Yowamushi Pedal finishes off an excellent three-cour season with an excellent finale, but it certainly raises some interesting questions: did the production committee know along that a second season would follow? If not, how long before the announcement did they find out? As we know anime production is not a rapid process – yet I can’t for the life of me imagine that TMS ever intended to finish the anime where they finished the season unless they knew more was coming. I mean, that would just be seriously nuts.
I haven’t read the manga ahead of where the anime is, but I was sure the season would end with the end of the second day. Stopping 2 KM from the finish seems a very odd choice even if it was done with S2 in mind, but there’s no denying it’s one hell of a cliffhanger. As always the episodes that feature Shohoku prominently are superior to the ones that don’t, and fittingly for a finale this one gave us a healthy mix of all three teams fighting for the inter-high title. And make no mistake, all three teams are definitely still fighting for that crown.
It looks as if I should have trusted my original instincts about Arakita – turns out he did intentionally stay behind to help Shinkai, just as I thought at the time. HakoGaku has too much experience to fall apart as easily as Midousuji seemed to think they would. Yeah, Arakita was exhausted – exhausted from pulling Shinkai to keep him from losing contact with Manami and Izumida at the very least. But the four trailing riders regrouped rather than letting the team get completely strung out over the length of the slope. But someone should certainly have clued the two inexperienced riders among the group in a little, because Izumida and Manami had to pretty much improvise without any guidance from their sempai.
Still, once Shinkai manages to gather himself it’s only a matter of time before the quartet claws its way back to the front. Midousuji is a little put out by this, but only a little – it’s his domestique Mizuta who blows a gasket and takes off on his own. Midousuji quickly pulls him back into line, but this is the first real crack we’ve seen in the Kyoto Fushimi discipline in this race – an ominous sign of things to come. Midousuji keeps things – and himself – under control, but there’s about to be another development which it’s clear even his simulations didn’t account for.
When Kinjou first told Onoda he was going to have he and Makishima pull the team up the mountain, it struck me as unbelievably hard stuff. I mean, here was Onoda having just towed Tadokoro all the way back through the field after had to tow himself the day before – and now he’s supposed to pull the team? Yeah, he’s a climber and all, but I’m glad there were consequences to that. By the time the Sohoku Six have caught the other two teams, Onoda is so exhausted he’s ready to fall off the bike (which is how he ended the welcome race, if you recall). Everyone has limits, even tireless terriers, and Onoda’s basic plan seems to be “ride until you collapse” without a whole lot of in-between. That’s fitting for a rider with his almost total lack of race experience.
To say that the rest of the team owes Sakamichi one at this point is the understatement of the series. If it’s a matter of literally holding him to keep him from falling over or pushing him to keep him moving, well – he deserves that and more. There’s no question Sohoku has amazing team spirit, and it seems likely that the difference in this area between the other teams and KyoFushi will be Midousuji’s downfall. But the Sohoku team that’s riding alongside Hakone and Kyoto looks ragged and exhausted, and they have every reason to be.
Obviously, seeing Sohoku look like that – even a few KM from the finish – should be the signal to Midousuji to launch an immediate attack and punish them unmercifully. But seeing the “non mass-produced model” Onoda drag his team back to the front unnerves him seriously, and it doesn’t seem to be an act this time. Onoda was not a part of the simulations – which, if you think back, is essentially the reason Kinjou said he had to have him on the team. Instead it’s Fukutomi who launches the attack, and it’s Tadokoro who summons whatever he has left to crank up the human bullet train to catch up. As for Onoda, first Naruko and then Imaizumi literally push him along, encouraging him to start cranking his little legs again – which he thankfully does, as there’s no way whoever was pushing him could possibly keep up with an acceleration.
For a while we lose sight of KyoFushi, and it’s straight-up bromantic rivalry at the front. But soon enough Midousuji leads them back, and much to his team’s horror orders the implementation of “Phase 49” – begging the question of just how many damn phases his plan has. And the aces start accelerating away, ready for the final push to the second day finish line. It’s a hell of a way to end, but imagine what it’d be like if you didn’t know the series was coming back in three months…
It’s been a hell of a ride – pun intended. I suspected Yowapeda had what it takes to be a crossover hit, and so it is – straddling the divide between the female otaku fanbase and traditional sports anime viewers perhaps better than any other series has done. The manga is the main reason, of course – it has a tremendous amount of heart and sincerity, along with probably the most operationally successful comedy of any of the sports series this year. But TMS and veteran director Nabeshima Osamu have done a great job porting it over to anime. They’ve added a layer of wit above and beyond what’s on the page, and done a marvelous job bringing the otaku aspects of the story to life. In a year loaded with great sports series, Yowamushi Pedal really is the Goldilocks model.
As for what lies ahead, we have an endless variety of great storylines to look forward to. It took Watanabe Wataru over 150 chapters just to get to the end of the second day of the inter-high, so maybe the normal rules about the heroes not winning the big one on their first try won’t apply. In any event I’m most curious to see how the friendship-rivalry between Onoda and Manami-kun plays out on the third day – on paper they shouldn’t have a specific goal to race for, as they’re both there as domestiques. Manami has been especially quiet of late – ably doing his job, getting almost no attention from the camera or his teammates, but seemingly sitting on a lot of untapped strength. I can only imagine Watanbe has something big cooked up for he and Sakamichi – there’s been too much build-up to think otherwise.
I’m very glad the first season ended the way it did – with Onoda-kun realizing how he’d actually ended up making friends, which was his goal all along. I don’t think the anime club subplot has much chance of spotlight time, but ultimately friendship is what Yowapeda always returns to as its main theme. This show is perhaps more character-driven across the board than any of the other sports series airing at the moment, and the cast is full of distinctive personalities that can carry that off – but it always comes back to Onoda. It’s his spirit that defines Yowapeda, and the show is always at its best when its his character that’s driving the action. October can’t come too soon.