Orange Beena, why hast thou forsaken me?
Let’s be honest – the silliness factor with this whole Aoyagi-Kaburagi-Doubashi threesome is pretty off the charts. A human puffer fish, an abject idiot and a Sasquatch (walked into a bar?) – that’s not exactly going to keep things tightly grounded in reality. But as it so often does Yowamushi Pedal sort of wore me down, and by the end of this episode – and this sprint – I was getting into the moment just like I usually do.
Funnily enough, the ending was the one I was rooting for, though I’m not sure that was supposed to be the case. I do tend to be contrarian in sports (and romance) anime, and it just strikes me that Doubashi has done more to earn this moment than Kaburagi has. He may be an anti-social hothead with a hair-trigger temper, but he’s suffered plenty for that – and for being a physical oddity as well. I certainly get that Kaburagi is a cycling genius – that happens (just look at Onoda-kun). But it just wouldn’t have felt right to see him leapfrog everyone and capture this flag.
Perhaps more interesting than that final sprint was the fact that Aoyagi flamed out before it ever happened. We keep hearing about he and (especially) Teshima aren’t talented on the same level as the other boys on the Sohoku Six, but here they are. Teshima never had to earn his way onto this team – just how good is he, in the end? His puffer act not being crazy enough, he pulls out his finishing move – “Bambi“, where he (somehow) channels all that muscular contraction into his thighs and flees like a prey animal. That makes a nice symmetry with Doubashi’s hungry predator persona, but a pretty silly-looking visual spectacle.
While there are certainly valid questions about Aoyagi’s talent and Kaburagi’s mental capacity (I suppose that’s not really in question…), that Orange is a phenom is pretty obvious. He’s a natural, an sprintiot savant – he instinctively gets how to play his opponent and how to manipulate his body in the moment of crisis. After hiding in Doubashi’s (rather large) blind spot while he and Aoyagi dueled, Kaburagi finally joined them at the front – though still insisting he was there only to pull for Aoyagi because he’s “not a sprinter”. I give credit to Aoyagi for being man enough to realize he was spent and Kaburagi was Sohoku’s only chance, but the idiotic carrot wasted valuable seconds arguing against taking the final sprint even when he was ordered to.
Well… As long as he has a mental game that works for him it doesn’t matter if Kaburagi doesn’t understand metaphor (“Where’s the light?”) and is too stupid to realize that the God of Orange Beena has been riding with him all along, even when he hands him another note. The whole “giant gear” thing is fine, and even if Kaburagi lost in the end (by an inch) it wasn’t because his body gave out – Doubashi was simply a tiny bit faster. With a little more experience and a training regimen dedicated to sprinting, Orange is going to be pretty formidable – though with the sprint checkpoint in HakoGaku’s pocket, his main role for the rest of this race is going to be pulling the all-arounders on the flats.