Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation – 01

Hime, Hime!

OP: “Cadence (ケイデンス)” by Takaaki Natsushiro (夏代孝明)

yowamushi-pedal-3-01-2My goodness – can it really have been 21 months since Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road ended?  Watching the premiere of “New Generation” it seemed as if no time had passed at all – but then, that’s the power of anime we feel especially affectionate about.  When they return from a long absence it’s like meeting an old friend and feeling like you’ve never been apart.  And it sure doesn’t hurt that this was a superb into for the third season – an episode that had everything that was great about Yowapeda in microcosm.

yowamushi-pedal-3-01-3What it is about Yowapeda that makes is so wonderful?  If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be “heart” – Yowamushi Pedal has more of it than just about any sports series out there.  It really seems to be a reflection of its mangaka Watanabe Wataru, who by all accounts is very much a real-life Onoda Sakamichi – a humble megane-wearing bike otaku who’s living the dream after achieving unexpected success. Yowapeda and Watanabe’s other manga, Majimoji Ruromo, seem very different – but they share an innate sweetness and positivity that seems totally genuine.  Unlike many popular mangaka Watanabe-sensei doesn’t hide his identity behind doodled animal self-portraits and pen names – he puts himself out there, promoting the sport he loves every chance he gets (and he’s helped see a rise in cycling’s popularity in Japan of surprising proportions).

yowamushi-pedal-3-01-4Of course Yowapeda has a lot else going for it too.  Of all the “next gen” sports manga I think it most successfully straddles both worlds – it manages to be be extremely popular with the Animate! set (in the old days sports anime almost never sold many discs) while maintaining popularity with fans of traditional sports series.  That’s partly because Watanabe cares deeply about cycling and tries to get the details as spot-on as possible, and because he and TMS Entertainment give great care to the competition arcs.  It’s also because Yowamushi Pedal is thoroughly a character-driven sports story with a really superb cast of characters who are incredibly distinct, and that makes it a lot easier to emotionally connect with.

yowamushi-pedal-3-01-5“New Generation” starts off with one of the most delightful subplots in Yowapeda, Onoda’s mom – specifically, Naruko and Imaizumi trying to explain to her why her son took his bike up Mt. Fuji without telling her.  What they don’t know of course is that she was at the Inter-high, though she finally spills the beans here.  She’s great – a loving and slightly daffy anime parent who totally fits.  We also see the three first-years showing off their hot new gear: a new frame with an electronic gear shifter for all-rounder Imazumi, a light carbon-fiber frame for climber Onoda, and dense carbon-tubular racing wheels for Naruko.

yowamushi-pedal-3-01-6The real drama here, though, surrounds Makishima.  He’s going off to England to live with his brother and go to college, but in typical Maki-chan fashion he’s kept the news to himself – not even telling Kinjou and Tadokoro.  The one this is going to be hardest for is Onoda, of course.  Maki and Sakamichi may be my favorite sempai-kouhai relationship in shounen manga – it developed so naturally from awkwardness to affection to mutual respect to brotherhood.  I’ve read this part of the manga so I knew what was going to happen, but the entire sequence starting with Sakamichi and Maki-chan’s meeting outside the clubroom (where Onoda vibed on what was about to happen) to their talk on top of Minageyama was still heartbreaking.  Sakamichi’s adoration of Makishima is so authentic and typical of boys his age, and you can really see what the relationship has done to help the socially awkward Makishima grow as a person.

yowamushi-pedal-3-01-11The loss of his mentor and climbing soul-mate is obviously going to prove hugely difficult for Onoda.  But of course the Sohoku Cycling Club does have other issues to deal with – namely that they’re losing their third-years.  Kinjou makes Teshima the new captain, hardly a surprise given how much more vocal he is than Aoyagi.  It’s an interesting dynamic we have here – Teshima and Aoyagi have always been joined at the hip, and the three first-years have been honed through combat into a cohesive trio.  Teshima’s challenge is to create a cycling team that’s not in point of fact two teams competing against each other – especially difficult given that it’s the younger trio that are the established stars.

yowamushi-pedal-3-01-12Watanabe has his own challenges with Yowamushi Pedal.  In having the Sohoku Six win the Inter-high in Onoda’s first year, he’s done something so unorthodox in sports manga as to be nearly unprecedented.  Now he has to write a story where other challenges become even more dramatic – trying to defend with a target on their backs, trying to become a cohesive team, coping with the loss of beloved friends and mentors – without those new challenges seeming anti-climactic.  Because Yowapeda is a people-driven story and because the cast is so strong, I’m confident he can pull it off – Yowapeda may be riding a different course than most of its genre, but I’m convinced it has the dramatic firepower to chart it successfully.

ED: “Now or Never (ナウオアネバー)” by YouthK Saeki (佐伯ユウスケ)

Omake:

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10 comments

  1. Y

    Ah, YowaPeda. I don’t know if I ever told you, but this show is the reason I found this site and started following your posts. I’m happy to see it back, even if I’m worried — I sincerely hope stuff doesn’t go downhill from here now that the third-years are out of the picture. I love the rest of Sohoku, but I’m not sure the new team dynamic can live up to my (already high) expectations. On a slightly unrelated note, is Onoda’s voice actor the same as Deku’s? I think yes, but I forgot??

  2. No, I don’t think you ever did tell me that. Interesting.

    Yes, both are played by Yamashita Daiki, and I think he shows a good bit of range between the two performances. Onoda seems to be the role he was born to play, though – he slides into it so naturally.

    I think Yowapeda will be fine – I haven’t read too far past this point, but I have read a few chapters and I think the balance works pretty well. Watanabe finds a way to fit everyone into the dynamic in a way that makes sense.

  3. Y

    Yes, that’s Deku’s seiyuu. Onoda was his breakout role (he got the best rookie actor for playing him!).
    By the way, Is it just me or has the art changed a bit (especially the characters)? Or maybe it’s just been a while.

  4. It looks about the same to me…

  5. You would think that after Sohoku became champions that it would be harder for Watanabe to create as compelling a story the second go around. But I think (especially if you are able to separate from the attachment to the third year characters) that the dynamics of the new Sohoku Six are way more compelling then what the third years offered. With Teshima and Aoyagi being the objectively weaker teammates, I think we’re going to have a much more human story of overcoming weaknesses and the struggles of being compared to the legacy of the team.

  6. R

    I may be a bit biased, since my favourite characters will finally get to shine, but in the manga the second year is a lot stronger than the previous one. The first IH was a charming, but straightforward story about discovering one’s love for the sport and winning. Now there’s potential for something more original and, as Ryan above said, more human. I just hope the anime doesn’t deviate much from the source material.
    I’m definitely looking forward to your coverage of the series.

  7. The TV version has been extremely faithful so far, from everything I remember. No reason to suspect they’ll deviate now as far as I can figure.

  8. K

    I’m a little confused because it seems like they’re following the same storyline from the movie… unless it deviates I can’t understand why they would do a movie and then do the exact same basic plot in the new season. Would you happen to have any insight into this?

    As it’s my first time posting a comment here, I would also like to just say that I really enjoy and admire your reviews and look to you when I want a realistic view on a series outside of fandoms. Thank you for this site (and for the work you do on Random Curiosity) 😀

  9. It feels funny to say this, but years back when I was keeping up on a few of the shows you were blogging, I kept seeing your posts for Yowapeda. Sports shows have never interested me; least of all a biking show. As a lover of the bizarre, however, it got to the point where I was seeing Midousuji on the weekly thumbnails for the show, and my curiosity just kept growing larger the crazier his (and others’) expressions became. I eventually caved, and ended up powering through (and loving) the show. I actually spent my tax refund that year on a road bike, and rediscovered the love of cycling – all due to this show and your enthusiastic coverage of it. I’ll always have gratitude for that fact.

  10. Midousuji grew on me a lot. That bizarre nature of his seemed a bad fit with the rest of the series to me at first, but once I understood where Watanabe was going with the character he actually became one of my favorites.

    I don’t think you could say anything that would make Watanabe happier than your last sentence.

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