The Wandering Witch – Cheers on the Bike Club!

Posted on Jun 22 2016

Wandering Witch Bike Club

Welcome, all, again. Even as this rather hit-or-miss viewing season winds down, I manage to remain impressed with the quality of certain programs. And one program that deserves special mention before it rides off into its sunset is the motorcycle-themed BAKUON!! It has been, for me, an admittedly acquired taste. After all, what to do with all these tropes? An all-girls’ school; a high school club; aloof but sympathetic teachers; clashing but empathetic classmates; supportive but confused families–how many times have we already seen all of this? Ah, but this time, it’s with motorcycles. . .and it really does make things fresh and new again! Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid, and it tastes mighty good. This is a weird, indeterminate little slice-of-life offering that embraces the absurd without apology, inviting its audience along for the ride. (You’ll wish you had seat belts!)


This series follows freshman Hane Sakura, a student at Okanoue Girls’ High School, as she is seduced by the freedom of the open road promised by biking. Seeing her classmate Onsa Amano tooling to school on a Yamaha SEROW225W, Hane suddenly realizes just how tiring it is to cycle to school–especially when tackling hills. The two girls decide to join the school’s Bike Club, but are surprised to find that it has just one member, Raimu Kawasaki. (More about her later.) Hane decides to focus upon getting her license and to that end begins taking riding lessons, where she encounters another classmate, Rin Suzunoki. Hane tries to recruit Rin for the Bike Club, but bad blood quickly develops between Rin and Onsa over their favorite bike manufacturers, and Rin declines all subsequent invitations to join. She does, however, quickly receive her license, leaving Hane alone in her lessons. Meanwhile, another freshman, Hijiri Minowa, decides to join the Bike Club, despite not having a license or even being old enough yet to apply for one. (She instead rides in the sidecar of her butler’s Ducati.) It is Hijiri who will eventually take the most circuitous route towards licensure, her efforts providing a running joke for the first half of the series.


Now, sometime during all of this previously mentioned activity, it is revealed to the Bike Club members that their club is actually defunct and has been for a while. Raimu seems to have maintained an unofficial presence, but that in itself generates more questions than answers. None of the new bikers seem able to learn much about Raimu, and she never talks about herself; she never speaks at all. Nor does she remove her helmet in the presence of others. To be honest, I had begun to believe that Raimu might be a ghost, a guardian spirit protecting the school’s bikers. Subsequent developments in the story suggest otherwise, but have yet to offer a concrete explanation of this mysterious girl. What we do learn is that she was an upperclassman to the school’s current principal, who continues to address her as “senpai.” This, and that the principal maintains an affection for Raimu and greatly trusts her. In fact, it is only after Raimu agrees to protect the Bike Club that it becomes officially recognized.


And this newly reborn little club undertakes some daunting activities(!): touring to Hokkaido; organizing a school festival race; even helping the surprisingly clueless Hijiri work towards obtaining a license. All bets are off when these girls are on a mission! Hane is a devoted convert to biking and remains the series’ main character, and through her we viewers are able to experience the joy of the road without the distractions of excessive subject knowledge or overthinking things. She just really isn’t interested in all that. Onsa continues to cocoon herself within her own ideas about being “cool,” while Hijiri pursues her dreams of delinquency, her butler Hayakawa by her side. Rin, meanwhile, participates in all club activities without ever bothering to join. And all of this pales in comparison to their getting a club advisor through blackmail or their fitful courting of potential new members. That’s right, Bike Club plays hardball!

To be honest, it is probably this hard-charging aspect of BAKUON!! that elevates it from being just another forgettable fluff-piece. The show’s focus is admittedly narrow, and its reliance upon stale tropes–especially in the beginning–might easily overwhelm and then deaden any but the most intense curiosity. But the characters quickly engage viewers through their passion, endearing themselves to both us and each other. And for all of their shortcomings and inexperience, these young women innately understand the concept that life is for living! Friendships, families, and hobbies quietly seep into a shared camaraderie to create a supportive, protective micro-community. That said, this is ultimately a show about joy, about finding it within life’s monotony and turmoil–or making it, yourself.

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