I think it’s safe to say Kaburagi Issa has never had a cold.
If you’d told me this entire episode was going to focus on Kaburagi Issa and Doubashi Masakiyo, I’d have said you were going to have a pretty hard sell with me – that’s one of Yowamushi Pedal’s less likeable and more ridiculous cast members side by side. Throw in one of its least dynamic in Aoyagi Hajime as the third wheel, and that much more so. Finish it off with a complete lack of Onoda Sakamichi (except for a floating head in Kaburagi’s mind’s eye) and that would have seemed to seal the deal.
But, well… I won’t say it was one of Yowapeda’s finest outings, but on the whole it was actually pretty good. Whole episodes focused on side characters are part of the deal with the Inter-high, as these stage victories become mini-finales all on their own. And if nothing else, Kaburagi and Doubashi are two characters who needed some fleshing out (though Doubashi undeniably has plenty of flesh already), if not rehabilitation in Issa’s case. And in that respect the episode was modestly successful.
One thing this episode made pretty clear is that there really are no hidden depths to Kaburagi – he really is a baka. Or perhaps charitably an idiot savant, because it’s Kaburagi’s idiocy that’s the key to his strength. He doesn’t even understand how number tags work – he thinks Doubashi is HakoGaku’s 15th-place rider because he wears #15. He thinks grabbing onto his lower handlebars is a cool finishing move, not realizing that he’s been doing every time he accelerates during the entire sprint. And of course, he still has no clue that he’s actually a sprinter.
But airhead that he is, Issa doesn’t have the sense to be intimidated by Doubashi like normal people (even Aoyagi) are. We finally get a little backstory on Doubashi here – why he wasn’t at the last Inter-high, and why he is at this one. To say he’s a hothead doesn’t even begin to cover it – he’s loathe (even when he was a first-year) to ride support, and he tends to punch anyone who pisses him off (which is most people). He’s actually been forced to resign from the Hakone cycling club on several occasions, only to re-join soon after because there’s no rule against it. As for why he’s on the squad now, it’s because Izumida – who’s of course the captain now – persuaded Fukutomi to let him take his fellow sprinter under his wing.
It’s pretty funny to watch the way Aoyagi brings Kaburagi along – leaving him training notes next to his favorite jidouhanbaiki, which poor simple Issa is too simple to realize come from Aoyagi and attributes to “the God of Orange Beena“. But he does at least take the advice Aoyagi gives him, and he does get better – which leaves him more than able to drag Aoyagi back to the front when Doubashi makes his break a few kilometers from the sprint checkpoint. But Doubashi has one more trick up his sleeve – or at least his zipper, as apparently ripping that is what unleashes his true power. How many jerseys does this guy go through, anyways?