One Off

February 1, 2013

I thought that this show is trying to promote Honda motorcycles because we see the brand being featured prominent in the four episode OVA called One Off. Well, I guess they must be the sponsor for the series like how Pizza Hut did theirs with Code Geass. This is another one of those slow and calming slice of life anime series. So if you’re not into these kind of animes, you might be better off watching something else because the Honda bikes won’t be enough to keep you awake either. If you are into bikes, that is. The pace of this series reminds me a little bit like Tamayura because it is set in a small sleepy town away from the hustle and bustle of the city lights and deep in the mountainous regions. Instead of photography as the theme, as said, the motorbikes take centre stage. The story is about a girl who has been living in this little remote place for her entire life as she ponders about life elsewhere. Something more exciting perhaps. Well, the grass is always greener. Oh, did I mention that she has low self confidence too? I guess with no big thrills ever happening, it’s enough to zap all the enthusiasm out of a young girl’s life. Till a crazy biker girl that has travelled around the world stops by and enters her life and it makes her opens her eyes and perceptive of things.

Episode 1: The Windy Cafe Terrace
After 16 years living in the sleepy town of Hakuryuu, Haruno Shiozaki feels bored with the sleepy non-exciting pace. In school, she meets up with her friends Sayo Kaburagi and Anri Bessho. Also, Rie Maezono AKA Riecchi comes peddling and catching her breathe real hard. She can’t wait till she turns 16 so she can get her bike licence and escape from this hell with the Zoomer bike she is eyeing. During the break, Haruno tells her friends her parents have hired a new employee seeing the tourist season is here. She starts daydreaming of the ideal butler till she is brought back to reality. On the way back, a blonde riding a Honda CBR zooms pass them. She is an Australian, Cynthia B. Rogers and it turns out the new employee Haruno’s parents hired. She unzips her tracksuit to let her boobs breathe. Riecchi takes a picture as a memento for her brother! Seeing Cynthia has been around the world on her bike, she cooks a dish that incorporates taste from different parts of the world. So what does this fusion taste like? Indian? Italian? American? Vietnamese? All of the above? I don’t think their facial expression says they’re satisfied. Haruno cooks her a simple rice with egg dish. Guess what? Cynthia totally loves it! Nothing like a simple home cooked meal, eh? Later Haruno enjoys tea at her special spot with a great scenery, only to be ‘spoiled’ when Cynthia joins her. Thanks mom. For telling her secret sanctuary for respite. Cynthia is amazed with Haruno’s dish, tea and spot as she get to enjoy them all in a day but Haruno dismisses anything like that as she feels anybody who has travelled the world would be better. Later Cynthia joins Haruno and her friends as she talks about her adventures around the world especially in America. Playing tag with the wolves on her bike? Riecchi seems to be very astonished by her stories. Of course Haruno starts daydreaming of the ridiculous adventures. She gets embarrassed upon realizing she was shouting. Riecchi is fired up to tour the world with her trusty Zoomer. While everybody supports her, Haruno feels she can’t do such a thing no matter how much she wished it deep down. She thinks she is jealous and feels small.

Episode 2: Haruno Overture
Haruno narrates that she dreams of her friends accomplishing their respective achievements while she just serves them eggs. Huh? Thanks to Cynthia, her life has become rowdier and her workload increased. Thanks Cynthia. I’m not sure what Cynthia was trying to do tackling the chickens in the coop to get their eggs. She lost, by the way. Haruno narrates a local go-to place for motorcycle purchase and repairs. Motoya that they hang out since it’s not far from school and there is a cafe to pass the time. Anri shows them that she has written a new song featuring her dog, Maro. Cute? Weird? She was inspired by Cynthia’s stories, the reason she is able to do so. Sayo wants Haruno to sing it since she became the youngest winner on some summer vocal talent show. But Haruno isn’t too keen on it despite the rest note her dream was to be a singer. Here comes her pessimism again. Who would hear her voice in this place out of nowhere? Cynthia joins them and samples Anri’s new song. Not surprise that she loves it. Riecchi wants Cynthia to recommend a place for her to ride so she says to go where she wants to go. You’ll never know till you try. However Haruno becomes a wet blanket and doesn’t want Cynthia to give them false hope because of their different upbringing and culture. But surely it’s not wrong to let Riecchi dream, right? If she wants to discuss her dreams, they would gladly too. Who knows? It might even come true. Well, Haruno thinks you can’t get anywhere far in this town. As Haruno leaves, she talks to the old man who is servicing Cynthia’s bike. She bets the CBR can take one to places that her own Giorno bike can’t. The old dude replies it depends on who is riding it. Haruno knows she isn’t getting along well with Cynthia so he advises her to give some time as new parts always feel awkward at first. They’ll get used to each other soon.

Haruno relaxes at her favourite spot. Only for her peace to be interrupted again by Cynthia. She shows Haruno a photo of herself with Maro. I guess she got infatuated with its cuteness. Too bad Maro found her incessant kissing annoying and bit her! Cynthia says that the phrase of ‘you won’t know till you try’ stems from Haruno herself. She used to say that all the time. Can’t remember? Cynthia suggests they should head to the ocean. Just the two of them. Haruno thought her parents would be against it but surprisingly they allow her. So off they go riding in the wee hours of the morning. Though Haruno can’t see ahead in the darkness, it is not as scary as she thought. Is it because Cynthia is here? She had trouble keeping up cornering with a certain speed but Cynthia guides her. No need to rush. Then she remembers she used to say that phrase a lot when she wanted to encourage her friends to try out things. Finally they reach the end of the ridge and see the sea and the horizon. Haruno thanks Cynthia for being a great help. She reminded her that she can’t do anything alone and always relied on others. People like her who can do everything alone are amazing. However Cynthia says she’s not alone too. Lots of people played their role in getting them here. Those who made the bike and paved the roads included. So many people she has never met are lending their support. That’s why she can go wherever she wants. That’s why Haruno too should go wherever she wants and rely on whoever she wants. Haruno realizes she never thought of it this way before and felt those words settle deep in her heart.

Episode 3: Poco A Poco
Haruno’s friends have things they want to do with Cynthia. She’s okay granting their request but Haruno’s parents remind her that they are hosting a convention for stargazing enthusiasts. Daddy shows a beautiful picture of the nebula from last year’s convention given as a gift. It makes Haruno wonder where in the darkness of night do these colours hide. As the parents attend to the first arrival of guests, Haruno wants to further listen to the new parts of Anri’s song. Since Anri is having trouble with the lyrics, Riecchi suggests Sayo to write them. Then she notices that they’re like a band unit. A composer, lyricist and vocalist. As Cynthia helps out Haruno set up, she asks when her concert is going to be held (while doing her air guitar). She starts daydreaming of one but singing a lame song. About her farm chickens? She dismisses there would be one since they’re not at that level yet. Cynthia continues to bug her about the concert but Haruno continues to be pessimistic. Next day at the shrine with her friends, she asks if they should hold a concert since they’ve got a few songs. They didn’t answer and looked lost. This prompts Haruno to remember this happened a lot when they’re young. She would rush forward with her ideas but leaving everyone at a loss. That’s why she stopped pursuing the impossible. She shouldn’t have brought this topic up. That night as the stargazer enthusiasts converge outside, Haruno meets one of them, Kageyama. She lets her sample he Dob telescope as Haruno realizes the many stars blooming in the sky like flowers. Kageyama responds though they may be too far to be seen, but given time, they’ll be visible. Just like people’s hearts. Haruno feels she needs to spend more time looking carefully at others. Her friends then come and ask her when she wants to hold the concert. Of course Budoukan is out of the question. They can hold it at her place. Their group name is Poco A Poco which means little by little. Haruno narrates the mountain that seemed impossibly high wasn’t a big deal as she thought. Just a little by little, they can make it a bit farther.

Episode 4: And So The Memories Begin
Kageyama has made friends with Cynthia and stays back longer. Now they both go collect chicken eggs! Cynthia still lost, though. Riecchi learns that her friends haven’t been making progress in their respective department for the concert. Till she realizes she has no role to play! The rest comfort her that she can take on the manager role or the chorus and tambourine part. That’s an important role, you know. At Motoya, they’re supposed to discuss further about their concert but the rest are just lacking motivation. Plain lazy? Haruno thinks the concert should be held next spring. Then they heard the old guy servicing Kageyama’s bike and revving to test it. They notice the sound of all the parts working together so Riecchi quips that they’re a unit since it’s like many parts working together to produce a sound. I think her friends feel rather embarrassed about that. Haruno soon learns that Cynthia will be leaving soon but puts up that tsundere attitude that she won’t be bothered. Really? Not convincing. Cynthia meant to tell her but disappointment is clearly seen all over Haruno’s face. Her concert is next spring so can she hear her song? Haruno sits dejectedly at her favourite spot when Kageyama comes to talk to her. How did she find this place? Cynthia. Oh. She tells Haruno once she returns, she will be taking a break from travelling (due to some commitments despite her free spirited will) and it looks like Japan is her last stop. Haruno feels she should’ve picked a better place if that’s the case. Kageyama thinks she wanted to encourage her. Well, she did ask her to rely on others. But as said, people don’t give encouragements just because one asked. They do it when they notice your efforts and that unseen support is worth more than she thinks. Nobody’s dreams can come true without relying on others.

Riecchi is devastated when she finds out Cynthia is leaving. So the rest vow to hasten their concert and not rely on Cynthia. The friends work hard and because of Cynthia, their once hazy goal now becomes more visible. Haruno notes one day, all of them will go their separate ways. The song they created and the little town in the mountains, they are all part of who they are now. Their first concert will be tomorrow. Can they do it? You won’t know if you don’t try. With everyone gathered. Poco A Poco performs its first song dedicated to Cynthia. Haruno thanks her for everything and is given a hug. Before she leaves, Cynthia seems to have mastered the art of collecting chicken eggs! I don’t know if the chickens treat her as her master now. Cynthia prepares to head off with Kageyama. It’s such a tearful farewell for Riecchi. Since Cynthia’s bike’s name is Butterfly Shrimp, she suggests that Haruno should name hers as Eggs! Well, her egg was so good that you can’t forget about it. Instead of asking whether she’ll return, Haruno vows that she’ll come and visit her next time. Cynthia will definitely be waiting. Haruno narrates their time together may be short but it made her eager to rely on others and explore new worlds. After all, she has come to like herself a bit more. In the aftermath, we see Riecchi obtaining her licence and now riding her Zoomer. Now she can join her friends on any bike excursions. No more peddling like hell. Also, Cynthia and Haruno continue to write to each other.

Easy Rider
Despite nothing much happening, it is good that Haruno now has the confidence and at least she is more positive thinking than before. Instead of being pessimistic, she looks forward to things. She was always put off by things she was unable to do and slowly it becomes a big scary wall that she finds impossible to climb over. I suppose that most of us have experienced something similar like this. We start off really enthusiastic and fired up with a goal or dream but because of reality, circumstances and society, we start feeling getting put off and we conclude and even make that dream to look absurd. Then it takes somebody else to make us realize that we can do it if we just give it a try. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s why you need to try. Giving up before doing so is just like admitting defeat before the fight begins. Like the saying, failing to plan is a plan to fail. Something along that line. Thus this series is trying to tell us that if you have a dream or goal you want to achieve, you should take the effort and go grab it. Don’t sit around and wait for miracles to happen because if you do, it is certain that it won’t come true. Of course with support from your family, friends and others, you’d have a higher chance in achieving them.

Cynthia is one crazy woman if you compare her character to the sleepiness of this town. It’s like culture shock but you don’t really see the local folks getting too surprised. Instead, they welcome her and treat her like any of their other guests. Cynthia is definitely a catalyst for Haruno in opening her eyes to the world. Whether it is fate, coincidence or even a setup by Haruno’s parents that she came to this little place (Haruno’s mom was looking up the internet and that’s how she met her), at least this little change of scene proves good for Haruno. Now they’re clicking as compared when Haruno is just as cold as ice. I guess she realizes the value of their friendship when Cynthia had to cut short her stay. Haruno’s friends are okay too, though they somewhat remind me of Fuu’s friends in Tamayura. You’ve got the very lively and cheeky one in Riecchi (I suppose she was so hard up on a bike before she got her licence that she loved holding the girl’s hair/ponytail as her imaginary bike handle). Then you’ve also got the nice and quiet ones (almost) in Sayo and Anri. In addition to the pet mascot, if Tamayura’s Momoneko was the cute cotton candy feline, here we have Maro the cute puppy with goggles on his head. I’m not sure if Haruno dislikes her town like before and wants to move out (unlike Fuu who totally loves her hometown and moves back in) but I don’t see that desperation that she wants to leave real bad. Even if she did have the means, she was using the impossibility excuse as a reason for not moving. Maybe somewhere deep down in her heart she loves this place too. It’s not like that she really wants to get out of here, right?

When I first heard Yuu Kobayashi as the voice of Cynthia, it reminded me of the good ol’ days whereby I used to hear her voice lots of crazy woman roles like Kaede/Kaere in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Lala in School Rumble and Ayame in Gintama. Well, Cynthia is certainly a crazy woman but not in the sense that she loses her mind. Because of her eccentric and lively character, Yuu Kobayashi’s exuberant loud voice suits her very well whenever she gets excited. Eri Kitamua is recognizable as Riecchi as she sounds like one of her cheeky/haughty roles such as Rin from Kodomo No Jikan, Eve in Needless and Karen in Nisemonogatari. The rest of the other casts include Saori Goto as Haruno (Bara Suishou in Rozen Maiden Traumend), Saori Hayami as Sayo (Ikaros in Sora No Otoshimono), Sayuri Yahagi as Anri (Haruna in To Love-Ru) and Megumi Ogata as Kageyama (Yume in Koi To Senkyo To Chocolate, Izumi in Full Moon Wo Sagashite). Both the opening and ending themes are sung by Roundtable Featuring Nino. In line with their trademark music, the opening Yakusoku No Basho is a lively pop piece while the ending theme, Memories plays to a slower tune. Both pieces have that soothing and calming effect and very much brings back memories of Aria The Animation and its sequels. In fact, I thought some of the relaxing background music had this Aria The Animation feel to it. It really gives you the feel that you are immersed in this dreamy and sleepy town.

Well, I’m certainly not going to buy a Honda bike. I don’t even have a motorcycle licence! I’m not so sure but I’m wondering if Honda sales are dropping that they need to do such a thing. I mean, take a look at this little town and it’s like as though Honda sponsored everyone riding their bike because everybody owns a Honda brand! They should call this little town, Little Honda. This show is definitely paying homage to Honda. I’m not sure if this is going to be a trend because I realized that recently at the end of 2012, Mercedes Benz also released an anime to promote their new model or something. Since I’m not a bike enthusiast too, I probably couldn’t recognize some of the motorbike models appearing in this series. To me, they are just bikes or scooters. Just motor-powered two-wheeler that get you from one place to another.

So the world is a big place for you to explore but this is for those who love to travel and explore places. For a person like me who loves sitting in front of the idiot box for hours watching my animes, I travel to different regions, worlds and parallel universes in the fantasy of my own head! Haha. It’s much safer since I don’t have to worry about falling off balance and break some bone in my body (in regards to travelling around the world on a bike, that is). I know lots of people would love to tell me to get off my seat and really go see the world and how I would be amazed and a big eye opener for me. Sure, maybe. One day. If I can get over my sceptism and fear of travelling. After all, how would I know if I don’t try it myself.