Hiromi Maiharu has moved from Nagasaki to Kamakura to attend high school. Her new residence means a new school and new friends, and all of her exciting new encounters from day to day happen when she’s on her bicycle! Kamakura is the stage for these high school girls who have devoted their youth to cycling!
Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club is meant to be a feel good anime. I’d knew this to be true as soon as Hiromi stood up to introduce herself to her new class and earnestly said that she once heard the heartbeat of the stars and it went sparkle-sparkle-beat-beat… and nobody laughed at her. She likes bicycles even though she doesn’t even know how to use the pedals correctly and still needs marks on her shoes so she knows which feet to put them on. She starts off this anime being implausibly stupid, and doesn’t seem to be in any rush to progress her general competency. Not sure if this is a cultural thing and schoolgirls are just more polite in Japan, but in the UK she would have gotten ripped to shreds. Thankfully she had already made a friend who found her inability to ride a bike charming and decided to befriend her. Hiromi has a sense of that anime archetype of ‘dumb but cute girl that we can forgive because she’s a really good person and brings the rest of the cast together‘ kind of personality. It’s a type of personality that can encompass a lot of anime protagonists if you get general about it.
The main cast of characters establish themselves well enough and are rather charming. Aside from the optimistic Hiromi, we have Tomoe Akistsuki, a quiet and sensible girl that helps to balance out Hiromi, Natsumi Higa – a sporty and practical girl that chooses cycling over swimming though she excels at both and Fuyune Kamakura, a somewhat oujousama-type character who pretends she knows more about bikes than she actually does. They fit together and discover an abandoned club house, once held by a cycling club of old, and start to form their club. They really start from the ground up too, given that all members of the club don’t actually have a bike (or can actually ride one particularly well) and they try to decide what kind of cycling they want to be doing. Touring? Races? Natsumi gives this some actually consideration which Hiromi, naturally, is just happy if she can keep her feet on the pedals without toppling the hell over.
What I also like about this anime is the little info-section at the end of each episode that guides viewers that are interested in getting a bike through what to do if they want to make a purchase. It’s a live-action segment starring Hirose Yuuki, the voice of Tomoe, and Fukuo Yui, the voice of Tomoe’s younger sister Yuika.
It encourages those who are keen to start riding on what kind of bike to go for to start, what frame and what type of helmet and protective gear. It’s fun, interesting and, best of all, completely non-patronising. It’s such a good idea for those inspired by sports anime to help them actually try the sport they’re watching in real life. They should do these more often. They should do these in the UK. I can see them working. They should have done this for anime such as Free! and Yuri on Ice. Can you imagine?!
The backgrounds are just gorgeous. They’re perfect for an anime about a genki girl starting a new school. It’s Spring, the cherry blossoms are in bloom and schoolgirls are keen to get out and explore – particularly those that are new to the area and just discovered their love for cycling. When anime are situated in the countryside it’s a great opening to get in some exquisite scenery. In the same vein as Non Non Biyori, the early episodes in Minami Kamakura get in some panoramic views of the ocean and some lush forest scenery as well as some great shots of traditional Shinto temples. They’re great to marvel at if the storyline goes a bit off-track (or if Hiromi does – she has a tendency to get lost, and I don’t know how much longer she can claim to be new to the area and have people believe her).
Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club is an easy, enjoyable watch about a group of high school girls getting together and forming a club for their shared love of bikes and cycling. It won’t break any boundaries or make a significant impact particularly, but the episodes are light and fun with some beautiful backdrops when the girls are out touring the area on their bikes.