The timing for watching the Yowapeda “Special Ride” OVA was perfect – which is odd, considering it was originally released (though never subbed) some months before the anime began. It works much better now, not least because it’s set in the days after the Souhoku inter-high team has been selected but before the competition itself. I watched some of it raw when it released, but to be honest it wouldn’t have much mattered – I still would have had no idea why any of this should matter to me back then, even with subtitles.
“Special Ride” is perfectly timed now for other reasons as well, though. Basically it highlights all the aspects of the series that have necessarily been set on the back burner for the training camp arc. Namely Sakamichi’s otaku side, the character interaction between the first and third-years, and the humor which is one of this show’s most appealing qualities. While there were some plot holes that bothered me I was very fond indeed of the training camp arc, but if you like the more quirky and mischievous side of Yowamushi Pedal (which during its hiatus seemed to force its way to the surface in the omakes) this OVA should fit the bill.
The stars of this episode are definitely Onoda and Makishima – the latter of whom Kinjou has asked to get closer to the former to help them form a cohesive unit in the inter-highs. As we saw in the first cour of the TV series Makishima doesn’t exactly excel at small talk and as we meet them here, Onoda is still on pins and needles every time they’re alone together. When Makishima walks in on Onoda fondling one of his capsule toys in the clubroom just before a practice ride in the Chiba hills, he decides to pursue this as an angle to put his kouhai at ease.
I suppose whether you find this Sakamichi-Makishima interplay amusing is a good acid test of whether you’ll like Yowapeda generally (at least its non-sports side), but I found it quite charming and pretty hilarious. It’s another example of just how little it takes to make Sakamichi happy and how desperately he longs to share his otaku passions, and given that’s a very important part of his character I like seeing it highlighted. As for Makishima, he has no interest in otaku matters whatsoever (apart from gravure) but to his credit he gamely plays along, well enough to fool the painfully eager Onoda. My favorite part of this sequence is when he catches Makishima with his phone out about to text for help, but assumes his sempai just wants to take pictures of his rare “Black Konyu” – and even provides him with a white backdrop to make the pics extra special.
On the slopes the fun continues as Onoda has dropped another of his precious possessions, an “Oritsugun” sticker he was planning on putting on his bike. Naturally Makishima found it and picked it up, having no idea what it was – but the important bit here is that Onoda has already decided Makishima is a kindred spirit, and he’s the only one he’ll tell about his misfortune. The sticker is all Onoda needs to be the tireless terrier again, and they quickly catch the others, with Makishima and Onoda leading the charge to the peak. But it’s a hundred years (or at least 10 or so episodes) too early for Sakamichi to beat out Makishima in a mountain stage, and the Peak Spider claims the polka-dot jersey on this day.
As OVAs go, this was a good one. As I said it benefits from perfect timing, but it nevertheless shows off what made this such an appealing series right out of the gate. We didn’t get to see much interaction between Sakamichi and Makishima in the TV series up to this point, but what we’ve seen has suggested the potential for an interesting dynamic between the two of them and it’s great to see it paid out here. Kinjou tells Makishima and Tadokoro that the first-years are “the key to winning at the inter-high”, and I expect that to prove prophetic when the anime gets to that stage.
“Top of Tops!” by Miki Kanzaki (Ayaka Suwa)