Yowamushi Pedal New Generation
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 18 of
Yowamushi Pedal New Generation ?
It's here! After a bunch of setup, the Inter High has actually begun! Yowamushi Pedal, and by extension Yowamushi Pedal New Generation, centers around this one pivotal three-day race. It won't be over anytime soon, but the Inter High format, where each day is broken into three consecutive competitions—sprint winner, climb winner, and overall winner—gives the series a comfortably predictable pace to prevent it from regressing into stagnation. As the cyclists zip past the starting line, the plot returns to developing character arcs to keep the story fresh.
Manami and Onoda are busy kids indeed. It's the height of summer, and this is their first time interacting face-to-face since there was snow on the ground. Let's flash back to when Toudou, aggressively flamboyant as ever, tricked them into racing to inherit his “God of the Mountain” title, despite the extremely inclement weather. (Let's hope he at least treated them to his family's hot springs after that!) The most touching part of this flashback is how Toudou is training Manami and Onoda not so much to inherit his title, but to become the kind of rivals that he and Makishima were, even persuading them to exchange numbers so they can check up on each other between races (which explains how Manami was able to call Onoda later, when the team made a pit stop in Akihabara). From that perspective, Toudou's bombastic demeanor in this scene is an empty front for his loneliness, giving him unexpected new depths.
Back at the race, it's time for some weird anatomy! (I'd call it body horror, but it isn't frightening.) In the sport of cycling, Yowamushi Pedal has two directions it could have gone in—to make the bikes look flashier for anime, or to make the cyclists themselves larger than life—and it has clearly chosen to exaggerate the athletes' physical proportions. There's towering Doubashi, who threatens to mow down the ant-like cyclists before him, and there's the titular “swelling Aoyagi,” whose pseudo-scientific explanation for his ballooned torso is laughable at best. It's clear that Midousuji's Attack on Titan impression is just scratching the surface this season, and we haven't even seen Izumida's anthropomorphic pecs jump out of his shirt yet.
Finally, it's a return to seeing just how dumb Kaburagi can be. This previously dull character has really lent himself to comedic irony. We know he's a sprinter, the other characters know he's a sprinter, and still this stubborn kid refuses to recognize his own strengths. Like with Toudou in the flashback, Kaburagi's bluster is a front for something else: his uncertainty. The more people acknowledge Kaburagi's sprinting prowess, the more staunchly Kaburagi believes the opposite. It reminds me of that 2013 scientific study that found it's almost impossible to convince people they're wrong, because the more you point it out, the more they stick to their incorrect beliefs. In other words, Kaburagi is acting like a real person, which makes him endearing. Yowamushi Pedal is great at creating flawed characters, mainly because there's always a hidden logic behind their emotional choices, making them relatable even if they're four times the size of a regular person. Will a breakthrough on Kaburagi's part help him to challenge Doubashi for the green sprinter tag? After this abrupt, unsatisfying ending, we'll have to wait until next week.
Yowamushi Pedal New Generation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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