What Initial D is to car fans, Bari Bari is to motorbike fans. And that's the greatest compliment a racing series can get. Hell, the manga was supposedly so good that people started to join the Bōsōzoku (Japanese motorbike gangs) in droves! Strange?
Not really, since the same guy, Shuichi Shigeno, created Bari Bari Densetsu and Initial D - two holy grails of the petrol-heads. He also had assistance, in the form of his prominent student Jyoji Morikawa - the guy behind Hajime no Ippo.
You know a racing movie is good when it starts with a shot of an idyllic road. The morning sun is
gently fondling the scenery and the birds are chirping. Suddenly the comforting scene is ripped apart by a raging motorbike noise. Two riders blast into the scene, taking the corners at a mind-blowing pace. They turn, they twist, they lean almost vertically as they literally eat the road.
The camera zooms in, shifting gears, the parts move, the engine shakes, and the bikes roar like furious wild beasts. The riders become one with the road, the lines they take paint a work of art and the sound from the bikes, revving up insatiably, creates a symphony of destruction.
When a movie conveys all this feelings, you know it's made by a driver, for the drivers. And Shuichi Shigeno is one of the rare people with a godly talent to make this right. The detail put in his work is insane, right down to the point, where you can hear the air getting furiously sucked into the intake.
And not just the bikes, great care was also put into making detailed surroundings. You will actually recognize segments of racing tracks like Tsukuba and Suzuka, if you're familiar with them.
Now this being a racing movie, you shouldn't expect a great story. And it really isn't, but by no means is it bad or boring. It's a tale that never gets old. About a young, fast but reckless, prodigy that wants to push his limits, and a rival, who challenges his skills and helps him transcend to the next level. There is also a girl, of course, who likes to stick around the fast boys.
It's a very down to earth, relate able story and you'll be rooting for everyone involved by the end. It all builds up to one of the greatest races ever, with intensity hotter than any fire.
This is all wrapped in a distinct 80's production, with the catchy music of the time. Fear not, there are plenty of moments where you'll be listening to just pure sounds of motorbikes being pushed to the limit. Also, this being partly a motorbike gang movie you'll get to see some action moments too. The most glorious one has to be where the main protagonist punches someone trough a closed car door (it's as awesome as it sounds).
Speaking of motorbike anime, it's strange that so few were made, since the Bōsōzoku were quite a popular theme in the 80's Japan. Sure, biking is present in many of the classics of the time, like Akira, Megazone 23, etc., but only Bari Bari Densetsu seems to be fully devoted to it, besides Bobby's In Deep, which is a bit short and experimental, but also a great biking movie.
Just like with Initial D, I can only end this review with the following words. If you're a racing fan, you'll scream with enjoyment while watching this. If you're not, you will become one.
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".
Admit it! You really do wish you could burn rubber on a 2-wheeled beauty, as you race through neon-lit Tokyo streets. Speed demons may need to check out some of the following motorbikes in anime in order to get their adrenaline rush!