Not all viewing seasons are created equally; the flurry of excitement surrounding one isn’t necessarily going to carry over to the next. And if we’re being completely honest, the number of essential or breakout shows each season (or even each year) can usually be counted on one hand. But what you can depend on is the recurrence of faithful tropes and set-ups, whether for better or worse. We’re still coming out the backend of the moé fever that gripped the community some few years past, and superheroes are proving just as popular in anime as they are on the silver screen. One of the most commonplace themes remains the curious case of an all-girl (or at least predominantly female) group of characters getting together to, well, hang out.
These typically slice-of-life shows come in varying degrees of success, and chief among them, perhaps, would be Lucky Star, whose iconography is still rife across message boards, social media and blogs – just look at our contact page! The interesting thing is that they’re marketed to a male audience, rather than the shojo camp. That’s not to say that women can’t enjoy them, it’s just that they’re usually replete with reminders as to who the show was aimed at.
The summer 2016 season is, like many before it, a mixed bag. There are some highlights, like the urban gothic of Bungo Stray Dogs, or the philosophical yarn spun by TRIGGER’s idiosyncratic Kiznaiver, quirky comedies in Flying Witch or Girl Meets Bear, and that’s not to mention umpteen shows continuing their ongoing narratives. But one that this writer was most looking forward to, based on simple descriptions, a few teaser images and studio TMS Entertainment’s exhaustive back catalogue, was Bakuon!!.
The premise was simple: the story of a handful of teenage girls who discover and nurture their shared love of motorbikes. It was, admittedly, just another high school set anime dealing with the everyday events of a mite unusual club. Factor in characters whose archetypes were sure to clash, a catchy opening song, and themes of friendship, adventure and acceptance and you’ve got a perfectly serviceable anime on your hands, if one with disappointing lows to drag down the lows.
At first the series seemed to side-step some of the more problematic elements of Mimana Orimoto’s manga series, on which the show is based – a catalogue of works notorious for their questionable treatment of its female subjects. Episode to episode, Bakuon!! has been a show that puts its characters first in romanticising motorcycling. Of course, it isn’t without fanservice, some of which was perfectly permissible in the context such as the rib-tickling ‘Hot Springs!!’ episode. Episode 5, however, turned the ecchi up to eleven. We’ve discussed how fanservice can often be a plus here on the blog, and there is of course a need to entice casual fans and viewers, as well as humour the diehards and fan art enthusiasts. Then there’s the merchandising aspect, where the gals of Bakuon!! have and will be released as hug pillows and figures, both in and out of their leathers and draped over their bikes. But in this instance, it belied the burgeoning themes of sisterhood, discovery and perseverance that so piqued our interest.