There came a time, about halfway through this episode, when my thought process shifted from “They couldn’t possibly – could they?” to “Dammit – they’re going to do it, aren’t they?” And sure enough the vicious rat bastards did – they ended the episode exactly where I knew they would as the second half unfolded. A classic agonizing sports anime cliffhanger – almost reaching Hikaru no Go levels of cruelty. It’s times like this when I’m sore tempted to read ahead in the manga – but I won’t do it. I resisted with HnG and Chihayafuru, and I can hold out here.
In addition to another strong episode, it was another good week for Yowapeda generally. The second volume has passed the first in sales (just under 7K) and we got the very interesting announcement that Yowamushi Pedal would be getting its own section at the Namja Town indoor theme park at Sunshine City, Ikebukuro from 2/8-4/6/14. A very good sign – series don’t generally get expensive marketing support like this unless their revenue stream is pretty strong. At the rate it’s going the anime should burn about half the current total manga chapters, so if the will is there to continue the source material should be too. If you want to play “High Cadence Garapon” or eat a double-decker Tadokoro gyoza burger, head for Ikebukuro starting next week.
As for the battle on the tarmac (or whatever material the Izu course is paved with) this week was pretty self-explanatory – and quite different from last. The second-years pretty much dispensed with all the tricks and mind games, thankfully – though truth be told, it was because they didn’t have any choice. It’s all about will and talent now, though I can’t help but think again and again about how if they first-years were riding the same bikes as TeshimAoyagi, this wouldn’t even be a contest. And of course Kinjou knows that too, though what he does with that information is still a mystery (to new viewers like me, anyway).
For starters things went rather as I expected. Onoda-kun’s charge succeeded in breaking Teshima – but he did almost as much damage to himself in the process. In truth, in a real team race his job would be over and he’d limp to the line a half-hour after the leaders just in time to keep from being disqualified, but here Naruko and Imaizumi sacrifice some of their newfound lead in order to help Onoda. Starting with keeping him on his bike, as he’s about to keel over just as he did after taking the polka-dot jersey in the welcome race. As for Teshima, he’s broken mentally as well as physically – in fact he comes to a complete stop before his partner-in-crime shows up, and he tries to urge Kitarou to finish alone – which he predictably refuses to do. You can’t deny the loyalty these two guttersnipes have for each other.
I like how the experience differences among the main three really come into play here. Onoda reveals his complete lack of experience at every turn, but I think that just makes the sheer talent he possesses all the more apparent – never mind no racing shoes, he doesn’t even know to use the low handlebars on a high-speed descent and sprint. When he really learns this sport he’ll likely be even stronger than his friends – but for now, he’s a work-in-progress. It’s Imaizumi (who’s even more of a seasoned pro than Naruko) who steps into command, urging Onoda to keep up and taking charge of strategy. When Onoda almost buys it on a bump and the second-years pass him, it’s Imaizumi who keeps his head and scolds Naruko not to throw away their chances in a fruitless bid to go back and help Onoda only a few hundred meters from the finish.
Of course, this isn’t as cold as Naruko initially makes it out to be – Imaizumi has some painful first-hand experience of what a bulldog Sakamichi is when he’s chasing. If this is indeed a matter of willpower as Tadakoro explained to the sophomores, then it’s hard to see Onoda coming up short. That said, I’m still somewhat unsure of how the practicalities of all this work – even if Onoda finishes this lap ahead of TeshimAoyagi, he’s still well behind in terms of overall laps. And Aoyagi should be a full lap ahead of even Imaizumi and Naruko. But the results of this mad dash for the line are clearly more important than simple bragging rights, and I suppose that will all come out in due course – it’s certainly clear who deserves to go to inter-highs, anyway.