I love Yowamushi Pedal, but one of the very few elements I don’t especially care for is the way it can stretch a few seconds of competition into an entire episode. We’re starting to get to Oofuri levels here, and I know it sounds funny coming from someone who loves “Chimera Ant” as much as I do, but somehow in sports anime these kinds of temporal distortions tend to leave me indifferent.
Taking that as read, I am still fully invested in what’s going on here. And I find myself more and more conflicted over Midousuji’s role, and fascinated by that conflict. I still find him the most ridiculous part of the series, and I wish his grotesqueness wasn’t played up to such cartoonish levels. On the other hand, I’m starting to understand what Watanabe is trying to do with the character, and why Midousuji being so grotesque in important in that attempt. I don’t know if it’s completely working, but at least his role is clarifying itself.
The funny thing is, I kind of find myself rooting for Midousuji more and more. Part of it is because I don’t find Kinjou and Imaizumi the most charismatic members of the Sohoku Six, but in a strange way I’m coming to admire Midousuji’s single-minded devotion to winning at all costs. Frankly I think he kind of deserves to win – while the others are making bromantic soliloquies about the eternal flame of honorable rivalry, Chimera-kun is stretching every rule, every team member and every sinew of his body to win – period. He’s willing to take appalling risks to win the day and he undeniably is a phenomenal talent – let’s not forget he’s a first-year himself, without a powerful team behind him.
At this point we really need to learn more about Midousuji and what made him the way he is – and happily, it seems as if we may get at least some background in next week’s episode. When you see conflicts like the chase to the finish of the second day play out and listen to Chimera-kun’s ugly thoughts on the matter, it’s very interesting to speculate about whether Watanabe-sensei – who’s a good guy himself and clearly fond of good guys, and writes them brilliantly – is setting up a straight good vs. evil situation here, or trying to engender some sympathy for the devil. Certainly Kinjou and Fukutomi say all the right things and Midousuji the wrong ones, but I’m starting to sense that in the author’s mind it’s not quite that simple.
As to the race itself, it still seems to me as if there’s an awful lot of risks being taken and existential blood spilled over what’s largely a ceremonial honor, with the main event still to come. Do I need three episodes (at least) to see less than 1 KM of a high-speed race play out? No – but it’s still pretty gripping stuff. Midousuji is becoming a sort of Richard III of cycling, calling out the shallowness and hypocrisy of the audience while admitting his own grotesqueness, and decrying the high-handed ideals of the traditional heroes and their loyal assistants (I’d point out no one has been more loyal than Ishigaki-kun).
This ep was capped by an especially hilarious omake, featuring Makishima (who’s definitely my favorite among the Sohoku seniors) as a TV chef offering his recipe for “Spider Toast”. Balsamic, anchovies, green and black olives, cheese, more balsamic… Apart from the anchovies it sounds pretty good to me. But the payoff is a gloriously awful pun – “Suppai da!” – and Onoda’s reaction to it.