Why I started watching: After Tamayura and Angel Beats!, I just needed a nice, calming bowl of chicken soup for the soul. I figured that since I’d already seen, and really enjoyed, girls doing cold-weather camping and mountain climbing, that long-distance cycling would probably do the trick as well. Also, the lead character Ami was played by Nao Touyama, who also was Rin in Yuru Camp and a side character in Yama no Susume and Tamayura, so she was pretty much an alumni of my earlier shows. Brand loyalty!
Long Riders! follows a familiar-sounding path of a girl meeting up with her childhood friend, and bonding over her enthusiasm about learning a new outdoor activity. Sounds familiar! This time it’s in university instead of high school or middle school, though. Ami and Aoi are the two central characters in the anime, although they quickly pick up several other cycling buddy friends as well, inspire a few people along the way, and enjoy a lot of delicious food.
I really liked their healthy, friendly relationship – you could tell that they were older than the girls in, for example, Yama no Susume, because they have an implicit level of trust between them that is borne out of age and maturity, and even when they do even though they do get up to hijinks, it’s done so out of genuine concern for each other rather than insecurity, jealousy or grudges. There’s lots of wholesome cooperation and encouragement going on between the girls, as long-distance cycling is shown here as a team sport, highlighting things like slipstreaming to help the weaker members along, and taking turns at the more demanding lead position.
Although I found everything about the show enjoyable, nothing really stood out to me, and I think the main reason for that is that it seemed to be setting up for future seasons – the girls do go on several cycling trips, but because Ami started out basically as a brand new cyclist, the entire season was framed around her building up her strength and gaining experience, but she was still well in last place amongst her peers by the end of it all. The ending sort of tapers away – there’s no big plot point or anything that gets resolved, and they even pick up a new team member right in the last episode, obviously setting up for a season 2 if they’re ever approved for one!
They also entirely skip over the “learning to ride a bicycle” part of her story, which I found a little disconcerting at first – Ami immediately was able to buy her new bike and start cycling a moderate distance with Aoi as practice. But then I remembered doing the same back in grade 8 or so, when as part of a Scouts activity, I was given a 5 minute crash course on how not to topple over on a bike, and then had to ride behind my group, up and down hills for about 10km, even though I had never ridden a bicycle before. This show certainly brought back those suppressed memories, and I wonder how I survived back then!
Anyway, the show ended up good, but not absolutely great, for me. I did enjoy the wholesome interactions and the nice scenery, especially at night, and I really liked the two lead girls. I would probably watch a season 2 as well if one was ever made, but I wouldn’t shell out money for it. The music was good, but neither the OP nor ED song was a keeper for me, which pretty much mirrors my viewpoint of the show at large.
Final Score: 8/10