Yowamushi Pedal – 05

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Like so many good sports anime, the problem with this one is that the episodes are too short.

As I mentioned in my Diamond no Ace post on Sunday, one of the hallmarks of a good sports anime is that it always seems to end way too fast, the your internal countdown till the next episode begins as soon as the current one ends.  It’s almost unfair, really – it does make these types of shows great for marathoning (but if you value your time, that can be a highly dangerous exercise).  If you want to watch them in real-time, there’s nothing for it but to wait a week – unless you want to cheat and read the manga, of course.

Needless to say, Yowamushi Pedal has that same quality to it – and I’m reminded again that we’re really lucky to have two sports series this good airing at the same time (I can’t remember the last time that was the case).  So far balance (fittingly) is the key to the recipe here – this is a show that’s serious about sports without being boring to non-sports geeks, cuts through the comedy with drama and vice-versa, and manages to project positivity without being unrealistic.  If Adachi series use sports as a means to enlighten character and a show like Ace of Diamond uses character to enlighten us about a sport, I think Yowapeda cuts it right down the middle.

It will surely surprise no one that Naruko ended up at Sohoku High right along with Onoda – no one bar Onoda that is, who seems to maintain an unshakable ability to be surprised by everything.  Naruko isn’t so much a character as a force-of-nature – a relentless gale of pure Osaka rough-hewn friendliness and a willing evangelist for bike racing.  A chance meeting at the school store leads to a further opportunity for Naruko to sell Onoda on the joys of competitive cycling – like a persistent mosquito buzzing in Onoda’s ear his sales pitch never stops.

One of the things that makes Onoda such a great main character for me is that he’s a “gamer” in the truest sense of the word.  For all that he’s been beaten down by his social isolation, he’s not someone who revels in misery – he genuinely wants to be happy.  And not only that, he actually tries to do things that will improve his station, and manages to be open to new ideas that he would never have considered before.  He’s not remotely ashamed of being an otaku – he takes pride in it and risks public embarrassment for the possibility of finding others to share his passion with.  Onoda rides a bit of an emotional roller-coaster but you know, he smiles an awful lot – and for a character of his description in anime, that’s an incredibly refreshing change.  His sunny disposition suffuses the entire show, and what could be a bit of a grim and depressing scenario is instead upbeat and brimming with possibilities – because that’s how Onoda sees the world, in spite of all he’s been through.

Take, for example, Onoda’s first day as the Cycling Club.  A scary moment, no doubt, presenting yourself for inspection by the scary-looking (and huge) third-years he watched (thanks to clever Naruko) powering up the rear slope the day before.  But Onoda takes it in stride, and even when Miki tells him he can’t possibly ride is mommy bike on rollers to warm up for the “welcoming race” for the first-years, Onoda just smiles and says “That’s fine – I’m used to falling off my bike.”  I think that line is a bit of a sneaky metaphor for Onoda’a character in general, in fact – instead of making him timid Onoda’s battle-scars have made him tough and resilient.  And he promptly heaves the 20 KG monster onto the rollers and rides without a problem, while the other first-years (apart from the experienced Imaizumi and Naruko) ride on blocks, despite being athletic club veterans from middle school.

As for that race, it seems like a traditional hazing – a 60 KM slog over a mountain and around a damn – but in fact the Captain Kinjou Shingou (Yasumoto Hiroki) intends to use it to select two freshmen to ride in the prelims of the Inter-highs, where Sohoku is hoping to unseat the powerful Hakone High (so rich the team has its own velodrome).  And Kinjou too has spotted something unpredictable and interesting in the mamachari boy, thinking he might just upset the assumed ascension of Imaizumi and Naruko to the team.  His third-year teammates are Makishima Yuusuke (Morikubo Showtaro) and Tadokoro Jin (Itou Kentarou).  Among the first-years is Sugimoto Mifurute (Miyata Kouki, who I can’t hear anymore without seeing Mama Red Squirrel), a big talker who’s probably nowhere near as experienced as he makes himself out to be but I’m guessing is a pretty nice guy under all the bluster.

As if all that weren’t enough for a very fulfilling episode, we got a bonus appearance from Onoda’s favorite mahou shoujo after the credits.  “Hime” Himeno Kotori is played by no less than Yukari Tamura, while the ram (I think) who rides on her head is played by Suwabe Junichi (who of course is also playing the bike-shop owner and Onoda’s future brother-in-law Tooji).  Imaizumi-kun still says he “doesn’t get it” but hey, he’s still watching – I think his resistance is wavering – and of course it’s Hime-chan that Onoda takes his “challenging myself is exciting!” cues from.  And he’s going to need it if he’s going to ride that 60 KM course on his mamachari against five guys on road racers, no matter how much of a natural he is.

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“Love Hime”

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14 comments

  1. i

    I cheated and the fun last all of 9 hours. Now I'm back to square one and like all cheating am worse off for it. I know what happens at the moment so all I can do is wait for the manga to keep getting translated or wait at least 6 months (should YP continue beyond 2 cours) for the anime to move past the translated manga. I can't even speculate because I'll spoil, but then again it's a sports anime not F/Z or SSY; fun not mysterious intrigue are the word of the day.

  2. b

    It's 3 cour. 38 episodes to be specific.

  3. t

    yup
    it's confirmed to be 3-cour. 39 eps (maybe 38?I know about 39…but nevermind really).
    the manga is indeed quite fun, yet the anime manage to be in par with the manga in all parameters, and even slightly better sometimes.
    there are some additions and with the animation that really enliven the manga and characters.
    YP is one of a kind I must say.

  4. i

    It'll certainly end at a point I know of then which is beyond the translated manga but YP has more than 200+ chapters past that point so it would be awesome if those bits are animated too.

  5. Z

    Ah~ the benefits of not reading manga scans.

  6. e

    HNNNGnoda-hime aren't you such an adorable endearing pulsing garmoe MC <3 .
    'brother-in-law' ? Totally. I approve.
    Among the bit you didn't mention… green-haired senpai's abs service featuring an actual electric fan! That's some fanservice *W* *crickets*
    And after last week DnA this is the second time already a sport series manages to crack me up with toilet humour (hare the honour goes to Naruko a.k.a. Fang-kun, He Who Pooped Twice from the excitement).

    That was Mama Squirrel's voice? Ahah now I understand the odd feeling I could not pinpoint as the new guy spoke. Ahah X,D.

    The ram mascot is cute :,D *side glance at good old childhood lamb plushie *
    And yeah Imaizumi's resistance is futile. I can picture him already going through piles of anime dvds just like that. Mwahaha.

  7. t

    yeah, sports anime are unfair. the episodes come to an end too quickly so you must wait eagerly for a whole week. and if it's cliffhanger…dammit you can't pull it out of your head for the entire week. but I guess that's what makes sports anime so…sports anime 😛
    and marathoning them is quite fun too 😛

    well Onoda has finally come to understanding that cycling is where he is belong. we can see he keep smiling even though it wasn't easy decision for him to join. it's not gonna be easy compete with against experienced racers (who have road racers, not mommy bike). but that's sports at its best. I am looking forward the upcoming first actual race in YP (:

    the epilogue was quite funny. for a moment it felt like I am seeing a different anime, then Imaizumi's reaction LOL
    it's not the first time we see it in YP, and luckily it won't be the last either.

    p.s
    "and I'm reminded again that we're really lucky to have two sports series this good airing at the same time "
    actually there are 4 good sports anime. 3 really outstanding(including hajime no ippo, YP and DnA) and 1 is quite good yet irrational (I meant Kuroko basket). though I must say, for now YP and DnA have the best performance so far. but Ippo is established, so he keeps his status either way (after all it's tougher to get higher results when a season starts from the middle of the manga).
    Kuroko basket is also funny and intriguing. I remember last season brought really fascinating games. I was waiting from ep to ep for the games there. even if it's kinda irrational more than regular in sports-anime. it manage to convey the essence of sports with the games and its characters.

  8. Yes, there are four airing. But my point is that only two of them are, IMO, this good.

  9. H

    FWIW, how much of Ippo have you sampled? Veterans of the genre generally regard it as "cream of the crop" in sports anime. Not that it ever stops most from overlooking it.

    To my knowledge it's one of the best shows (regardless of genre) out there.

    I'm enjoying Pedal for the most part – although I hope they get into gear soon. I'd like to marathon this, but it's becoming a pleasant part of the week.

  10. r

    The best part of this anime is that saxophone solo. You know the one. Anime osts are the spice of anime.

  11. S

    Just recently found your blog via RandomC. Love your writing style: Always emphasizing the essence of an episode, sometimes relating the content to real-life and/or personal issues and using quick remarks for small trivial things like references, which I really appreciate.

    Good to hear that YP is still doing great. The problem about watching too short episodes is something I simply avoid by marathoning after the series ends its broadcast. It’s a rewarding experience and particularly great sports anime are tailor-made for a binge-watch.

    P.S. I would say there are 5 good sports anime this season, the fifth being Wannabe the strongest in the World, which I weekly enjoy. I could write up a case here on why it’s a good sports show despite the appalling superficial fanservice, but I don’t want to derail a talkback thread on YP.

  12. H

    So where did you guys get the time compressor? You know, the one that makes this feel anything less than the 23 minutes it was, 23 minutes seemingly of Naruko extolling the fantasticness of bike racing again and again and again. I like the show, and I like the characters, but it's really frustrating that they have to go on and on and on about the same things.

    And it's not that I just hate slow paced shows. I wouldn't call Non Non Biyori exactly fast, nor GJ-bu, but I think both of those are excellent. I guess it just doesn't feel like talking about the same thing over and over builds any tension, to me.

    (and I wouldn't have brought this up again, but just the disconnect between so many people saying it felt like it flew by and my experience is just so much)

  13. Z

    While it doesn't feel like 23 minutes to me, it doesn't breeze past me either. Feels like a good 15 minutes at best.

  14. d

    Onoda has one of the best character designs since he looks all pluck, which he is. It's pretty clear he's a monster built on 90 km rides and small gear consistency. It seems the road racer is great for displaying strength, while the mommy bike is best for building it, not unlike low bar vs high bar back squats.

    So far, he's the best MC alongside YzQ's freewheeling scarf flowing Mayor.

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