Story/Art: Wataru Watanabe
Translation: Caleb D. Cook
Lettering: Lys Blakeslee, Rachel J. Pierce
What They Say:
Challenged to an impromptu race where twenty meters decide the difference between winners and losers, Onoda and his hodgepodge “team” struggle to fend of Kureminami’s wild beast, Machimiya. The revenge-crazed sprinter is ready to claim victory—until a sudden attack from the sharp-tongued Arakita catches him off guard! Determined to carry Onoda and Manami back to the lead, Hakone’s devilish rider won’t stop pedaling just yet—not when Fukutomi’s orders remain unfulfilled!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The final of the showdown between Arakita, Onoda, and Manami against Machimiya’s Kureminami begins this volume, and it’s just a reminder to anime watchers how much the colloquially known “green team” was disliked.
I understand the function of them as something for Arakita and company to face off against on their way back to the lead pack, but I’m not quite satisfied with them the same way Watanabe used Midosuji when Onoda and Tadokoro were catching up to the lead pack on the second day. It’s wholly because there was this existent background with Midosuji that made the encounter mean more. Plus the insurmountable feeling of being the main peloton. These things made that race feel more substantial than Machimiya and Kureminami.
Machimiya himself is an alright character; I might even say good. His motivations and gimmick are original enough for the short race, but doesn’t do enough to hold attention because of how they lay on the backbone of current characters. He’s Arakita a few years ago, as Arakita points out. And those moments seem more to serve as a vehicle to tell Arakita’s story than to tell anything about Machimiya. That his main drive is against Hakone, the antagonist for Sohoku as well, makes it feel all the lesser. Sohoku is fighting against Hakone just as hard as Kureminami is. Where’s the reader’s motivation to dislike Machimiya for trying to get Hakone out of the race?
The whole thing with Kureminami doesn’t quite add up in the grand scheme of things, besides as something to fight against and of course seeing Arakita as a gangster who loves Bepsi, so it’s unfortunate that it feels so…not good in a manga that’s been largely excellent up until this point. It’s a definite low, but not something to turn me off completely.
Fortunately, only the first quarter of the book is finishing up the Kureminami stuff, and the rest is pure, unbridled racing between Sohoku and Hakone.
This is where the greatest part of Yowamushi Pedal starts, and where I watched each episode with great anticipation. And ended each episode with great anger that there wasn’t immediately more. This manga volume is the same.
Sports manga is always extremely dramatic. They have three years of either middle school or high school (rarely is there a manga that follows them through both middle and high school, or beyond high school—or at least there hasn’t been one recently enough for me to recency bias it into that last sentence), and then after that, they’re done. Their careers, as far as we know, are over. So they work as hard as they can to win the big one, the Koushien, the Winter Cup, the Inter High, so they can graduate without any regrets.
Kinjou, Tadokoro, and Makishima have been working toward that goal for three years, since they came together as first year high schoolers. This is all they want: a victory at the inter high race. Kinjou, the ace. Tadokoro, the sprinter, Makishima, the climber. All that stands between them and the finish line is Hakone.
Everyone must give their all for this final sprint, and people, on this last stage of the last day, will be left behind instead of saved as they have before. Arakita is already down, so is Izumida, and Shinkai. Tadokoro and Kinjou have fallen on Sohoku’s side.
Makishima is leading the first years up the mountain to catch up to Fukutomi, Toudou, and Manami. This will be the face off for the final stage.
This volume encapsulates what I love so much about Yowamushi Pedal. It is visceral in its deaths, and they are deaths. Some go elegantly, and some force their way past limits in order to push their team to the final stage. But through it all is bicycle racing, and the excitement that comes with trying hard to achieve the same goal. Hakone v. Sohoku, Kinjou v. Fukutomi. Onoda supporting everyone and pushing them toward their goal. This is sports manga at its finest.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 23, 2019