I got a kick out of seeing this dude. That’s actually a real life guy who follows cycling races in Europe, mostly the Tour de France. His name is Didi Senft, a crazy old French inventor who dresses up as a devil and drives around in a yellow van painting tridents on the course in front of the racers. The scene of this guy was only up for a second or so, but I loved that this obscure anime cycling movie put him in.
Summer in Andalusia is a Madhouse movie from 2003 based off a cycling manga called Nasu. It’s about a guy from Andalusia in southern Spain who is participating in the big cycling race that goes through his hometown. The story flits between following the main character cycling and his family watching his race on the big screen, giving us a very vague glimpse into how his family life is and what it’s like living in Andalusia.
The movie has three main goals: Sell you on cycling as a sport, sell you on Andalusia as a place, and connect the two together into the main character’s story. On the first two points it does really well. Despite me dropping that Didi Senft information bomb on you, I know nothing about cycling nor any of the tactics that are involved. Like a lot of athletics, I tend to think that there are no tactics beyond just cycle faster than anyone else. Summer in Andalusia definitely sells me on the concept that there’s a lot more going on, between the importance of the following pack and the teamwork involved.
It does all the right tricks to make the concept interesting. Delivering the rules of the race in normal conversations between the characters that also serve as character and world building. Dropping a plot twist 15 minutes after you understand the importance of what just happens, so you get that “oh shit” moment where you realise how dramatic that twist is. By the end, when the characters enter the final straight, you understand the importance of everything so the final few minutes can just be all exhilaration and drama and random references to Didi Senft and you don’t need characters explaining to you what’s going on. It’s fantastically well paced and well told.
Arguably one place the movie doesn’t do so well is characterising the key rivals in the race. The main character is the only one who seems to have a personality. This isn’t much of an issue because the battle is mostly within the main character’s own mind. It’s all part of this larger theme of the main character trying to escape his family life and Andalusia in general, but coming back and realising he is at home here and fighting that feeling. It’s not as well worked in as the rest of the story, since it leaves it a little too vague by the end and I’m not really sure what the main character achieved. He acknowledges his homeland of Andalusia as not being completely terrible I guess?
The movie does a really good job of selling Andalusia, but when I say that I don’t mean as a wonderful place all the time like Neo-Venezia or something. They actually paint it as a sweltering, barren, near-desert place, but one that the people who live there are really proud of regardless. There’s a lot of attention to detail with the backgrounds and setting the tone of the land. It’s really well directed in general and has the feel and look of a Ghibli movie. This is probably because Summer in Andalusia basically is a Ghibli movie. It’s directed by the animation director of stuff like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away and is animated almost entirely by Ghibli staff too. Clocking in at barely 45 minutes, it’s over pretty quickly and paced really well. Comes with my firm stamp of recommendation.