Yowamushi Pedal – 32

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This is a perfect time to reflect on why I love Yowapeda so much.

In case you haven’t heard the news, this week Yowamushi Pedal was officially greenlit for a second season starting in October.  Neither the result or the timing will have been a surprise if you’ve been following my posts on the series – the handwriting has been on the wall for a while.  Yowapeda is selling quite well on disc, generating a ton of merchandise sales, and has even caused a cycling boom in Japan in much the same way Hikaru no Go did for Go – bike sales have sharply spiked (especially among young women).  Still, to get a firm commitment is a huge relief, and absolutely fantastic news.  No word yet on how long the second run will be, but three more cours wouldn’t be a bad guess.

Of course, I could take a moment here to mention that I predicted this series had a chance to be a hit before it started, when few in the English-speaking fanbase had heard of it.  Well – I guess I just did, but I’ll allow myself that small reward for championing this gem of a series since long before it began airing.  All of the things that make Yowamushi Pedal a winner are in ample evidence in this episode – the heart, the humor, and the drama.  I’ve called this the Goldilocks of the many sports anime airing at the moment because it seems to combine so many elements so well – it sort of exists at the nexus point where old-school, Otome Road and edgy sports series intersect, presenting the best of all worlds.

My suspicion is that this episode will be less well-received overall than some of the more intense action eps we’ve seen in recent weeks, but I really like this side of Yowapeda and it hasn’t been much in focus lately.  This one was mostly about the camaraderie and the comedy, though Tadokoro’s condition did give the affair a serious undertone.  Makishima bore the brunt of that secret alone – at Tadokoro’s request – though I think that was a bad call on their part.  I can see not telling the first-years (they’ve got enough to worry about) but Kinjou certainly should have been told.  He’d have insisted Tadokoro get himself treated (an IV at the very least) and no doubt would have factored it into his strategy for the second day.  But the repercussions of that decision won’t be felt until the very end of the episode, and there’s a lot of good stuff before that.

In the Hakogaku camp, there’s no panic over the surprisingly mixed day one results.  As I noted last week there’s a Hakogaku rider who basically did nothing but rest on the first day – Shinkai, whose particular strengths we haven’t heard much about yet.  His time to shine is coming, surely.  As to Kyoto Fushimi we see nothing (almost) but for the three Sohoku first-years, the aftermath of their first inter-high day could hardly be more different.  For Onoda and Naruko it’s exhaustion tinged with the full flush of youthful euphoria over what’s happened and the joys of friendship – you can practically see boyish exuberance bubbling up out of their pores.  But Imaizumi is sulking over his “defeat” by Midousuji.  In truth it wasn’t a defeat at all, as had to pull his team all day while Midousuji saved up his strength for his late charge, but this is too personal for Imaizumi and he’s pouting pretty hard there for a while.  As brash a projection as he tries to front, Imaizumi is still a first-year and this is his immaturity showing through.  It’s selfish, but it’s just part of the hill he has to climb – and he will.

The evening at the ryokan and the next morning are full of the wit and warmth that the first two cours of Yowapeda exhibited so well.  Onoda’s Mom pays an unscheduled visit to the ryokan, because he got “bored” with Sakamichi-kun away from home and decided to go on an outing with her friends.  She’s a riot, and dishes out the requisite embarrassment to her son (Kinjou is especially winning as he tries to interact with her) but I suspect she’s playing up the clueless act for all she’s worth – I think she has a much better idea of what her son is accomplishing than she’s letting on (and her comment that her boy’s tan “makes him look stronger” is a very warm and sincere moment).

On the morning of the second day Onoda-kun is introduced to the spectacle of photographers wanting a picture of the race leaders and their mysterious little freshmen – Naruko naturally eats this for breakfast but for an otaku who’s spent his entire childhood trying to avoid being the center of attention, it’s really more than Sakamichi can handle.  And he really ought to leave the hair styling to his barber (or in truth, I suspect, his mother).  This is played mostly for laughs (and well, too) but there is an interesting encounter when Sakamichi loses his water bottle, which rolls away and ends up at the feet of Ishigaki Koutarou (Nojima Hirofumi, who’s reliably excellent).  We saw him briefly before – he’s the captain of Kyoto Fushimi who’s stepped aside to let Midousuji be the ace.  He’s very kind to Onoda, and I look forward to seeing his role increase as the inter-high continues – changing the dynamic around Midousuji could lead to very interesting results.

But of course, there’s still a race to be run and that’s what all this is building towards.  We learn the crucial fact that the racers start the second day with the same time intervals they ended the first with, though Kinjou’s strategy involves bunching the team back up together as quickly as possible and riding as a pack all day, taking turns pulling.  The second day is mostly a flat stage – the longest (over 100 KM) but after a steep climb to start and a descent to follow, mostly devoid of major elevation changes.  This leaves Onoda-kun with the job of pulling Makishima, Naruko and Tadokoro back up to where he and Imaizumi will be riding (Imaizumi starts 1:50 behind, and the other Sohoku riders 3:40).  It’s a sensible and conservative plan, but there’s one great flaw in it – and it’s one Kinjou couldn’t possibly know about, because no one told him.

As it turns out, Tadokoro – who’s certainly undernourished and probably dehydrated to boot – never leaves the starting blocks.  I was surprised Makishima wasn’t keeping an eye on him from the beginning, but it’s a while before anyone notices – to be honest I looked at several shots of the three others riding together and didn’t notice it myself.  This is bad, clearly – if Tadokoro can’t finish he’s done altogether, but there’s also the risk that he could finish so far behind the others that his time handicap makes him useless on the third day.  Not only that, but Kinjou is far ahead of the others and unaware of the problem – which means it falls to Makishima to make the call about what to do.  Forge ahead and catch the lead pair as quickly as possible?  Wait and hope?  Or, most logically, split his group by sending someone (maybe himself) back to try and drag Tadokoro back into the race while the others regroup with Imaizumi and Kinjou as quickly as possible?  All bad choices, including the third – because that risks two riders falling too far behind to help on the third day, or wearing out their legs too much catching up to be of much use.  It’s a direct result of Tadokoro’s decision to try and be a hero, and to insist Makishima hide the truth from their captain.

That’s the main course going forward, but there is one other interesting appetizer: Manami-kun’s Class President osananajimi friend Miyahara shows up to watch him.  This is pretty cute and really nicely presented – she stands by the roadside thinking tsundere thoughts holding the gift she’s brought him, only to have him blow by at high speed, stern-faced, in the company of his three teammates and the three Sohoku riders.  It’s her first exposure to just how intense road racing is and she’s properly overwhelmed, but Manami has noticed her and his reaction is just as much fun as hers.

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  1. L

    I am pretty sure Tadokoro is out of the race. He doesn't have the tenacity or natural talent Onoda has to make the same kind of comeback on the 2nd day. Even if Tadokoro is able to stay with the pack, his value as a sprinter is limited from this point forward. Pretty sure Maki-chan knows it too. He'll elect to keep pushing forward.

  2. I would too, now that I know the rules of the race – it's too risky to send another rider back at this point in the race. But I disagree that Tadokoro has limited value – I think Sohoku needs every body to stay with Hakogaku. And I also think you're selling the old man short on his fortitude and physical ability.

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