I won’t dismiss you if you take some issue with the pacing of Yowamushi Pedal – it’s undeniably taken us a long time to get to this point. Too long? Debatably – but that’s the nature of many sports anime. And all of that time on character-building is well-spent, I think. Getting to know these kids as well as we have makes what’s about to happen that much more compelling, and I don’t regret much of the journey.
Of course, all that only matters if the cast is worth caring about – and for me at least, this one is. I couldn’t have drawn this up better, because the four remaining Sohoku boys are easily the best of the bunch as far as I’m concerned. Makashima and the first-years – dramatically speaking that’s the dream team, and it’s to Watanabe-sensei’s credit that he realizes it. Kinjou and Tadokoro are good characters, and each of them went out in suitably dramatic fashion, But they’re not quite as easy to bond with as the other four.
You have to feel bad for Kinjou, to see his career end under these circumstances. Grand tour cycling is one of the most brutal sports there is (that’s why stuff like blood doping is so prevalent among pros) and it’s not remotely surprising to see somebody’s body give out on the final day. But that doesn’t make it any less brutal for him, especially given the way Fukutomi robbed him of his chance the year before. I don’t even blame him for momentarily giving up, though he should have realized by now that the first-years he’d brought this far were capable of exceptional things. This was pretty dramatic stuff, and I especially liked the new BGM the anime used for these moments when Kinjou’s resolve was tested.
My favorite scene of the episode, interestingly, was when Tadokoro and Shinkai met up on the road, far below the others. Two sprinters whose job was done, facing a long and brutal climb to try and finish the race – it’s the fate of domestiques, but these two had really done their jobs well. The camaraderie between them was incredibly genuine, and this was a great moment. For them getting to the finish line is simply a matter of pride now, but that’s something they have in abundance.
Nominally, Sohoku actually has a numbers advantage now – they have four riders left, and HakoGaku only three. Of course they’re considerably farther down the mountain, and it’s debatable how much of an advantage that is. The odd man out is obviously the little red bean, a sprinter among climbers and all-arounders – and I think we’re going to see him give everything he has to try and tow his teammates back level with Hakone yet again, and be the next domino to fall. In theory of course it should be Makashima to lead the final push to the finish line, but I don’t know if it’ll be that simple. And of course there’s the great unknown of Midousuji and Ishigaki, once again absent this week – but surely to be heard from before long.
These kinds of summit finishes are easily the most exciting moments in grand tour cycling – names like Alp d’Huez and Col de Tourmalet are the hors categorie legends of the Tour de France, and it’s when stages finish at their summits that the greatest drama emerges. With a 2000 meter finish and a climb with gradients up to 20%, this inter-high course definitely qualifies as a hors categorie monster – and it should be a great stage (literally and figuratively) for the climactic events of Yowapeda to play out. Why, at this rate Mr. Pierre may actually say something soon – that’s when you’ll know it’s really going down…