Yowamushi Pedal New Generation
Episode 16

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 16 of
Yowamushi Pedal New Generation ?

In a conflict between any two characters in Yowamushi Pedal New Generation, who really has the upper hand? As usual, this episode found its energy in allowing its characters' bombastic personalities to repeatedly collide. But what especially interested me this week was the way the balance of power shifted in odd and unexpected ways. Tensions are running understandably high in the hours before the Inter High begins, but when it comes to who's on top, looks can be deceiving. In these scant moments before our boys battle it out on the road, they're already scoping out the rivals they'll be racing against later.

The first power shift occurs when Sohoku Cycling Club, last year's undisputed Inter High winner, parks at the race site only to be immediately overshadowed by Hakone Gakuen—literally, their bus is ginormous! Even though Sohoku won last year, their rivals and even the press still see it as a lucky coincidence. After all, Onoda only beat Manami by a second at most. It's an interesting way to keep us rooting for Sohoku and convey that they're still the underdogs. Onoda's still an unlikely champion to cheer for, even if he is actually a champion. In contrast to our goggle-eyed protagonist, there's a whole host of superstars on the Hakogaku team, and that's even leaving out Yuuto, who debuts next week.

Sohoku may not be in the best standing, but that doesn't faze Naruko when he goes behind enemy lines to challenge Midousuji to a race. Excepting Komari, there has never been a more miserable team than Kyoto Fushimi under Midousuji's ruthless reign. The animation team has been having some fun making Midou as horrifying as possible, and they've done a great job upping the ante every week. This time around, Midousuji is literally larger than life, at least four times the size of Naruko, who's already short of stature. Despite that eerie purple glow, the steaming Titan breath, and ghoulish staring eyes, it's not Midousuji who holds the power in this exchange. Naruko is seemingly unaffected by any intimidation tactic Midou throws his way. While Kyofushi cowers, Naruko is his same flashy self. In fact, he's a little too confident—he could learn from Midousuji's school of psychological warfare and just not tell his rival that he's an all-rounder now. But Naruko's too earnest to hide even that!

Then there's the clash between Kaburagi, who I like more every week, and Doubashi, who looks like an angry Toriko. First off, that's a dick move to confine yourself in a toilet stall you're not even using—think of all the cyclists who have to take nervous poops right now! (This reminds me of Hinata in Haikyuu!!, who suffered from the same affliction.) For all their size difference, I'd think that Kaburagi has the upper hand in this dispute. Sohoku is last year's winner, after all, and Kaburagi has the enormity of his hero-worship for Onoda to rely on. Instead, it's Onoda who receives Doubashi's ire, and it turns out to be a much weaker point than I imagined. Kaburagi is exactly the kind of impulsive guy who would propel himself forward—from Inter High to applying to Sohoku and never looking back—without ever stopping to think. So when Doubashi starts to poke holes in the narrative Kaburagi has made for himself, no matter how far it is from reality, it still works! It's a psychological attack that wouldn't work on anyone else, since they've all been around longer and are confident in Onoda's ability. But once again, this power shift is about the way that looks can be deceiving. Who would you assume is stronger—big brawny Doubashi, or stuttering stage-frightened Onoda? Even though we know the truth, it's easy to see how Kaburagi could have his doubts.

Overall, this is a fascinating episode of Yowamushi Pedal New Generation that really uses each character's unique personality to build up and topple expectations. These conflicts are only possible because of these characters' dynamics, which have been tirelessly established over countless episodes. It's a reminder that even after our protagonists won a major race, nobody's really in the clear.

Rating: A

Yowamushi Pedal New Generation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.


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