Yowamushi Pedal New Generation
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 23 of
Yowamushi Pedal New Generation ?
There's such a clear difference between “just okay” episodes of Yowamushi Pedal New Generation and amazing ones, and it all comes down to the presence of Onoda Sakamichi. With our sunny main character in the spotlight, suddenly this show has its center again. While a lot of the continuing repetition of the Inter High irks me, the way Onoda never changes is refreshing. It's a return to the plotline that gave the show its name, which translates to something like “Weakling Pedal”—the unlikely triumph of the little guy over everyone else.
Onoda's in last place. What's a guy to do? Sing the season two opening of Love Hime, his favorite anime, of course. Other cyclists hear him coming as he sings, and their horrified faces contrasted with Onoda's harmless demeanor make it funny. “Excuse me. I'm going to pass you now,” our little protagonist says politely in his race to the front. His new song is not as catchy as the old one, if only because it's new and I haven't wrapped my head around its melody yet. Its lyrics make about as little sense, though. I love seeing these glimpses of Onoda's favorite show, both through these lyrics and the footage in the post-credits scene, because it's just so inoffensive to the point of cliché. It gives us a glimpse of Onoda's pure heart to see what kind of innocent anime he watches in his free time. (And the fact that he's roped Imaizumi into being a fan is just the icing on the cake.)
It's all well and good until Onoda runs into a familiar if horrifying face. Midousuji isn't flat out trying to stop Onoda, but he's going to make him an offer he can't refuse. It actually sounds reasonable, and I'd almost think it was a good idea if it weren't for the ominous music playing in the background as Midousuji outlines his proposal: Onoda will work with the Kyoto Fushimi team to make it to the frontrunners at the mountain checkpoint. Since Onoda always gives people the benefit of the doubt, the explanation for why this sometimes-naive climber refused Midousuji is that his gut impulse said he should do it on his own. Onoda very much races on instinct; later, when Imaizumi tells him it'd be impossible for him to reach Teshima and still gives him the chance to try, Onoda doesn't even have to think about it. Onoda's genuine enthusiasm for cycling made me fall in love with Yowamushi Pedal in the first place, and it's great to see it again.
Back to Kyoto Fushimi, it's time to do some character development for Yama, a third-year sprinter who Midousuji mercilessly uses for his own ends. In a flashback, we find out that Yama allows this because Ishigaki asked him to be Midousuji's “conscience,” since even his allies realize Midousuji doesn't naturally have one. This was pretty cruel of Ishigaki, if you ask me, to ask anybody to play nice with a guy who only cares about himself. I'm familiar with Yama through fan art, and it seems like he eventually becomes somebody fans really love, but right now he just seems like a big pushover. His most meritorious trait is admiring Onoda for being able to stand up to the one guy he can't stand.
Both Onoda and Yama have the quintessential role of the one good guy up against the world, so it's no wonder they get along when they meet. Still, Onoda's quest is far more laudable than Yama's impossible task to get Midousuji to behave. I'll give Yama a few more weeks to win me over (a la Kaburagi), but for now, Onoda is carrying this show on his own.
Yowamushi Pedal New Generation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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