If I try to pinpoint what makes Yowamushi Pedal a better series to me than Diamond no Ace, the sports manga adaptation with which it’s been in lockstep for most of its existence, one of the more obvious answers is that the characters are simply more interesting. I like Daiya a lot, but there are too many people in important roles who simply aren’t distinctive. Like them or hate them, almost everybody in Yowapeda right down to the third-tier characters is colorful and has a real presence. Some of them are better than others, no doubt, but very few of them are even remotely dull.
“Dull” is definitely not the word to describe Eikichi Machimiya, the “Fighting Dog of Kure“. If anything he’s emerged as an even more outrageous villain than Midousuji, and it seems as though Watanabe-sensei has in mind for him to follow a similar character arc in some respects. Midousuji has emerged as a genuinely captivating character for me, but I was cold for quite a long time – and it seems Machimiya’s progression is happening a lot faster than Midousuji’s did. We’ll see if this one takes.
HakoGaku’s Arakita is another one of those distinctive secondary characters who’s emerged in full relief after kind of blending in for a long time. He’s been in full-on GAR mode these last couple of eps, dragging the two first-years in his care along on a rescue mission which he blames himself for necessitating. After blowing past the SoHaku chase group Arakita no doubt thought he was going to quickly leave the seemingly stunned Hiroshima six equally in his wake, but he had a surprise coming – the Fighting Dog had some bite as well as bark. And given the track record of this series, that was probably to be expected.
These kind of “killing move” power-ups are definitely a fanciful conceit of Watanabe, but I’m glad to see Machimiya get a little more depth. Turns out he’s an elite sprinter (it should have been obvious he and his team were talented after they finished third in the last Inter-high) and not just an elite scam artist. He leans forward so far that his handlebars wear bruises into his chest (LOL) when he dances, and his tongue sticks out almost as far as Chimera-kun’s. And in truth, he’s got a big theoretical advantage on Arakita here – he has two other third-year sprinters with him, and Arakita only two “little climbers”. So it’s no surprise that Hiroshima challenges Arakita to a silly game, where if either gets 20 meters ahead the other group will give up the chase. Arakita should certainly disdain such nonsense (and truth be told, I never heard him actually agree), though as far as Hiroshima is concerned, it’s game-on.
This is where Machimiya’s backstory kicks in. Turns out he was thrilled to be named the ace in his second-year, and desperate to win a stage in his howetown. He and Fukutomi were chasing down Kinjou on the second day (we all know what would happen later) when Machimiya realized both his water bottles had cracked. He swallowed his pride dry throat and all and asked Fuku-chan if he’d share one of his, but was refused – and boy, has he borne a grudge ever since. I don’t think Fukutomi was wrong to do so, personally – though I don’t blame Machimiya for asking – and this story in no way justifies Machimiya’s outrageous bullying tactics (head butting? Not even Midousuji has gone there). But at least we know how he got to be the weasel he is.
The other big shoe to drop here is the fact that Machimiya has, in fact, worked out a deal to cooperate with Kyoto Fushimi once his team reaches the front. It’s presented as a sneaky move, but just as I don’t have issues with Fuku-chan refusing to give up his water I see nothing wrong here either. Teams cooperate in tour cycling all the time, and in fact it’s pretty clear that Hakone has been working with Sohoku when it’s strategically convenient. How is this any different? It certainly makes sense for Midousuji, who knows his team isn’t strong enough to pull multiple members to the front on the third day – though it seems that at some point Ishigaki has managed to claw his way back to the lead group. I’m actually kind of disappointed that happened off-screen.