Winter 2017 First Impressions – Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club

Hiromi Maiharu moved from Nagasaki to Kamakura. She begins her new life in Kamakura and her first day in high school by bicycling to her school, but she has not ridden a bicycle since she was young. On the way to the ceremony for the first day, she meets Tomoe Akitsuki, and Tomoe helps her train to be better at bicycling.ANN

Streaming at: Crunchyroll

Number of Episodes: 12

Source: Manga

Episode 1 Summary: Hiromi is starting her first day at a new high school, and against her mother’s protests decides to ride her bike to school. She hasn’t ridden a bike since she was small, but is pretty sure that she’ll pick it back up in no time. After a terrifying downhill descent, Hiromi realizes she doesn’t really remember as much as she thought she did, but luckily she crashes into a new classmate, Tomoe. Tomoe does her best to keep Hiromi upright on her bicycle, but it seems like a lost cause. The two decide to hoof it instead, so at least they’ll arrive in time for the opening ceremony. On their way to the school building they meet one of the teachers, and Hiromi discovers that her food isn’t safe from the sea birds flying near the shore. After getting situated in class and listening to an inspiring speech from her homeroom teacher, Hiromi heads home and sees a group of cyclists whiz by on fancy road bikes, and she’s instantly hooked on the concept. But she’ll have to learn to keep her balance first!

Impressions: Oh good grief. I queued this up because I thought it would be cute and harmless. After struggling through Saga of Tanya the Evil, I just wanted something nice and pleasant to enjoy. I was unfortunately not prepared to experience such an intense and immediate dislike of the main character. It has often been a trope of sports anime to introduce the sport or other activity in question through the eyes of a character who doesn’t know much about it, or has only done it casually in the past. Hiromi serves that role here, but her ignorance of cycling is almost beyond comprehension. I don’t blame people for not knowing how to ride a bicycle. I grew up doing it, but not everyone had that luxury. But generally even people who aren’t familiar with bikes know something about how the vehicle functions, even in just the most basic sense. Hiromi mounts her bike and it starts to roll downhill… and it takes her a few beats to realize that she’s supposed to propel it by using the pedals. She nearly crashes into Tomoe before she figures out how the brakes work (and then gets tossed over the handlebars after clasping them too hard too quickly). Hiromi comes across not as someone new to a sport, but as someone who is clueless to basic aspects of life, and that doesn’t make for an engrossing experience.

Beyond that, though, there’s not really anything substantive to think or talk about. The episode sets up the premise competently, but I don’t really feel like I needed twenty minutes of goofy biking antics to learn that Hiromi is kind of directionless and that cycling might be her ticket towards some greater character-building purpose. There is a very tame element of humor throughout the episode that provides a little something to grasp onto (I did chuckle a little bit when a bird stole Hiromi’s sandwich… and she revealed another backup sandwich soon afterward) and the rest of it is harmless enough, but “harmless” doesn’t generally get me pumped to watch much more. I love iyashi-kei or “healing” shows, but often those have endearing characters and some sort of emotional hook; this series is less a contented sigh and more a non-committal shrug.

I’m also getting the sneaking suspicion that perhaps the local Kamakura tourism board had some hand in this anime adaptation, because boy does it read like a thinly-veiled advertisement at times. Did you know that Mount Fuji, which can be seen from the seashore in Kamakura, is about seventy kilometers away? Oh, and the area is in close proximity to Enoshima? This is what I learned today while watching this episode. This is nice information to know, but it feels a bit like Tomoe is providing this exposition/info-dump in a very unnatural manner and it feels extremely obvious. I certainly wouldn’t fault them for wanting an anime tie-in, because anime tourism has become big business in recent years, but my opinion is that the focus should be on telling a good story; the benefits will follow.

There is an upside to the strong focus on Kamakura as a setting, though – the background artwork is consistently vibrant, detailed, and gorgeous. The artwork appears to be referenced from life as the Hiromi’s neighborhood really looks very lived-in and lush with plants. There’s also good use of CG to provide more three dimensional first person point-of-view shots from Hiromi’s perspective as she travels through town. If the rest of the show were slightly more tolerable in other aspects, I think this could definitely be worthwhile watching for the scenery porn.

The last two minutes of the episode are a live action segment featuring two voice actors learning about the sport of bicycling; in episode one, they learn about the merits of bicycle frames constructed of different materials, and deciding how they plan to use their bikes before purchasing the one which will work best. It’s useful information, but I don’t find seiyuu culture all that interesting, personally, so the additional appeal from that aspect was a little lost on me.

There’s a difference between being low-impact and being frustratingly boring, and unfortunately my first impressions of this series is that it crosses the line into the latter. I wish I liked any of the characters a little better, or thought that the bicycle plot had more potential, but it’s difficult to see that from where I’m standing. I’ve seen slice-of-life and sports done so much better, so I can’t really recommend this one.

Pros: The background artwork is beautiful and the CG is well integrated.

Cons: The main character’s incompetence is grating. Some of the episode feels like a thinly-veiled ad for the region in which the anime is set.

Grade: C

This article has 3 comments

  1. Do you think the show would be mildly better if Hiromi were a bit more competent at basic riding and the frame materials discussion had been integrated into the story?

    Reply

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