Yowamushi Pedal – 04

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We had Hunter X Hunter 101 last week, and this week it’s Cycling 101.

This was a pretty simple episode of Yowamushi Pedal structurally, but it was pretty effective (as usual) in getting the job done.  And it fits, because as clever and sneaky-subtle as this show is it really is a very simple formula: friendship and sports.  I won’t say one of them is more important than the other, but the fact that Yowapeda knows exactly what kind of series it is and focuses on that without a lot of wasted energy makes those elements pop in a way they rarely do in shows with less conservation of momentum.

Meet Naruko Shoukichi, the last of the true main characters in Yowamushi Pedal and certainly the most flashy.  He says there’s no point unless you stand out, and he backs it up – dyed-red hair, bright red Italian bike (brand name creatively misspelled for the lawyers), and unabashed Osaka-ben.  In a way Naruko fits the Osaka-ben stereotype anime fans are familiar with, but the fact is that it isn’t just in anime that it exists – Japanese everywhere seem to pretty much hold it as a given that Osaka-jin are brash, friendly, ultra-casual and afraid of nothing.  And Naruko definitely fits that description, making it easy to see why he’s a highly popular character among readers of the manga.

At first glance it might seem as if Naruko-kun is the complete opposite of Onoda-kun, but Onoda is fundamentally different from many characters he superficially resembles in a few important ways.  Most obviously he has a real athletic talent (which he’s very slowly starting to understand), but more subtly and importantly, he’s quite assertive about trying to change the things he’s unhappy about.  Yes, Onoda is a lonely otaku with no friends but he’s actually taking the initiative to try and re-launch the Anime Club at school, and after his chance meeting with Naruko in Akihabara, he’s not content to simply let Naruko ride off into the sunset – he actually stops Naruko before he disappears and asks him to ride home together.  It’s easy to laugh such small steps off as trivial, but for a shy adolescent they’re anything but, and his proactive fortitude makes Onada a refreshing change from the cliche.

For me, the heart of Yowamushi Pedal is this story of Onoda trying to change his life and actually become happy, and the remarkable ability of small kindnesses to change the lives of others for the better.  The degree to which Onoda exults in whatever human contact he can manage is pretty heartbreaking, but the fact that he’s rewarded for reaching out to others is what makes the series ultimately uplifting.  Mind you, Naruko doesn’t require much prodding – he’s friendly out of the gate and fearless (to a fault).  He’s just moved from Osaka to Chiba (where Onoda lives) and gone to Akiba to gawk and buy models for his younger brothers – which is the initial point of contact between the boys after Naruko praises the state of Onoda’s mamachari.  He doesn’t pay the slightest attention to Onoda’s advice but the thought is there.

Things take a strange turn when a flashy yellow sports car (again Italian) with a massive rear-spoiler shows up, initially drawing Naruko’s admiration.  But that turns to rage when the yakuza-like driver tosses his cigarette butt on Onoda’s bike, leading to one of the strangest chase scenes you’ll see when Naruko decides to have Onoda personally return to sender.  There’s a pretty big infodump on cycling here, all of which is important for the sports side of the show but which may test the patience of some viewers.  I love the fact that Yowapeda cares enough to get this right (the mangaka is a serious cyclist, and there’s going to be a Yowapeda booth at this years international cycling expo – in Chiba) but cycling buffs will already know about things like drafting and front derailleurs – and will a lot of the rest of the viewers care?

The most story-relevant cycling lesson has its source in another act of kindness done for Onoda – Miki has installed that derailleur, effectively circumventing his parents and giving him a precious second gear on his mommy bike.  Of course Onoda didn’t even know what it was or how to use it until Naruko told him, but it’s all part of his cycling education – the most important element of which is that he’s finding out that he’s really good at it.  This episode might have been called “The Joys of Cycling” – or “Speed” – because that’s what it amounts to for Onoda, in the midst of discovering joys like cutting through the wind, cycling on the street and passing cars and actually having his high cadence get him somewhere fast.  Of course ultimately one of the greatest joys of youth is to be able to find people passionate about the same things you are, and that’s the real story of Yowapeda distilled down to its very essence – the sports and the friendship both.

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Yowapeda - 04 -27 Yowapeda - 04 -28 Yowapeda - 04 -30
Yowapeda - 04 -31 Yowapeda - 04 -32 Yowapeda - 04 -33


  1. i

    This for me is moe. The way Onoda tries so hard to make contact and be so quietly assertive is so… uplifting. I seriously feel happy when he is. The best way to learn to love a character is through comedy and empathy/sympathy and Onoda has both in spades with his antics. It's so nice to see someone being happy from the little things in life that a lot of people take for granted.

    Fujoshi might hope for more but the friendship and bonds of YP are the biggest attraction for me. The sports side though is almost as great. I've owned at least one bike ever since I was 4 and despite having pedaled enough to circumnavigate the planet I really do know very little about the ingenious machine that was escape to the world. It's great for an ignorant individual like myself to learn about one of mankind's great mechanical inventions. While I haven't learned too much besides names from the anime, I have learnt plenty from the manga. To answer you GE this viewer enjoys the bike geekiness. Then again I enjoy all sports and learning about them is something I just happen to like so maybe someone else should answer…

  2. i

    I think the biggest up YP has over AnD is that it feels faster paced. This episode covered about 4 chapters I think and the first three episodes did about 8. They also skipped some material that might come back later when the series is more settled.

  3. J

    With that pace, i can see this series ends the first 12/13episode on one particular high note at the end of Volume 4

  4. e

    Feeeel the wiiiiinnnnnd with a little help of Redhead Fang-kun. One thing Yowapeda has been consistenty good at for me – along with the irresistible charming Onoda. Gotta hug him – is to really feel the exciment and the discovery even among the fumbling. Ths week was the invisible wall and the effect of riding your humble bike on a busy street with lots of traffic – with drivers that rarely seem as prudent and respectful of cyclists here as the average Japanese as seen in the episode (bad smoker guy notwithstanding :p ) – .
    And well it was fun. And Kanzaki is one sneaky doe-eyed girl, ohoh.
    As coincidence go yesterday evening just after watching the epi I stumbled on one reportage on Italian TV about Bartali and Pantani. The latter's fall from grace was the last straw for me as following RL bike racers go but it seems YowaPeda's fictional angle can keep me on board nicely :,).

  5. e

    P.S.: clarification 'drivers (…) here' as in 'here where I live' . They can be both rude and super ruthless towards anyone non powered by a fuel engine…

  6. Japanese drivers are notably more considerate generally, including towards cyclists, than in any Western country I've been to (and most certainly the one I lived in).

  7. Y

    Actually, at least in Kyoto, it's the bikes you have to be careful of… They go crazy fast on tiny sidewalks without any warnings. It freaked me out a couple of times at first… But it seems like the norm so I just got used to checking behind while walking.

    Still better than where I live though… In NYC, the cabs are out to get you. If your bike is still in one piece, with both wheels on, where you parked it… You still have to make it home alive… A different kind of sport I guess 😉

  8. Bikes are a hazard pretty much everywhere, in San Francisco it's the stuff of legend. They can be in Tokyo, too, but nowhere near as bad as in SF.

  9. K

    In Philadelphia we have the same problem. I once got hit by a bike (thankfully not badly) but my friend had to go to the hospital after being hit. The problem is bike riders think they don't have to follow traffic rules.

    That is why I appreciated that Naruko said that bikes are actually vehicles in this latest episode and their place is technically in the street, not sidewalk.

  10. t

    Naruko came just in time for Onoda after the loss. his personality is in contrast to Imaizumi. and even though Onoda was happy being in Akihabara, we could feel he was a bit down. until he befriended with Naruko, who is a very funny character. I like how he is honest and direct like when he didn't back off after the gangster throw the cigarette, in fact he was annoyed and displayed his emotions.

    what I really like in this episode is the real demonstration for the world of cycling.
    continuing the the previous episode when onoda raced VS Imaizumi, this time we've really managed to see a lot more of how the wind, the gear, the experience and many other factors can influence the race. in other words, this is a very welcoming demonstration of the sports of cycling, and it's very very interesting.
    it was one of the things that really caught me at the beginning when I started reading the manga.

    I got to say..those Mondays are awesome. kingdom, YP and most of the time YQ. they are so great and fun to watch. almost or maybe equal to the blast of thursdays!
    thanks for blogging so great shows (:

  11. r

    Yo Enzo! ya gotta check out this bicycle manga a jcomi.jp. 極限サイクロン or in English "Extreme Cyclone". The pages are just pumping with energy!! Man, raw manga is the best!!!

    Oh, and this anime is so very good. This is a great season for "spotaku".

  12. I've seen it at the bookstores and it looks interesting, but raw manga is still a struggle for me. I can get through it with most of the dialogue intact, but it takes me so long to translate everything in my head that I can't get into the flow of the story.

  13. H

    A slight correction. The car was not Italian (unless somewhere they said it was that I missed), it's definitely at least based on a Mitsubishi Evo, especially with the big spoiler they mentioned about 20 times.

  14. H

    Also, to your point about the infodump parts, I don't really mind that it's there, but the problem I have with it is the problem that I have with the series in general (and it's obviously not going to get better, so I'll just need to either deal with it or drop it): it's so slow and repetitive. I noticed early on that his bike had a double chainring (and no longer had the chainguard that was so prominent before), so I was expecting the developments in the course of the episode.

    But really, I'm starting to think Pangaea broke up more quickly than this show gets to the point. And maybe it's the technical parts that keep me interested, since they are at least explaining something besides Onoda's feelings.

  15. R

    I'm not a cyclist, but I'm not bored by all the explanations – I'm fascinated! I think the author's passion shows through, which makes a difference. I'm also happy Onoda made another friend this week. I do love that he's actually motivated to change his situation.

  16. t

    what's the connection to HxH 101 to this ep/post of YP? :O

  17. e

    If I can dare an educated guess on our excellent blogger's mind – and as a non native English speaker – the connection is in the infodump ( here it was about derailleurs and wind issues , it was about darts and related points in H x H #101 ) the pun lies with the '101' being also English slang for 'basic introduction' ;).

  18. R

    This episode is still interesting — particularly the "cycling 101 section" — but I'm more amused by the comments — it's very interesting to read how cyclists behave in different cities around the world. I haven't touched my bike for a long time — pretty much ever since I got my driver's licence — and mostly commute by car these days (Yes, I know I'm not doing good for the environment). Our city isn't as bike-friendly, and the extremely cold winters don't help either. However, there are still cyclists cruising along in harmony with traffic on main roads all year-round — especially in the downtown and university areas — and they're all helmeted. I was actually a bit worried when Onoda simply rode on a busy road without having his helmet on.

  19. In CA, helmets are required (though that law isn't always followed. If any such law exists here I've yet to see evidence of it, even for kids.

  20. R

    I guess it's harder to enforce in big cities. Here, it's a must for cyclists under aged 18 to wear helmet, and people are generally pretty good with that — maybe we're scaredy-cats, but it's better be safe then sorry :-).

  21. e

    Helmets-wise seems the situation here: yes a) on kids if their parents are responsible b) on adults on 'serious' bikes and regulars of the sport.
    Everyone else riding a mamachari and/or using it in cities tend to not wear them … but at least they stay on the road (as abysmal as street maintenance can get in big cities coupled + cycle lanes being a rarity notwithstanding ) and not on the sidewalk :,).

  22. G

    It's the same situation here. Helmets for young children and serious athletes/fitness buffs.

  23. R

    Same here, most cyclists are pretty respectful to the pedestrians — they stay on the road — and drivers, including me, are pretty considerate of the cyclists.

  24. K

    I think the pace of explanations is great, it's not too technical or oversimplified. It's great for those who have a general idea of how bicycles work, but have never delved into the nitty gritty details before. The info delivery is succinct and not overbearing at all, similar to how Steins Gate explained its concept of time travel.

    All of the main characters are interesting and fun to watch, and that makes for a really enjoyable show. Naruko is such a bro.

  25. d

    I am writing to thank you Enzo. I wasn´t planning on watching this at all, but because you talked and praised this so much I ended up giving it a try and wow I´m loving it. It´s really exciting, I love the characters, especially Onoda, and I always have a big smile on my face while watching, it just makes me so happy. I don´t really like sports in real life but find the parts where they explain how cycling works very interesting, I guess that just means how much I got into it. It really is as you say, you just have to give it a try to understand how good it is, at least it was like that for me. So thank you for making me give this a chance!

    PS: I always read your blog and really like your reviews! :)

  26. That's awfully kind of you to say and very flattering – thank you! When you're ready for more sports anime to eat your free time, let me know and I can give you a list…

  27. F

    the yellow sportscar is not an Italian. Actually, it is a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII

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