Review: Bakuon!!

The ‘girls in a school club’ staple has been done more times than you could remember so when something comes up that is fresh you take notice. This is the case here, not just girls in a club but girls in a club about motorbikes. Given its subject matter it certainly does stand out from the norm and more so than not it is a lot of fun but does suffer some big flaws that stop it reaching greatness.

Hane is a girl attending Okanoue Girls' High School. On her first day she gets tired out walking to school (you know, hills and such) until she sees someone on motorbike breeze past her effortlessly. Seeing this, the ease, the sound and the look her interest in motorbikes has been hooked. After meeting fellow students Onsa and Rin as well as club mainstay Raimu she decides to not only join the club but to pursue getting her license. Thus starts the series and the adventures they get up to.

I like motorbikes, not as in love as some but I appreciated a good design, like the sound of them and love watching MotoGP. What I do not know however is basically anything else about motorbikes so this series was an eye opener for me. Despite what its presentation may suggest it does get down to the details on motorbikes, from the history of certain models, fixing up bikes, how to take proper care / maintenance of them, what suits different riders and so much more. Granted some of this did go over my head (bike models mainly) but that is to be expected if you are a beginner. I truly have respect for the passion the original mangaka has for motorbikes.

The characters as well as the bikes stand out here and are the main reason I got so much enjoyment out of the series. Of the main 5 girls initially it is Hane who I found the most relatable. She has a newfound adoration for bikes but her knowledge on them is sub-par at best, she just like riding them and what feels good which I am sure so many can agree with.

Rin and Onsa have a rivalry between them because of their chosen bikes. Rin is a Suzuki girl whereas Onsa is a Yamaha girl. They are almost always at each other’s throats and its fun to see. There is more to both characters though as we see throughout the series through hilarious flashbacks and interactions. Rin in particular was my favourite with her utmost dedication to not only her Katana but everything Suzuki.

The, greatest strength of the series is Raimu. Even before the series aired many were making the obvious comparison to The Stig from Top Gear. Not only does this make sense the series makes an even stronger similarities to The Stig throughout the series. Raimu never speaks and she never takes off her helmet. The only thing we do know is she us ungodly at riding motorbikes and she is female. Even her age is mythical as throughout the series plenty of characters, old and young refer to her as senpai and we see her past. It really is like a love letter to the guys who created The Stig and it works so, so much. She steals the scene every time.

It’s nice to see what twists they have on the traditional club activities. One such twist is the race track around school and allowing the students to bet on the winner. That was a pleasant surprise and a lot of fun, especially seeing more insight on Raimu. Another noteworthy moment was when they were trying to recruit new members to their club and performed a skit on stage. It was, without doubt, the most cringe worthy thing I have seen in some time. It was funny at first but I could barely watch it much longer.

Whilst this may sound and is quite good I do have two main issues with this series, neither are scenes, the writing, the animation etc. No. They are characters. If you noticed nearer the top of this review I mentioned the initial 5 characters and described 4 of them. Well the other 1 and an additional character introduced later on are big problem with the series I had.

Hijiri is a rich girl who uses money without consequence and is usually accompanied by her butler Hayakawa. Because she has yet to pass her test it is Hayakawa who drives the bike. Now I have no problem with rich girls in anime, most I can tolerate and most are generally geared towards making you dislike them at least a little bit anyway. The problem here is Hijiri does not fit this mold and as such she comes across as a pain. That she is effectively using money to make friends is something I find horrible especially when you’re supposed to like this girl or find what she does with said money humorous. Of all the girls she is the least natural and most loathsome.

The other character I had an issue with was Chisame who was introduced later on in the series. She is a racer who competes (and mostly wins) in her age bracket. Her reluctance to join the biking club I felt was weird and her lack of knowledge on bikes themselves (considering her professional racer dad) is bizarre. There was little to like about her and the episodes featuring her felt like a letdown.

Both of these combine together to what detriments even further what is a lacklustre finale. Sure it had the odd moment and funny scene such as Hane dreaming that all her friends had no idea what motorbikes were but compared to what came before it was severely lacking in charm. Perhaps it was my enjoyment in general waning from seeing and hearing Hijiri so often but it didn’t grab me like it did earlier on. It peters out without a bang; a trip earlier on in the series would have been a suitable, large occasion to finish it but nope. Its weird structuring like that which ultimately let it down here as these scenes would have been fine earlier on.

As for the animation and art both were fine if unspectacular. It did look a tad rough around the edges with the CG in places but nothing to take you away from the series and the characters themselves were nice and had a variety of body types

The sound had something peculiar to me. It almost felt like there was a kind of filter placed over some of the voice actors to make it sound rougher. It’s hard to describe but if you watched any other series and then flicked over to this you will notice a difference. Whether it’s the equipment used for recording or a filter of sorts it sounds a bit off and muffled. Again not so much as to detract from the experience but it is noticeable.

There are a fair few fan service scenes throughout the series. Be it visiting a hot spring on a long ride, the mid-episode cards featuring the characters in outfits like those of paddock / grid girl or Jesus looking at nude pinups on motorbikes (no really) there is plenty to satisfy. The biggest does of fan service though comes from a bike washing scene which is both ludicrous and glorious at the same time. Seeing the girls straddle their bikes in bikinis and swimsuits as they wash them is wonderful.

Bakuon!! is a diamond in the rough as they say. It has the qualities of something much greater but never shows them enough. It is bogged down by some odious characters; it didn’t really hit me until after the series ended just how much 2 characters can hit (and hit hard) my enjoyment of a series. Those two are simply not my cup of tea but I would still recommend watching the series as the positives far outweigh any issues and it may well give you a nudge into exploring more about motorbikes.

Studio: TMS Entertainment
Aired: Spring 2016
Episodes: 12 + OVA


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