I can’t be the only one that was thinking “Who is that guy again?”, can I?
OP2: Transit (トランジット) by Takaaki Natsushiro
I have to hand it to Watanabe-sensei – he has an innate ability to surprise me. I was reading the Yowamushi Pedal manga for a while (between the first and second, and again second and third seasons), and while I really enjoyed it, I’m kind of glad I stopped because Yowapeda is really more fun when you don’t know what’s coming. On my first round I stopped before the Inter-high began, and the second time right after the revelation about Makishima and the aftermath with Onoda. And I haven’t correctly predicted a whole lot of what’s happened since.
This is the training camp mini-arc, with the Sohoku team returning to the cycling center with the same set of rules as last year in place. That means everyone has to ride 1000 km in four days if they want to be in the Inter-high, and they have to place in the top six. Now the latter one is a bit of a quibble for me, because it basically voids the result of the first-year race – why bother telling Kaburagi he’s earned a place on the team if he has to earn it again by finishing ahead of the likes of Danchiku (who I suspect would lay down and let Showoff win) and the Sugimoto siblings?
Things start our predictably enough – including Onoda-kun getting carsick again. The focus starts out on Kaburagi, and the episode does a pretty good job of selling that it’s going to stay there. Teshima, like his predecessor, has done some alterations to make this already difficult task even more arduous, but this time they aren’t mechanical tweaks. Recognizing that Showoff’s biggest crutch isn’t his gearbox or his wheels but his best friend, the captain establishes a rule that Kaburagi and Danchi-kun must remain 10 meters apart, and enforces it with sensors on each bike. I think this is pretty damn clever, actually – and Teshima earns even more props for subjecting himself and Aoyagi to the same rule. Grand tours in cycling are, as they say, an individual sport played on teams…
Again predictably, Kaburagi struggles badly without Danchi to prop him up. It’s telling that it requires a pep talk (of sorts) from Danchi to re-start Kaburagi after he’s literally ground to a halt, and nothing we see from him in this episode convinces me that he’s the right man for the job of Sohoku’s sixth. But Kabu quickly becomes an afterthought with the introduction of Kimitaka Koga (Nakamura Yuuichi). He’s riding in the support van which picks up Onoda (he’s got motion sickness meds on him) and he announces to the surprised Onoda that he’s going to be participating in the training camp.
To say that Koga comes into the narrative via stealth attack is an understatement. Apparently he’s ben the club mechanic all along – but if he’s ever said anything or even been on-screen, I don’t remember him. But this is clearly no wrench-jockey – Koga has the build of a serious cyclist, and he’s wearing an Inter-high jersey under the pink one he wears on the outside. We get bits and pieces of Koga’s story – he’s a third-year, he completed 980 km in the training camp as a freshman and rode in the Inter-high despite not finishing 1000, he’s been injured for a year and a half. He’s also got one beat-up jersey, suggesting something ugly happened in that Inter-high (perhaps connected to that injury). But on the whole, Koga remains a man shrouded in mystery.
One thing is clear, because Koga makes it so – he’s here to knock Teshima off his perch and take over as captain, sixth man for the Inter-high, and even ace. He may well be right that Teshima is the weakest rider of the six (though Kaburagi might give him a run for his money) but somehow I just can’t see that happening (which they way things are going means it probably will). It’s far too early to predict what impact Koga will have on the story but so far, I like the vibe he creates – nothing is sacred, everything is on the line. And frankly, the team as assembled didn’t look strong enough to me to seriously content to repeat as champions. If Koga is as good as he looks (and says he is) shouldn’t he ride in the Inter-high?
ED2: “Takai Tokoro” by Saeki Yusuke