This was definitely the week Yowamushi Pedal got its freak on. It was certainly entertaining, but I confess this isn’t the side of the series I like best – with guys talking to their abs and “special moves” being revealed and lots of manservice, the whole thing begins to feel a little too Shounen Jump for comfort. What saves it is that edge of quirky humor that Yowapeda always has going for it, that little bit of extra irreverence that keeps it from falling fully into that trap.
As expected, the focus of this episode (and likely next week’s, too) is on the sprinters. That means almost no Onoda and very little of the rest of the Sohoku
Six four, with the most important moment in the peloton coming when Fukutomi drifts back to chat with Kinjou. This is also the best scene in the episode IMO, as Fukutomi is refreshingly blunt about what happened the year before – there’s absolutely no way to make it right, so the best he can do is to try and beat Kinjou in a straight-up fight. Kinjou seems to respect this, and the past more of less put behind them – leaving the two captains to banter over the sprinters they’ve sent with the breakaway.
That’s certainly an interesting group. Izumida is, I’d say, probably the second-most outlandish person in the cast after Midousuji (though admittedly it’s not close). Frankly he’s a bit much for me – I like my sports anime a little more grounded. Not only does he talk to his abs (abs!) but he seems to think they talk back to him using their own special twitchy sign language. We get a little background here, showing us Izumida’s struggles as a freshman until Shinkai-sempai told him he had a “nice body” and planted the seed in his head that he should hit the weights and not just the roads if he wanted to get good enough to matter on the best cycling team in the nation.
Weird or not, Izumida isn’t a villain the way Midosouji is. He’s arrogant – his running conversation with the chasing red bean and old man bordering on taunting – but there’s no malice behind it. And he raises a very valid point – if Sohoku is lucky enough to have two sprinters strong enough to contest for the “stage win” of the first checkpoint, why don’t they use their numerical advantage to try and break down the solo HakoGaku rider? It is, as he says, basic cycling tactics – and for the two of them not to share the burden by drafting (Tadokoro is obviously the logical frontman here, but they should be alternating), instead racing as two individuals rather than a team, violates every principle of team cycling in a road race.
It’s at this juncture (with about 800 meters left to the checkpoint) that first Naruko and then Tadokoro bust out the signature moves they were planning on hiding from each other until the final sprint to the line. For Naruko it’s taking his tiny form and making it even lighter and thinner, shedding every ounce of extra weight and tucking himself into a torpedo shape (effectively mimicking a time trialist) for the “Rocket Sprint”. For Tadokoro, fittingly (and quite unusually for a sprinter) it’s making himself even bigger – as in puffing out his lungs to their ridiculous 8500 cc capacity (“Oxygen!”) and powering his sprint by funnelling scads of oxygen to his muscles. Abs! Oxygen! Attention!
All this is pretty silly, to be honest – and we’re really talking about a KM-long spring that would take less than a minute for these guys in a real race. There’s a certain element of risk involved in puffing things like this out so much – I mean it obviously works wonders in Hunter X Hunter, but sports anime are playing a dangerous game when they slow down time this much. We’ll see if Yowapeda can pull it off – frankly I’m rather hoping it doesn’t take up the entire episode next week, because I’m less interested in the sprinters than in the battle of the aces (and seeing where Imaizumi fits into it) and even more, in seeing Onoda, Manami (“Manami-kun!”) and Makashima go at it on Mt. Hakone.