Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road – 19

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We’re 57 episodes into Yowamushi Pedal, but it feels like the race has just begun.

It’s an interesting dynamic we have as we enter the endgame of Yowapeda’s “Grande Road”.  All of the opening gambits, counters, positional play and exchanges of pieces have come down to this – five riders and roughly 5km to go, all of it straight uphill.  And it’s to Watnbe-sensei’s credit that it’s not easy to predict what’s going to happen, apart from the fact that those last 5k are likely to something of a free-for-all – a “melee” as Imaizumi calls it.  Given the original meaning of that word – the end of a jousting tournament when the one-on-one battles are dispensed with, and every surviving Knight enters into a last man standing brawl – it seems a fitting turn of phrase.

Where do we really stand here – who’s strong, and who isn’t?  Well, Imaizumi is the one who takes the mountain checkpoint – and by all accounts, Fukutomi seems tired and downbeat.  But he’s obviously sandbagging, content to let the first-year lead the race and take the small-time honors.  As for the chasers, Onoda is certainly the one showing the most strain on his face.  But he keeps coming, time after time.  “I can’t shake him!” Midousuji thinks in what sounds something like panic.  Onoda is filling the role Kinjou has envisioned from the beginning – the wild card.  No one know exactly what he’s capable of, certainly not excluding Onoda himself.

I continue to believe the larger theme here is Onoda coming to grips with his own talent – seeing that hunger awaken in him, as Manami says.  That he’s so raw and lacking in technique just makes what he’s doing that much scarier, because he’s doing it entirely with natural talent and heart.  Heart in both senses – he’s madly driven to help his team, and he’s clearly one of those freak endurance athletes whose cardiovascular system is built to power through obstacles that would stop weaker athletes dead in their tracks.  If this is the Onoda now, what will he be like once the learns the proper way to competitively ride a bike – and why in the world should he sacrifice himself for anyone else, teammate or otherwise?

The race between Midousuji and Manami is a little silly, but it certainly leads to some interesting developments.  Sakamichi-kun is following Chimera-kun so intently (“Stick to him!!”) that he misses a corner and rides off the road (a common error green riders make in mountain stages).  But he barely saves it, and in very short order he catches up yet again.  And when the trio catch up to Fukutomi, they affectively tie (again a bit of a narrative conceit to allow a more exciting finish to the real race).  But as Manami notes, Onoda manages to tie the other two first-years without even realizing there was a race going on – he simply wanted to protect his ace.  And Manami notes to himself with a wry grimace that if Onoda had known he was actually racing for something…

Everyone – bar himself – now knows Sakamichi is good enough.  Fukutomi asks Manami flat-out what he thinks of #176, who he never expected to see again in this race.  “He’s a threat.” Manami says quietly.  But the first thing the tireless terrier does when he gets to Imaizumi is to apologize – for not stopping Midousuji (as if he could have).  It falls to Imaizumi to spell it out for his teammate – instead of apologizing, he should be proudly asking for Imaizumi’s thanks.  And he should be looking out for a chance to seize the race for himself, because there’s no reason for him to defer to Imaizumi or anyone else.  A summit finish is a battle of individual strength and will, and Onoda is loaded with both.

It’s funny that even here, Onoda still tries to be deferential – giving credit to Imaizumi for his own achievements and deflecting any praise thrown his way.  Hard-won lack of self-esteem is hard to shake off, but the only course for Onoda’s character arc that makes any sense is for him to try and seize the race himself.  Imaizumi shows himself the mature one here – in contrast to, say, Diamond no Ace’s Furuya, he’s actually grown a great deal from his arrogant beginnings.  And it’s in part due to Onoda’s persistent friendship that he’s opened himself both to companionship and teamwork.  Finally, it seems, Onoda may have gotten the message: he’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it – people like him!

That leaves us with an interesting situation, where four of the five riders have a seemingly fated rival.  Imaizumi and Midousuji, of course, have a long and ugly history and it’s already renewing itself.  Might it be Imaizumi’s fate to stop Midousuji to complete his arc, rather than actually win the race – is that the demon he has to slay?  If, say, he and Imaizumi were to cancel each other out and Onoda and Manami-kun were to have their destined duel to the line, where does that leave Fukutomi?  Of the five riders here, he’s the odd-man out in every way.  They’re all first-years, he’s a third-year.  His fated rival and his closest friends have already fallen.  So what role has he been cast in for this final act?  Perhaps to be the calm, silent presence on the periphery as the hot-blooded youngsters have their seishun showdowns – and to slip, ghost-like, across the finish line first, in the process giving those fledglings a quest to be fulfilled next year and beyond?

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Omake:

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6 comments

  1. J

    You can add one more certainty to the end of the race – I won't predict anything correctly. Still it's good to be kept guessing when events are as entertaining as they are here.

    Fukutomi cannot be done at this point, and it would befit the veteran of the group to hang back and keep an eye on the litany of attacks that will be launched on the way to the summit. However I still can't (or rather don't want to) see him winning even if it makes the most sense. While it gives the juniors something to aim for I can't get away from Fukutomi's victory being a validation for his actions in last year's race. Although Kinjou has his part to play here for invoking a sense of competitive spirit over, well, being punished for breaking the rules. Here's to hoping for an Onoda & Manami climb to the line, which wouldn't be any more contrived than what we've seen so far.

    The highlight of this episode for me was seeing how much Imaizumi has matured (by the way GE, Imaizumi stopping Imaizumi wouldn't be particularly helpful…). He's still not that interesting but now he not only acknowledges his role in the team, but those of his friends. The tit-for-tat between Kimoizumi & Kimosuji was funny as well – partly as a reminder that these freakishly talented and dedicated riders are still teenagers, partly to show that Imaizumi is ready to stop tormenting himself (and get over?) his issues with Midosuji.

  2. Well, that's my hesitation with Fukutomi winning as well – it would seem to validate his actions from the last inter-high, for which I don't feel he's ever really done his penance.

  3. G

    This anime is cool . I am hanging on the edge of my seat watching this! Onoda did a great save a lot of riders have crashed out but he saved it and got back to them!

    The nice thing it comes back to Onoda and Imaizumi as when all this started

  4. l

    I'll accept any of the 5 winning except for Midousuji. He's worn out whatever slim welcome he had from me. Touching backstory not withstanding, I have no tolerance for his current behavior. I doubt his beloved mother would approve either.

  5. r

    While I really suffered last week's episode, this one really worked for me in terms of setting up the scene for the final battle; still, they could have Fukutomi participate a bit more… Totally agree with what you and Jay say about Fukutomi winning the race – it won't happen. And now I definitely see Sakamichi winning, thanks to that nascent killer spirit you were asking for a few weeks ago – will Imaizumi and Sakamichi cross the finish line together, as they dreamed of doing at the beginning? Why not? Thanks for the review Enzo.

  6. C

    At first I was really meh about it, but now I'm starting to enjoy that Onoda-Manami rivalry.

    Also, Midosuji looks as if he got pregnant.

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