Welcome, all, again. After stopping by Japari Park for last week’s column, I’ve decided to keep the themes of friendship and exploration by reviewing Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club. This is a pleasantly slow-paced show about a girl who has moved to a new town, Kamakura, just as she is entering high school. Now, this might have easily led to a show full of angst and the challenges of feeling displaced, but we lucky viewers are mostly spared from such things. Instead, we get a relaxed immersion into bicycling as a hobby and the exploration of Kamakura as a locale. Fun stuff all around(!), especially for us history buffs who will see beyond the current resort town shown and recognize Kamakura’s importance as Japan’s former capital (predating Kyoto’s rise to prominence). I personally hope to see many local landmarks and customs visited through this anime, akin to the fine job Flying Witch did in introducing Aomori.
But back to the anime at hand! Hiromi Maiharu is a first-year high school student fresh from the city of Nagasaki, which easily has more than twice Kamakura’s population. And while both are seaside towns and major tourist centers, Kamakura offers a slower, quieter lifestyle. These seem to be welcome changes to our protagonist, who is herself a quiet person. In fact, Hiromi’s so taken by the relaxed atmosphere that she decides to bicycle to the school’s entrance ceremony, despite not having ridden in years. Trouble is, apparently you can forget how to ride a bike. At least, Hiromi can. Luckily for her, she encounters fellow first-year Tomoe Akitsuki, a girl whose role as onee-chan has tempered her into a helpful, sympathetic sort. Why else would she spend the morning pushing a complete stranger around on a bicycle? But they eventually reach the school, having given directions to another cyclist along the way, this one competent but lost. All three arrive late to their entrance ceremony.
All three? you say. Indeed, for it turns out that the lost cyclist was a teacher newly hired by the school–and Hiromi’s and Tomoe’s homeroom teacher, Shiki Mori. When she learns that Tomoe plans to give Hiromi a quick bicycle tour of Kamakura, sensei kind of wrangles herself an invitation, with the result that viewers are treated to some of the city’s more prominent tourist draws (including the Kotoku-in Temple’s bronze Great Buddha). We also get to watch Hiromi struggle with a new type of bicycle, going from her “mommy” bike (a regular bicycle) to a cross bike. Her resultant feelings of accomplishment lead to overconfidence and bad decision-making, and Hiromi is suddenly lost and alone. It is at this point that we learn that sensei has a younger sister already living in Kamakura, a bakery owner and incarnate goddess to the local male cyclists, three of whom she tasks with finding Hiromi. With the bakery angle offering too many double entendres from which to choose, let’s just say that Nagisa Mori’s minions do their job and return the embarrassed Hiromi to her small group.
But it’s a growing group as Hiromi and Tomoe find more students who are interested in cycling, and that student interest leads to the reconstitution of a defunct school club. It helps, of course, that the current principal’s granddaughter is one of those interested students, and that the principal was herself a member of the old cycling club. Shades of BAKUON!!, perhaps, but that’s not a bad thing. As with BAKUON!!, students realize that one of the keen advantages to joining a school club is the way in which activities segue into adult interactions within defined social parameters–in other words, instant access to and acknowledgement by grown-ups! School clubs are meant to be fun, educational, and helpful in developing students’ social maturity. With cycling, you can also add the benefits of physical fitness and travel. And we get to watch it all happen, as well as learn about bicycling as a hobby. This is the perfect show for relaxing, a cute (if vaguely pointless) getaway from the worries and demands of everyday life. So come visit Kamakura, and sit back and unwind.