Yowamushi Pedal – 06

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There are limits to how far a lot of plucky optimism can take a person…

It’s a great time to be a sports anime fan, all the more so with this week’s announcement that tennis manga Baby Steps will be getting an anime adaptation next Spring.  That’s one of the best sports manga ever, IMHO, and – like the best ones airing this season – carves a rather unique niche for itself in the genre.  Happily Yowamushi Pedal should will still be running then, and I think it’s quite possible Diamond no Ace will be as well – which would make next Spring an even greater season for sports anime than this one.

We’ve seen a lot of evidence in the first five eps of Yowapeda of just how much determination and a natural gift can accomplish, but that can only go so far – and more importantly in this case, so fast.  Asking Onoda-kun to compete in a 60 KM multi-stage road race with long flat stretches while riding a mamachari was simply asking too much – and indeed, the original plan was to have him borrow a road racer from Kanzaki’s bike shop, before a traffic jam put a spanner in the works.  We can only assume borrowing a bike from one of the third-years wasn’t an option because the frames were simply too big, because when push came to shove Kinjou made Onoda start the race on his mommy bike.

It seems as if this race was more or less a formality – a presumptive anointing of Naruko and Imaizumi as the first-teamers and a chance for them to test their strength against each other.  One of the first-years, Kawada, isn’t ready to accept that and sees his only chance in breaking the established rules and speeding ahead of “pace car” Imaizumi during the initial stage in town, where all the riders have been instructed to stay as a pack.  There’s a reason for that, of course, which is that with the trials to come a warm-up stage is a must.  That’s why Imaizumi doesn’t take the bait and chase Kawada-kun down, knowing that his legs will never hold up and will be caught easily by Naruko and himself at the very least.  Kawada may be an experienced athlete, but he’s not an experienced competitive cyclist.

Despite Sugimoto’s repeated claims that he’s an experienced racer, it seems clear that only Onoda could potentially break up the coronation ceremony.  But the futility of that becomes clear once the boys are clear of town and speed on the flats becomes a real issue – with only his two front gears he has no chance of keeping up even with the second-tier riders.  It gets so bad that he slips his chain in the attempt, and eventually the chase van – carrying Onoda’s replacement bike – catches him.  I thought it was funny and more than a little absurd that after laying down the bike and practically getting run over by the van, Onoda doesn’t get so much as a panicked “My God – are you hurt?”, but instead Miki jumps straight to offering him the new bike – and, after a short meditative interlude, the race is finally on for real.

This is a pretty big moment for Yowapeda, obviously, because it’s the first time Onoda’s true potential can begin to be assessed.  In truth he’s still at a huge disadvantage, because he’s never ridden anything but a mamachari – and I can’t help but wonder if someone who knew so little about bikes would even know how to shift a 20-speed racer (hopefully the book he sneaked into class last week had some tips).  Again we see that Onoda has a natural feel for the sport, though – with the low handlebars forcing him into the proper racing posture, he immediately slips into the zone and looks like he’s been racing for years.  At this point the third-years are definitely in the “curiosity piqued” stage, and Imaizumi and Naruko are pretty much openly rooting for Onoda to surprise everyone (including themselves) and keep up.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how Onoda fares in terms of bike-handling skills, because he’s going to need them – the course has a long, straight speedway, a vicious climb, a steep descent (which is a vastly more dangerous and crucial skill in racing than most realize) and a rolling series of short ascents and descents.  It’s one thing to have twenty gears – it’s quite another to know how to use them.  And with Kinjou having set the bar at two first-years making the first team, there doesn’t seem to be any place for the main character on the podium.  But first things first, and that’s catching the second-tier – and we’ve already seen when Onoda can do on climbs, even lugging a 20 KG shopping bike underneath him.

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  1. t

    I have been waiting for this!
    now this is what YP made of.
    another great ep for YP which is going to increase the pace. or more 'correctly' – switching into high gear (;

    I really must praise the captain, Kinjou, for really giving Onoda the opportunity to succeed and believing in him. yes, Naruko and Imaizumi are experienced riders and we can call them "a safe bet". but he isn't giving up on Onoda-kun. he's like a great scout!
    that attitude(or "ability", though not the terms I'd use) reminds me a special woman from DnA 😛

  2. Yes, I do like that the third-years here aren't played as stereotypical scary ogres. But as far as giving Onoda a chance, he didn't have to make him actually try and race on the mamachari, he could have waited a little longer.

  3. t

    but that way they would see him as too softy.
    he can't let that happen. he is still a third year who will make the first years work hard. and I do think they seem a bit "scary", but not that intimidating as one might think.
    besides, time for race is the time for race. no excuses. either you're ready to compete or you don't, then..bye-bye. that what it means to be a pro.

  4. H

    They probably have to finish the race sometime during the day, and who knows how long it would take Kanzaki to get there. So they're against a limit on the ending time, thus had to start. Really, it just took them too long to catch up to him after that.

  5. R

    Onodas freakout was probably one of the best unintentional funny moments in anime this year.

  6. t

    Haha probably.
    but for me it was Imaizumi at the end, freaking about reviewing the 1st blu-ray of love-hime. I couldn't stop laughing.
    luckily he liked the song 😛

    note to myself: I must not fantasize about Onoda being in the Genshiken XD

  7. e

    I must get used to Naruko's signature 'kak-ka-ka' asap. Unfortunately in my native language it sounds the same as 'cacca-ca-ca' —> 'poop-poo-pooing' . Not that the Speed Star Of Naniwa is one to shy away from bodily functions in speech but still…
    I must admit the freakout moment and the reaction (or rather lack thereof) of the van rescue team was a bit too much for my suspension of disbelief.
    Other than that the episode worked pretty well for me – as usual – . Go catch'em Onoda! 😀 Respect for managing the right posture on a road racer btw. I could never feel at ease on one myself – wobblefest – so I ended up climbing hills on my mountain bike instead :,D.

    The after-ED segments so far so LOL (also Onoda's radiant smile is potentially a weapon of mass distruction). Imaizumi is soooooo doomed.

  8. R

    "cacca-ca-ca' —> 'poop-poo-pooing"

    Lol…I learnt this word from my Italian girlfriend when our group were out on an acreage. We even acted like a bunch of 6-year-olds yelling to one another, "Don't step on the ca-ca." That was really fun to act like kids. Well, if there's any ca-ca, it's all covered under the snow now…lol.

    While Onoda's wish to feel included and to stay with his newly-made friends perhaps is a motivator for him to race, it's nice to see that he's starting to enjoy racing for real and discover his own potentials — this is like an official start of the series. Yes, Imaizumi's reaction to Onoda after the ED-segment was hilarious.

  9. e

    @Ronbb: oooh now you've picked my curiosity with the acreage bit – on top of providing me with one new English word learnt yey 😀 – . If that was land meant for crops then yeah there was probably a lot of c-goodness.

    Hnnngnoda's sparkle and rainbows emissions leave no quarter. No.Quarter.

  10. Caca has that some euphemistic meaning in the US, too. Here it may be more intended to call up the cackling of a crow, or it may be some kind of Osaka-ben laugh I've never heard of before.

  11. R

    A friend of ours who has a relative living on an acreage — it's a little over an hour's drive on the highway out of our city — and we paid a visit last summer. It's a beautiful giant piece of land, and the couple built their cottage backing on a lake. They are not farmers but own a couple of horses. We simply ran around on the land — where there were lots of caca-looking things laying around — and canoeing in the afternoon. It was a fun day.

  12. e

    @Enzo: oh. A Romanic language borrowing? There are a few terms in this semantic field (could we say…acreage? *dundundundun*) that are pretty similar in Italian Spanish and French :,)

    Now that you mention laughing styles I've recalled I had already heard the kakkaka in anime before. It was in – be strong oh valiant blogger – one of the Monogatari installments. The non-Japanese loli-looking blond vampire . So yeah whatever the reason for such sound choice we can rule out the regional quirk/Osaka-ben mystery laughter maybe… I quite like your crow hypothesis for Naruko's delivery actually.

    @Ronbb: sounds like a great time and a great place. Also canoeing? Never tried that. And seeing how I'm in the Italian rice fields-land chances are pretty slim at present X,D.

  13. Z

    Forget the Kakkakaaa, highlight of the episode was definitely Naruko's Onoda impression! 😉

  14. R

    Yup, that was funny. I like the tongue-in-cheek remarks between Naruko and Imaizumi and yet they actually recognize each other's strength.

  15. i

    The good thing about YP over Overdrive is that are more than one meaningful races and rather than having them cover literally everything over a 12 ep marathon they have several races that each teach a few new things while keeping tensions high. YP starts from the beginning of cycling while Overdrive go straight for 'let's go to France' made.

  16. B

    So good to see a series where the third-years aren't all jerks playing the first-years for laughs and abuse. In my experience the more seasoned athletes fulfilling the role of mentor were more the rule than the exception, so it's refreshing this show isn't bogged down with that unnecessary plot device and we get to watch the characters learn and grow unfettered.

  17. N

    If there is one aspect of the sport this show does a poor job with, it's the safety bit.

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