What better way to usher in the new year than with an old friend, and Yowamushi Pedal certainly qualifies. I’ve been enjoying the break from episodic blogging that the new year provides, to be honest – batteries need recharging, and mine have been draining from a lot of directions recently – but it’s nice to get back into the swing of things (I suppose I should say pedal of things, since this isn’t a Diamond no Ace post).
The second cour of Grande Road starts off with a new OP and ED, a hilarious omake and a memorable end card – not to mention a boatload of questions about where things are headed from here. Of Midousuji and Ishigaki there’s no sign whatsoever, so the nature of their certain involvement in the storyline (they’re in the OP/ED, as if you needed any proof) will remain a mystery for now. But there are plenty of hanging chads when it comes to the two main teams, and I think we’re starting to see some suggestions about how their final confrontation might look.
The dynamic looks pretty straightforward. We have a few KM left until the long and steep final climb begins, and there is a certain philosophical contrast being drawn between Kinjou and Fukutomi (in fact, the latter even calls Kinjou “naive” directly this week). Superficially it seems that Kinjou is keeping the grommets around in sort of nebulous attempt to keep the Sohoku gestalt alive – “true strength being drawn from all six members” and all that. In point of fact it’s pretty obvious that their involvement is going to run much deeper than that, and thus the bombshell ending doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
This Sohoku bonding has to come to an end sooner or later, no matter how much they’d love to postpone it. Hakone has an answer for every move Sohoku makes, including the heroic charge led by Tadokoro and Kinjou (needing to have the Ace pull here is itself a sign of relative weakness) that finally brings Sohoku level with HakoGaku once more. Fuku-chan’s response is to unleash the beast in Shinkai in one last bid to crush Sohoku and enter the mountains with an advantage. And in response, Sohoku has only one option – Tadokoro has to take a bullet (train) for the team.
The harsh reality here is that Tadokoro was always going to be a goner once the final climb started, so he may as well give it all he has now. I thought Shinkai might have enough to stay with the climbers if Sohoku hadn’t forced Fukutomi’s hand, but either way going with himself, Toudou and Manami as the ultimate lineup was no worse than Plan 1-B. Once they make their attack at the start of the climb, Sohoku doesn’t immediately respond – and the reason soon becomes clear.
Chekov’s Kinjou’s knee has finally made its presence felt, and he seems unable to respond to yet another haymaker from his arch-rival.
I think there was sincerity in the notion that the first-years were still present in order to see the determination of the third-years – effectively, to start the campaign for the next two inter-highs – and for Kinjou and Makashima to fight the final battle against HakoGaku (though leaving Onoda behind would have been rather dumb). But this another of those “best-laid schemes” that soon goes awry, and we’re about to find out what Kinjou’s crisis-management skills are like. Presumably we’re going to be left with Onoda and Imaziumi stepping up to be the new challengers to Hakone, though that still leaves the question of Makashima and Naruko (can he possibly keep up on a 20K climb?) very much an open one.
ED2: “Eikou no Ichibyou (栄光への一秒)” by MAGIC OF LiFE