It’s kind of a depressing day for fans of good anime, as we can say that Kyousogiga has joined the seemingly endless ranks of quality series that tank commercially (final week 1 results Thursday, but we know it sold less than 1647 Blu-rays and 502 DVDs, which underperforms its stalker points). Happily it appears that Yowamushi Pedal is going to do somewhat better, unless it too lags its stalker numbers pretty substantially. That seems unlikely, as this series has always had a strong following in the fujoshi world, which seems to be the key to success for any sports anime these days – at least on disk. A show like Daiya no A primarily exists to push manga and the production committee won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t sell many disks, even though in terms of manga sales it dwarfs Yowapeda.
It’s always interesting to ponder why such things happen – I mean with Kurobas or Oofuri it’s pretty obvious, but until this week I couldn’t really see why this series clicks with that fandom as well as it does. But as I said in my haiku last week, it’s all about the pairings – and this episode was all about the pairings. In fact we had some pretty obvious winking at the audience here, as the fujoshi-in-training were fangirling all over Imaizumi and Kinjou just for having a conversation in the classroom. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but there generally seemed to be a knowing tone to Yowapeda in this episode where that particular subject is concerned.
There’s certainly no explanation needed for why Kinjou chose to pair off the riders as he did for the first official joint training of the Cycling Club – it makes perfect sense. He teamed the surviving first-years with second-years – not surprisingly the competent if overbearing Suginami ended up finishing “first among the rest” in the welcome race – except for the three that matter. The sprinter got paired with the sprinter (that’s the #1 pairing as of last year’s Winter Comiket, by-the-way) the all-rounder with the all-rounder, and the climber got the climber. Way to connect the dots for the doujin buyers, Watanabe-sensei – and let the mentorship begin.
The goings-on in the episode itself were pretty self-explanatory, really – but highly entertaining just the same. Sports series trying to be funny is a hit-and-miss proposition, though the good ones can usually nail it – and Yowapeda is probably the funniest straight-up sports anime since the last (and only, as far as TV series are concerned) cycling anime, Over Drive. Most of the laughs came courtesy of Makishima (I still hear Honda Goro every time he talks), and the way the little first-years react to his quirks. He reveals that he’s the one who put the giant hole in the club room wall – though it turns out to have been for a very silly reason he reveals to Onoda later, I think he likes the fear it buys him from the first-years.
Makishima is a tough guy to get to know – by his own admission he sucks at small-talk, and his efforts to put Onoda at ease during their training ride are a dismal failure (especially funny is when he reveals his hobby as “gravure”, to stony silence). It’s not until Onoda sees his strange “Peak Spider” climbing style – he leans the bike ridiculously far with every rotation of the pedals as he dances – and tries to copy it that the ice is really broken. The results are disastrous, but just as with the welcome race it’s Onoda’s relentless positivity that wears Makishima down. The kid is fun to be around, especially when riding a bike, and it’s probably the first time in a while that Makishima has really enjoyed himself in a non-competitive race.
This kind of training is crucial for all the first years, of course, but especially for Onoda as he’s wildly inexperienced. As good as they are none of the three rookies are a match for the third-years, which isn’t at all surprising, but being exposed to just how much room they have to improve is the best motivation for them going forward. And I suspect in the end it will be these three (sorry, Suginami) who get added to the inter-high roster (how all three of them will be added is a variable I haven’t figured out yet), as each has something to offer as domestiques to the third-years who’re the real contenders. Speaking of the inter-highs, we also get our first look at what figures to be the white whale of this series, the powerhouse Hakone High. There are some big seiyuu names in that group, but the one called out by name here is Toudou Jinpachi (Kakihara Tetsuya) a fellow climber and apparent friend of Makishima. That group seems to fall under the “bitter but respectful rival” category – there’s another rival team in the OP (Kyoto? Nara?) about which that may or may not be true (their smiles are a little more evil).