Otaku USA Magazine
TWOCAR: Racing Sidecar [Review]

A day at the races

People really do race motorcycles equipped with sidecars. Who knew? Well now you do, and (more importantly) you should also know there’s a new anime, defined by said motorsport, that drives a delicious mix of melodrama and mirth all the way to the finish line.

In TWOCAR: Racing Sidecar, teams from all over Japan descend on the island of Miyake for the highly anticipated Miyakejima TT (Tourist Trophy). The anime starts off with the Girls’ High School Racing Kneeler National Tournament exhibition race, wherein seven teams of young women, including one hometown favorite, introduce themselves to the anime audience by showing off their skills and trademark gimmick.

Sidecar (kneeler) teams each comprise a throttle/steering manager (driver) and an acrobatic human ballast (passenger) who wordlessly work together on the track through an intricately balanced blend of honed racing skills, instinct, and personal chemistry. This silent synchronization is the key to both members not losing their heads, literally, on the track. Sidecar racing—the anime version at least, with its high speeds and grandiose posing—is portrayed as a dangerous undertaking. And this is exactly what makes the interpersonal relationships between the members of each team as well as competing teams such a potent fulcrum throughout the series. But TWOCAR: Racing Sidecar is not one to take itself too seriously.

Case in point, the show introduces the main (hometown) team as they rush to get ready and take out their racing sidecar … to get to school on time. In addition to that, there are bike names such as Lovely Purgatory Slash and teams comprised of caricatures: goth lolita fashionistas, the twinsiest of twins, bourgeoise Class S belladonnas, a sadist and a masochist, and childhood friends. That the point of friction between the latter is a love competition for their Miss Bellum-like coach begs the understanding that this is less character driven than character mockery … but not in a mean way.

This bubblegum-pop world, where everyone is someone’s rival in some fashion and everyone is everyone else’s true friend despite current circumstance, builds drama only to knock it down with running gags and over-the-top character and situational parodies. One state of being would not do well without the other, and when storytelling technique matches the premise behind the sport that is the focus of the show, there’s little recourse other than calling that some pretty great composition. (Thanks, Katsuhiko Takayama!) Of course, any good scenario can go wrong without the proper execution, so a lot of credit for the balance of this series also goes to director Masafumi Tamura.

Time spent on the racetrack, reflecting more the consequences of team members’ states of mind than building any sense of competition, is minimal, but that’s not to say there are not some laudable aspects. The degree to which the sidecars are used for aspects other than racing, say fireworks, is impressively imaginative (or perhaps just choicely included from real-life instances), and the animation of the passenger changing position while the backgrounds and bike are in motion is impressive. The bikes are not rendered photorealistically but do carry a good degree of loving detail. Much more could have been done to show the danger and excitement of speed, but that is not really the focus here. (Although it’s one heck of a missed opportunity.)

Though the premise and characters initially scream bad sports anime, TWOCAR: Racing Sidecar is a surprisingly adept comedy that uses a lesser known motorsport as its vehicle of choice to explore how relationships affect all parties involved on and off the track. It speaks to identity and a sense of self-worth as defined by self and others as well as the values inherent in trust and openness. While the racing component of this series is less than exciting, the show exudes maximum competency in two areas: timing and balance—aspects of utmost importance for comedy. Recommended.

Studio/company: Crunchyroll
available: Now
rating: Not Rated

This story appears in the April 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.