What amazes me most about Minami Kamakura is how it can make a whole episode out of the content it presents. I don’t necessarily mean this as a slight, but I also totally mean it as a slight.
It’s episode nine, and we finally get an introduction to Sandy, the blonde girl from the opening. This solidifies my idea that the show is counting on at least one more season since they have roughly sixty minutes left to characterize and integrate Sandy into the Cycling Club.
This episode, we get to run around Kamakura again, but this time it’s for a strange school tradition that doesn’t make a ton of a sense. It a first year orientation game where the girls in the school run around the town collecting stamps. The goal is to visit all six stops picked at random with your club and to learn your way around Kamakura. There is no guarantee of what location you will get, so it’s likely that not everyone will visit the same section. However, this is never explained and the whole system seems odd because what if you draw the name of a place you’ve already got a stamp for?
My main issue with this activity is that most people attending this school are from the town of Kamakura already since it’s not much of a commuter school. At least, that is how I believe the school has been presented. Furthermore, this activity doesn’t serve much of a purpose as a viewer to explore the town with Hiromi since we have already done that with her – with better execution – which I never thought I would say…
Next, we never see any other club during this time. Even when we meet Sandy, a member of the Cosplay Club, she is alone. I am assuming all the clubs left around the same time and are either hiking or using other transportation to get around Kamakura. But- then, why don’t we see other clubs getting stamps or passing by? It actually feels empty and doesn’t seem like a school activity at all. Then when the girls finally reach the end, we never learn what place they came in compared to their rivals. It’s very odd.
At the end of the day, all this hullaballoo is created to finally introduce Sandy McDougal, the American from Colorado who came to Japan because she likes anime and manga. Sandy, a simple-minded girl much like our protagonist, is enchanted by Hiromi’s cycling love and wants to join the Cycling Club. Sandy is granted provisional status as a part of the Cycling Club, and she continues to ride with them the rest of the episode.
I hate Sandy almost as much as Hiromi. Sandy is annoying, overbearing, and loud- just like most foreign characters in anime. She also seems largely unneeded in this team since she adds nothing but more hapless energy. I look forward to being corrected, however.
Besides the plot of this episode being a poorly constructed choose your own adventure game, there is another issue concerning Fuyune. This girl has never exercised in her life, and is, understandably, having quite a bit of trouble keeping up with the other girls. Of course, since her inability to ride a bike for long periods of time is a reoccurring in every episode thus far, I can see why the club views Fuyune’s behavior as “crying wolf.”
I just think it’s really messed up that no one slows down to help her out. That’s rude. Hiromi notices that Fuyune is falling behind and asks everyone to take a break, but I wonder why no one has tried to help Fuyune outside of Cycling Club? Or even during it? Have her do drills or go on walks. Something to build strength and stamina. Why doesn’t the Cycling Club help anyone but Hiromi?
It’s possible that I am perceiving a false favoritism of Hiromi, but I highly doubt it. The show’s inability to showcase anyone but Hiromi is terribly frustrating since the other girls seem far more interested in cycling and teamwork than Hiromi.
Let’s hope Minami Kamakura can pull this together to a fun ending in what’s left, but if this keeps being so episodic and bland I’m sure this won’t end memorably even with our new blonde friend.