Ah, the flashback – the black sheep of the sports manga family shows up for Thanksgiving again. Admit it – you were hoping he’d stay home this year, but he always shows up sooner or later, drinks too much and makes an ass of himself… This reliance on flashbacks isn’t Yowapeda’s strongest suit – though some of them (like Midousuji’s) have been superb. But I can live with them, in moderation (like relatives). They go with the territory in sports series.
There are two major issues with this episode, though. First, we got a flashback right in the middle of a very intense competitive moment – and it took over half the episode at that. That’s never a good idea IMHO, and I don’t think it was here. My other problem is that we already saw most of this flashback already. It’s fine for Arakita to get his backstory (as I led with last week, this is Yowapeda – everybody gets a backstory), and this is a perfectly good one. But to get basically the same episode-long flashback twice? No, that’s a poor choice, sorry.
So as a result of all that, this is going to be one of the shortest Yowamushi Pedal posts I’ve done. What’s there to say about the first 15 minutes of the episode, really? There were a few details on Arakita’s background that we didn’t see the first time, but it was more like seeing the same events from a slightly different (maybe 20 degrees) angle. He was a ballplayer, became a delinquent, met Fuku-chan, cut his hair, turned his life around. Film at eleven.
When we finally do cycle through that reel of film again, we get to the present – which is basically Arakita smoking Machimiya’s ass like a Virginia ham and dragging the “little climbers” along with him. This is pretty much a statement of HakuGaku’s innate superiority over Hiroshima – they’re simply on another level, and Machimiya’s petulance and trickery isn’t enough to match up with that. The impressive part is that Onoda is enough of a beast to surf the wave. As for Machimiya he gets his redemptive moment, in a sense – he sticks to his word about the silly “two flags” rule, and internally acknowledges that he was beat by the better man.
This seems to clarify where we are at this stage of the race – it effectively boils down to two from KyoFushi, two from Sohoku, two from HakuGaku and the Arakita group about to catch them. I have to imagine the remaining Sohoku riders at the very least will factor into the drama before it’s over – maybe they’ll hook up with the Hiroshima trio and reel in the lead group on the climb. And though their role at the center of the story seems at an end, we do get another pretty hilarious Kureminami omake, with Ibitani’s hero worship on full display. At some point I really hope we see the Machimiya vs. Naruko, Hiroshima vs. Osaka okonomiyaki steel cage death match.