Bomber Bikers of Shonan
Somehow, it's a small tragedy that until now, I had never heard of Bomber Bikers of Shonan. It's an ongoing saga that spanned (according to my friends over at Anime News Network) ten episodes, created between 1986 and 1995. Only the first OVA has been brought to the United States by AnimEigo, and seeing that it fared pretty poorly in its release, there's little chance we'll see more of it. That's sad, in my opinion, for the first episode of Bomber Bikers of Shonan is pure mad genius. Its weak animation is, in fact, the only reason I won't give it a perfect score.
Eguchi is the leader of the pack, to quote an old '50s song, and he does so with style. Leading the world's smallest biker gang (with only five members), Eguchi's Sho-Baku riders hold their own against other gangs far superior in numbers. Each member is known for being the guy "in charge" of a middle school before coming to high school and being awestruck by Eguchi's charm, cool, and cunning in battle. But Eguchi isn't limited to being a ruffian with a leather jacket. He's also the president of the arts and crafts club! (Not many bikers I know would exactly advertise their cross-stitching skills...) We get to know Eguchi as he finds first love and races to victory against his foes, Hell's Legion. But when the Legion wants revenge on Sho-Baku, they pull a disguised attack that could cost the Sho-Baku everything.
I'm going to get the one bad thing out of the way right now: this OVA looks every bit like it was animated in 1986, with some frankly ugly character designs and lackluster backgrounding work. Those who just can't bear to watch older animation styles will never get past them here. This is artwork on the cheap.
But everything else Bomber Bikers of Shonan offers, I ate right up. BIKERS is a loving send-up of the "biker gang" genre as well as a full-fledged saga in its own right. I was amazed at just how hilarious this thing was! It definitely helps to have a firm grasp on Japanese culture when seeing this one, since it's loaded with puns and references, many of which translate only with liner notes. (Thankfully, AnimEigo supplies those.) I frankly doubled over laughing a few times, and there were many more chuckles to be had. It's not always universal humor, but if you get it, it's darn funny.
Meanwhile, for a show that clocks in just over 50 minutes, you get a really strong look at Eguchi and what makes him tick. For the parody aspects, he's still a real character, albeit a stylized and goofy one. I couldn't help but enjoy Eguchi and hope for him to get the girl, win the race, and slap silly his enemies. His buddies don't have much personality in and of themselves, but together they add up to more than the sum of their parts, providing even more humor and wit. And Eguchi's sweet girlfriend Tsuyama adds a refreshing touch to the proceedings. Even the villains are amusing to watch!
I've made light that this show is hysterical, but it also has enough action to keep those who've come for biker gang action to be satisfied. The violence can be a little rough and realistic, though nobody gets too badly hurt. The fights, in fact, are the only place where Bikers takes itself seriously...sometimes, a little too seriously. But if you enjoy it as much as I did, it won't bother you.
Will everyone like this as much as me? I doubt it. I know I have a quirky sense of humor that's inspired by shows like this. And from judging by the reviews at some other sites, apparently the humor isn't as big a thing as I seem to think. No matter...those are their reviews, not mine, and I thought Bomber Bikers of Shonan was a wonderfully funny, enjoyable piece of work. Hopefully you will too.
Bomber Bikers of Shonan -- violence, profanity -- A