Bakuon!! Complete Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 292 minutes approx.
There is always a danger of taking some of things in slice-of-life anime at face value but if they are to be believed then Japanese high schools are to be marvelled for the sheer range of after school clubs. We’ve seen clubs for music, computers, the occult, kendo, volleyball, and supernatural investigations – now there’s one devoted to motorbikes!
Hane Sakura happily cycles to school like many other students but struggles with a steep hill, until she is passed by another student on a motorbike. In awe of the easy job the motorbike made of the hill and the lack of personal physical effort it entails, Hane seeks out the rider, Onsa Amano, who just happens to be the school’s bike club president.
Learning that the school permits its students to be licensed motorbike riders, Hane joins the club and sets about getting her licence and her first motorbike, taking advice from Onsa, the mysterious perma-helmeted Raimu Kawasaki, brash Suzuki lover Rin Suzunoki along with the other new club member, rich girl Hijiri Minowa, who isn’t old enough to ride a bike so she sits in a sidecar and her butler drives her around instead.
If you are thinking Bakuon!! is merely is K-On! with motorbikes I won’t challenge you on that but I will point out that this is also a hasty assumption to make. There are many plot beats and tropes shared between the two titles but the differences are substantial enough for both to stand on their own merits.
First and foremost, Bakuon!! doesn’t possess the loose moe blob art style of K-On! whilst it focuses more on the motorbikes and the various attendant facets that come with owning a bike, overshadowing the “cute girls doing cute things” direction that dominated K-On!. Secondly, there is a hefty dash of fan service in this series, some of it pushing the parameters of the BBFC’s 12 rating.
Created by Mimana Orimoto in 2011, the original manga is still ongoing, no doubt the developments in the motorbike industry brining about fresh new directions for the plots. For some reason, the featured vehicles are referred to as “autobikes” by the cast, which I assume is what the Japanese call motorbikes. Sounds very science fiction and whilst some plots do wander into realms of silliness, this series is grounded in reality.
Like how Initial D panders to the fanboys with its Top Gear levels of car fanaticism, Bakuon!! is the motorbike equivalent, supplanting boy racers with cute schoolgirls. One of the running gags is that Rin is a Suzuki lover, explained in depth through flashbacks detailing the relationship with her father and his Suzuki, but Onsa thinks they are the pits, an opinion that is apparently commonplace.
Given that the Suzuki brand has been cleared for use in this series, it is hard to see how this benefits their public image, unless the idea is that busty blonde Rin’s enthusiasm is meant to win over potential customers. Onsa, whose father owns a motorbike dealership and repair shop, rides a Yamaha, which naturally she highly praises; Raimu lives up to her name and rides a Kawasaki and newbie Hane settles for a Honda.
A different bike for each personality and as you might have surmise by now, the cast are made up of recognisable types – Hane the ditzy but sweet one, Onsa the tomboy, Rin the haughty one and Hijiri the bespectacled throw money at everything one. Arguably the best character is Raimu, the Japanese motorbiking cousin of The Stig – never speaks beyond written signs, never removes her helmet and possess demon skills when on two wheels.
Raimu is also an enigma in that she appears to be a fully-grown adult, having been the senpai to the current headmistress 20 years earlier, yet she still fits in her uniform. Yet Raimu is not the strangest character in the show, that honour befalls to the licence exam instructor, with his strange long nose that sticks out lie it was stuck onto his face a’la Pinocchio. Weird design there.
Whether you know all about motorbikes or you don’t, Bakuon!! offers a unique Japanese perspective, as well as plenty of education for both groups. Beginning with the various stages of the licence exams to the legal requirements and statues that come with being a licence holder, the cheery cast also cover the maintenance procedures, choosing the right bike and the do’s and don’ts of cross country touring.
Seasoned anime fans will be able to predict the sort of escapades the group undertake many of which are covered here but with a bespoke subversive twist. However the fan service of the technical and vehicular variety should have sufficed but sadly, it was deemed that we must see the teen cast in a state of undress so we have the obligatory onsen visit followed by a lewd technique in motorbike washing by the bikini clad bikers.
Later in the run a new younger student joins the club, Chisame Nakano, daughter of a famous racer thus something of a prodigy – except she is rather short for most bikes, but ends up with her father’s customised Honda. Also sharing her two-wheeled passion is the girl’s homeroom teacher and a man with a halo who befriends Hane when she gets lost who may or may not be Jesus.
The character designs are pretty much off the peg with the exception of Raimu and Onsa but the real eye candy is the bikes. Lovingly replicated in every detail, there are brought to life via regular 2D animation and smoothly applied CGI for the more ambitious motion scenes, whilst the chibi versions in the end credits are good for a laugh too.
Bakuon!!’s biggest draw is motorbikes as the twist on a well-worn subgenre, and whilst it doesn’t abandon all of the conventions, it does take advantage of its subject to feel like a fresh and fun show. So helmets on and enjoy the ride!
Japanese Language 2.0
Disc 1 (DVD):
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Live Action Behind The Scenes
Disc 3 (DVD):
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Bakuon’s Closet Shorts
Rating – ***
Man In Black