The final series I’m taking a first look at for the season has finally arrived: Long Riders rolls onto the scene. Those of you who have been reading my reviews up to now have probably noticed a pattern in my choices. Slice of life and cute girls doing cute things tend to rate high on my watch lists. No real drama, nothing to cause worries or tension in any way, just shows that I can relax and enjoy all the way through. Long Riders looks to continue this trend, yet also manages to touch on a bit of a personal interest for me. A long time ago, when I was perhaps a bit younger than the main character’s age, I was a bit into biking myself. Purely on a casual level, but I did some of the stuff we see her getting into in this episode, so watching this has brought some memories back. Let me unpack the episode a bit.
Our main character, Kurata Ami, is a university student, and a fairly cheerful but clumsy girl. She has never gotten into anything athletic because of her tendency to fall and possibly injure herself. Her best friend Niigaki Aoi, is pretty much the opposite: very athletic and fit, and is constantly being pursued by the sports clubs who are trying to recruit her. Aoi regularly rides her bike to school while Ami takes the bus, but as they’re leaving school a student rides by on a folding bike and Ami is immediately spellbound by it. It is, in her eyes, the cutest thing she’s ever seen, and she just has to have one. Now, I’ve never been one to find inanimate objects cute (unless it’s like a plushie or a figure or something that’s specifically designed to invoke the feeling of cuteness), but I have seen other people squee about how various random objects are “so cute” so it’s not entirely new to me.
However, Ami soon discovers the downside to having fallen in love at first sight with a bicycle: good bikes aren’t cheap. Especially not if you’re buying retail. I admit, Alpaca Cycle’s prices seem on the high end, but odds are that it’s a pro shop, for people who are heavily into the sport, and who are willing to pay the extra price for quality gear. A decent place for Aoi to use, but for a casual beginner like Ami buying something more realistic is undoubtedly a better choice.
Fortunately the next store has exactly what she’s looking for. The instant she sees it she knows it’s the bike for her. And luckily it’s well within her price range, without being so cheap as to fear that it’s likely to fall apart the instant she takes it 30 ft from the store. It’s interesting to hear her thinking of using the bike as a means of self-improvement. She’s never been good at anything, but if she can buy that bike and commit to riding it, perhaps she can change herself. I wish her success.
Although it is vaguely disturbing that her thought process for going out riding with her bike seems identical to that of a girl going out on a date with a guy… Her short hugging scene with her new bike in her bedroom doesn’t really help this impression either, and her sister is definitely unsettled. But let’s put Ami’s sanity aside for the moment.
The next day is Ami and Aoi’s planned ride on a bike path. Now, I’ve done some bike path riding myself. It’s pretty enjoyable, but one thing to keep in mind is, unless you’re on a circular path and you go the entire way around, any distance that you travel along it is distance that you’re going to have to turn around and travel again when going back. Aoi describes it as “an easy path, around 40 kilometers.” Maybe it is for her, but… I don’t know about you, but I would not call a 40km bike ride (nearly 25 miles) “easy.” It does look like the path is relatively flat with only some gentle hills, so it’s “easy” by that standard, but quantity has a quality of its own. That’s not something you should inflict on a beginner.
On the other hand, it does serve to teach Ami some important lessons from personal experience that I’m pretty sure she’ll take to heart from now on. One: get plenty of rest and make sure to eat a good breakfast before going biking. Your body can’t work when its exhausted, and it can’t work when it has no fuel. Anyone who has ever hit the wall the way Ami does (experiencing hunger knock, as Aoi calls it) knows that it feels bad. You do not want to end up in this situation. Take preparations to prevent it. Lesson two: do not push on ahead at a high pace, even if you don’t feel tired and you think you can take it. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of something you enjoy and push yourself forward at a faster pace than you can sustain. This can happen in many sports that depend on endurance rather than speed. Ami learns the hard way that you may not feel tired then, but you’re exhausting yourself faster than you would if you kept a steady pace. Lesson three: when biking anywhere beyond just a quick five-minute trip, bring water and energy bars, or some other kind of energy supplements. Ideally you want to use that stuff to keep yourself from getting dehydrated and from hitting the wall in the first place, but if you do end up in the state Ami ends up in, you need something to replenish yourself.
Fortunately, two more main characters happen to be out riding on that path while Ami is downed, and they’re better prepared with plenty of water and energy supplements. They help Ami get back on her feet, and then lead her and Aoi to a nearby dairy farm that sells gelato and such things to help her refuel properly. We never do manage to catch their names, but they’re definitely helpful and friendly. It’s always nice to see someone willing to take the time to stop and help out someone they don’t know just out of kindness.
So, after all that is done, along with enduring the trip back to where they began, Ami learns the final lesson the next day: exercise that your body isn’t used to leaves you feeling stiff and sore. I think most of us have been there, if perhaps with not quite so much drama as Ami. But her collapse in a dramatic heap from the pain draws the attention of a pair of girls who definitely stand out among the crowd, and as I’m sure most of us guessed, the two bikers who helped Ami and Aoi yesterday turn out to be fellow students at their university.
I enjoyed this first episode quite a bit. Out of all the cute girls doing cute things shows I’ve seen so far this season, this one has probably been the simplest, and yet I think I liked its first episode the most. I’m not entirely sure why that is. It’s true that I can relate to it, having done some biking before myself, and perhaps that makes it appeal to me more. Really I just enjoyed watching this episode. There isn’t a lot of humor here: some minor bits with Ami crushing on her new bike or taking a fall in a silly fashion or whatever, but this doesn’t really feel like a comedic series. And it isn’t built for scenery-porn either: in fact when the girls are riding, a lot of the buildings and landscape around them are clearly 3DCG of a fairly simplistic sort. And yet that doesn’t really matter. This felt good to watch. If you want a show where you can just relax and enjoy it, then you might want to give this series a try.
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