Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road
by Lauren Orsini,
A sports injury is a devastating occurrence in any athlete's life. No matter how carefully you train, nobody is ever immune. That's why they're regular fodder in sports anime for an instant injection of drama and unpredictability during a high-pressure event. From Teppei's knee in Kuroko's Basketball to Sousuke's shoulder in Free! Eternal Summer, even a sloppily foreshadowed but potentially career-ending sports injury can seriously shake things up.
Honestly, I'm impressed that Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road restrained itself from this storyline until episode 52. This episode dealt with the aftermath of Sohoku Ace Kinjou's knee injury, and how his pain affected the team and its rivals.
As far as foreshadowing goes, Yowapeda dealt with Kinjou's injury well. We've known something was up since episode four, when Kinjou had Teshima stretch out his leg and told the third years he was ready to ride on the final day of the Interhigh but “perhaps not as the ace.” The sports injury arc may be a tired trope, but at least here it doesn't feel like a quick and dirty way to increase tension—this was a careful decision that's been brewing for a while.
Also, the fact that Sohoku's ace is dropping out means that the scrappy first-years are going to have to find a way to win this race using sheer determination instead of experience. Everyone loves to root for an underdog, but it couldn't always be said that Sohoku, with its three senior members and constant near-first finishes, was really an underdog. Now that a win is resting solely on the tiny first-years' shoulders, that has changed.
I think we're seeing a shift from Onoda's role as team mascot to team center. At the beginning of Yowapeda, Onoda was the viewer avatar, asking the questions we'd like to ask about road racing. In the middle, Onoda's Manic Pixie Dream Boy personality cheered everyone up. Now, Onoda is somebody to be relied on for his enthusiasm and skill, not only somebody whom Kinjou mentors but somebody who can assist Kinjou in times of need as well.
Meanwhile in Bike Heaven, we visited with two of our “dead” cyclists (so much drama surrounds each cyclist's departure from the race that it might as well be a eulogy). One of the best things Yowamushi Pedal does is mash together characters with contrasting personalities and see what happens. (The ending sketch is a good example of outside reactions to the Hakone team's differing personalities.) Remember Arakita and Onoda? Now, Shinkai and Tadokoro have a conversation together onscreen for the first time. Having been rival sprinters for three years now, it makes sense that the two would be on a first-name basis. Their conversation is a microcosm of the difference between Hakogaku and Sohoku—a team that thrives on a plan versus one that has mastered irregularities. It seems obvious which of these skills would assist more in a road race.
I think this is the first time we've seen Sugimoto or Mr. Pierre since episode three. As usual, the auxiliary team members and spectators were used to add exposition. These spectators are extremely informed—they know who's a first-year, who's a sprinter, and so on. We close the episode on Naruko, who will almost certainly be the focus next week. After all, with so many cyclists “dying” each episode, we're running out of characters to explore.
For an episode that dealt with such a tired plotline, this week's Yowapeda retained its tension. Despite what the Hakogaku characters may believe, this race is far from over.
Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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