Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road
by Lauren Orsini,
“In a battle of strength, do you know who wins?” Imaizumi asks Fukutomi, as the two of them go head to head toward the final finish line. “The strongest.”
This piece of dialogue, painfully obtuse even by Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road standards, could only belong in this episode, which saw the reserved Imaizumi unleash a new level of intensity. Now focused on victory to the point of narrow-mindedness, this episode explains away his surprising personality twist with a focus on his past.
Imaizumi was an odd kid, uninterested in people or things of any kind, until he found road racing of course. This isn't the first time we've met elementary-school-age Imaizumi, complete with his misspelled “Bad Boy” shirt, but it's the longest we've focused on his past. Previously, glimpses into Imaizumi's past were short and jarring, depicting him as an angry, antisocial cyclist in contrast to the calm and professional rider he is now. This episode's longer flashback showed that Imaizumi was less mean than misunderstood.
To Imaizumi, first place is about solitude, leaving all the distracting sights and smells and sounds of the world behind until he achieves total Zen-like calm. He's told Miki before that "first place is the quietest," but this episode showed his feelings more clearly. When Imaizumi is riding in the front, it's as if a protective bubble surrounds him from the rest of the world, and the show depicts this visually with an ensconcing glow around the cyclist.
This glow is symbolic in another way too, depicting Imaizumi's divergent thought process from other cyclists and even his teammates. Makishima explains to Toudou with pride that even he had no idea what Imaizumi's next move was going to be. There's a recommended style for training, for racing, and a time and place to execute different phases on the road to victory. Imaizumi, a first-year, knows very little of how the InterHigh ought to be won, and this makes him unpredictable. As a result, he's able to pull one over on the far more experienced Fukutomi, using his own greenness to his advantage. Over the past two days, Imaizumi has disparaged his inexperience when confronted with battles against third-years like Arakita, but now a new confidence has bloomed. “Riding at the front,” he says, “I am stronger than anyone else.”
This episode told a complete story, but at the same time it depicted Imaizumi as more socially tone deaf than usual. He's ordinarily considerate when it comes to Onoda and his other teammates' feelings, but this episode had Imaizumi going off on his own without consulting anyone. He's more in touch with the angry kid he used to be, not the thoughtful person he's become by riding with the team. The race is heating up more than ever, but Imaizumi had to lose a little bit of his humanity for that to happen.
Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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