I’ve heard of head-butting, but that’s taking it way too literally.
If you’re a sports anime fan, you probably know the announcement that Diamond no Ace was unsurprisingly renewed for another season came this week (hopefully this will be some reward for all of the frustration we’ve endured these last several episodes). I’m very pleased with that, but I’ll be even more pleased if Yowamushi Pedal gets its renewal announcement soon. You have to think it’s coming – in every respect but manga sales Yowapeda is an even bigger hit than Daiya – and there should be enough manga to continue the series even without a hiatus. But the pessimist in me will always worry until it becomes official – being an anime fan will do that to you.
In the meantime, this season will obviously conclude with the finish of the inter-high – or perhaps if we’re lucky, that will come in the penultimate episode and we’ll get a coda for the finale. The meat of this ep was certainly given away by the title, “Imaizumi vs. Midousuji”, and that’s exactly what we got. It doesn’t amount to a huge surprise even without that clue, because those two taking each other out to clear the stage for Onoda and Manami (and that third-year quietly tagging along) was always one strong possibility. It’s too early to say that’s what’s happening, but you’d be forgiven for leaning that way after this week.
For Imaizumi’s character arc, this turn actually makes a lot of sense. Of course he wants to win, but he’s won plenty of races. His white whale isn’t winning the inter-high, but facing down his demons – or demon, in this case. It’s not just about beating Midousuji, it’s about rising above being obsessed with him. And he seems very much to have done that, thanks to Naruko and Onoda’s friendship and camaraderie. Every move Chimera-kun makes, Imaizumi counters, matching him attack for attack and dubious tactic for dubious tactic.
The problem with this scenario is that even if it makes sense for Imaizumi not to be at the center of the drama in the end, I’m not so sure that makes sense for Midousuji. But there’s no way Midousuji can survive to contest the finish and not Imaizumi without Imizumi’s end looking entirely like a failure. We’ll see how it plays out, but right now it sure looks like we’re headed for a double-knockout – the way Imaizumi especially is being portrayed looks a lot like the other warriors just before they fell on their sword (especially Arakita).
Midousuji, for his part, seems to have slipped back into full-on villain mode, but I rather hope his story doesn’t end there because I felt he’d made some progress. He reveals yet another chimera power-up, starts calling Imaizumi and Onoda “pigs”, and resorts to serious aggression to try and throw the Sohoku boys off (literally and figuratively). Yeah, blood flying from where he and Imaizumi bump heads repeatedly is a bit of dramatic license, but Yowapeda kind of makes that sort of thing its stock and trade. The big drama comes on the lone downhill of the final ascent, which both Midousuji and Imaizumi take at high-risk speeds (how much risk to take on downhills is a huge decision competitors in mountain stages must make). Chimera-kun almost buys it slipping on the storm drain, but manages to save himself through sheer will power and technique. That’s the thing, Midousuji’s talent and will to win truly are impressive, and I like his character better when he’s more than just a monster to be defeated.
The big mystery man here continues to be Fukutomi, who should be the heavy favorite in this final quintet but is barely making a peep. Only Onoda keeps up (almost) as the two arch-rivals in-front duke it out, but Fuku-chan slots in behind Manami, head down. Is he laboring, or playing possum? We’ll know very soon, one way or the other. For comic relief, the episode provides a return engagement for Hirota-san and… what was her name? These two are hilariously drawn, and I wonder if Hiro-kun is a bit of a self-deprecating author insert here (though Onoda is obviously Watanabe-sensei’s main avatar). Also, the omake gives us a sample of Manami’s mystical powers. Is it a Kami, or kami?