebroker-for-hire in her place.

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From the way her cool dad convinces her mom to agree to it, to Nozomi mounting her super-cool motorcycle in super-cool light and then hurting her leg on the starter, this progression from battle to Nozomi’s next move is as heartwarming as it is hilarious.

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I thought, then, that the next few episodes would be spent gathering the other three members of the titular Rolling Girls. Nope! She gathers them all up (both intentionally and by chance) in the final minute of the episode, as she’s riding out of town! After a maximalist battle, a minimalist team-build. I loved it. rg215

And these weren’t random people, either: Nozomi and Yukina had already bonded (and gone through hell together) and Yukina simply likes the idea of going for a ride, Hibiki Ai was the enemy Rest who was kicked out and needs a ride, and Misono Chiaya was a customer at Nozomi’s fam’s restaruant. So off they go, to settle disputes and hunt for the rare Moonlight Stones that give Bests their powers. I for one am PUMPED.

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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.