Yowamushi Pedal New Generation
Episode 21

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 21 of
Yowamushi Pedal New Generation ?

Yowamushi Pedal New Generation has introduced new faces and new roles, but there's only so much that can change about a yearly cycling race. The Inter High always has three checkpoints—a sprint, a mountain summit, and a finish line. There's always the threat of being swallowed up by the “pack,” the densest group of racers at any time. I felt that repetition strongly this week, as Hakogaku and Sohoku rekindled their rivalry and Onoda fell into the same sort of conundrum as he did on the first day last year. It wasn't all the same old, same old, but there was enough reiteration to stagger the Inter High's already plodding pace.

No, Kaburagi didn't win, and we got to relive that failure just in case you forgot. In retrospect it makes perfect sense—Doubashi has been training as a sprinter for years, while Kaburagi is somehow still in denial that he even is a sprinter. In the aftermath, he receives the most dramatic and emotional high fives possible from Danchiku, Sugimoto, and Koga. Later, he gets nothing but nagging from Imaizumi and Naruko, so what gives? There's something that unites Kaburagi with his three sideline supporters, and it's that they all “know the pain of losing,” as Aoyagi puts it. Kaburagi then chides himself for not realizing how many people's hopes were riding on his chance at victory. Remember during the Inter High qualifier when Kaburagi defiantly clarified that he doesn't race for the team, he races simply to win? This is what character development looks like. Kaburagi is an idiot and an unlikely first-year interloper onto Team Sohoku, but he's the best part of Yowamushi Pedal New Generation not only because of how far he's come so far, but how much potential for growth he still has ahead of him.

After Kaburagi's always-charming moment of discovery, it's back to old habits for Sohoku and Hakogaku. Remember when Sohoku won last year's sprint checkpoint, and the team cycled to the front of the pack with no objection from Hakogaku? The same thing happens this year, only in reverse. Last year, each team was led by a similarly stoic captain. This time around, there's a lot more snippy back-and-forth between two sassy new captains, Izumida and Teshima. I'm really loving their bizarrely exaggerated trash talk about cooking spicy Mediterranean food. And Teshima is going to need some ointment for Izumida's sick burn—“Why did your spicy team send two sprinters against our Doubashi and lose?” There's certainly a new dynamic at play, but aside from this colorful language, it's the same two teams in the same rivalry.

Speaking of repetition, things aren't looking good for our favorite nerd, Onoda. Once again, he's been separated from his team—and other cyclists aren't about to let this kid wearing the number-one tag escape. Onoda warns them that it's dangerous to cycle too close, and he knows this from experience. Last year, on Day One, he was involved in a crash in the pack and ended up in last place. The story from there became one of Onoda struggling to catch up again, singing “Hime Hime” all the while. Not that I'd mind a reprise of Onoda's cheerful song, but doesn't this feel a bit tired? How is Onoda supposed to grow if he's just overcoming the same obstacle again? I don't expect the race itself to be different this year, but I expect the character development to make it interesting and fun, the way Kaburagi's loss led to a breakthrough. I want more for Onoda than the same thing year after year.

Rating: B-

Yowamushi Pedal New Generation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.

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