Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation – 11

Shaka, when the walls fell.

Yowamushi Pedal 3 - 11 - 01Well, I won’t lie – that was a pretty bitter pill to swallow.  I sort of had a feeling Sugimoto-major wasn’t going to win that sixth inter-high spot (there are narrative reasons why it doesn’t make a lot of sense), but when in fact it played out that way it was still a pretty crushing disappointment.  And Watanabe-sensei does have a way of surprising you, which is a pretty rare thing in sports anime – the ending played out quite differently than I’d expected (as you know, I was tentatively betting on Sugimoto-minor).

Yowamushi Pedal 3 - 11 - 02I guess my first question would be, to quote Leiber and Stoller, “Is that all there is?”  I mean obviously we have a whole bunch of story still ahead of us – there’s another full cour plus an episode to this season, and lots more manga after that.  But what about Sugimoto-kun?  He waited to so damn long for his spotlight dance, and Watanabe crafted an absolutely brilliant one for him – one of the most dramatic and affecting arcs of the series.  But now that’s he’s come up short, what now?  Does he simply fade into the background like a piece of scenery again?  I certainly hope not.

Yowamushi Pedal 3 - 11 - 03Part of the problem for me is that I don’t like Kaburagi Issa very much.  Well- at all.  Yowapeda has a way of turning my initial perceptions of characters around (Midousuji being the most prominent example), but the series has some work to do making me root for Kaburagi as the sixth man.  I don’t find his motivation especially appealing – it’s really all about self-aggrandizement for him.  I don’t like his one-sided relationship with Danchikun – it has none of the mutual respect and bromantic charm of TeshimAoyagi.  And I don’t like his generally snotty attitude towards his seniors.  Did I mention I don’t like him?

Yowamushi Pedal 3 - 11 - 04The way those final few meters (was that the season’s first Mr. Pierre sighting?) played out was certainly interesting.  In effect, Sugimoto Terufumi and Kaburagi left the other two in the dust.  Honestly, I could sense when it was the older Sugimoto doing the pulling that the brothers were in real trouble – Danchikun pulled for Kaburagi for most of the final stretch, but Terufumi had little help.  As a marathon man without a lot of fast-twitch prowess Sugimoto was always going to be at a serious disadvantage in a final sprint, but he made it damn close – it wasn’t until the final few meters that Kaburagi edged him out.  Considering everything, Sugimoto’s ride was certainly the most impressive of the bunch.

Yowamushi Pedal 3 - 11 - 05The aftermath – Terufumi convinced he’d won – was really heartbreaking, not least for his teammates.  It seemed almost cruel of Watanabe to show us that, to be honest – wasn’t it enough that Sugimoto had just had his dreams crushed by an imperious little pissant like Kaburagi?  Poor Sugimoto trying to be brave and laugh it off was gut-wrenching.  And while the final part of the episode was excellent, it was still a little disturbing to see Terufumi brushed aside without a further mention.  I hope it doesn’t bode ill for his place in the story.

Yowamushi Pedal 3 - 11 - 07I do like the stuff that focuses on Onoda’s role as a sempai, though.  He’s just so ill-suited for the Japanese seniority obsession – to the point where he doesn’t even like to enter a kouhai’s classroom.  All that stuff – the souvenir photo, the attempts to be a mentor to Issa on their practice run – was classic Onoda.  It’s very interesting to put to the test whether someone can be a mentor and sempai in way that runs totally counter to Japanese (and sports manga) culture – through unvarnished kindness and total humility.  If anyone can do it, he can – and he is so kind and humble that Onoda is always easy to root for.

Yowamushi Pedal 3 - 11 - 08Lastly, we have the new odd couple of Kinjou and Arakita, now attending the same university and members of the same cycling club (which is about to face off against Fukutomi and Shinkai’s).  We get so little manga or anime about college sports that any mention of it is welcome, but even these two are thinking about the coming Inter-high.  And this year’s event is apparently being staged on Irohazaka – the winding slope that terrifies drivers (and tour bus passengers) as it corkscrews up the high mountains above Tosushou-guu in Nikko.  The route peaks at 1,840 meters and features a climb over twice the Hakone route – which seems, on paper, to favor the likes of Onoda and Manami, serious climbers who can handle the relentless grind.

Daigakkoumake:

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9 comments

  1. E

    I’m just glad that there’s someone else out there who feels the same way about Sugimoto-senior; I’ve always liked him, and was very pleasantly surprised to see him become a serious contender as the last rider for Sohoku. I never thought that I’d get this from a show about bicycle racing, but Sugimoto’s loss really was heart wrenching. Here’s to hoping that he’ll be on the roster in his third year, if the story goes that far.

  2. Yeah, I sincerely hope there’s some payoff for him at some point – this arc ended in a way that seemed particularly cruel for him. Sugimoto is a very underrated character.

    The one thing that gives me hope is how pointedly Sugimoto said “There are no second chances for me.” Almost as if it was intentionally called attention to.

  3. R

    Is university sports just not as big a deal in Japan? It seems like it would be seriously compelling to tell a story that starts during that time and is about the transition to the professional sports world.

  4. College sports definitely doesn’t seem to be as big a deal in Japan as igh school sports. Many universities have atheltic clubs that play in intramural competitions and such, but there’s nothing remotely as big as something like the Koushien.

  5. D

    I don’t like Issa either. He’s actually the first character in this anime I’ve actively disliked. Even snotty characters like the kid with braces from Midousuji’s team or the red haired guy from the inter high didn’t bother me. Given those facts, perhaps he’s being portrayed this way intentionally?

  6. N

    My guess is that next year, with the two current third years leaving, we’ll see both the Sugimoto brothers wear that yellow jersey.

  7. S

    Some retrospect I think is needed. In Season 1, I never liked Sugimoto. And why would you, him pretending to be a big-shot and boasting when in fact he was kinda shit, and never put in the effort. He never believed in Onoda until cour two or so.

    I like him now, of course. He’s gone a long way since then, and that is exactly why Issa excites me. I don’t like Issa right now either, but maybe, just maybe, (whom I kidding – it’s Watanabe-sensei, of course it’ll happen), I’ll come to like him too. Hopefully that arc is as great as the other ones.

    And these two episodes were the best in a great long time. The great build up to a gut-wrenching loss. If Sugimoto has to lose, I wouldn’t want it any other way but gut-wrenching. Watanabe keeps me guessing every time, and goddamn do I love it. This time I completely got it wrong, I too was thinking Sugimoto-minor would win it.

  8. H

    Hi! I just wanted to recommend to you that you read the corresponding manga chapters to the Sugimoto arc (chapters 262 – 273, specifically, with some of the follow-up resolution in chapter 274 as well). The anime touched on all of the most critical points, but for the first time with Yowapeda, I was actually disappointed with how the anime adapted the source material, because they left out a lot of small details which I felt made the whole thing… which still ended in the exact same way… feel a lot more meaningful, even with Sugimoto’s loss. Like, just the way that everyone on the team cares for Sugimoto and is kind of rooting for him? I haven’t read much further ahead so I’m not saying any spoilers when I speculate that maybe both he and his brother will have a more important role in the future… maybe not this year, but in Sugimoto’s third year? I really hope so. And by reading the manga, I just felt like a lot of thought was put into this specific story arc, not all of which was portrayed here, since they probably cut out a full episode’s worth of content by rushing through all of those small moments. Anyway, check it out if you can, I think it would be very worthwhile.

  9. Thanks for the tip – I’ll check those out.

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