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I Can't Ride A Bicycle!

Nope, this isn't confession time or airing dirty laundry in front of the entire universe. Let me assure all that I can ride a bicycle fairly decently, though not anywhere near the standards of Sohoku and Hakone (I'm not into competitive riding anyway). The wonders of being on a bicycle, in my opinion, should be a lot less life-threatening (?) than Inter-High or tournaments in general (hold the flour, eggs and tomatoes please). Or in the case of Hideki's manga, the sheer existence of a bicycle club is itself an everlasting wonder. Oh, if anybody hadn't noticed already, 'I Can't Ride A Bicycle!'...

The madness begins with a seemingly self-deprecating account of a high-school freshman Ogawa Tsubame, who has come to terms with his extreme lack of athleticism yet part of him still yearns for the ability to 'balance' - he wanted to get a driver's license at one point. A classmate's frank opinion brought him back to square one. Pardon my ignorance (?), but I thought that taking a two-hour walk to school was something which only our ancestors did. Tsubame's train of thoughts frequently alternates between unbelievably outdated and perhaps just a little outdated. His yearning takes a strong turn, or in his own words the Door of Destiny. The bicycle club has somehow triggered a growing desire to commute the way he has always wanted.

A voice temporarily pulls Tsubame out of his thoughts. Also a freshman, Wada Kotaro stirs up new hope in Tsubame partly due to the 200,000 yen Italian bicycle which his family has generously supplied. Just when Tsubame is about to sink way deeper into his awe and admiration, Kotaro effectively destroys any other possible hint of perceived greatness by confessing that he can't actually ride a bicycle. He encourages Tsubame in joining the club together since they have nothing to lose, and it may well be an opportunity to face their insecurities properly. Later, they decide to go meet the rest of the club members. That is when the madness begins to escalate.

Now, I totally understand the plight of not being able to ride a bicycle, and attempting to ride one anyway could jolly well traumatise passersby and implicate the unthinkable. In the world of manga, I suppose that comically disjointed limbs would be the bare minimum. Kotaro is not just accident-prone, he is dangerously accident-prone (to the extent where a 200,000 yen bicycle becomes wasted in a matter of seconds). His accidents would become a running gag throughout the series.

Tsubame and Kotaro meet up with the vice-president of the club - Hara Kiyoto, a senior who owns quite the elaborate get-up of cycling. If anybody has figured out something by now, the flow isn't what Tsubame has expected (he is truly gullible). Yeah, even the vice-president himself is incapable of riding a bicycle, frankly even with training wheels (eventually).

Here is why I find the manga strangely mesmerising. After sampling several chapters, it has finally dawned on me that the stories are built around the irony of the boys' presence in the bicycle club despite their incompetence in the sport (and with no apparent signs of improving whatsoever). Each chapter is short and reminds me of those slice-of-life stories in Azumanga Daioh. More characters are introduced as the manga progresses, including the club's advisor who seems eternally hateful of everyone in the club, yet for some unknown reason still stays put in that position. See the irony?  

From the limited information that I could gather, the manga is currently in its second tankoubon which was released in September 2014. In other words, 'I Can't Ride A Bicycle!' is still a very young series. I'm really happy to have stumbled upon this little gem! It makes a good read on a lazy day.

Eccentrically Yours.

Written by J.Fluffysheep ♪

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