NOnoda? No problem.
OP: “Determination” by LASTGASP
It’s always great to welcome back an old friend like Yowamushi Pedal, which returns to the airwaves after a brief one-season absence (many thanks to Majimoji Rurumo for keeping the Watanabe Wataru slot ably filled). Yowapeda was one of the surprise (to most) commercial hits of 2014, and it’s one of the most likeable and consistently enjoyable sports anime of recent vintage. I don’t know if we’re going to get three cours with Grande Road, but there’s no reason to think Yowapeda will be going away anytime soon – if anything, its popularity seems to be increasing.
There isn’t much of a concession to the season break in this premiere – it pretty much picks up where Episode 38 left off, with only a brief internal monologue by Onoda-kun to reset the scene. It might be considered an odd choice to open a series with effectively no role for the main character, but I think pretty much everyone knows the score with Yowapeda by now. I do think the show is better with more Sakamichi in it, but the focus for now is the conclusion of the second day of the Inter-high, and he’s fulfilled his role in that part of the story.
This is quite the all-out battle we have brewing, considering that it’s in every way but a preliminary – despite any talk to the contrary it’s clear that the primary advantage to be gained here is psychological more than tactical. It remains a three-team war (there’s a new group, Hiroshima, in both the OP and ED but they’ll presumably only factor in only day three) with Midousuji showing increased consternation that all his carefully crafted phases are being mooted by Sohoku and Hakogaku stubbornly being unpredictable biological organisms.
The first punch of the day is landed by the champs, as Fukutomi foils Midousuji’s plan to have Mizuta-kun block Arakita from leading out for him (I’m not convinced that was a realistic plan anyway) by having Shinkai acting as the deputy. Phase 49 thwarted, Chimera-kun spontaneously crafts Phase 50 on the spot – knock the weak link out of the group, that of course being Yowaizumi-kun. This he tries to accomplish by literally knocking him over, a sleazy move any way you slice it. But Imaizumi shows a newfound intestinal fortitude and uses the guardrail to right the ship and stay connected.
It’s certainly not easy to like Midousuji, but it’s really he and Ishigaki who get the most drama in the first episode of Grande Road. Seeing Midousuji foreswear “cheap tricks” and vow to treat the last 3 KM as a straight-up war feels like a step forward for his character. And Ishigaki again proves himself to be loyal even where loyalty hasn’t really been earned, willingly sacrificing himself for Midousuji because of the jersey on his back. If there’s hope for an actual human relationship with Midousuji in this series, I think Ishigaki is it.
I think it’s fair to say that Yowamushi Pedal didn’t skip a beat here, literally and figuratively. It really is as if the series has never been gone, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a very good thing. I’d certainly like to see more of the rest of the Sohoku team as Kinjou and Imaizumi aren’t my favorites among them, but this is their moment – the others will surely get theirs soon enough.
ED: “Realize” by ROOKIEZ is PUNK’D