Pepe is a Spanish cyclist competing in an multi-stage Iberian cycling race similar to the Tour de France. He is a support rider for one of the teams competing in the race, and his role is to assist the team's top rider in winning the overall race. As the story unfolds, the racers are set to ride through Pepe's home town in Andalusia on the same day as the wedding of his elder brother Angel to his former girlfriend Carmen. Their relationship was a factor in his decision to leave the town to pursue professional cycling, and the wedding is a frustrating reminder that his career hasn't turned out as he would have liked. Now, with the sponsor planning to drop him from the team and his family and friends cheering him on, Pepe abandons his assigned role and strives for glory.
Summer in Andalusia is a Madhouse movie from 2003 based off a cycling manga called Nasu. It’s about a guy from Andalusia in southern Spain who is participating in the big cycling race that goes through his hometown. The story flits between following the main character cycling and his family watching his race on the big screen, giving us a very vague glimpse into how his family life is and what it’s like living in Andalusia.
The movie has three main goals: Sell you on cycling as a sport, sell you on Andalusia as a place, and connect the two together into the main character’s story.
On the first two points it does really well. I know nothing about cycling nor any of the tactics that are involved. Like a lot of athletics, I tend to think that there are no tactics beyond just cycle faster than anyone else. Summer in Andalusia definitely sells me on the concept that there’s a lot more going on, between the importance of the following pack and the teamwork involved.
It does all the right tricks to make the concept interesting. Delivering the rules of the race in normal conversations between the characters that also serve as character and world building. Dropping a plot twist 15 minutes after you understand the importance of what just happens, so you get that “oh shit” moment where you realise how dramatic that twist is. By the end, when the characters enter the final straight, you understand the importance of everything so the final few minutes can just be all exhilaration and drama and random references to Didi Senft (google it) and you don’t need characters explaining to you what’s going on. It’s fantastically well paced and well told.
Arguably one place the movie doesn’t do so well is characterising the key rivals in the race. The main character is the only one who seems to have a personality. This isn’t much of an issue because the battle is mostly within the main character’s own mind. It’s all part of this larger theme of the main character trying to escape his family life and Andalusia in general, but coming back and realising he is at home here and fighting that feeling. It’s not as well worked in as the rest of the story, since it leaves it a little too vague by the end and I’m not really sure what the main character achieved. He acknowledges his homeland of Andalusia as not being completely terrible I guess?
The movie does a really good job of selling Andalusia, but when I say that I don’t mean as a wonderful place all the time like Neo-Venezia or something. They actually paint it as a sweltering, barren, near-desert place, but one that the people who live there are really proud of regardless. There’s a lot of attention to detail with the backgrounds and setting the tone of the land. It’s really well directed in general and has the feel and look of a Ghibli movie. This is probably because Summer in Andalusia basically is a Ghibli movie. It’s directed by the animation director of stuff like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away and is animated almost entirely by Ghibli staff too. Clocking in at barely 45 minutes, it’s over pretty quickly and paced really well. Comes with my firm stamp of recommendation.
This is a fairly short movie about a guy in a cycling race. Don’t let that put you off if you have no interest in the sport, i have watched many series or movies based on a sport i barely know the rules off so when i watched this i went into hoping to gain even a little knowledge of cycling races and i did. Due to its short length it doesn’t go into depth about any rules but a couple manoeuvres the cyclists use are described and it all just adds to the experience.
Pepe out main character is part of a team that don’t
exactly want him any more as he hasn’t performed and are close to firing him spurring him to fight all the way to the end. It’s his home town so there are a lot of supporters cheering him on. His brother is getting married to his ex girlfriend, its stated in the synopsis its his ex but it really only hints at it but its enough to pick up on.
It seems to be based in Spain which is rather unique setting. A lot of it takes place on the road as we follow Pepe in an open almost desert like place and an old pub restaurant place.
The art and animation are brilliant, the characters are always well animated and even when the large group of cyclists are on screen it never lets up and doesn’t resort to using still frames which i believe is often lazy so having great animation helped here. Backgrounds are really well drawn even if not a lot is going on due to the desert like setting, crowds and characters designs are simple but work well.
Sound is another great part, the background music fits perfectly with the accompanying scene and fit perfectly well with the Spanish setting, they use a very Spanish sounding tune, you know the type that is played on acoustic guitars really fast (Flamenco?) im no expert so please excuse me. It just fits perfect as the movie draws towards its climax. Voice actors did a perfect job, i felt everyone did a good job and the acting wasn’t wooden due to a decent script.
Characters are fairly likable. Pepe, although not shown is a struggling professional cyclist, or at least that’s what we can summarize from the fact the sponsor wants to fire him if he can’t do well in this race, he has a past with his brothers new wife and doesn’t seem to happy to see them together but its never played for the drama but used to show how he’s grown. Pepe’s brother seems to have no remorse over ‘stealing’ Carmen his wife but does want Pepe to succeed and always had faith in him. The old man who owns the pub is cool and generally gets everyone in high spirits and is the party maker for a lack of a better description. Everyone else had individual personalities, the guy who works at the pub, the team manager, the sponsor, guy in the wheel chair. They all make up a nice and enjoyable cast of characters.
Nasu is a really enjoyable movie that will have you pumping with excitement as the race end draws closer, his story is well told and we learn plenty despite the short running time and you may even pick up a few cycling rules or even make you want to pick up your bike. Its not a comedy buts its also not a drama and is very light hearted, the doping test is hilarious.
While some may select a certain genre for the specific topic and perhaps nothing else, it's usually what is in between that defines the rest. Now, while there is something other than that which the narrative concentrates on mostly, it is actually side characters that get most of that 'in between' narrative, while the protagonists are mainly confined to the sport itself for most of the time, which, as it happens, isn't repeated in the sequel.
As such, I suppose this isn't absolutely great as an 'introduction'... to professional cycling, sure, even those new to it could catch up with some terminology (it's about five words
I ended up searching for, which in comparison to baseball isn't much at all, although basketball has terminology more intuitive than 'peloton'; if all one does is ride by oneself then that certainly is an irrelevant definition) - as it happens, also, the sequel has none of this and more characterization, which is why I thought it was an improvement upon this original.
This, though, doesn't mean the animation itself isn't 'strong'... at this point Madhouse had been in the industry for decades already, even though this film is 'old' as of this writing... the barren lands, the Spanish terrain... all lend themselves to a certain atmosphere that, when culturally appropriate music is included, really does feel almost like a tourist advertisement or such... it isn't really that blatant, despite the pseudo-product endorsements which are mostly there for a little comedy, but I'm still not sure if a song literally about the place in the title, which itself is often repeated, comes across as a bit too strong in the negative sense.
The marriage that parallels the race is most of the drama outside of the sport itself, which isn't much, and not quite as deep as the drama in its sequel which does touch upon some heavy topics. I suppose the marriage is there to provide a reason behind the protagonist's choice of career, but beyond that there isn't really much substance behind it (then again, unless it is one's own marriage, others' usually lack substance too, but it's merely a symbolic act at any rate).
I think one could say a certain highlight of the film, despite not saying 'much', is... the cat. Well, an interesting diversion, at the very least. Also, one cultural parallel between both films is the eggplant (where 'Nasu' comes from), which apparently in Spain is pickled, whereas in Japan it's dark and spicy.
In my opinion, though, what this film had too much of that the sequel rectified is with its ratio of sport:drama - the drinking of wine, eggplants, even the marriage were all merely minor, side dramas that were never too 'powerful' to begin with. There was some comedy, but not too 'strong' either... some tinkering with some glasses gadget that reminded me of some Ghibli films, that yet again had some minor comedy and little commentary about the differences between the young and old, but it was kept very much in a corner, kind of like the television they watched the race on, which to the audience isn't just confined to a television-within-a-television.
But, this is merely my opinion, which I think the sequel improved on... it doesn't take away from the solid animation or the culturally accurate (I assume) additions to the narrative... this, though, turns out to be more like the real-life versions which usually have no drama outside of the sport itself, than most anime in such a genre (and the slice-of-life aspect is usually what I'm looking for, which the sequel had satisfactorily).
What a fantastic movie. This is exactly what I was craving in Yowamushi Pedal Season 2. There's no need to create superpower artificial emotion since the sport by nature is such a rollercoaster of hope, despair, and fortunes that change within seconds. Road bike racing is such a dramatic event because so many people are vying for victory, bargaining back and forth in game theory. It doesn't take much to explain these transactions and how they can conform to the strengths of each rider and team. This movie is easily able to introduce the riders Bezal, Zamenhoff, Ciocci, Benengeli, and Gilmore as
potential victory hunters and how their ideal strategies clash with one another as the finish line grows closer and closer. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about general cycling layout and strategy. They do not explain the strategy of peloton vs breakaway, winds/echelon formation, team sponsor politics, and stage vs overall victory. Thus it's made for already existing cycling fans and is quite unwelcoming to newbies.
- In 45 min it fits a full cycling story and a family story
- Does a great job at showcasing the drama and unpredictability of racing
- Doesn't explain shit to newcomers to the sport (should have been a TV series not a shortish movie)
- Very classic presentation. It's from 2003 but feels like from the 90s. Would prefer the hype and voice acting of modern anime.
Nothing gets the blood pumping like a high-intensity race, be it in a car, bike, or even mecha suit. Youthful passion and energy fuel these shows about drivers, pilots and athletes all striving for that #1 spot. As Ricky Bobby once famously said, "If you ain't first, you're last".