The Winter 2017 Anime Preview Guide
Yowamushi Pedal New Generation
How would you rate episode 1 of
Yowamushi Pedal New Generation ?
What is this?
Times are changing at Sohoku High School. Winning the Inter-High race has made the cycling team the defending champions, which places them in the crosshairs of strong rivals from all around the country. The third-years are graduating, so it's up to the second-year students to lead the club, even though they didn't make the cut for the race last year. Onoda and his fellow first-years may have some shiny new parts on their bikes, but the pressure of defending their title and living up to the legacy of their upperclassmen might be more than they can handle. Yowamushi Pedal New Generation is a continuation of the Yowamushi Pedal manga adaptation and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Mondays at 2:05 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
Oh, how I've missed Yowamushi Pedal. How I've missed the hyperbolic posturing and melodrama that comes with overwrought sports dramas, where bike races are life-and-death, and high school graduation may as well be saying a permanent farewell to a friend, never to be seen again. It's a world that trades more in feelings than in reality, where victory is a state of mind achievable by anyone who just wants it badly enough. And it's terrific.
This new season of Yowapeda says goodbye to Yusuke Makishima the "Peak Spider" who's served as inspiration to our bespectacled hero, as well as a mentor. He's graduating early to pursue college in England, a departure that would be more matter-of-fact were it not for the exaggerated way it's played out in this episode. As Makishima and Onoda share a last quiet chat on top of a mountain, the former tells his protégé quietly, "I'm always riding with you." I teared up, not because Makishima was leaving the show, but because the scene seriously felt like someone was dying. If that's the emotional reaction they wanted out of me, then congratulations.
But there's no time to waste, because a new year means a new Inter-High to work towards. And as defending champions, all pressure is on the Sohoku racing team. Already, it seems like we're in for another great season of tense racing and Yowapeda's own beautiful blend of character grandstanding. Everyone has come back bigger, faster, and stronger, all but Onoda, who has a fancy new bike, but is hit with the crippling realization that he hasn't grown as much in the off-season as the other riders. While his teammates have bulked up and come back with new strategies for victory, he feels left behind. His body language says it all, as he droops over his handlebars, struggling with the weight of his insecurities.
That last frame perfectly encapsulates one of the things that this series has always done exceptionally well, which is to tell its story through simple still frames. It's a trick that's indispensable for sports shows, which have to rely on the perception of movement and momentum to add drama to otherwise rote actions. And it certainly helps that it saves a lot of money, too. Yowapeda has always used these opportunities to great effect, creatively framing the characters while they're racing, or giving them cartoonish proportions. I'm glad to see that Yowapeda hasn't lost any magic in its time off. If this episode is even a taste of what we're in for, then it'll be a great season.
It's been too long since we said goodbye to the most revved-up, unabashedly joyful sports anime there is. And like no time at all has passed, Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation retains the infectious enthusiasm that made its predecessor so vibrant. Whether focusing on adorable Onoda, his mentor Makishima, or the much neglected “Team of Two,” Teshima and Aoyagi, as long as this show remains about the pure pleasure of cycling, it'll always be fun to watch.
After a long hiatus, we're starting up slowly, a little like warming up on the flats before climbing the mountain. A flustered Onoda and a surprisingly polite Imaizumi and Naruko attempt to explain the events of last season to Onoda's charmingly furious mother. We solemnly observe the changing of the guard, as the third-years become more irrelevant (don't worry, we'll see them again once they're in college) and Teshima takes up the captain's mantle. But even at this episode's most bittersweet moments, hope and opportunity are in the air. It's time for new bikes, new challenges, and new rivalries. The Sohoku members' childlike excitement at the chance of riding their bikes makes it seem as fresh as the first time, instead of the umpteenth.
Sure, it ends on a downer note for Onoda, but like the peaks and valleys of a road race track, established fans know this is just a set-up to inspire him to pursue an ever bigger win. It's predictable, and it's going to be an arc that takes longer than anything has a right to, but this is Yowamushi Pedal and it's going to keep our attention with pure grit and dedication. This is a show about getting over-the-top, comically over-exaggeratedly happy about bikes. Even a long break couldn't dull that drive.
Honestly, I was a little worried about Yowamushi Pedal New Generation. The third-year riders from Sohoku and Hakone were some of my favorite characters in past seasons, so the prospect of starting a new season without them brought some mixed feelings. Sure, Onoda and his buddies are fun, but could the show really hold up without a big chunk of its core cast? It'll take a while to fully answer that question, but at the moment things are looking up.
For one thing, it looks like the third-years will get a chance to say a proper farewell before fading into the background. Makishima in particular factors heavily into this first episode, and the inclusion of the guys in the opening and closing sequences suggests they'll be around for more than an episode or two. This also looks like more than a simple attempt at appeasing the fans; the third-years are put to good use in adding some emotional depth to this episode. There's a sense of melancholy as Makishima prepares to take one last ride up the hill, and his conversation with Onoda feels like it'll be significant throughout the season.
Many of the show's charms remain intact as well. The rivalry between Naruko and Imaizumi has evolved into an enjoyable source of mid-race banter, and the show has retained its ability to convey a sense of speed whenever the guys are on their bikes. It also looks like this new season will avoid the common pitfall of letting the protagonists get too strong for their own good; Onoda in particular continues to feel very human as he struggles to keep up with the rest of the group. We have yet to hear from any of the opposing teams, but there are enough cracks in Sohoku's armor to set up some exciting conflicts down the road.
Of course, one persistent flaw has followed the series into the new season: it still takes forever for this show to get anything done. At the moment, it looks like we're in for another long stretch of training before the guys get back into a proper race, so it'll probably take a while for Yowapeda to get going in earnest. For now, though, it's nice just to be back in the show's world again. I'm still not completely sold on the whole “New Generation” thing, but the transition appears to be going reasonably well so far.
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