Yowamushi Pedal – 22

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Low-key, that was not.

Fall 2013’s twin titans of sports anime continue to be in lock-step, as Yowamushi Pedal begins its Inter-High arc on the same week Diamond no Ace starts its Koushien Arc.  The similarities end there, for the most part – these two series are taking very different approaches to telling their story.  As much as I like Daiya no A on the whole I find Yowapeda to be the more entertaining show week-in and week-out – though it’s damn close – but there’s one element of this series that I’m struggling with, and have been from the first time it (he) was introduced.

As hinted at last week, the starting point of this year’s race is indeed in lovely Enoshima (I have a couple of posts detailing visits there, for those so inclined).  Enoshima being an island is, of course, at sea level – at least the causeway where the race begins is – which means that the racers will have to climb roughly 1400 meters to reach the summit of Mt. Hakone.  That’s a solid climb even by grand tour standards, and in the devastating summer heat and humidity of Kanagawa (I can vouch for it first-hand) many a racer surely won’t make it to the top.  Japan’s appetite for gleefully torturing its high-school athletes seems to know no bounds.

There are really two main storylines as the day of the race dawns, the first being – as expected – Onoda’s extreme nervousness.  There’s a festival atmosphere before the race, but Sakamichi is in his own zone – and it’s a hot electrical cable of a zone at that.  For a race of this magnitude to be anyone’s first-ever competition is a highly unusual occurrence, so you certainly can’t blame him for being nervous – I was nervous for him, just watching.  I’m impressed by Makashima’s continuing development as a mentor for Onoda – he’s growing increasingly comfortable interacting with the first-years, and he seems to have learned how to push Onoda’s buttons when he needs calming down.  But it’s falling off his bike that really seems to snap Onoda back to life (the alarmed faces of the spectators watching him are worth the price of admission).

There’s the formalities to be addressed – the dispersal of supplies, the assigning of numbers – and the latter is a big deal for Onoda, understandably.  Makashima gives him a lesson in what they represent, and makes it clear that HakoGaku is like no one else – as defending champions the only teams in single digits, they stand above the crowd in every way.  Including literally, as they’re called up on stage for the opening ceremony.  Sakamichi is momentarily alarmed when he doesn’t see his fated… rival Manami-kun, but he’s just late as always – he shows up in the nick of time to take the stage in street pants, and even commandeers the microphone in order to personally greet Sakamichi-kun.

It’s here that the other major theme of the episode asserts itself – and boy, does he ever.  Midousuji has stood out like a sore thumb in this cast from the first moment we met him, but even as weird as I knew he was I was in no way prepared for just what a creepy freakshow he is.  Seriously, it’s like the guy walked off the set of Fullmetal Alchemist, got on a bike and showed up in Kanagawa.  He pulls impossibly grotesque contortions with sound effects to match, he threatens and abuses his own team, and most of all he mocks Imaizumi – for whom revenge against Midousuji is a primary driver.  As if what we knew about Midousuji weren’t bad enough, Imaizumi reveals that he played a rather shocking trick on him in order to ensure the notorious five-minute victory – he told Imaizumi his mother had been killed, and Imaizumi believed him.  That makes Fukutomi’s inadvertent jersey-tug seem like a shining example of sportsmanship.

I’ll be honest – so far at least, I’m not crazy about Midousji.  I love just about everything else about Yowapeda and I loved this episode, which was wonderfully tense and exciting – and yes, the very creepy Midousuji was a part of creating that tension.  But is he a necessary part?  We’ll see, but I’ve always preferred opponents in sports series to be at least modestly relatable, and Midousuji so far plays like an outrageous and unabashed evil mastermind.  On the flipside, though, he does create a real air of unpredictability.  For one of the very rare times with sports anime, I have no idea how this “big game” is going to turn out.  Sohoku can’t win when the heroes are first-years without violating the sacred laws of sports manga.  But Kinjou really needs to settle his score with Fukutomi by beating him on the square.  Midousuji and Kyoto Fushimi winning could work on both those fronts, but for an unvarnished scumbag like him to win the whole shebang (as a freshman, too) would also be a highly unorthodox development.

With all that in mind, I guess I can see Midousuji’s good points in narrative terms – I like unpredictability, and he’s certainly easy to root against.  But I do seem to like Yowapeda better when it’s focused on the Sohoku gang (one of the most likeable collections of athletes I’ve ever seen in sports anime) and their legitimate rivals from HakoGaku.  This episode does a magnificent job of setting the stage and stoking excitement for the big race, and it finishes that off with a very winning appearance by Miki-chan, acting as the audience stand-in.  Her reaction to Sakamichi’s “ritual” was perfect, and I love the fact that she chose exactly the right thing to say to him as the race was about to start: – “Have fun!”.  It sets the tone for next week perfectly, and sums up much of the appeal of this wonderful series.

Author’s Note: As further evidence of Yowameda’s growing popularity, it was chosen as the first series to be featured in Bandai’s new “Bousou Note” (“Imagination Notebook”) series – a “clothes changing series for adults” where fans can mix and match outfits via stickers for the Sohoku Six and HakoGaku too.  When it comes to determining which franchises have traction, this sort of thing is actually an important indicator of success.

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  1. i

    Nice, I cant wait 10 weeks from now, when we get to see who won.
    I would have to guess HakoGaku, but it would be awesome if the MCs won,

  2. J

    For clarification, the title previews in the magazine apparent suggested that the first 5eps of Inter High will cover 1/3 of Day1. I highly doubt we will see any of Day2 at this point

  3. t

    do you mean that they won't make it to adapt day 3?? I think you're missing the point it's 3cour – there are still like..17 episodes(!) it's quite a lot. it's almost as if half a series in front of us. it's hard to imagine that those guys would screw this up after doing such a wonderful job so far, especially when now.. it's..the highlight of the series.

    I haven't read all inter-high arc. but it'll be alright in the anime. I am sure. they are really faithful to the original and all (:

  4. Y

    That freak reminded me more of Shingeki than Fullmetal, with his smile and the weird sound effects…

    I have to admit, it felt a bit too caricatural and out of place for ("to"? English = second language… sorry 😉 my liking. I'll wait and see… Hoping they'll integrate this character better in the overall story as it progresses.

  5. l

    your first choice is right, for

  6. Actually, "to" is equally correct!

  7. H

    I wonder just how much of the original manga will be adapted, and how much will be left off, considering the sheer length of the Interhigh in the manga.

  8. Judging by disc sales and marketing, it'd be a surprise if we don't get a second season.

  9. H

    and that is exactly why I have a feeling that the IH arc will not be finished this season.

  10. t

    inter-high has started and a lot of episodes left (17! that's a lot), so it's going to be a long and intense ride. oh god, thanks for Yowapeda that keeping with us for another cour. it's splendid.

    this epsiode was kinda…crazy/weird/creepy/pick whatever fits to you, mostly thanks to Midosuji. we knew (since some previous interactions) that he is Imaziumi's rival and a very dangerous opponent, but it has come to a weird/crazy level. I, like you, can't say I am a fan about this.. too bizarre stuff of Midosuji. obviously, it's necessary to create a tension, but at this level?and for YP? I am still not quite sure (we'll wait and see), but it doesn't much bother me. he creates a way spicy atmosphere, and you know how it is in some sports – you get to see colorful and various characters.
    that way or another, we can't deny that we have a dark horse here with Midosuji and his team.

    luckily, YP is very sportsmanship thanks to Kinjou and Fukutomi for that. this is the behavior of true ace-captain in sports. they are really inspiring the team. and indeed, we have more time-screen with Hakone's riders. and more and more I see them not just as rivals, but as really unique and good characters.

    as for Onoda-kun, well his first real road race, so for sure he'd be nervous, and with Onoda it's always funny as he got into his dramatic mode lol. good point about Makishima doing his job as his Senpai. we could see that from the OVA and it continues even now.

    lol that note. imagination notebook ha? I haven't imagine YP to have this kind of stuff. but at least I get to know that YP is successful!

  11. J

    If they adapt anything more than the end of Day 1 then that would be a massive screw up. Inter High is 19 volumes of the manga.

  12. N

    I don't like Midousuji neither, but 'yowaizumi' did make me laugh…

  13. F

    I don't think I've ever seen a sports anime in which the coach has done so little . . .

    I'm looking forward to Sakamichi getting his feet under him!

  14. e

    Aren't Manami and Sakamichi adorable in their fated… whatever you want to label it? Awwwwww. Seriously :,>.
    That said a bit of Miki's effective support was much appreciated. The beginning and ending part of the episode were as enjoyable as usual.
    Now… the freak show part in the middle. Leaving the rage-worthy fake death news aside (eh, as if) Midousouji reminded me of a certain Noah http://dgrayman.wikia.com/wiki/Fiidora?file=Tongue.jpg <— it's the tongue, man. The vileness is off the charts, literally and figuratively. I really wonder about the possible inter-high outcome more than ever. And if there's a redemption a-coming for the Kyoto team… well that's gonna be a hard sell, especially after such an episode. And at least one of the Kyoto members – the short light brown-haired one – seem to agree with the creepy… there was a glimpse of him basically making a Midousouji face. *sweats*
    As merchandising and paper dolls go… Makashima wears green briefs. Green. GREEEEENNN. OH MY. *_________* Ahahah <3

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