Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road
by Lauren Orsini,
Sports anime junkies everywhere have been waiting since July for a hit of this climber's high. Now we're on season two of the sports anime with plenty of heart, friendship, and suspenseful two-kilometer race legs that drag on, Dragon Ball Z-like, for episodes at a time.
Originally starring Onoda Sakamichi, an otaku who uses his vigorous pedaling power to bike to Akihabara in record time, Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road—also known as Yowapeda for short—has expanded to include an enormous cast of characters, all of whom look and act so diversely that they almost appear to have been developed by different character designers. At the moment, Onoda is nowhere in sight. We're focusing on the three main school's aces—Kinjou, Fukutomi, and Midousuji—as they race to the finish line ahead of the others.
Yowapeda departed in July on a major cliffhanger that was only just resolved. This anime is nothing if not consistent, sticking to a slow, steady pace that pauses frequently to reveal a deeper meaning behind every slight action of its heroes. When Imaizumi hits the brakes a little too quickly on a downhill climb, Yowapeda's sympathetic audience realizes he is battling internal feelings of inferiority, discussed in a lengthy flashback moments ago. When sprinter Tadokoro relieves Makishima on a mountain climb despite it not being his speciality, viewers attribute this to the two's powerful friendship. (Or romantic relationship, depending on the viewer. I'd be remiss not to mention Yowapeda's enormous slash pairing potential.)
The first three episodes dealt with the final few kilometers of the second day of the Interhigh. While the anime explains this as a three-day cycling race for high schoolers, it actually makes up a significant chunk of the show—our protagonists arrived at the Interhigh in episode 22, and we're on episode 51 now with no end in sight. Longtime viewers know it could be months until we actually reach the Day Three finish line. On our journey there, however, we're not going to have time to watch the scenery. Every meter will be filled with resolute protagonists, strengthening friendships, and character backstories come to light.
Episode three marked one of the major reveals of the Yowapeda canon, purporting to reveal why spaghetti-limbed Lizardman Midousuji Akira is such a relentless tool. Midousuji's theatrical style of antagonizing everyone around him is so comically flamboyant that he's become almost like the show's freak mascot. In character popularity polls, he consistently ranks in the top ten despite his bad behavior.
Some of Midousuji's “antics” include telling a competitor his mother died in the middle of a race to slow him down, telling his teammate he was “counting on him” just to get him out of the way, and generally cycling like a weirdo. Midousuji's unusually tall and gangly build, combined with his 500 watt smile and round, dead eyes, have made some viewers compare him to the eponymous monsters from Attack on Titan.
Midousuji is so ruthless, so completely out of line, that no backstory could possibly excuse him, but that is exactly what the latest episode, “Akira,” attempts to do, by giving us a glimpse into Midousuji's vulnerable childhood. Honestly, I felt only schadenfreude as I watched the other kids bully Midousuji. It's hard to feel bad for somebody who grew up to become a much bigger bully himself. But if “Akira” did not make its title character more sympathetic, it did succinctly and reasonably explain the many factors that turned Midousuji into the headcase he is today.
As Midousuji barrels toward some sort of character redemption, Yowapeda is ripe for a new antagonist to take the handlebars. I've got high hopes for Machimiya, the hyena-looking fellow whom we've so far only seen in glimpses during the second season OP and ED. Machimiya will be voiced by Tomokazu Seki, by far the most famous talent the show has featured to date, indicating that as Yowapeda grows more popular, production values will only go up.
Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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