Anime Spotlight: Yowamushi Pedal

Yowamushi Pedal is an anime based on a manga series written and illustrated by Wataru Watanabe. The anime is produced by TMS Entertainment, and is directed by Osamu Nabeshima. The series aired on Japanese television from October 7, 2013-July 1, 2014.

As of this writing, Crunchyroll holds the North American streaming rights for Yowamushi Pedal.

The main character of Yowamushi Pedal is Sakamichi Onoda, a first year student at Sohoku High School. He is an otaku and is looking forward to joining the anime club; this is due to the fact that in middle school, he had no one to talk with about his anime interests.

Sakamichi rides a mamachari, which is a bulky bicycle with a step-through frame that’s mainly used for short rides. He rides his bike to his first day of high school, and he decides to take the rear entrance because he believes fewer people will be using that entrance. He turns on his portable music player and begins singing; unfortunately, he’s accidentally run off of the road by a car. Sakamichi isn’t hurt, and the driver of the car hands him a card and says to call if he finds he needs anything. The driver is driving a male student named Shunsuke to school. Shunsuke notices the skill Sakamichi has riding his bike; however, the male student laments that he’s riding a “mommy” bike and not a 10-gear road racer.

When Sakamichi goes to the anime club room, he finds a sign on the door that reads, “Due to lack of members, the anime and manga club’s activities have been suspended. If you would like to reopen the club, please gather at least five members and contact the adviser.” Sakamichi becomes very upset at this turn of events and begins throwing a bit of a tantrum in front of the door. Two girls approach and notice the anime club room. When Sakamichi notices them, he rushes over and asks if they’re joining the anime club. They say no; Aya is joining the tennis club, while Miki is joining the bicycle racing club. After Sakamichi realizes they’re not joining the anime club, he excuses himself and says he’s going to be riding to Akihabara on his bike.

Shunsuke goes to practice riding on his road racer, he finds Sakamichi next to him. They’re at the top of the rear gate slope, which is a super slope with an incline of over 20%. Sakamichi keeps trying to convince Sakamichi not to go this way, but he won’t listen. They both go down the hill, and Sakamichi ends up biting it and falling to the ground. When Shunsuke goes to check on him, Sakamichi says that if he rides his bike, he can go to Akihabara for free; by saving money, he can buy five extra capsule toys. Shunsuke just leaves Sakamichi there to head on his way. Later, when Shunsuke resumes his training, he sees a rider up ahead and assumes it’s a second or third year from the bicycle racing club; he’s surprised to find it’s Sakamichi. Sakamichi, who has been singing along with his music, is embarrassed when he finds Shunsuke next to him.

Later, Shunsuke challenges Sakamichi to a bicycle race on the rear gate slope. During the race, Sakamichi gets help from Miki on adjusting the height of his seat; Sakamichi finds he can pedal faster now. Shunsuke also discovers that Sakamichi uses cadence when he’s pedaling. Shunsuke ultimately wins the race; however, he asks Sakamichi to join the bicycle racing club.

Sakamichi finally decides to join the club after meeting Naruko in Akihabara and they become friends after they get involved in an adventure on their bikes. The other members of Sohoku’s team include Kinjou (the captain), Tadokoro, Makishima, Teshima, and Aoyagi. Another first-year, Sugimoto, also joins the club.

The series sees the Sohoku team going to a training camp. It’s here that Kinjou ultimately decides who will be going to represent the team at the Inter-High race. The majority of the second half of the series focuses on the Inter-High race, which spans the course of three days. At the end of the series, the racers are close to the finish line for the second day of the race.

There are two other teams that are major players in the series and in the Inter-High: the previous year’s champion Hakone Academy and Kyoto Fushimi. The third-years at Sohoku know some of the racers at Hakone, and Shunsuke has a grudge against Midousuji, a member of the Kyoto Fushimi team.

After watching the first episode, I thought I could see some potential in the series. Even though I’m not a fan of cycling, I found myself getting hooked on Yowamushi Pedal the more I watched of it. I especially found myself being riveted to the action that takes place during the racing scenes.

I also liked how the characters developed over the course of the series. The main focus of the first half was on developing the members of the Sohoku team, with occasional development on members of the other two teams. However, the development for the other two teams tended to take place during the Inter-High race.

The pacing for Yowamushi Pedal is pretty typical for a shonen sports anime. While I felt that some of the early races were stretched out, I got used to the pacing and it didn’t bother me nearly as much with subsequent races. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed when I saw that the final episode of the season ended before the winner of the second day of the Inter-High was determined. When I realized that the episode was ending at that point, I said out loud to my computer screen, “Oh, you did NOT just do that!”  Fortunately, there will be another season of the anime in Fall 2014, so the answer to that question should be answered early on in the next season.

While Yowamushi Pedal is a sports anime, it’s a compelling story with well-developed characters that have a lot of heart. I’m a little disappointed that the series has not been picked up by a North American anime distributor, because I would love to be able to add Yowamushi Pedal to my anime home video collection. Hopefully that will be rectified at some point.

I’m also looking forward to watching the second season of the series when it launches in Fall 2014.

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