Long Riders! is an anime about cross-country biking. Actually, from a broader perspective, it’s not. It’s an anime about a cycling otaku becoming a hard-core cycling otaku.
[Note: This article contains spoilers for Long Riders!]
Protagonist Ami Kurata’s journey into cycling otaku-dom begins from the very first episode when a girl riding a bicycle passes her and she immediately senses a fascination she has never felt before. From there, across the series, we see her fascination dive from casual hobby interest to full-blown obsession. From her first purchase of a folding bike to encountering the initial hurdles most uneducated cyclists run into, meeting and befriending other cyclists, purchasing her first cross-country riding bike, and having custom jerseys made for her and her friends, her story is a familiar one to anyone who has ever fallen headlong into an obsession.
The easiest comparison could be with an anime otaku. Ami’s first encounter with a cyclist is like that first time you see an episode airing somewhere. Be it a clip from a trailer, or an episode playing in the background at someone’s house, you see something that catches your eye and sticks with you. From there, you begin watching. Then you learn there’s more out there. You meet like-minded individuals who introduce you to other series you might like. On the way you might stumble on some anime that just don’t really click. You might find a series that changes your life. Then you buy your first DVD or Blu-ray. Your love of a series can’t be contained to just watching it. Soon you’re buying merch from an online retailer as a private expression of your devotion. Then someone approaches you because apparently you’re “the one to go to to ask about this stuff.” Congratulations, you are an otaku.
Long Riders! is a series about loving a hobby and the joy that comes from loving it. But it also doesn’t forget one of the most important factors in the hobbyist’s life: Hobbies cost money.
Repeatedly throughout the series, Ami runs into the hurdle of the costs of cycling. From bicycles that can cost several thousand dollars to the endless accessories and maintenance costs, pursuing a hobby can be a costly affair. I’m one of those people who will watch some outlandish contraption appear in a movie or TV show and wonder just how much money it cost the characters. It’s at the level where I can’t enjoy most sitcoms based in New York because I know there’s no way most characters can afford to live where they do. In this respect, I really like the fact that Long Riders! brings up the issue that cycling is an expensive hobby. They even bring up real world prices in some episodes that make my face go pale. For her first cross-country bike–which she manages to get at a for a huge clearance sale discount–Ami is forced to get a second part-time job just to afford it.
By the time she decides to have custom jerseys made for herself and her companions, you can tell that Ami’s sense of monetary value has been pretty much broken through exposure. She notes with the relief that getting the jerseys made won’t cost as much as she feared it might. For those who are wondering, custom jerseys in Japan can cost around USD $70.00 at the cheapest. Ami ordered five.
As someone who has dabbled in various obsessions–all of which proved both time and money-consuming–I can relate with Ami’s long ride down the path of cycling otaku-dome. It’s rewarding to see someone finding joy in what they love. It’s heartwarming to see the sparkle in her eyes as she gets more and more immersed in the world of cross-country cycling. Cycling isn’t my thing. But I love and respect how it’s very much become hers.
Long Riders! can be viewed with English subtitles on Daisuki.