Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road
by Lauren Orsini,
The time has come to answer one of Yowamushi Pedal's greatest remaining questions: what events led to Machimiya Eikichi becoming such a tool? This episode of Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road gave us Machimiya's disappointing backstory, but also a far more rewarding portrait of intertwining sympathetic rivalries between opponents.
Once again, a contrast with Yowapeda's former Big Bad Midousuji is in order. Midousuji was cruel, cunning, and manipulative in his race to the finish line, and it took one heck of a tragic backstory to convince viewers to see his side of the story, involving no less than a dead mother, relentless bullying, and a broken tooth. We're led to believe that Machimiya is way worse than Midousuji ever was, with his bad touches and the fact that cheerful Onoda—who even sees the good in Midou—has reason to hate him.
It's going to take an even more tragic backstory to redeem Machimiya, and perhaps it's for the best that we didn't get one. Instead, we discover that Machimiya's resentment stems from a small slight with Fukutomi at last year's Interhigh. I won't give it away, but think of it like this: after Makishima got a flat tire during his race with Toudou, what if he devoted his life to ruining Toudou because of the unfortunate accident that wasn't Toudou's fault? Machimiya is blaming other people for his past failures, whether they deserve it or not, and using them to justify his bad deeds in the present.
If there wasn't enough going against Machimiya already, there's also his body horror transformation this episode. In Yowamushi Pedal, a lolling tongue appears to be the international sign of Going All Out!!. Remember Midousuji's lizard tongue, and Shinkai's demon evolution? This time, Machimiya became the Fighting Dog of Kure, tongue wagging and shoulder blades jutting out grotesquely. Animal imagery is a running trope in Yowamushi Pedal, but it doesn't always make sense. For instance, Machimiya proudly calls himself a fighting dog, but disdains Arakita as a “domesticated wolf.” Any reasonable viewer would say to herself, “Wait, isn't a domesticated wolf… a dog?”
It's not just in totem animal choice that Machimiya closely resembles his opponents. If their roles had been reversed, Machimiya would have totally left Fukutomi behind (and then, presumably, pulled Kinjou off his bike since that's what we know Fukutomi does then). Machimiya arranges an uneasy alliance with Midousuji, but the two are equally crafty. Machimiya knows he can't trust Midousuji any more than the latter cares to trust him. Perhaps Machimiya's closest double isn't his rival or his ally. Perhaps it's a man he acknowledged two episodes ago—Arakita.
This episode positions Arakita and Machimiya as doubles, which makes more sense when you realize that last episode, titled “Arakita,” contained the whole of Arakita's delinquent past in the original manga, along with the way Fukutomi compelled him to forget about old misfortunes and look straight ahead at the view past his handlebars. Since then, Arakita has been a chaotic character, crude and prone to bad behavior but generally likable. It's interesting that both Arakita and Machimiya had interactions with the same person, Fukutomi, that shaped their entire personalities—one turned his life around while the other vowed villainous revenge. For this reason, Arakita understands where Machimiya is coming from and this insight may be the key to Machimiya's redemption.
If this episode was meant to justify Machimiya's actions, it didn't succeed. However, through the mirror of Arakita, it created a situation in which we can understand him perfectly.
Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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