In Japan, the country that inspired the slogan "Born to be Mild," the blood of young men still runs hot. In the old days they'd go off into the country and hack each other up with swords, but these days, what with school, that isn't very practical.
So some of them do something very un-Japanese. They strap on a big bike, roar around annoying people, and pound anyone they consider dishonorable.
Now meet Eguchi Yousuke, leader of a high-school Biker gang AND the school's handicrafts club. Which means he divides his time between fistfights and fancy needlework.
And if you think he's weird, wait until you meet the rest of his gang...
#01: "Shounan Bakusouzoku (湘南暴走族)" by Shou #02: "Aoi Emblem (青いエンブレム)" by Gakuro #03: "10 Ounce no Bible (10オンスのバイブル)" by Hironobu Kageyama #04: "True Heart" by Ammy #05: "Dreamer and Screamer" by Loudness #06: "Monologue (モノローグ)" by Kiyotaka Sugiyama #07: "Blue" by Ritsuko Tanaka (田中律子) #08: "Ude no Naka no Eien (腕の中の永遠)" by Mana #09: "Niji no Anata e (虹の彼方へ)" by Mr.Children #10: "Sunao ga Ii yo ne (素直がいいよね)" by JUNCA
#11: "Change" by Kiyomi Kobayashi (小林清美) #12: "Seed of Future" by Kiyotaka Sugiyama
Before there was a great teacher named Onizuka or a school called Cromartie, before the crows of Suzuran battled it out or Kishidan held a one night carnival, and before Yankee-kun met Megane-chan or Oga Tatsumi found a naked baby by the river- there was a notorious bike gang called Shonan Bakusozoku. At first glance one might dismiss Shonan Bakusozoku as a generic 1980's anime. But to do so would be to overlook an extremely influential, fun and downright enlightening series.
Eguchi Yousuke is the second generation leader of the small, but infamous Shonan Bakusozoku bikers. The series revolves around
the lives of Eguchi and the entire Bakusozoku gang, in and out of school. In doing so Shonan Bakusozoku maintains a great balance between the comedy, romance, and drama that make up the average high school student's life. However, whereas most high school hobbies include sports or the arts, Eguchi and company sport pompadours, customized gakuran (school uniforms) and ride especially loud motorcycles. While this hobby affords it's own series of unique conflicts and adventures, it's not to say there's nothing normal about the Bakusozoku's lives- they have jobs, girlfriends and belong to school clubs (Eguchi is president of the school's embroidery club).
As for the technical aspects, Shonan Bakusosoku shines in every category. The production values are surprisingly high. The animation is slick and beautiful, especially considering its 1986 release date. The rock soundtrack pops and fits the subject matter and time period perfectly. Though the voice acting is great, some of the high school students' adult voice actors take some getting used to. But these are tough, sometimes bearded and mustached students, so how can anyone complain? It may be worth noting that each episode runs about an hour long, usually combining two stories from the manga. So although Shonan Bakusozoku will take a little more time than the average 22 minute episode, it's well worth it.
Perhaps Shonan Bakusosoku's greatest strength lies in its depiction of Japan's bosozoku and yanki subcultures. In the book "Kamikaze Bikers," Ikuya Sato argues that Japanese bosozoku and yanki were not the extreme menace that the Japanese media had portrayed them to be. He concludes that most were in it for fun, friendship and as a last hurrah before settling into adulthood.
If Mr. Sato is right, Shonan Bakusozoku is an extremely accurate portrayal of these subcultures. The series creates a sense of the youthful lust for fun, style and recklessness. Unlike some of its successors, Shonan Bakusozoku never limits its focus to the exploits of its bike gangs. Instead, it presents various aspects of the gang members' personal lives throughout the series. The characters are high schoolers in a bike gang, not simply bike gang members. The result is a multidimensional experience, offering insight into rare aspects of Japanese culture- far more so than any of its successors.
Although almost forgotten in Japan and nearly non-existent overseas, Shonan Bakusozoku's influence cannot be denied. If Crows is the "Yanki Bible," then Shonan Bakusosoku must be... the Yanki Bible's Bible? Bottom line is it's a must see for anyone interested in the Japanese yanki, bosozoku or delinquent subcultures. And considering the genre's renewed popularity, there is a huge audience just waiting to check it out.