I confess, that was a development that took me by surprise. No question that competitive cycling can be a contact sport, but I’ve never seen a cyclist horse-collar a competitor like that before. Chalk it up to dramatic license – and it was certainly dramatic. And it certainly casts the rivalry between Hakone and Souhoku (though I doubt Hakone would deign to call it such) in a different light, no matter how many apologies were offered later.
To summarize, we have the previously rather bland captain of Hakone, Fukutomi, revealed to be a man of rather weak character (if you ask me) so unable to deal with being bested in competition (the stage wasn’t even over yet) that his instinctive reaction causes an accident which could easily have given Kinjou disabling, long-term injuries or even killed him (remember, cyclists – righteousness is no guarantee of safety). If this was something Fukutomi had thought about of course he’d never have done it – but in many ways the instinctual reaction says more about us than what we do when calmer heads (hopefully our own) prevail.
Make no mistake, Fukutomi felt terrible after the fact. But here’s the salient point – Hakone still won the inter-high, and that might not have been the case if not for his grievous breach of rules, sportsmanship and simple human decency. Yeah he apologized at the time, after the race and later formally, and he personally withdrew from the competition. But Hakone didn’t withdraw – they took the victory his heinous actions made a certainty. I’m not saying it would be fair for Fukutomi’s teammates to suffer because of his actions – but wouldn’t that be less fair than every other team suffering because of them?
There’s a lot that I wonder about with this incident. Not least is, did the rest of the Hakone team every find out what happened – and if so, would they have elected him Captain anyway? More than any apology, Fukutomi admitting the truth to Tadokoro and Makishima when Kinjou was covering for him (needlessly and stupidly, in my view) earned him back a tiny sliver of respect. But did he also tell his team? I’m assuming the Sohoku riders – being the sportsmen that Fukutomi isn’t – respected his secret and left that up to him.
This sets up a rather interesting conundrum for Yowamushi Pedal. By heretofore virtually unassailable sports shounen rules, Sohoku can’t possibly win the inter-highs when the three leads are first-years. Yet Kinjou has been set up with a massive quest for justice and redemption, powerful forces that can’t be taken lightly. What’s the solution? I surely don’t know – but one interesting angle would be for Kinjou to give Fukutomi the all-out battle he promised him, and beat him, earning a measure of redemption – but for the vile Midousuji to sneak in and pip them both at the post, in the process setting up Onoda, Naruko and Imaizumi with yet another quest to fulfill – avenging their graduated leader by beating Midousuji and winning the inter-high that he (and Makishima and Tadokoro) never could.
Who? Yes, those three are still in the series – although you’d barely know it by the last two episodes. I enjoy the texturing these two episodes have given to the cast and overall story, but much of the charm of Yowapeda lies with those three, and two consecutive episodes where they’re mostly absent is a bit too long. We’re about to start the inter-high – in Enoshima, by the looks of it, which definitely ensures a healthy elevation gain – and Kinjou is certainly going to be the focus of the team effort once we do (he is the ace, after all). But I hope – and expect – that in terms of character the main focus of the inter-high is on Onoda and the other first-years coping with their new challenge, and doing their part as domestiques to make their sempais dream come true.