This Winter 2017 anime season is packed with anime. Less than other, heavy-packed seasons, but still enough to have your head spinning around titles trying to choose what to watch. I’ve watched Episode 1 of Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club and I want to share my thoughts with you.
Lately we’ve had a few cycling-themed anime (I’m looking at youYowamushi Pedal and Long Riders!) so, why is this show any different?
— TVアニメ『南鎌倉高校女子自転車部』公式 (@minakama_anime) January 2, 2017
Highlights of the series
The protagonist, Hiromi Maiharu, is not a good cyclist in the beginning. Actually, she hasn’t ridden a bicycle since her childhood, and that was with safety wheels. She ends up having a hard time riding one as a high school student.
She and her family have just moved from Nagasaki (where she didn’t need to ride a bike for her daily life) to Kamakura, a place with a lot of slopes where she needs a bike to get to school. She starts her new life practicing cycling. This is a story about this air-headed girl’s strenuous high school life.
Generally speaking, if you’ve learned how to ride a bike without safety wheels, your body will probably never forget how to do it. However, if you aren’t experienced enough in riding one without safety wheels, you may have to end up relearning riding from scratch.
Quite naturally, it isn’t very easy to learn it as an adult compared to learning how to ride during your childhood. (Some say you best learn motor skills before you turn 12)
The Scenery of Kamakura is Beautiful
The first thing that hit me after watching Episode 1 of Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club is that the scenery of Kamakura is very beautifully drawn. The main focus of the show is the high school students and their cycling efforts, but each background is well-detailed, such as the seagulls flying around in the sky, the cherry petals falling at the school entrance ceremony, and many similar scenes.
This show has a lot of ‘motion’ focused frames, while it shows ‘stillness’ illustrated very neatly in contrast.
It seems they are using CG for cycling animations (it would be too tough to hand-draw them), and I think the low-key and peaceful background art fits it well and generates a synergy effect.
Check out their official site (http://minakama-anime.jp/index.html) and you’ll notice something fluttering down. It also tells us their attitude towards illustrating each and every scene carefully and thoroughly.
— MOVIEW｜映画・アニメ・特撮 (@moviewjp) January 2, 2017
Minami Kamakura High School is a girls’ school and this series does not seem to have any male characters. Of course, we may still get to see male characters in the future, but it appears that the series is avoiding them, which proves that it’s the slice of life element of a typical Kirara-kei type anime series.
Yowamushi Pedal has a female team manager and female classmates. Last season’s Long Riders! also had a male cyclist.
One way of understanding the staff’s skill is how they can naturally depict (or not depict) male characters in these slice-of-life shows.
Fully Supported by Bicycle Manufacturers
The series is fully supported by multiple bicycle manufacturers and their brand names are mentioned in the show. The bicycles appearing in the show are all based from existing models of each brand, and you can find the exact same products at a bike shop in real life. You could easily buy one and try cycling like the characters in the show.
There is an anime called Bakuon!!, that is based on motorcycles and also used existing brand products with their real names, and there were some abusive disputes [laugh] about each brand going on among viewers.
However, this series is rather different to Bakuon!!. The anime will try to explain the pros and cons of each bicycle in a very positive way.
The series also has a live-action commentary by the members of A-o-P at a bike shop after each episode. I find that very interesting. I wonder if the series will ever show them road cycling in real life!?
— TVアニメ『南鎌倉高校女子自転車部』公式 (@minakama_anime) January 1, 2017
ED テロップで協力してくださった自転車メーカーが並んでいますがそのなかの「Liv」はジャイアントの女性向けブランド「Liv-giant」名前ですね。基本的に南鎌倉の部員が乗る自転車はウーマンモデルが中心となっています( ・∇・)
— 松本規之アニメ南鎌倉1月放送! (@matsumoto0007) January 7, 2017
In Search of a New Distribution Style
Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club is more focused on online streaming than TV broadcasting. It isn’t aired on BS satellite, and neither on TOKYO-MX, which is very rare. Instead, in the Kanto area it is aired on TVK (Television Kanagawa) since the premise is set in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. You can watch it on TV if you live in Tokyo (except for the far islets), or on cable in other prefectures like Saitama or Chiba. It is available on 25 different online streaming sites in Japan (including NicoNico, Amazon Prime, d-anime store, AbemaTV, J:COM on-demand, etc) to please the on-demand anime viewers.
Perhaps this is an experiment to see how a new anime distribution style in Japan might work. It is true that the revenue since the advent of the internet and the prevalence of piracy has not been as high as in the last decade.
The first episode of Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club had no uncomfortable or frustrating elements. I’m interested in the development of Hiromi, and I’m also looking forward to see how the motion part of the cycling animation will get staged in the beautifully drawn scenery of stillness or the slow flow of time. Cycling has no cultural barriers.