The finish line of the Welcoming Race!
What They Say:
Onoda Sakamichi is a rather timid, anime-loving first-year student at Sohoku High School. Upon entering high school, he tried to join the anime research club, but after meeting Imaizumi Shunsuke, a renowned cyclist since middle school, and Naruko Shoukichi, who swept the Kansai cycling championship, he ended up joining the competitive cycling club.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the things I keep coming back to about this show, is its a shonin show that grounds itself (relatively) in realism. There are epic scenes of bikes flying down the street, sparks when gears shift, and sweat pouring off the characters. You know in Dragon Ball Z when a character powers up, and they get those awesome glow lines around them? That happens in this episode too, though obviously in a bit of a different way.
Imaizumi and Onoda push themselves to the brink to make it to the top of the mountain first, and by the narrowest of margins, Onoda wins and earns the title King of the Mountain! We even get a touching and bit severe rephrase of the Hime, Hime song that he sung in his first encounter with Imaizumi. But, being somewhat realistic, even our lovable and charming hero only has so much strength and stamina in his body. The race to the top marks the end of Onoda, and he passes out on his bicycle, sliding into the grass on the side of the road. The rest of the team make sure he’s ok, and the coach of the team (that strange foreigner from the last episode) awards Onoda the special jersey for making it to the top of the mountain first. After apologizing profusely for damaging the loaner bike he was given, Onoda gets in the Recovery Van to watch Naruko and Imaizumi finish out the race.
Onoda not finishing the race may seem a bit depressing, but the way it plays out is far, far from that. He’s only human, and has only a limited amount of experience and training to race bicycles. Naruko shared with him the basics of “dancing” (that’s where you stand up on your pedals to put more energy into turning them) and that is how he’s able to beat Imaizumi to the top, but the final burst of energy finishes him off. The senior members of the team and the coach recognize how strong Onoda is as a member of their team though, and Miki notes, it’s not because of the bike he got, or some latent potential that got him to reach the peak first – it was his emotions, his feelings, his dreams, that got him there. Onoda remarks that even though it was hard, “I had fun today.” That idea, of having fun, is something a lot of sports anime tend to lose. There’s the focus on teamwork, on winning, on giving it your all, but at their heart, sports are about having fun, and Onoda didn’t lose that in his epic battle up the mountain to best Imaizumi.
The race concludes in a bit of an underwhelming fashion. The van is following Naruko and Imaizumi as they push themselves to their final limits for a few brief seconds, and Imaizumi emerges the winner by a small margin. Both he and Naruko are then sprawled out on the ground, panting heavily, their 60-kilometer Welcoming Race complete. Onoda ends the episode with steely resolve to become better, to race at full power, and to ride with his friends.
There is a lot to be said for how this show chooses to play out its dramatic moments. In a lot of other shows, the hero always wins, no matter what, despite all odds, and its usually on the back of nothing but sheer tenacity and force of will. That’s not the case with Yowapeda. Onoda certainly has a lot of potential to be an excellent racer, but its finally put out there by the bicycle team that Onoda is at his heart a climber, and that is where his true strength lies. He doesn’t have the endurance training of the other racers, so putting his all into beating Imaizumi has the natural result of his not being able to continue the race, much like the Captain predicted earlier.
If not done well, this might be a real depressing turn of events for our hero, and the audience. But the team picks him up, cheers him on for his hard work, and are as amazed as we are that he did what he did. But he’s only human. He can only do so much. And everyone seems to realize that, even if secretly they all wish he’d get back on the bike and win the whole race himself. They recognize his limits, and where upon their initial introduction they are cold and distant characters, the senior members of the team really show some emotions and character over these last few episodes – going from thinking that Onoda will not finish, that he did well to get as far as he did, to cheering him on to win the race to the top.
This show continues to improve in quality as the season goes on, and I think it earns a high mark in particular for how it uses its now familiar music to create excitement, joy, and tension along with incredibly gorgeous animation. It’s clear that even though he didn’t finish the race, Onoda is part of the team, as are Naruko and Imaizumi. Just a few episodes ago, Onoda was just curious, and determined, to see how well he could do. He wanted to race with his friends, and to enjoy the same things they did. He has discovered his love of bicycles, and is proud of himself for what he did – not discouraged because he’s not inhuman or somehow so strong as to best people who have years of experience and training on him. That growth, and understanding, is really a strong point of this show. Even if the characters are sometimes ridiculous, their actions and reactions to what happens in the world around them always feel so genuine.
I can’t wait to see what awesome and crazy characters are part of other schools racing teams, and the coach for the team is absolutely hilarious almost every time he’s on screen. The cast for Yowapeda has expanded now, and so far, the characters are all very strong, leaving high hopes that the trend will continue further into the series.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Intel Alienware laptop, Windows 7, 25” HP2509m screen at 1920×1080 resolution