Review/discussion about: Bakuon!!
I’ve never ridden a motorcycle, but I used to ride my bike around my neighborhood as a kid.
The bike was a hand-me-down from my cousin. It had a glossy green metallic frame. The back wheels had these extra spokes to let someone else stand on (or for grinding rails should one be skilled enough). And it made a nice clicking noise as I rode it down the sidewalk. It was a cool bike which, by proxy, made me cool, too (which is pretty hard to do).
While I liked that bike very much (and maybe because of it), I’ve always wanted to try riding a motorcycle. And as the girls of Bakuon!! prove, motorcycles are more than just glorified bicycles.
Bakuon begins with Hane, a happy girl who is eager to start her high-school life. However, riding a dinky bike up the hill to her school is more taxing than she realized. But when she sees a passing motorcycle, she knows what she will do: ride them.
For Bakuon, motorcycles are its bones, blood, and organs. They are what the anime focuses on in regards to its slice-of-life escapades, its comedy, and its more sentimental material.
On the slice-of-life side, the anime takes its time in explaining the different types of motorcycles. A Honda CV400 Super Four, a Yamaha TZR250, and a Suzuki Katana 400 are just a few of the bikes showcased. Everything from their make, their origins, and their overall feel come into play. The amount of information does not make one become a biker-know-it-all, but the audience still gets educated quite a bit in the ways of the two-wheeler.
But they don’t just explain their bikes. Hane and the other girls (perhaps obviously) use them for a variety of circumstances. They take part in a daring duel involving a ledge and a river. They embark on a road tour. They race one another during a cultural festival. Nothing extravagant, but, then again, biking isn’t either.
On the comedic side, Bakuon has not just a surprising amount of jokes in store but also some cleverness here and there. For example, in episode nine, Hane introduces all the bikes for that previously mentioned race. One of the students comments about Hane’s overly safe-conscious motorcycle, calling it “intellectual, like a satire on modern society.” Hane’s response?
“What’s a satire?”
The show has more than just “unintentional” humor. It goes unrealistic with a virus that forces Onsa to (gasp) like Suzuki bikes. It uses extreme juxtaposition with a gruff biker dude who hates only two things in the entire world: murder and standing next to a mid-sized Katana. It has silliness when their teacher licks the feet of Hijiri.
While the laughs themselves are almost always very light in nature and impact, they do a nice job of providing a mixture of different forms.
On the sentimental side, the anime is surprisingly sincere. About once per episode, the narrative takes some time away from the slice-of-life silliness and the bike-related jokes to craft a small scene that is more than heartfelt in nature.
One of the best examples of this idea happens in episode five. Onsa (who is usually the starter of these scenes due to her personality) stops Hane from wanting to ride in Hokkaido for one last time. She does not do so because she fears Hane will get hurt or even that she does not think Hane has the capability to ride well.
Instead, she simply tells her that, while they had immeasurable fun on their trip, it is time to go back, to realize that (and using a cliché because clichés are awesome) all good things must come to an end.
People face this same feeling all the time. When visiting grandma, when going to that movie theater, or when taking part in a cross-country motorcycle journey. Nobody doubts those are fun experiences, but, eventually, the fun will stop for now. That’s just how life is, for, in a similar fashion, that same sense of fun will eventually come around again – as the girls of Bakuon show.
These three pillars – motorcycles, comedy, and sincerity – support the anime’s strongest ideal: that it is more than okay to like something “foolish.”
The girls often talk about the problems associated with biking. When it’s cold, the freezing air numbs their hands. Motorcycles require heavy maintenance to function properly. A lot of effort is needed to obtain a license. Certain designs are favored over others. Bikes are prone to new types of accidents.
Yet that means nothing to what one can get out of this “foolish” hobby. A new way to roam the world. A set of scenarios unable to be felt in any other fashion. A group of friends who not only share a common interest but also share a tight bond between each other.
So, when the gang is dancing up on stage and singing a song to recruit new members, or when Hane goes through the motions on her imaginary bike, the audience empathizes with the girls’ joy and their sadness because the audience, too, likes foolishness.
It may not necessarily be with motorcycles. But it’s easy to understand why being a “fool” is more fun than not.
Arguably speaking, Bakuon’s worst aspects are its art and its animation.
The art itself is, at times, not that appealing. Even disregarding the unimaginative locales – the clubroom, random sides of the road, and a bike shop – the show has trouble on a more technical level. Characters can appear wonky, their lines rough and their faces distorted.
CG segments exist that, while not off-putting, are not exactly welcome. They are almost exclusively there for the more intensive movements – such as Hane turning a corner on her bike or Raimu falling through the sky on her scooter – so, even if those segments are considered a distraction, they are only so for a small amount of time.
Unfortunately, actual animation follows in the same tire tracks, though, to be fair, it does swerve off the path now and again.
Usually, the show does not have much in the way character movement. Arms, eyes, and general body actions are not given a lot of attention. However, the girls riding on their motorcycles, with hair flapping and wheels spinning, prevents this anime about moving vehicles from keeping its kickstand in place.
As for the character designs, they, like the actual animation, are more subpar than not.
Onsa and Hijiri are on the lower end. Onsa’s frizzy hair is part of her personality, but it looks more like a big ball of wet fur plopped on her head. And Hijiri may have long purple hair and glasses, but her design is overly dull.
Hane is arguably the same, but she’s purposefully so (as the main protagonist) and she at least has cute hair clips (in the shape of wings).
It also doesn’t help that (for everyone) their glossiness is tuned a bit too high, their colorings are somewhat faint, and the school outfits they all wear are too plain to remember.
Regardless, Raimu, Chisame, and Rin are easily a hit. Raimu’s helmet fits her literally-say-nothing persona. Chisame’s short stature is used for both characterization and development. And Rin’s tight, pink motorcycle suit, blonde twin tails, and large bust make her out to be an attractive character.
(A small nod goes to both the ED visuals with their paper-cut-out characters and some of the citizens in the anime with their red-and-white fox masks.)
The cast of Bakuon are a quirky bunch despite the realistic setting of the show.
Hijiri comes from a wealthy family. She has a personal butler drive her around in her Ducati (of which she owns many). Should her motorcycle become unusable for whatever reason, she simply has another one delivered via a helicopter drop. And she apparently has the capacity to fund scientists to create a device that cools down the engines that pass over them.
But her most prominent personality trait is her penchant for being a delinquent. Due to her upbringing, Hijiri finds immense pleasure in doing delinquent-like acts or even just hearing about them. Driving super late at night to go to a restaurant to eat food. Owning a fake motorcycle license. Seeing Onsa and Rin “fighting.” She may not actually be a delinquent, but it’s practically her middle name.
Chisame arrives much later in the season (technically episode seven but officially episode nine), and she is considered a side character for this reason, but she quickly demonstrates that she is as important as the other girls.
She tends to be less optimistic than most, and she does not like to be seen in a negative light. She also happens to be an undefeated minibike champion, taking after her father’s impressive skill on the race track.
Like Hijiri, though, Chisame has a trait that overshadows (maybe, in this case, undershadows) her others: shortness. Growing up, she never could reach the ground with her feet while riding a larger motorcycle, turning her off from the bigger bikes altogether. Her inability to do so fueled not only her determination to be the best at minibike races but also her fear of associating with proper motorcycles (as well as memorizing the multitude of seat heights for bikes out there).
The rest of the girls can be described in a similar manner: normal trait juxtaposed with a weird quirk. Raimu is older and the best motorcyclist ever, yet she never speaks a single word (and doesn’t even have a VA listed next to her name). Onsa likes to joke around, but she’s often the one who brings about the next philosophical musing. Rin can be mean at times since her fervent love of Suzuki bikes often dictates her actions.
Hane is the same. She’s a simple, kind girl who is oddly cheerful. Nay, incredibly jubilant. She almost always seems to be smiling, viewing life with more positivity than necessary. As such, her personality is affable to say the least.
To put it differently, the girls of Bakuon are each foolish in their own respective way. But that foolishness does not exist just to define them. Indeed, it allows them to both grow as characters and affect the other girls in the group.
Hijiri’s foolish delinquent behavior allows the group to experience new events. Chisame’s foolish view of herself leads her to earn a motorcycle license. Raimu’s foolish silence allows her to guide the other girls. Onsa’s foolish outlooks let the others understand different angles to approach life. Rin’s foolish passion for Suzuki fuels the passion for the other girls. And Hane’s foolish happiness gives her the strength to cycle forward no matter what may be trying to stop her.
Yes, the characters were not all that engaging. But it was nice to see them connected back to that sense of foolishness that the story itself touted from beginning to end.
Bakuon’s opening track combines bass, piano, and lots of drums to create a piece that feels as though one were touring the countryside on motorcycles with a group of friends. The vocalist does well, and the ending guitar riff is catchy, but most of the piece is not too adventurous in terms of scope or even finesse.
The ending track, in comparison, does a lot better. The different characters sing individually and together throughout the parts of the song. Onomatopoeia adds a bit of extra cuteness. Shifts in the lyrical pacing change up the flow. The starting guitar is a catchy lead-in. And the quickness of the piece give it higher energy (in contrast to the OP). It’s a nice ED – both on its own and in conjunction with Bakuon.
Voice-acting performances are of a similar quality to the ED. Reina Ueda as Hane does a splendid job of acting happy. Nao Touyama as Rin brings the passion. And Yumi Uchiyama as Onsa did well with a slightly mature voice to fit the slightly mature girl.
As for the other tracks from the original soundtrack, they do well. Lots of piano pieces – on both the low and high end – for the silly times and the bittersweet times, as well as daintier woodwind pieces for the laidback and fast-paced moments. (“Oyaoya!!” is especially fun.) Also, all that guitar. Tracks like “Kinpaku!!”, “Bushitsu!!”, and “Bakubaku!!” bring, like riding a motorcycle, lots of cool, tough vibes.
It may seem like standard slice-of-life fair for this fairly slice-of-life show, but the various compositions, tones, and motifs, combined with the large quantity of music itself, make the OST a more-than-strong offering.
I had a lot of fun with this one.
One of the best jokes from the entire season was when Hane met Jesus. Him responding to her “Thank God” comment, and His revelation that motorcycles were around way back when had me laughing hard.
But it wasn’t just this example; I found myself laughing at many other points. Hijiri using training wheels on her motorcycle, blurred out symbols on the motorbike to avoid copyright infringement, and Onsa (with Raimu) poking fun at the Suzuki brand of bikes each got me smiling.
Though my favorite parts of the show were Rin and Hane.
Rin’s more tsundere tendencies were a welcome sight. As was her running gag with a semi-jerk dad, her calling the smaller-sized Katana users losers, and her overzealous nature in general made her quite likable.
While Rin ekes out the win as my favorite character in the show (just barely so), Hane was always making me smile, too. Mostly because she’s simply a very happy, very fun person.
She was worried that Yume would yell at her if she lied to Rin about Rin’s Suzuki. Her goofball impersonation of a motorcycle: “Vroom! Put, put, put.” The enthusiastic conversations she had with Baita the talking bike. Her happiness rubbed off on me, making the anime an even more entertaining experience overall.
In all honesty, this anime is nothing too special. It does not drive for anything unique or arguably memorable. It does not have the strongest cast imaginable. And it does not have anything overly interesting. But I had fun without a doubt.
Bakuon!! may hit a few bumps in the road, but that doesn’t stop it from reaching its destination. Its theme on foolishness makes those sharp turns. Its sound-work gets over those hills. And its likable cast and silly jokes stop it from taking too many detours. All in all, it would make for quite the metallic hand-me-down.
Story: Great, motorcycles, comedy, and sincerity support the idea that “foolishness” has its problems, but the rewards are far grander
Animation: Bad, boring artistic direction, below average actual animation, and slightly below average character designs
Characters: Fine, while Hane, Rin, Onsa, Raimu, Chisame, and Hijiri are not much more than their base characteristics, their continued theme on foolishness makes them more thematically relevant
Sound: Good, okay OP, good ED, good OST, good VA performances
Enjoyment: Good, it’s nothing special, but it’s a fun-filled, happy time nonetheless
Final Score: 6/10
Thank you for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3