Reviewby Amy McNulty,
Episodes 1-10 Streaming
After laying her doe eyes on a student using a cute folding bike on her college campus, Ami Kurata discovers the world of cycling—and she becomes so enamored that she can never go back. Encouraged by her best friend and cyclist Aoi Niigaki, Ami learns the ins and outs of biking for exercise and enjoyment, as well as the maintenance and costs involved with hardcore bicycling. When Ami and Aoi meet up with seasoned cyclists and fellow college students Hinako Saijo and Yayoi Ichinose, the four soon create a cycling team that takes them across the country to a flèche team event.
Long Riders! aims for that slice-of-life iyashikei healing vibe that so many all-girl-club anime offer. While the result is rarely a bore, there are so many negative details that it all adds up to a generally unsatisfying experience. This show was never going to be an anime to remember, but it could have at least provided one cour's worth of entertainment and escape. Instead, it's rather bland.
At least the plot is where Long Riders! shines. It has all the characteristics of compelling slice-of-life: likable characters, a protagonist thrown into a new passion, and character growth for our heroine. It's amusing to see Ami try to keep up with her more seasoned cycling peers on first her folding bike, then eventually a road bike—which costs her a pretty penny and leads to her getting a part-time job. However, despite being surrounded by encouraging friends, she too often seems to struggle alone, or a friend will step in later to explain what she did wrong. For example, someone should have insisted she upgrade to a road bike earlier to offer her more physical support, considering the type of long-distance biking they were pursuing.
Therein lies the one drawback to the plot. Ami often tries too hard and rarely complains, sucking it up to disastrous results, as she gets ill or her body just quits on her because she's not properly building stamina and working up to greater distances each day. It definitely shows off one of Ami's character strengths—determination—but Hinako, Yayoi, and Aoi rarely seem to take her amateur status into account. They're there for her when she practically passes out, but they never stop to think that maybe she shouldn't be riding the full distance with them. They've had years to build the stamina and strength necessary, and while it's true that they often bike farther than she does after they part ways for the day, they also set goals for the group that are too ambitious for her. Ami has to discover what she's doing wrong practically on her own, and the more experienced girls only tell her after the fact when they could have enlightened her much earlier. On one hand, it works since Ami is the audience's stand-in as someone new to bicycling, but on the other, her friends seem more callous and oblivious than they're intended to be.
Ami has the most depth of the cast and she's the only character with an arc; the entire story revolves around her growth. Aoi is a kindhearted supporter but shows little character beyond that. Outspoken Hinako is probably the second most memorable and gets to show off a little of her home life, since she sometimes works at her parents' Chinese restaurant. Her best friend Yayoi is soft-spoken and one-note. Later, Ami meets up with Saki Takamiya, an acquaintance of Hinako and Yayoi's and a hardcore cyclist who becomes the fifth member of the Team Fortuna group. She's so busy solo cycling that she doesn't always bike with the rest of the group. Although she's also underdeveloped, she conveys a bit of mystery since she pops in and out of the narrative. Ami's more reliable younger sister Emi also appears from time to time (far too obsessed with her sister's wellbeing and invasive of her privacy, although that might be intended to be a running joke), as does the alpaca-hat-wearing manager of the bike shop where Ami makes most of her purchases. Despite this sizable cast, few of these characters are more than surface-deep.
Characterization issues aside, Long Riders! largely fails on the art and animation front. Studio Actas clearly struggled to produce the episodes on schedule, as evidenced by the two episodes that were delayed during the initial airing and the final two episodes' delay to February. Since the broadcast ended on the completion of a flèche, more episodes don't actually feel necessary. However, they're indicative of the issues the staff had with quality.
The early episodes look decent enough, but later episodes devolve into poorly drawn off-model characters with choppy animation. This is especially troublesome considering this isn't a show that can get away with little movement, as they're constantly trekking across the countryside. On top of that, although it couldn't be helped since this was based on a manga with existing designs, the jerseys Ami creates for Team Fortuna are not only gaudy and overloaded with details, they're poorly drawn to a distracting degree once the characters don them toward the end. Details like little llama and coffee cup insignias constantly vanish and reappear from one frame to the next, and the shortcuts taken are even more apparent when the jerseys lose the team name entirely. The one place where the art shines is in the detailed and beautiful backgrounds, which consist mostly of scenic Japanese countryside vistas.
The score is certainly nothing to write home about, although it's rarely bad or distracting. Its typically cheerful tone suits what the series is aiming for, but the music is often conspicuously missing for long stretches at a time—perhaps another sign of budget issues in development.
If you enjoy slice-of-life anime, particularly those about young ladies in hobbyist clubs, Long Riders! won't put you to sleep, but the bewilderingly bad art and animation will keep this series far from your list of favorites. The show will teach newbies quite a lot about cycling, so it may be worth watching if the topic interests you. However, despite its potential to be a piece of solid entertainment, Long Riders! fails to deliver.
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : C-
Animation : D
Art : C-
Music : C+
+ Compelling protagonist, informative about cycling, beautiful backgrounds
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