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AKA: ばくおん!!
Genre: Comedy, motorbike nerdery.
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks, also available on Crunchyroll.
Content Rating: PG-13 (Fanservice, morally iffy subject matter, mature situations, not so mature situations.)
Related Series: Bakuon (OAV)
Also Recommended: Rolling Girls, Rideback, Girls und Panzer.
Notes: Based on the manga series by Mimana Orimoto, serialized in Young Champion Retsu.
Rating:

Bakuon!!

Synopsis

Sakura Hane, fresh as a high school student, is facing some problems: the steep hill on the way to her high school. However, on the way there, her attention is drawn to one of her fellow student on a motorcycle, which immediately captures her interest. At the school, she meets the owner of the bike, who tries to get her to join the bike club to avoid being the only one outside of the weirdo who never removes her helmet.


Review

Some times, one's attention to a show is caught by a rather weird combination that shouldn't really be all that unusual. In Bakuon!!'s case, that is high school girls and motorbikes. The somewhat sexist or sexualized notion of "biker chicks" aside (the second one of which I'm at least fractionally guilty), the show seems solely dedicated to the weird concept of motorcycles and all its weird appeals.

For instance, motorbikes are very much a seasonal thing, especially in countries that experiences snow-filled winters. As the show also points out, being a motorbike rider also means you literally have to experience the elements to their full extents. And that's not even getting into the kind of snobbery this show will have you endure, fictionalized or otherwise. It's just about the extent I can claim expertize in the subject of bikes, though, if even that.

Before that, and before you start watching this show, you have to understand one thing: all the main characters in this show are idiots. Hane in particular seems to be completely detached from this world mentally, only socially aware enough to do decently in her classes (and school in general), but also seemingly having no problem following instructions needed for things like... say, a motorcycle license. I guess that makes her the closest to me in that she's not as much into bikes for its history rather than the "coolness" aspect of it. And not having to walk or bicycle up that absurdly steep hill on her way to school. Part of her lineup of comedy gags is various comments flying right over her head. Eventually, she ends up buying a Honda, affecionally labelled a "Su-Four". A pink one because... she's a girl, I guess?

Her first friend is Amano Onsa, "affectionally" referred to as "Frizzy" (due to her hair.) She's the owner of a Yamaha, and tends to be the most self-conscious about the idiosycracies of being a biker... for both good and bad. Among the main five, she's probably the most selfish if you go by first impresions, but that's mostly because she tends to push her weird opinions about general stuff on others at first. She is one of the more knowledgeable about bikes in general, though, and can be generous when the situation calls for it.

The third character we meet is Suzunoki Rin, who, if this show is anything to go by, is a Suzuki snob. She's riding a Suzuki Katana GSX400S, which she inherited from her father, and she's fiercely devoted to the Suzuki brand. She is a bit of a tsundere, particularly when it comes to her bike, and she's sort of the opposite of Frizzy; she's mostly friendly, even to strangers, but her tsundere temper and pride makes her turn rudely defensive when the situations "calls" for it. You'll also mostly see her wear her racing bike suit whenever she's not at school, which, given how busty she is, makes it even more impressive-looking. (Especially when she pulls up her suit zipper.)

A girl who made her appearance before Rin did, however, is a strange girl known as "Raimu-senpai". She is a bit of an illogical mystery, though, because for one, she's never seen without her helmet. Her general body structure still suggest "late teenager" to some extent, but then the show straight out tells us that she's been a member of the bike club -- whether active or inactive -- for 20 years, ever since that accident at a club race of sorts. She's a genius on a bike, however, and can be seen doing many a crazy thing to get by.

There's also Hijiri Minowa, the almost stereotypical rich girl. She joins the bike club to fulfill her dream of being a delinquent, but she doesn't actually drive a bike herself. Instead, she relies on her butler and a bike with a sidecar attached to it, and her contribution to the show tends to limit itself to her complete lack of perspective and how having lots of cash can solve all of her problems. Or at least most of them.

I almost have to admire Bakuon's tendency to not idealize people. Among the ones you see on a regular basis, you'll be introduced to both their good and bad traits, and the show will shamefully exploit them all if it feels like it. To its credit, all the traits, both positive and negative -- well, maybe except Rin's tsundereism -- are more true to human than a lot of the made-up flaws you often see in anime, except probably greatly exaggerated for comedic emphasis. All the idiotic pride and dependance of image or feelings of superiority, brand-labelled or otherwise, can be something we're all guilty of, which is most likely why it can be so hard to swallow from time to time. But don't worry; every now and then, God on a Harley Davidson is there to impart some words of wisdom to Hane and, by extent, the audience. And no, I'm not joking: this show stars God on a Harley. (Well, it's not REALLY a Harley, but... you'll see.) It's actually far less ridiculous than it sounds, and I wish he'd show up more often, even if he kind of caused the final story arc.

Another thing I'm a bit uncertain of, is whether all the snobbery and elitism on display here are based on any real-life traits. The ones riding motorbikes aren't the only ones with occasional rotten personalities; the regular bikers -- I.E. the pedal-driven ones -- are almost worse. It becomes solely about how much you spent on your equipment rather than what you can do with it, which, while certainly true to life to some extent, I don't think that's necessarily limited to bikers, pedal or otherwise.

This is not to say that Bakuon!! is completely free of cartoonish caricatures. The girls' teacher is one such case, as she subscribes to most terrible stereotypes and comedy tropes of the "single woman in her thirties"; she's a pathetic creature, bitter and rash, not to mention a terrible drunk. Her first characterisational moment has her drunkenly lamenting a man while sexually harrassing her own students while trying to get them drunk. We're talking To Love-Ru level comedy here. That is not a compliment.

Of course, the teacher was just kidding about offering her student minors beer, but Hane passed out from the fumes from the can anyway. Seriously!

Despite what I just said might make you think, there isn't actually all that much fanservice in Bakuon!!, and most of what's there is pretty casual; girls in swimsuits, girls in hotsprings, the latter being kind of weird in that Hijiri's butler also being in one of the springs near the girls, and they don't seem too concerned with that. But occasionally, the show will get kind of weird about it, like at the end of the Hokkaido road trip arc where two of the girls will soap up their bodies and rub them against their bikes. (As well as label this an "American Car Wash".) And of course it's Hane and Rin who does this, being the two curviest girls of the lot. Those are the moments when you can expect your parents to walk in while you watch the show.

The show is actually lucky enough to be graced with some pretty good animation, which works pretty well for the scenes where the girls are riding their bikes. It really sells the appeal of riding motorcycles, even beyond the concept of adorning them with sexy women, or in the case of this show, cute high school girls. Or even the lame romanticised lines the show is self-aware enough not to take too seriously. There is certainly some CG in use here during the riding scenes, but it blends in well enough that I'm not always certain whether a scene applies it or not. In another interesting parallell, this time to nominal tank show Girls und Panzer, Bakuon!! has put a great amount of care into detailing bikes, with many different models on display. Not surprising, perhaps, given that the very point of the show is tons of brand nerdery

Bakuon!! isn't a particularly deep show. When I read about it, I was mostly hoping for a fairly regular slice-of-life show about a group of girls riding motorbikes. That's more or less what I got, too, except the show leans more towards gag comedy rather than any cohesive slice-of-life (like, say... Flying Witch.) Still, I really appreciated that most of the episodes chose a story and went with that for its runtime, and in a weird parallell to Super Sonico: the Animation, the highlight of the show -- at least for me -- was the girls' roadtrip to Hokkaido. It was nice in that it was an ecletic mixture of comedy (the scene with the teacher notwithstanding), travelogue, bike nerdery and general feelgood with the girls keeping a nice balance between their admirable sides and... less admirable ones.

I wish I could be as optimistic about its ending, as it's very important for a good slice-of-life to give its audience a proper sendoff. Bakuon!! chose to do a "what if" in the "what if there were no motorbikes", which sounds good on paper, but did not work out so well for the show. This had mostly to do with taking motorcycles out of the equation, the show basically limited itself to whatever was left -- in this case, regular bikes and the snobbery that goes with it, which it had already done before. It's a joke that keeps on giving, I guess, but I didn't really need a repeat joke that was placed on another repeat joke, slathered on top of a big cake of "it was all a dream". It's such a letdown after an otherwise decent show.

All in all, I'm... fairly happy with the show. The hiccups aren't enough to really tear it down, thankfully, even when a really big one rounds off the show itself. Even if Hane is kind of loud and obnoxious, Rin is a huge snob, Onsa is a bit of a selfish jerk and Minowa is kind of "Sledgehammer-toting Pyramid Head psychotic" when she doesn't get her way at times and money is unable to fix the problem. It's all part of the charm that makes Bakuon!!, if you'll excuse the pun, a fun ride.

An energetic, if flawed, show that nevertheless has its heart where it counts.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: The show is mostly clean. I wouldn't really call the various hotspring scenes anything to concern oneself about, but the weird scene with two of the girls trying to soap in their bikes with their bodies weirdly sexualizing for this show. The intro also contains a scene with Rin pulling the zipper of her racing suit over her ample chest, which never ceases to impress. The worst scene, I guess, would be the one where the girls' teacher tries to remove Hane's clothes in what can not be considered anything except sexual harassment.

Other than that, there's no particular violence to speak of and only some relatively mildly corrupt behavior.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Bakuon!! © 2016 TMS Entertainment.
 
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