What They Say:
Riding a bicycle may be better than walking, but when another girl zips past her on the way to class, Sakura Hane realizes that there’s an even better option: motorcycles! Fortunately, Sakura’s all-girl school just happens to have a motorcycle club! It only has one member though: the mysterious Raimu Kawasaki, who’s never been seen without her face-obscuring helmet. But that changes immediately once Sakura and the girl who passed her, Onsa Amano, sign up and start recruiting!
It won’t all be easy riding… Sakura still has to earn her license, and there are problems like the club’s official status having slipped, and the need to recruit a faculty sponsor. But when the rubber hits the road, those are just little potholes as six student bikers take a ride on the wild side!
This release only has the Japanese audio track, which is only offered in 2.0. As much of the series is based around dialogue, this isn’t too terrible, but there are enough motorcycle races and rides that a 5.1 mix could have worked well. I know that’s rare, though, so it’s not a big deal. The audio is clear with no dropout among the channels. There is some directionality between the channels, but it’s relatively basic.
Visually, this is a good-looking anime. The characters have interesting, quirky designs (though I do have an issue I’ll detail more in the Content section), and there’s some great animation in the racing/riding scenes. Some of the lining and colors are soft, though admittedly, that could be just a lack of it being HD than a particular problem. I did not notice any other technical flaws, however.
The packaging for this release is fairly basic. The three discs are contained in a standard size amaray case. The front cover has a picture of Sakura with her bike, while the back features Raimu and her bike with a series of screen shots and technical details. The discs themselves look pretty cool, as they are designed to look like speedometers with chibi versions of the characters on them. It all looks pretty nice.
The menu for this is also a bit basic, but fine. Most of the screen is covered with a picture of one of the girls, while the selections are offered to the left. Each episode on the disc is just listed on the main menu with no play all button, though each episode does just lead into the next, so it “plays all” anyway. The series’s theme plays in the background in a 90 second loop (basically, the whole theme plays), so it doesn’t get repetitive.
In a bit of a nice change from most sets (particularly Sentai ones), there’s a good selection of extras here. Aside from the standard clean OP/ED and trailers, there’s also a series of promo videos, a fun short reel of bumpers for the episodes, a “Safety Warning” about not trying at home what you see in the series, and a handful of “Bakuon Closet Shorts”—short, animated gags based on scenes in the series. But the best extra is a six-ish minute behind-the-scenes look at filming live action footage of the motorcycle scenes to use as templates for animating them. It’s a pretty cool look at an aspect of animation you might not think about.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bakuon is an entry into the “cute girls doing cute things” genre that seems to have gotten a little bit of hype behind it, mostly due to the fact that it plays up the sexy in the fanservice a bit more than other shows similar to it. Going in, I really didn’t know what to expect as I find these sorts of series to be a bit hot and cold, but Bakuon ended up being pretty fun.
Sakura Hane loves to ride her bike. It gets her to where she wants to go much faster than walking. In fact, there could be nothing better. Or so she thinks until the morning she starts highschool and is blown past by a girl on a motorcycle. From that moment, she is smitten. And when she discovers that the girl also goes to her school, and that the school has a motorcycle club, she will stop at nothing to get her license and a motorcycle of her own. Of course, it’s not that easy. There’s a lot to learn to ride a motorcycle and the funds necessary to purchase one aren’t exactly chump change. But she is determined, and with the help of Rin, Amano, the mysterious Reimu, and everybody else, she might just get there.
In terms of tone, Bakuon falls very much into area of the “cute girls” genre as series like Azumanga Daioh and K-On. The humor is similar, as is a lot of the situations the girls find themselves in. There are a lot of the same, quieter friendship moments that punctuate those series, too. And since I really like Azumanga Daioh and K-On, I found myself also getting a bit more into Bakuon than I expected I would coming in. There’s a nice hook pulling everything together with the Motorcycle group (kinda like how the Light Music Club provides the impetus for K-On), but it’s not the story. The story is the way this group of very disparate girls come together and forge bonds of friendship despite the natural rivalries and disagreements that naturally crop up surrounding a hobby such as racing. And overall, plot-wise, I don’t have a whole lot to criticize with Bakuon. It’s a breezy series with fun characters that moves right along and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s not Azumanga Daioh or K-On, but it doesn’t have to be, either. It’s fun for what it is.
That said, there was a part to Bakuon that I had a bit of a struggle with. As suggested above, Bakuon pushes the fanservice a lot more than many shows of this type (and certainly more than the two I’ve compared them to). While that is not typically a problem (at least, not for me), the fact that tonally this is similar to Azumanga Daioh and K-On, and the girls have cutesy, youthful designs and personalities like those aforementioned series, much of the fanservice felt very awkward. Plenty of anime get away with sexy highschool girls by giving them more mature designs and having them act more like adults. It might not make it right necessarily, but it’s easier to accept. The girls in Bakuon look and act like fifteen year, so when there are scenes like them playfully washing their bikes with their bikini clad bodies, it just leaves a little bit of ick in my throat. Not enough to entirely ruin my enjoyment of the series, but enough to certainly put a damper in it. And that’s a shame, because otherwise it has quite a bit going for it.
Bakuon was a pretty fun series. There some great humor and wonderful depictions of friendship, and at only twelve episodes, it gets in and out pretty quickly and doesn’t try to do too much. I personally struggled a bit with the way the series objectifies girls that are depicted as being pretty young (both in design and personality), but I also know that’s something that happens quite a bit in anime. Overall, it’s not a huge deal (I don’t think), and it’s possible that I’m being just a little bit touchy. If it is not the sort of thing that would bother you, then ignore what I said. Either way, there’s a good amount in here to enjoy. Recommended.
Special Features: Promo Videos, Live Action Behind the Scenes, Bumpers, Bakuon’s Closet Shorts, Safety Warning, Clean Opening and Closing Animations.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, LG BP330 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System