Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu, Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club by Noriyuki Matsumoto, Monthly Comic Blade, August 2011-
9 Volumes + 13 ep Anime, Jan-May 2017
I have mentioned this before, but I have a soft spot in my heart for anime and manga situated around the historic temple town of Kamakura, in the back yard of Yokohama and along the coast of Sagami bay, including Enoshima and neighboring towns. When I visit Japan, that’s where I end up and of course it is wonderful seeing places that you have visited show up in the anime you are watching (or the manga you are reading). Add that the area is postcard picturesque and that I have been able to explore the back lanes of a lot of it on a one-speed utility bicycle and I admit it; I’m weak for Kamakura-Enoshima location porn. Show me a few main charas riding the Enoden narrow gauge railway (jammed right before and after school hours) and I get all soft-headed and nostalgic.
Or a few anime girls cycling around Kamakura…
This got my nose whacked earlier this year when I wandered into the supposedly open request for comments on the spring anime season at a certain new, high-profile blog and announced that I liked Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club and had problems with Scum’s Wish… At a blog that featured at least one moderator/ organizer who absolutely loved Scum’s Wish and detested the Bicycle Club anime.
Oh fuck, back away slowly from the righteously enraged moderator. Not my blog…
This my blog…
I wonder what it would have cost not to lay down artillery fire at Cycling Club plus anyone wrong-headed enough to appreciate any aspects of it, even the lovingly rendered back lanes of Kamakura and the later scenery during the Shonen coast bike trips.
There was an in-story alibi as to why the lead chara was such a class enemy of all women’s competence and agency on her first day of school with a borrowed mama-chari. We later learn she had never ridden a bike. She was fibbing a bit, carried away by her enthusiasm and the dim memory of having once sat on a tiny bike with training wheels when she was a child. How hard could it be?
The plot required that she start at less than zero bike skills, so that she serves as an exemplary model of how fun and accessible riding a bike for recreation can be. Lookie how she improves enough to be in her first race some 5 episodes later. While the character showed some excessive ep 1 cluelessness and the “lets learn bicycling” end segments come off as cloying, they were far less simpering than most live action Japanese daytime tv “lets look at new things to buy” shows where women and the occasional man get lectured by “experts” and then get to say ‘Sugoi!” and “Syko!” while nodding their heads and smiling politely. The latter segments actually conveyed important beginner information.
A few episodes in, she and the club are already doing a races and demonstrating plenty of skill and agency (and classic bike race teamwork). Later touring eps are serious enough without going full metal competitive racing (or get off the fucking road you dilettante…) Almost every episode is a solid Bechdel test pass for all scenes and the cycling club is a women’s homosocial with inter-generational support and passing down of lore.
Guess it is still fucked if it isn’t Red Detachment of (Young) Women (on Bicycles) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Detachment_of_Women_(ballet)]
There is also the danger of demanding the best be the enemy of the good as well as coming off as an ableist jerk toward folks – including adults who might wobble a bit when they get on a bike after a while… It Happens. Crap! I ride all the time and I still managed to ass over teakettle onto the tracks a few blocks from my friend’s apartment in Japan. Hip hits rail, leg numb with pain, crawl off tracks fast. Two weeks of acupuncture and hot EMS pads at the local bone-setter’s clinic. A friend with mild anemia found it difficult as an adult to balance on her bike until that was treated. Some folks never lose their facility on two wheels – it’s like riding a bicycle but everyone’s mileage varies.
Woe be unto the one whose wobble-shaming kept ONE person off a bike; they have earned an eon in bicycling purgatory or reincarnation as a Vespa scooter engine mechanic.(1)
That other bad faith anime does not have Kamakura and/or Enoshima locations, so it is forever banished to the lesser tier of Japanese anime and manga – those that do not take place in and around Kamakura and Enoshima (Or other amazingly picturesque locations around Japan. For the Kamakura area, Fujisawa also gets a pass. Double bonus points for Kita-Kamakura and triple points for Ofuna – but only if the story features the market street or historical references to its movie studio lots)
Being curious as to how many other stories have been set in the Kamakura area I did some quick searching and found that the Japanese Anime Pilgrimage marketing gimmick was already all over the case. Fr’instance:
Kamakura: The Secret City of Anime In Real Life
KAMAKURA Sacred Site of “Ika-musume”, Yuigahama Beach de geso!
and the charming, if not too well translated “Real places where appeared on Anime, Movie and Drama” on the Travel Enoshima information site (Hey; still pretty good for a volunteer effort!) [http://travelenoshima.jp/anime.html ]
…Which featured this nifty list:
Major anime, movie and TV drama works that used Enoshima or Kamakura as location.
SLAM DUNK (Anime, 1993 – 1996)
A Song to the Sun [タイヨウの歌 (Taiyo no Uta)] (Movie, 2006)
Taiyo to Umi no Kyoshitsu [太陽と海の教室] (TV drama, 2008)
Sweet Blue Flowers [青い花 (Aoi-hana)] (Anime, 2009)
Tsuritama [つり球] (Anime, 2012)
TARI TARI (Anime, 2012)
Girl in the Sunny Place [陽だまりの彼女 (Hidamari no Kanojyo)] (Movie, 2013)
Ping Pong [ピンポン] (Anime, 2014)
Hanayamata [ハナヤマタ] (Anime, 2014)
Saigo kara Nibanme no Koi [最後から二番目の恋] (TV drama, 2012 – 2014)
Umimachi Diary [海街diary] (Movie, 2015)
Myriad Colors Phantom World [無彩限のファントムワールド] (Anime, 2016)
Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club (Anime, 2017)
Fukumenkei Noise [覆面系ノイズ] (Anime/Movie, 2017)
Kimi no Koe wo todoketai [きみの声をとどけたい] (Anime, 2017)
Just Because! (Anime, 2017)
What else? Elfen Lied, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, Kamakura Dekofuraifu, Kotonoba Drive, Kamakura Monogatari, Hitorigurashi no Shougakusei.
Need Moar titles. Gotta watch/ read ’em all. Then bike there next time.
(1) My real complaint with Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club is when the rich girl is bumbling around with her camera at the Kamakura beach-front on a windy day. I’ve been there; that windblown sand and salt can etch the lenses on your glasses in less than an hour. The stuff is microscopically fine, corrosive and abrasive. I have at least 2 cameras that have been well and truly fucked by that grit,and its eldrich powers to find its way into expensive precision equipment The salt air/ wind near the shore is pretty hard on bikes too. Cheap chrome and bike chains will get chewed up in less than a year if not cleaned and greased regularly.