Yowamushi Pedal – 02

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Otaku come in all shapes and sizes…

Really good sports anime have a quality of building anticipation such that as soon as one episode ends, the first thought in your head is “I can’t wait for the next one to start”.  It’s early yet, but given how good I know the manga is and how masterfully the first couple of episodes of Yowamuchi Pedal captured its charms, this is about as close to a sure thing as you get in anime.  The source material has the legs, and the anime staff have the chops – and the time (three cours) – to do it some measure of justice.  This is going to be a great ride.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Yowamushi Pedal is a more contemporary, eccentric sports anime than the rock-solid Daiya no A.  We’re lucky to have two good sports series that are so different airing this season, and what YP brings to the table – among other things – is an irreplaceable sense of fun.  I’m hard-pressed to imagine how anyone with an open mind could have watched this ep without having a smile on their face much of the time, because this is a show that strikes a perfect balance between irreverence, heart and a serious message that it never beats you over the head with.

The direction this series is headed in contrasting Onoda and Imaizumi may not be entirely subtle – the omake makes it pretty clear – but you’ll rarely see it presented as well as Yowamushi is going to.  Otaku do indeed come in many flavors – Miki’s own brother Touji (Suwabe Junichi, nicely cast here) refers to her as a “bicycle otaku” and the same certainly applies to Imaizumi.  In truth of course these boys are far less different than either realizes, but at this stage each of them quite naturally thinks the other as strange and exotic as a jabberwocky.

With Onoda, what’s plain to see is that he’s quite beaten-down and timid – clearly having spent a lifetime of being a social outcast.  In his own words, he “can’t stand to have people look at him” and he has no one to share his passion with.  Yet he has the courage to at least try and make his situation better by re-forming the Anime Club, the carrot Imaizumi uses as bait to get Onoda to agree to a race up the back slope of the school.  In truth Imaizumi knows there’s no chance he can lose, even with a 15-minute handicap – a novice on a mamachari can’t realistically hope to compete with a seasoned rider on a featherlite carbon fiber racer.  In case it wasn’t made clear enough, it’s almost impossible to overstate the difference between riding a 20kg vs. an 8kg bicycle for speed, never mind up a steep hill – that alone is a greater handicap for Onoda that all the difference in experience between he and Imaizumi.

Yet while Onoda gets credit for trying to improve his school life, Imaizumi deserves some for being genuinely curious about him.  Onoda is a challenge to everything Imaizumi believes – he’s the much-loathed otaku, a novice cyclist who can’t possibly do the things he says (without an ounce of pride) he does on a shopping bike.  The wild-card here is Kanzaki, who despite being Imaizumi’s friend quite blatantly stands up for the underdog.  What I really like about her role in the first two episodes is the very profound impact she makes on Onoda through nothing more complicated than simply being nice – and it’s a bit heartbreaking just how bizarre he finds it that a smart, good-looking girl (in an athletic club, yet!) shows him kindness and actually means it.  Again, there’s a nice message here that Yowamushi doesn’t beat to death but rather allows to speak for itself – a little kindness can disproportionately impact the recipient.

Of course Kanzaki does something a little more concrete to help Onoda-kun out – she raises the saddle on his bike, for the first time since he was in 4th-grade.  As she says herself 60% of pedaling power can come from the saddle position, and Onoda quickly realizes what a difference it can make.  Though Imaizumi has already caught and passed him on the slope despite the head-start, this change (and the gesture behind it) gives him the spark he needs to keep up the hopeless fight.  It seems pretty obvious that Onoda is unused to having anyone in his corner, and certainly this race is no exception, with Kanzaki’s self-styled Tour/Giro cheering squad solidly in the corner of Imaizumi, who clearly “wins in looks, too”.

There are a lot of nice touches in this series, some of which carry over from the manga and some a function of the anime treatment.  Aya breezes through the narrative at Miki’s side like a snarky one-girl Greek chorus, an expression of bemused irritation perpetually on her face.  While this isn’t a lavishly budgeted series, like Ginga e Kickoff it manages to be visually interesting and pleasing to the eye through a number of stylish touches and good cinematography.  Most of the charm comes in the wry tone and the likeable characters, so that when Onoda notes the he “feels like he’s in a mobile suit” when Imaizumi gives him a cyclometer for the race up the slope it plays as an endearing quirk rather than a throwaway gag.  The balance between silly and serious and between earnest and sarcastic is just right with this series, and I’m pleased at the way that’s survived the transition to anime.  Yowamushi Pedal is a show with a whole lot going for it, and I sincerely hope it finds an audience above and beyond the core sports anime demographic and fujoshi (though I certainly hope the latter buy discs like they’ve been buying doujins).  This is a series that really deserves to succeed.

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  1. t

    great episode. I love YP.
    I think they passed the first hurdle with 2nd ep. not only they created an interesting ending, but for the first we saw the sports touch in action. yes, not enough. but for second ep it was good.
    I think it is being established well with all those bike's stuff. we could really feel it is genuine.
    YP is charming, funny and has lively atmosphere and animation, when it's necessary we see the changes of spirits pretty good.
    I think it's rock-solid as well as DnA. there is similiarity in both beginning, yet it's so different in terms of characters, story even atmosphere. but both indeed well-established as sports anime.

  2. e

    Truthfully the comedy in the rooftop sequence felt slightly off to me and not as funny as it could have been – I'm not sure if it was due to delivery timing or the sound effects… I found myself being distracted by them – . But I did smile at Onoda's embaressment about being caught singing And his voice is so… moe and oddly soothing X,D.
    I have no qualms about the rest of the epsode though. Everything worked from characters to events to music. Indeed this looks like a solid entertaining entertaining ride.
    Plus the bits about saddle and weight difference is so true :,D.
    Personally I'm rooting for the anime club to be revived eventually… if we count Kanzaki + Aya + Imaizumi (<— he already caught the Hime Hime virus after all) + the red-haired kiddo in the OP + Onoda they're just the right number :p.

  3. i

    If there's one thing I envy you for GE its that you can just bike (more likely hop a train) to Akibahara and grab the latest volumes of YP and AoD and Chihayafuru while we where the sun sets have to wait for a kind person to upload the raw, clean it and translate it (my Japanese has been going well so I don't think I need the third part anymore).

    I read all the chapters of the translated mangas for all three sports animes this season just because I wanted to know what happened really badly. And now after my perilous fun in a midterm week, I must wait for new chapters each week or even each month while the anime tries to catch up at a snails pace (I think both AoD and YP are looking at more than a couple of cours).

    You summarized really well what's good and fun about YP and in fact about most sports anime: they're fun, exciting, GAR, moeru and unlike overly serious silly action shows they always have great characters because through sports or the passion to compete people grow because they're challenged, disappointed and grow confident with each victory. Man I wish I was back in high school, I would have trained way harder after reading these kinds of manga.

  4. l

    I read all the chapters of the translated mangas for all three sports animes this season..

    There are 4 sports anime this season – Ace of Diamonds, Hajime no Ippo Rising, Kuroko no Basuke, and Yowamushi Pedal – and all 4 are having the manga scanlated. Hajime no Ippo and Kuroko no Basuke scanlations are both generally up to date with the weekly raws.

  5. i

    Hajime no Ippo was not in my reading/watching/calculations

  6. H

    So its legacy retains. HnI is both the best critically received and equally neglected anime sports series out there.

  7. H

    This show would be so much better for me if it would just get somewhere. For being on bicycles, they don't get anywhere! I realize that's pretty much a definition of sports anime, but boy it's spinning wheels.

    Everything else about it is fine, just I find it far too slow, and don't get that sense of anticipation, just that it feels like calculated frustration.

  8. After two episodes of a manga with 33 volumes, you're impatient that bike racing has only been used once?

  9. H

    No, I'm impatient that we got from "Let's have the first introductory race of this series" to "the middle of the first introductory race of the series" in an episode. The stuff that you feel heightens anticipation (which it's supposed to for the audience), like back and forth cuts between them, angsting "He can't have caught me yet, can he?" multiple times, and the like, strikes me as stalling, padding, and unnecessary stretching.

    Personally, I had the same problem with Attack on Titan, so it's not just sports. If I'm thinking "Get on with it, already" I could be enjoying a show more than I am.

  10. s

    This was my absolute favorite episode of the week and really pushes YP ahead of the pack (peloton) with sheer FUN and positivity. Definitely agree, it has the right feel and pace to have the viewers clamoring for more.

  11. F

    Hmm, well I generally find myself a hard sell when it comes to the sports style genre. The only ones that have been able to really grab my attention were Chihayafuru, Saki, Hikaru no Go (all perhaps not technically sports per se) and Moshidora. That's it. Other sports related stories just don't hold my interest, even when I can see they are a promising series. And sadly YP looks like it will go in the same folder for now.

    Ah well. :-

  12. l

    LOL at the rebranding in the last image. Scott = Scolt. Don't see that in the manga, afaik.
    I wonder how they're going to rename the other brands.

  13. t

    Onoda being such a shota likely also helps him climb those hills,Imaizumi isn't exactly heavy but I'd think Onoda's small stature means he's likely lighter than Imaizumi and that helps counter his bike being heavier.

  14. It does, but there's also the matter of needing to have enough muscle mass to actually power that monstrous bike up the slope. If being light were all that matters guys that look like fifth-graders would be winning the Tour de France…

  15. d

    This may not be the most imaginative, the most perfect, or the best animation of the anime season, but for me it definitely wins in pure enjoy ability. This is the first sports anime I've ever seen (I just started watching anime this summer) and I really do love where it's going. The characters are all nice and interesting, and the plot is very engaging. I can tell I'm going to enjoy this anime a lot.

  16. M

    Very good so far. I like how Kanzaki adjusted the bike seat and whatnot. The fact that the meat of the sporting action is rendered in CG is hard to swallow, especially when you have two powerhouse studios working on Diaya no Ace – rather excessive. TMS are in the lead with his adaptation though.

  17. K

    Just out of curiosity, but how popular is (competitive) cycling in Japan anyway? I can't remember ever having seen a japanese or even asian rider on the big races (Tour, Giro, Vuelta) (before I grew tired of watching rolling apothecaries).

    There are some really nice little details here, like chalking the riders names on the street (Cavendish, Hushovd, Martin, yup, still know these guys…)

  18. I don't think it's hugely popular here, which is why there have been so few cycling Manga.

  19. w

    Wow, really surprised by how much I like Onoda as a character. Really didn't think I'd relate to him so well, in both his school woes and in cycling.

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