An 11-year-old boy, Takasumi Takane, will be given a new bicycle if his exam results are in the top 100, but his results put him in 112th place. He tells his mother a lie that he placed 92nd, and he tears the answer sheets apart. On his way home from cram school, he accidently breaks the old bicycle that he is supposed to hand down to his little sister, Tamaki. This angers Tamaki. Furthermore, Tamaki accuses him of telling a lie, and he begins to think of her as a nuisance. One night, when he goes to a shrine to look for his missing dog, Chris, he encounters a young man named Yoyogi. Somehow, Yoyogi has the answer sheet marked as “92nd." Yoyogi proposes a trade, but threatens to return the answer sheet to its original owner unless he is given something Takane doesn't need. Takane offers him his sister, Tamaki. At that very moment, Tamaki arrives, searching for Takane and Chris. Yoyogi turns Tamaki into a shining object and swallows her. Takane decides that he was wrong and wants to save her. Yoyogi agrees to restore Tamaki to her original form if Takane wins a race against him, with his broken bicycle. Can Takane win the race rescue Tamaki?
It sometimes surprises me just how much anime as a medium affects Japanese society, in particular in areas of creative development. There was a time, both in Japan and the West, when working on anime/cartoons and manga/comics wasn't classed as real "work". Oh, how times have changed, and part of the reason for that change is the fact that both anime and manga have a great degree of industry recognition. Granted this recognition is specific to Japan for the moment, however both mediums are steadily increasing their presence overseas, Spirited Away winning an Oscar being symptomatic of this change.
One of the awards given in Japan has only been around since 2002. Being a fairly recent addition, one would think that such an award would hold little meaning for established mangaka, scriptwriters, animators, etc, however this is an incorrect assumption. The award in question is given as part of the Animax Taisho, a scriptwriting competition organised and run by the satellite TV network Animax. The competition is open to all comers, however the sixth year it ran it changed, opening itself not only to Japanese viewers, but to audiences worldwide through Animax's broadcast networks. The winners of the award will see their script/screenplay turned into an anime by an established producer (think Sunrise, Toei, Production I.G., etc).
Why am I boring you with this information you may ask? Well, it has a point as the winner of the sixth Animax Taisho award was a screenplay written by Takamaga Hayato, who until then was completely unknown in either anime or manga. His screenplay, entitled "Takane no Jitensha", told the story of 11 year old Takamusi Takane, a boy whose mother has promised him a new bycicle provided he can rank in the top 100 on his school tests. Unfortunately, Takane places 112th, so he tears up the results and lies to his mother. It's then that his little sister becomes involved in proceedings, and Takane must decide which is more important, his new bike or his sister.
At first glance the story is intruiging, especially as it injects some supernatural elements which the main character is unable to deal with. Like most things though, Takane no Jitensha is much better on paper...
Given that this is essentially a leg up for an unknown, A-1 Pictures have actually done a decent job with the animation and design. Like any studio though, animating the winning screenplay from the Animax Taisho plays second fiddle to their own projects, and it shows. There are definite areas where the animation isn't quite up to scratch, and although this doesn't really affect the overall enjoyment of the OVA, it is somewhat distracting. The design is pretty standard fare on the whole, with nothing new or groundbreaking displayed in the backgrounds, settings or characters. Everything looks pretty normal, which is how it's supposed to ironically enough. By not putting in 100%, A-1 Pictures have given the show a feeling of normality that is more than a little surprising.
Unfortunately, the anime is let down somewhat in the sound department, especially the music which sometimes feels "out of sync" with the animation. The effects also suffer from this problem, however it is more noticeable with the music. The other problem with the music is that it often doesn't quite reflect the mood of the scene, but aside from these problems there isn't really much to complain about.
The voice acting is a big plus for the anime though, as the role of Takane was given over to Sakamoto Maaya, a name that fans of Escaflowne, Kara no Kyoukai and Diebuster should be familiar with. Her experience in the lead role is telling, as it gives the character of Takane far more personality than the story initially allows for. The other seiyuu are pretty good for the most part, however Sakamoto pretty much steals the show.
Takane no Jitensha, like almost every other single episode OVA in existence, has a big problem in terms of characters, in particular characterisation and development. Like all the others, this OVA has made exactly the same mistake in that a weak character is expected to develop over the course of one episode due to some major event in his/her life. The few that actually manage to achieve this feat have all done so by providing an extremely strong characterisation, or an almost complete character, right from the start. In Takane no Jitensha however, the lead is an 11 year old boy, and while it is true that presenting a complete character may be unbelievable in this case, providing a strong characterisation is always possible no matter the age.
I was actually surprised to find that I did actually enjoy this to a degree. The story reminded me somewhat of Mokke in it's approach to spirits and otherwordly beings and their relationship with humans. Whilst it lacks Mokke's charm, it does make up for it a little by being original in it's plot. After all, how many of us wanted a bike more than we wanted our younger siblings, especially when we were 11. Whilst the supernatural element adds an unbelievability to the story, the core of the plot, a boy wanting a bike and seeing his little sister as an annoyance, is more than probable.
On the whole, this is worth watching if you like supernatural anime, or you like to keep an eye out for potential new talent in anime.
I watched this for the former reason, however I'll be checking out the other Animax Taisho winners as whilst Takane no Jitensha does have it's problems, it also has potential.
Hopefully the other titles will showcase the same creativity as this.