Yowamushi Pedal – 26

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That was one wild ride.

OP 3: “Be As One” by Team Sōkita

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Eventful?  Oh hell, yes.  As if the gauntlet had been thrown down by a couple of impressive sports premieres, Yowamushi Pedal staked its claim to ride at the head of the peloton with a fantastic and exciting episode.  If you feel as I do that the last few haven’t been at the series’ top level, then this ep is something of a rebound.  If not, it was just another high-quality offering from one of the best anime of the year so far.

I’m glad the weirdness of Izumida is no longer dominating the narrative, and the focus turns back to team dynamic and to Sakamichi – who is, after all, the main character for a reason.  It turns out that the Inter-high is a lot like a grand tour race in that the yellow jersey team is responsible for managing the peloton – and in this race, winning the checkpoints is akin to the yellow jersey.  That’s an advantage, but can also be a burden – managing the pace of the race takes a lot of effort.  In fact in the early stages of a multi-week event like the Tour de France, you’ll sometimes see teams with a competitor for the overall title intentionally give up the yellow jersey because they don’t want the responsibility so early in the race.

For now, though, it’s mostly a matter of the view from the front and the mental advantage it provides (Imaizumi gets the honor of leading the field through the flats once the sprinters have been swallowed up by the peloton).  There’s a brief look-in on Midousjuji using his Gene Simmons tongue to eat a fly (this character is not exactly a model of understatement) and then the climbers start to jockey for position as the peloton arrives in town at the base of Hakone-yama, ready to stock up on food and water (feed zones are always a source of potential chaos in a road race) before the climb begins.

Things seem innocent enough at this point.  Toudou from Hakone Gakuin stops by to say hello and share his personal quirks as the HakoGaku oddball of the moment, and Kinjou issues his orders for the team: the sprinters will rest at the back, Imaizumi will draft for Kinjou, and Makashima will go all-out to win the climb.  And Onoda?  His job is the lead the team up the mountain – in effect, he’s to be Makashima’s domestique, saving his sempai’s legs so that he can win the final spring for the summit.  Naturally Onoda is overwhelmed at the prospect (one wonders why no one warned him before the race) but having just seen Red Bean and Old Man bust it for the team, he’s fully motivated to do his part.

That’s when the shit hits the fan, though.  One of the main advantages – perhaps the biggest – of riding at the front of the peloton is that you’re not at risk of getting caught up in accidents.  They’re a part of every grand tour, can happen anywhere (sharp turns are a common setting) and can by terrifying to witness, never mind be a part of.  But at head of the pack you just have to worry about yourself – or that’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.  Onoda’s inexperience bites Sohoku hard here, as he falls behind the others when the climbers start to muscle their way to the front.  Naturally it’s at this moment when an accident happens (on a sharp corner), a chain-reaction ensues and Onoda is caught up in it.  By the time he gathers himself and manages to get his chain reattached – lucky not to have broken a collarbone or suffered a concussion – he’s dead-last in the field with the climb just about to start.

I much prefer this sort of drama to what we saw with the sprinters, not just because it doesn’t need to rely on gimmickry but because it focuses on Sakamichi’s inexperience, and all the pressure he’s putting on himself not to let the team down.  This is good, heart-stopping stuff, and tacks very close to realism for the most part.  My only quibble, really, would be that as soon as Naruko noticed Onoda was missing, Kinjou should have sent someone (either of the sprinters, ideally) back to find out what was happening, and to help bring Onoda back to the front if necessary.  Kinjou is in a pinch now – without Onoda there he either has to let Makashima lead the team up the mountain and wear himself out, or lead Makashima up himself – and risk using up his own strength on the first day.  Even so, though, Naruko and Tadokoro have done their jobs and either one of them could be spared to collect their wayward little lamb.

As always with Yowapeda you don’t want to stop watching when the credits roll – not just because we get a new OP (note the last shot of the opening, where the jerseys change – foreshadowing there) and ED this week, but because the omakes are one of the best parts of the show.  This time we get the “Love, Hime” theatrical film – featuring Kaji Yuuki as an evil shota no less (wink) – with Onoda and Imaizumi in the audience.  And the hotshot is every bit as furious to have Kaji-san in his favorite anime as the otaku.  We can say that whatever happens in the Inter-high, Onoda has already won a major victory – he’s pulled Imaizumi into his world.  And even as much as this is played for laughs (which it certainly is) it’s actually sort of an important and even touching moment for Sakamichi-kun (and the previously anti-social Imaizumi too, for that matter).

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ED3: “Glory Road” by Team Hakone Gakuen

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Bromake:

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11 comments

  1. j

    Izumida's final "ab…" before accepting defeat was so sad yet so funny I couldn't stop laughing. It'd be funny if that was his reply to things in normal conversations.

  2. K

    Personally I thought Onoda getting caught up in a fall and then ending up in complete last place was extremely gimmicky for a sports series *shrugs*

  3. Just out of curiosity, have you ever watched the Tour or other major cycling events? These crashes happen all the time, leaders get caught up in them, and it definitely illustrates why being at the front of the pack is a big advantage – and why Onoda's inexperience is a problem, because it nullified that advantage.

  4. K

    It's not just the crash itself, but the fact that now he is in last place. I thought that was very gimmicky to obviously make it more exciting when he catches up. Not saying it's impossible and I understand bike crashes happen during races but not only did Onoda get caught up in one, he is in very last place now for double the drama.

    I'd rather drama come from more natural places not oh no Onoda is in very last place and has to do close to the impossible to fix this now.

  5. R

    Fantastic emotional episode, though I have to say, in terms of shot selection, it was very confusing. They've done well so far in the series in conveying a very dynamic and understandable story, but this episode felt all over the place. It was hard to keep track of what order the team was riding in throughout the episode, to the point where when Onoda crashed and disappeared, I thought the whole team would have known because it looked like he was riding near the front. There were times when it looked like Makashima was at the front, only for the next shot to show him in the back. The continuity was quite a bit of a mess.

  6. Hmmm… It seemed clear to me that Imaizumi was always leading the main Sohoku group, and Imaizumi was always riding last.

  7. l

    When reading the manga, knew what was going to happen when they mentioned the hard corner in the city. The setup was obvious for what we are going to get. The anime has adapted it similarly. So, sit back and enjoy the next few of episodes.

    The omake of this episode was just so spot-on in making laugh. When they panned to show Onoda in the cinema crowd, I immediately expected to see Imaizumi there to show his total surrender into the otaku world. Was not disappointed.

  8. m

    –> "My only quibble, really, would be that as soon as Naruko noticed Onoda was missing, Kinjou should have sent someone (either of the sprinters, ideally) back to find out what was happening, and to help bring Onoda back to the front if necessary."

    I've never watched cycling tours before, so this is just speculation and assumption. Since it's a 3-day event, Kinjou might not have sent anyone back to help Onoda because even as the sprinters are resting their legs, there's still a big part of the race to go, and they need all the manpower they can have cos who knows what can happen. Will there be no more flats in the race? Since they still have two days left, the course must be very varied.

    If say Onoda really is injured and has to retire from the race,by sending people back, they would lose not just one cylist, but more. It's a risk Kinjou can't take.

  9. Nah, that doesn't hold water. Naruko and Tadokoro are, frankly, expendable at this point – they've done their main job, they have time to conserve before the next sprint, and worst case is Tadokoro can contest the next sprint alone if Red Bean is worn out. At this stage in the race Onoda is far more important than either of them to the chances for overall victory. Also, we're likely only talking about several hundred meters here – it's unlikely Naruko would get that wasted from retreating to help Onoda and towing him back to the front.

  10. G

    ah that's true. forgot that the distance back would be pretty short. i guess we'll have to shelf it to the mangaka wanting to give a stronger impact having onoda fight on his own

  11. w

    There's something about Sports anime OP's.. They fill a niche I didn't know I needed filling. I get the sense that they all follow a similar formula and ultimately all sound alike, but it's a very good formula.

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