The episode opens with Sohoku working to catch up with Hakone Academy, and we see Aoyagi go in the front to pull the team. As he pushes himself to his limit, Kaburagi begins crying and doesn’t understand why. The upperclassmen have already figured out that Aoyagi is going to be dropping out of the race once the team catches up with Hakone Academy. When they say this to Kaburagi, he doesn’t want to believe it. But Teshima and the others use this as a teaching moment, and as we see later in the episode, Kaburagi learns something from this moment.
And right on cue, as soon as Sohoku catches up with Hakone Academy, Aoyagi falls back. We get to see Aoyagi as he falls off his bike and the thoughts he has about what led up to this moment. This brings about an end to the focus on Aoyagi, which was an important part of the previous episode. I knew that at some point Aoyagi was going to be dropping out because of how he had injured his knee during the previous day of the Inter-High, and the way the opening scene was being portrayed was foreshadowing this would happen before Kaburagi started to unexpectedly shed tears. As he ruminates, Aoyagi rightly comments that he’s surprised he got as far as he did with that injury. I’d been kind of feeling that way for the past couple of episodes, so it was nice to hear Aoyagi voicing this thought.
When we return to the race, Izumida sends Doubashi to the front in order to pull Hakone Academy. Kaburagi is pulling Sohoku, and the rivalry that had built up between Doubashi and Kaburagi during the Inter-High comes to play here. But this rivalry leads to an important character moment for Kaburagi when the two teams head from the sprint checkpoint to compete for the final colored number tag for the sprints. Kaburagi, who was all about winning for himself when he was first introduced two seasons ago, shows major growth here when he refuses to attack for that colored number tag. He finally seems to have figured out the concept of working together with a team.
After the sprint checkpoint, Kaburagi says it’s going to be a race to the start of the mountains. Izumida instructs Doubashi to go faster, and Kaburagi decides to use the last of the energy he has in order to catch up to Hakone Academy and to beat Doubashi to the mountain line. As the other members of Sohoku’s team figure this out, we get an emotional scene from Onoda. With some prodding from Teshima, Onoda realizes what he needs to do… and what he does seems to give Kaburagi the last push he needs in order to go ahead with his plan.
At this point, it seems pretty obvious that Kaburagi will be dropping out of the race once the two teams reach the mountains, but I’m curious to see how exactly this is going to be portrayed. It’s kind of bittersweet, though, since Kaburagi has finally figured out how to work with a team, and he’s going to be dropping out of the race just as he’s finally pieced this idea together. The character growth that Kaburagi has gone through since his introduction has been great, and I’ve finally gotten to a point where I no longer find him to be the loud and annoying brat that I kept seeing him as in the previous two seasons he’d appeared in. But he does show some promise for the team going forward, and will possibly evolve into an upperclassman that future first years can look up to.
Unfortunately, there won’t be an episode of Yowamushi Pedal: Limit Break airing next week, so I have to wait an extra week in order to see how the third day of the Inter-High is going to continue.
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