Our episode begins with some beautiful shots of Kamakura. This establishes the setting for the show, and helps us foreigners remember what’s in Kamakura. However, right off the bat, we see a vast difference in the quality of the backgrounds and the character designs.
While the scenery is beautiful, vivid, and lush- the people that live in this world are basic and flat. Since the animation doesn’t make up for the lacking quality of the character art, I don’t really understand the excuse for such basic personage other than the quick production time associate with it.
Before we even begin getting into a story the show reminds us that Bridgestone makes bicycle parts. To be fair, since I don’t actually know much about bikes this was new to me. Quite a few foreign viewers may be surprised by this information, but the target audience in Japan won’t find this surprising. This, at its core, is just poor obvious product placement. It doesn’t happen again (that I remember), but just once at the very beginning of the show is enough to make me click my tongue.
Hiromi, the perspective character, has a bicycle. She has not ridden a bicycle since she was a little kid. She seems to have forgotten how to ride a bicycle.
It would be funny if Hiromi wasn’t so darn dumb.
Hiromi ends up crashing into her new best friend, Tomo. One of the first questions Hiromi asks Tomo is if they attend the same school, even though they are both wearing the exact same uniform.
After clarifying that they do in fact attend the same high school, Hiromi asks Tomo to teach her how to ride a bike. I really don’t know how early Hiromi and Tomo left their homes to get to school, but it seems like it wouldn’t be enough time to teach someone how to ride a bike. However, Tomo agrees, and begins the arduous task of teaching Hiromi – for almost eight minutes of the entire episode.
The problem with Hiromi isn’t that she can’t balance the bicycle, like most newbies, but it’s that Hiromi legitimately refuses to pedal. She simply pushes herself and lets forward momentum take over. It’s embarrassing as a human being to see this happen, and it doesn’t happen just once or twice. It’s an actual obstacle that Hiromi has to overcome that Tomo doesn’t notice until just before they leave for school.
When Tomo finally mentions to Hiromi that she needs to pedal, Hiromi seems slightly confused because she either didn’t realize she was supposed to pedal- or didn’t realize she wasn’t doing it. Fantastic.
Hiromi still isn’t good enough at riding, even though she finally understands how bicycles move forward now, so she and Tomo walk to school.
We now get the wonderful opportunity to see more of Kamakura; however, we also have the wonderful opportunity of having it shoved down our throats. If you didn’t know that this show took place in Kamakura already, you will by the time these girls finally get to the school gates because the town name is mentioned at least every sentence.
Tomo explains, after a brief aside about how beautiful the sea is in Kamakura, that kites are a common sight and that they steal food right out of your hands. Here they also meet their soon-to-be teacher who coincidentally is riding a bike. Hiromi then takes out a sandwich because she is hungry, only to have that sandwich ripped from her claws by a kite. Upset and confused, even though Tomo is now repeating herself to a brick wall, Hiromi takes out another sandwich and races uphill to school. Now that’s a true a testament to Hiromi’s inability to follow directions or listen.
After Tomo and Hiromi learn that they are in the same class, they rush to the entrance ceremony that they are somehow not late for. During this, Hiromi has a crisis of faith as she wonders if she will ever make any friends at her new school in this new town. Well, Hiromi. I think that the fact that this Tomo girl spent possibly an hour trying to get to you pedal a bicycle means she’s your friend, but hey. What do I know?
The episode ends with Hiromi deciding that she wants to ride just as fast as two racing bikes that pass she and Tomo as they walk home. Since Hiromi can’t actually ride a bicycle, yet, Tomo decides that they should practice more in a parking lot- and that’s where we end for the day. Poor Tomo attempting to teach this girl how to ride a bike.
The art in the backgrounds for this show is really amazing, and this is possibly the only redeeming quality since the animation is typical, character designs are basic, and the story leaves plot to be desired. I hate Hiromi with a true passion because she is purposefully ignorant of the things around her, and because she didn’t understand basic locomotion for eight minutes of the episode.
Going forward, I hope Minami Kamakura can make me like it for more than just the pretty Kamakuran scenery. Even though I hated this first episode, I wanted to find something in this show I liked which is why I chose it for my Thoughts and Feelings Column this season. I so often am quick to hate and dislike shows that don’t offer instant gratification for me, and while I try to make it to at least episode four before I drop show– sometimes I get so fed up and tired, I bail. I want to challenge myself this season. I want to make me watch a show I hate and see if it can become a show I can tolerate, maybe even a show I find I like.
We will see. If anything, I’m sure this will be an entertaining read as the season progresses!