“He’s got a brand new car,
Looks like a Jaguar.
It’s got leather seats,
It’s got a CD player”
—Buck Rogers, Feeder
Hane Sakura becomes interested in motorcycles after seeing one effortlessly ascend a hill on her way to school, and she soon joins her high school’s motorcycle club, meeting Onsa Amano in the process. Hane subsequently obtains her motorcycle license, develops a liking for Honda motorbikes and also befriends the motorcycle club’s longstanding member, Raimu Kawasaki, as well as the wealthy but mischievous Hijiri Minowa. This merry band is occasionally accompanied by Rin Suzunoki, who has a strong love for all things Suzuki. The girls discover the joys of hitting the open road on bikes, various intricacies surrounding motorbike regulation and maintenance, and later, are joined by Chisame Nanako, a skilful racer who is very conscious about her short stature. Running concurrently with Hai-Furi, Bakuon!! (onomatopoeia for “roar”) was an anime that I originally intended to watch, but after being unimpressed with the first episode, I shelved plans to continue – I was wrapping up my thesis at the time and so, my time was not unlimited. However, with the introduction of the Terrible Anime Challenge, I decided to give Bakuon!! another shot. In doing so, I found a mildly entertaining anime whose execution is quite plainly a call-back to the styles and eccentricities of K-On!. I thoroughly enjoyed K-On! and count it a masterpiece: K-On! is the iconic forerunner to the current presence of slice-of-life genre in which there is a small cast whose member share gentle, heartwarming moments with one another with the aim of bringing catharsis to audiences. My reasons for counting K-On! as a masterpiece will be left as a story for another time. Bakuon!! is rather more outrageous – the dynamics amongst the cast and their unusual world means that rather than relax, Bakuon!! is more suited towards eliciting a few laughs from viewers who are familiar with the likes of K-On! and series following its approach.
Differing from K-On! in its niche and use of bikes in place of music, Bakuon!! is nonetheless conceptually similar to K-On!. The similarities are numerous. Hane’s familiarisation with the basics parallel those of Yui learning to play the guitar. Hijiri mirrors Mugi’s desire to experience the sorts of things that she would not otherwise as a result of her wealthy background. Onsa clashes with Rin, similarly to how Ritsu and Mio share a rocky but ultimately deep friendship, and finally, Chisame is outright a carbon copy of Azusa. The narrative begins with Hane’s introduction to bikes and participation in a tour of Hokkaido, school race and presentation for new students, while in K-On!, Yui similarly becomes learned in guitar and performs at a school concert, spends time with her friends at a training campo and with Houkago Tea Time, inspires Asuza to join the light music club. However, Bakuon!! is no mere K-On! knock-off – the characters and world of Bakuon!! are clearly intended to exaggerate what was seen in K-On!. The characters accentuate extremities from K-On!‘s cast for comedy: Hane is excessively optimistic and innocent, while Rin is a more shameless version of Mio. Hijiri is not hesitant to pull resources from her family to make certain things possible; these are even more outlandish than anything Mugi did in K-On!. Onsa is much more expressive than Ritsu, and her fights with Rin are more vocal. Chisame plays to Azusa’s small frame and proficiency, poking fun at Azusa’s serious nature in K-On!. In conjunction with its ridiculous setups, from talking motorcycles and puppet-like instructors, to a senior with no dialogue, it is apparent that Bakuon!! is intended to act as a parody of K-On! and illustrate the incredible, even ridiculous setups that are presented in the latter if they were taken to their logical conclusion.
Whether or not Bakuon!! succeeds as a parody is another aspect that this series shares with K-On! – K-On! was a polarising anime when it aired. Its proponents enjoyed the easy-go-lucky environment that was presented; free from conflict, it was simply something that encouraged relaxation in viewers. Detractors cite K-On! as being detrimental to the industry for promoting entertainment with no academic worth. Bakuon!! has similarly created two camps of viewers. There are folks who found Bakuon!! to have taken the weakest aspects of K-On! and using these to define the series’ characters, and at the opposite end of the spectrum are the people who feel Bakuon!! could be compared to the classic Azumanga Daioh! for its subtle depiction of the passage of time. Both perspectives are ill-suited for describing Bakuon!!. The point of a parody is to accentuate features to the point of exaggeration for comedic reasons, and Bakuon!! succeeds in creating a whacky world where the lack of sense is a part of its charm. Once I got past the initial strangeness of Hane’s world and accepted it, I saw a series with a unique brand of humour that I’ve not seen anywhere else. On the flipside, the comparison of Bakuon!! to Azumanga Daioh is not a reasonable one: Azumanga Daioh illustrated how friendships form and mature over time as people move towards a goal of sorts. Bakuon!! has no equivalent path: it is most comparable to K-On!‘s first season, where the aim of the narrative was simply to establish the characters in their world. K-On!‘s second season began presenting the manga’s main message, but without a continuation to decisively illustrate (or disprove) this, Bakuon!! remains a spirited effort at poking gentle fun at the setup folks have seen in K-On!.
Screenshots and Commentary
- When I first watched Bakuon!!, I had just wrapped up my graduate programme and was acclimatising to a post-school world. The transition was relatively smooth, but during this time, I found it difficult to get into anime, so that season, I ended up dropping a lot of shows. Bakuon!! was one of them, and I still remember watching the first episode, where Hane struggles to bike up a steep hill and marvels at the prospect of using a motorcycle.
- It took some prodding for me to resume watching Bakuon!!, especially when Baita was introduced: the surrealism was a bit much. Once Hane gets her license with some visually-pleasing help from Hijiri, I had enough motivation to push forwards. Another motivating factor for my continuing is a consequence of my coming across some rather ill-informed statements about Bakuon!! while looking around for materials related to Hai-Furi and Girls und Panzer. Extremities in reactions to Bakuon!! range from some feeling it to be one of the best anime of Spring 2016, to being an atrocity against anime, is the reason why this Terrible Anime Challenge post is longer than usual.
- Once Hane gets her license, her next target is buying a bike. She winds up purchasing a Honda CB400SF Hyper VTEC Spec III (known informally as a Super Four), the third revision of the Super Four that Hane rode in biking school. Like Yui’s Gitah, Hane is very much in love with her new wheels, and this is what motivates the page quote: I’ve been wanting to use lyrics from Feeder’s Buck Rogers for some time, and an anime about new wheels seemed an appropriate place for things. Of course, having watched Behind Enemy Lines previously, I also cannot help but think of a carrier-based F/A-18 launch when I hear Buck Rogers.
- Being the central protagonist who fulfills a very similar role to K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa, Hane is the focus of Bakuon!!, and the story is told around her perspective. Both Hane and Yui share personality traits (kind-hearted and warm), are quite new to technical aspects surrounding their newfound hobby and optimistic despite being prone to moments of misfortune; here, Hane runs out of gas on her Super Four while taking it for a test run. Hane is voiced by Reina Ueda: I know Ueda best as Sakura Quest‘s Shiori Shinomiya and Sophie Noelle of Kuromukuro, as well as Naru Sekiya of Hanayamata (which, incidentally, might also be looked at for a future Terrible Anime Challenge).
- Rin Suzunoki is supposed to be the equivalent of Mio Akiyama, but comes across being a more full-figured and aggressive incarnation of Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo. The similarities are accentuated by the fact that Rin is voiced by Nao Tōyama. Onsa Amano, on the other hand, feels like a cross between Ritsu Tainaka and Yukari Akiyama – she’s the foil to Rin and knowledgeable about motorbikes, being voiced by Yumi Uchiyama (Kiniro Mosaic‘s Yoko Inokuma). Hijiri Minowa is modelled after Tsumugi Kotobuki, being of a similarly wealthy background and desiring to experience youth as ordinary people would. Hijiri’s voice is provided by Rikako Yamaguchi, and I am not familiar with her other roles.
- After Hane gets her license, she and the motocycle club begin doing their first motorcycle tour, setting their sights on Hokkaido. It’s a trip of firsts that parallels Yui’s first ever training camp, and the girls’ tour in Bakuon!! lead them to Ooarai, Home of Girls und Panzer. This particular detail has largely gone unnoticed: Bakuon!!‘s manga predates Girls und Panzer, so when Hane and the others arrive in Ooarai, it’s still the quiet seaside town that it was prior to the explosion in popularity the area received following Girls und Panzer‘s televised run.
- Four episodes in, and according to period discussions, there were already complaints directed at Bakuon!!., stating it to be “…unbelievably stilted, and… progressively more irritating, too.” This comparison holds no weight, especially as it comes from someone claimed that K-On! was an “accidential [sic] masterpiece”: K-On!‘s strength lies in being able to encourage audiences to slow down and enjoy the mundane, subtle things in life. Bakuon!! is not a mere imitator of K-On!, but more appropriately, it takes a jab at the setup in K-On! with the aim of evoking some laughs from viewers, and Bakuon!! accomplishes exactly this.
- The wide open spaces of Hokkaido are a world apart from reminiscent of the southern Alberta foothills: while still quite mountainous, Hokkaido’s plains mean that it is host to a fourth of Japan’s arable land, and as such, agriculture plays a major role in Hokkaido’s economy. Grassy plains allow for cattle farming, along with other products, and the farmland regions of Hokkaido are nowhere near as cramped as the rural areas of Japan built between the valleys, such as the valleys of Niigata.
- Onsa and the others reach their destination in Cape Sōya, the northernmost point on Hokkaido, just in time for a swift sunset. While not mentioned in Bakuon!!, Cape Sōya has at least ten monuments here as memorials to incidents that historically occurred near the area, and just north of the area, some forty-three kilometres away, is Cape Crillon in Russia. Under fair conditions, the cape is visible.
- Inspection of satellite imagery find that the monument here actually juts out into the sea a little to really give it the position of “northernmost anything” in Japan, but in this instant, Onsa and the others find something a bit further north: instructor Enko Saruyama attempts to bike into the ocean at this northernmost part of Japan after one of her relationships go south. Unlike Sawako Yamanaka of K-On!, who is merely single, Enko is rather more unlucky.
- On the topic of relationships, I suppose now is a good time as any to mention Facebook’s latest endeavour – they’re attempting to challenge Tinder as a dating service. This was only a matter of time, since Facebook has had access to all sorts of data. While they allege that the process is going to be opt-in only, nothing’s stopping them from quietly crawling the data in the back and then use a variety of clustering algorithms and regression analysis, amongst other techniques, to match all people for fun. It would then only take a bad leak to expose to the world the dating preferences of a large percentage of its users.
- I suppose that I chould add “anime” to my set of interests so that if the day comes where Facebook can suggest a suitable partner to me with reasonable accuracy, then at least I’ll be paired with someone who accepts my hobbies, especially when it’s begun to encompass something like Bakuon!! 😛 Jokes aside, we return to Bakuon!!, where a drunk Enko manages to mess with everyone in the room (even Hijiri) before passing out. Like Sawako, Enko is eventually strong-armed into becoming the advisor for the motorcycle club.
- Dialogue surrounding the idea that “what happens in Hokkaido stays in Hokkaido” is corny, cheesy and also surprisingly fitting: in its presentation, Bakuon!! is evidently aware of what it is parodying, and so, comes across in being deliberate in the characters’ choice of words and actions. Here, Hane releases her “memories” into the night sky; being a rambunctious romp through life, Bakuon!! indicates to viewers that this is not an anime to take seriously.
- While some folks consider Bakuon!! a fanservice anime, only Rin is subject to unnecessarily oscillations for the most part, and personally, I’m actually not too big on Rin. After their tour of Hokkaido, the girls decide to give their bikes a good cleaning, and the approach that Hane take subsequently has Raimu Kawasaki take point on future washings to ensure that everyone’s bikes are carefully looked after. Raimu holds the distinction of being the only character to lack a voice actress and her origins are a mystery. She’s been around for quite some time to look after the students and depicted as an uncommonly skilful rider, but beyond her biking, I did not particularly find Raimu’s presence to contribute to my enjoyment of Bakuon!! to the same extetn that others have found.
- Readers then pose the question, if Rin’s not doing it for me, then what about Bakuon!! did? The answer is Hane: a part of her appeal lies in her character. Friendly and warm, Hane’s the most ordinary of the motorcycle club’s characters and of everyone in the motorcycle club, also has the most appealing stats (82-58-87). During the bike wash, Hane takes a rather unconventional approach, citing it to be more effective and also indicative of her love for her Super Four. Jealous, Rin proceeds to attempt the same bit slips off her bike.
- The last value is why Hane is able to wash her bike more effectively than Rin, whose specs are 91-56-81 (recall the relationship between surface area and the size of a boundary). Before I get an inordinate number of people flooding to explain to me what those numbers mean, I’ll stress that I’m aware of what the three measurements are, and that they’re quite unrelated to the three measurements of central tendency. The medium of text is one where I cannot count on intonation or body language to convey a joke, but it sure as heck hasn’t stopped me from cracking really bad jokes about fanservice where the moment arises.
- For a series that’s supposedly dense on fanservice, Bakuon!!‘s actually more tame than expected, and in this Terrible Anime Challenge, only a sixth of the screenshots have anything interesting in them. The remainder of them are fairly mundane in nature. Here, the motorcycle club’s members wander around their school during their culture festival. In K-On!, Houkago Tea Time’s first performance was at the school festival, and the concert was by all definitions, a smash hit. Folks will best remember it for Mio’s tripping on stage and mooning half the audience: the anime was more implicit about what happened, whereas in the manga, Mio’s shimapan is made visible for the whole world to check out.
- Hane’s customisations add an obscene about of turn signals and wing mirrors to her bike, while Onsa and Rin both tune their bikes and outfit them with modified parts to bolster their performance. The school race starts out slowly, but intensity ramps up, and Raimu participates. Despite an impressive comeback, Raimu suffers a catastrophic incapacitation that knocks her from the race, leaving Rin to win. The audience, fellow students, begin fighting one another over the race’s outcomes, moving Hane, Onsa and Rin to tears about how people ended up caring about their bikes.
- Of everyone, only Hijiri lacks a motorcycle license, being shy of the age of sixteen: she rides in a sidecar with Hayakawa, her butler. Hijiri’s displays of wealth is perhaps even more outrageous than Tsumugi: Hayakawa consistently calls in airlifts to replace his destroyed bikes, and Hijiri managed to convince her father’s company to develop an apparatus that reduces engine temperatures by a means not yet discovered by science when one passes over it. Here, the girls gear up for Christmas, and while tea time is not an integral part of the motorcycle club like it was for K-On!‘s light music club, its presence is another indicator of Bakuon!!‘s roots.
- If and when I’m asked, Hijiri comes in as my second favourite character in Bakuon!!. Although quite cheerful for the most part, Hijiri has a hitherto unseen side to her personality. On her way to a motorcycle license, she encounters considerable difficulty in riding one of the bikes and proceeds to demolish try and it in a fit of rage, only to learn that the bike was still operational. Conceding, Hijiri resolves to double down and eventually earns her license.
- While never officially a member of the motorcycle club, Rin’s interactions with Onsa and the others means she’s a member in all but name. Here, Hane delivers a Christmas gift for Rin, who’s working on Christmas eve. I mention here that I’ve deliberately chosen not to focus on the Jebus*-like character: occasionally intervening to aid Hane, his presence is otherwise quite limited, being only for the audience’s benefit. I would imagine that biker-Jebus is probably a parody of Yui’s unexpected talent of having perfect pitch.
- *- This is a reference to The Simpsons.
- With the new year in full swing, the logical next step is to introduce some junior students and the possibility of new recruits joining the club. To inspire other students, the motorcycle club brings out Raimu, who performs some tricks with her bike here, although Hane’s actions dissade some of the prospective students from joining. The one and same blogger who compared Bakuon!! to Azumanga Daioh, insisted on referring to Raimu as “Lime”. While well-known amongst some circles and considered to be “brilliant, insightful, inspiring and always right”, I’ve found their content to be trite and pedestrian – one’s blog posts should never be carried by one’s reputation alone. This is why all of my posts are as lengthy as they are: opinions are only worth making known if they are properly expressed and a clear effort was made to rationalise them.
- The “always right” aspect is laughable – Azumanga Daioh and Bakuon!! are about as different as apples and oranges. Back in Bakuon!!, the sheer ludicrousness of the motorcycle club putting on a live performance in front of the entire school and the new students is a whole new level of entertaining. Their antics amuse their fellow students and the audience, but also embarrasses one Chisame Nanako enough for her to come onto the stage to set them straight. The end result is that Chisame humiliates herself further in the process.
- Because Bakuon!!‘s story progresses as K-On!‘s did, it is not unexpected to see Chisame join the motorcycle club. Chisame fulfils the same role as Azusa did, and the two even share the same family name. Like Azusa, Chisame has prior experience in motorcycles, as Azusa did with music. Both are frustrated that their seniors are so eccentric and laid-back, and in particular, Chisame is very sensitive about her stature, which makes it difficult for her to ride a street-worthy motorbike. Instead, she is highly talented with racing bikes and regularly dominates in competitions.
- In appearances, Chisame is more similar to Girls und Panzer‘s Alisa – Chisame’s defining trait is the ardent belief that bikes were meant purely for racing rather than as a mode of transport, but upon joining the club, learns that bikes can be accommodated to modify all kinds of riders. She decides to go for her license alongside Hijiri, but because her instructors imagine her to be proficient with everything, she learns very little and ends up failing. Like Azusa, Chisame has a tough exterior and a sensitive interior: she bursts into tears after crashing during a test.
- At the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks who were personally offended by the very existence of Bakuon!! and after three episodes, announced their intention to drop a series. At this point, I think it is appropriate to discuss my approach towards reviewing anime: longtime readers will be well aware of the fact that I predominantly focus on writing about the things I enjoyed, and so, if an anime is being written about at the three episode mark, then I will likely continue to write about it in some capacity. At the beginning of a given season, I pick a few shows up and watch them. If the show has promise, then I will continue to watch it, while shows that are uninspiring or dull will quietly be dropped. I’ve never believed the need to announce to the world my intention to drop a show.
- The only case where I might announce dropping a show is if I picked up an anime with high expectations, the series delivered past episode three and did something before the end-game that caused it to be dropped. Should that happen, I will probably do it subtly in another post or on Twitter, and I will do it to prevent readers from being disappointed. While changing, Chisame notices some markings on Hijiri’s body. It turns out she’s using what is known as a GP Training Harness to help her maintain posture and the like. Somewhat unnecessary, the moment nonetheless provides audiences a good look at Hijiri, whose stats are similar to that of Hane’s. This is the last fanservice-type image of this post, and readers have my word on this, primarily because we are nearing the end of said post.
- With May’s first post kicked off in style, this month will be seeing the release of Gundam: The Origin‘s sixth and final instalment, GochiUsa: Dear My Sister and Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai (Your Voice). I have plans to write about all of these. Back in Bakuon!!, after contact with Rin’s saliva somehow turns Onsa into a Suzuki fan, it takes a bit of alchemy to bring Onsa back to her old self. Onsa and Rin constantly spar over their choice of brand, but despite their intense vitriol, exhibit a degree of concern for one another when the chips are down. Bakuon!!‘s brand loyalty is presented in a hilariously unrealistic manner, to the point where pathogens are suggested as the cause for Rin’s love for the Suzuki line of motorbikes.
- Chisame eventually decides to go with a Honda PCX 150 Scooter once she gets her license, allowing her to join with the others in their travels while simultaneously conforming with her beliefs that full motorbikes are not suitable for roads. I realise that there are a large number of things in Bakuon!! that I’ve not covered, including the half of an episode dedicated to taking jabs at cyclists and another half-episode where Hane dreams about a world where motorcycles never existed, but owing to certain constraints (i.e. my being too lazy to do a longer talk), these topics have been left out.
- Overall, Bakuon!! ends up scoring a B- grade in my books. It’s certainly not bad – despite lacking a message and being somewhat unorthodox in some places, the series does manage some humour with its characters. As a result, I find that both Bakuon!!‘s staunchest and most dissatisfied viewers did not contribute any useful thoughts to the discussion: Bakuon!! is strictly a middle-of-the road anime, and that’s about it. For my next Terrible Anime Challenge post, I’m thinking of writing for Hanayamata, which some of Tango-Victor-Tango’s finest consider “K-On! done wrong”. Let’s see if that comparison holds up, and if not, it’ll be hilarious for everyone (except the individual making that remark) when I go to town on them for being wrong.
As a clear K-On! parody, the remaining question is what I thought of Bakuon!!, and to this, I answer that I found a reasonably entertaining series that did succeed in eliciting a few laughs, with the ludicrous situations that Hane and her friends end up encountering at every turn of their adventures together. While Bakuon!! is not likely to revolutionise any genres any time soon with its execution, what it does bring to the table is a bit of comedy that is quite well-done. With reasonable animation quality and solid sound (especially for the motorbikes) in conjunction with being a parody, Bakuon!! is a clear reminder that there are merits to watching an anime for three episodes before deciding whether or not the series is worth continuing with – while the first episode did not work well with me, Bakuon!! managed to draw my interest after three episodes, in being able to parody different aspects on K-On! effectively. This is a series that I recommend to the more open-minded K-On! fans; folks with no keen interest in motorbikes or K-On! will certainly do better to spend their time watching other series. With Bakuon!!‘s manga ongoing, some of the anime’s proponents have wondered if a second season and movie are possible. While there are limits to what a parody can do to keep the viewer’s attention before the humour starts becoming derivative or ineffectual, I am not adverse to watching more Bakuon!!, especially if viewers would get to see Hane washing her bike again.