On her first day at school, Hane Sakura takes immediate interest in Onsa Amano, a girl who rides a motorcycle to school. After discovering there is a bike club with a sole and silent member, Hane decides to join, get a motorcycle license and get her own bike to join both Onsa and the club president. Soon enough, other girls arrive with their own motorbikes, and all of them undergo the trials and tribulations of having a school club, from gaining approval from the student council to finding a club advisor…and none of them can even agree on what bike is the best one.
Bakuon!! aired with 12 episodes between April and June 2016. Produced by TMS Entertainment (Yowamushi Pedal, Akira, Lupin the 3rd) and directed by Junji Nishimura (Ranma ½, Soul Hunter, Simoun), Bakuon!! is an adaptation of the manga of the same name by Mimana Orimoto. It certainly would be nice if every manga adaptation was good; sadly everything that happens in the manga doesn’t really translate very well on-screen. Okay sure, bikes are cool; that much we can all agree on. I will be the first to admit that I am too chicken to even get on one, let alone ride one, so I take my hat off to those who have the courage to ride one and make motorcycling their hobby. Sadly here, the introduction of motorbikes right from the start of the show seems a little cliched. Our main protagonist Hane struggles to climb the hill to school on her middle-school bicycle. Onsa Amano celebrates being in high school by doing something typical of a high-schooler before riding her bike there: drink coffee from a can. Even though Hane is sold on motorbikes as soon as she sees Onsa go past her on the road, Onsa doesn’t exactly sell the hobby very well. Riders get hurt if they fall, they get wet when it rains, their bikes need constant maintenance…Onsa’s only defence seems to be “You look cool”, but Hane being the atypical airhead anime girl that she is, she hurries to apply for a licence and to get a motorbike herself.
The school they go to allows their students to ride motorcycles to class; apparently, that was the sole reason Onsa applied there. The school’s Bike Club is run by a sole mysterious third-year who doesn’t speak, never takes off her helmet, has a super-powered Kawasaki bike of her own, and according to the principal, has been at the school watching over students longer than she is. With Hane and Onsa new members, they soon learn that a classmate, Rin Suzunoki, is also passionate about motorbikes…or rather…just Suzuki motorbikes. If I ever had to pick a character in this show I preferred the most, it would be her. She seems to be the butt of jokes (mostly coming from Onsa) purely for liking the Suzuki brand, a liking that comes from her father who once owned the bike she rides today, and always seem to constantly end up in motorbike accidents. Other main characters in the show include Hijiri Minowa, the goody-two-shoes rich girl at school who seems to have her own bizarre fascination with being as bad as the riders she sees in movies like Rebel Without A Cause and Easy Rider, and later on, Chisame Nakano, who comes from a family of bike racers and enthusiasts.
Bakuon!! is a slice-of-life show, plain and simple…no love interests for any of the girls to pursue, no rival schools to do battle against, no cheesy antagonists to stop. Unfortunately, the characters we watch and the script we are meant to follow aren’t really as great as one would hope in a show that has a focus on something as cool as motorbikes. The home video release doesn’t really impress either; with subtitles and translator’s notes (with which there are many) taking up half of the screen at some points, you are left wondering if MVM Entertainment could have approached this better.
Those who do ultimately develop an interest in motorbikes after watching this will be pleased to see how accurate bike details are in this show. Product placement is everywhere, with motorcycle and accessory brands popping up constantly. While Onsa has a Yamaha Serow 225, Rin has a Suzuki Katana, Hijiri has a Honda Super Cub moped, Raimu has a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R and Chisame has a variety of Honda racing bikes, Hane decides to stick with the same bike she used when she got her license, the Honda CB400 Super Four. All of this product placement tries to distract us from the show’s many faults, but it sadly doesn’t work. Hane is still a boring airhead, Onsa is just a frustrating character to watch, and both Rin and Hijiri’s characters feel forced. I suppose we could try and call Raimu-senpai the glue that holds the show together, but even she can’t offer us much. Mysterious silent third-year club presidents who don’t take off their motorbike helmets can’t save us all the time.
I was actually rather curious as to why a show like this would get a 15 certificate from the BBFC, and after watching it, I can see why. While I have several complaints about Bakuon!!, my chief one is how the show presents far too many sexual innuendos and metaphors than necessary. The most annoying one for me comes in the form of Hane’s training bike, Baita. Speaking with a sultry woman’s voice, it introduces itself to Hane as:
“…a soulless machine who makes a living selling her body to countless men so they can learn how it’s done.”
Hane’s motorbike training is treated like her losing her virginity, with Baita telling her what parts of a body to check, what handles to hold, and what men like in motorbikes. MVM Entertainment’s home video release even goes so far as offering translator notes on what ‘Baita’ actually means in Japanese; depending on the kanji, it can either be a name, or be translated as ‘whore’ or ‘slut’. So as I was watching all of this, I had to ask why. Why did an apparently moe slice-of-life school comedy show have to have something as tasteless and cringe-worthy as this?
The opening theme is “FeelXAlive” by Sayaka Sasaki, and the ending theme is “Buon! Buon! Ride On!!” by Reina Ueda, Yumi Uchiyama, Nao Toyama and Rikaki Yamaguchi.
Universal Pictures had originally planned to release Bakuon!! in the UK earlier this year, along with other shows they had licensed, but the license for it was ultimately passed on to MVM Entertainment, who then pushed the date forward to late August. This isn’t really a good or bad thing though, since this moe school comedy show with motorbikes falls flat (sorry to use a bad pun). As I watched this, I wanted to like these characters more, especially Rin (whose passion for the Suzuki brand is rather admirable), but their exchanges and interactions were just not that entertaining, and while having factual information about motorbikes is cool, Bakuon!! just felt more like a trial instead of entertainment.
The show’s attempt to make motorbikes and girls who ride them moe and cute falls apart very quickly. It has its merits in how it teaches us about them, but its not-so-great script, sub-par animation and frequent and very annoying sexual innuendos make Bakuon!! a bit of a cringe-worthy show to watch.