The episode backtracks a little bit to a scene near the end of the previous episode, when Naruko declares that he’s going to pull Imaizumi and Onoda to catch up with Midousuji… and Imaizumi and Onoda realizing that Naruko is nearing his limit.

During the first half of the episode, we see Naruko working at trying to close the gap. As they get closer to Midousuji, we see Naruko start throwing things off his bike to make it lighter to help him go a little faster. At first, he’s tossing water bottles (including one that still had water in it). And then, he takes off the saddle of his bike and tosses it aside, with Naruko declaring that he no longer needs it because he just needs to do some dancing to catch up with Midousuji. Midousuji’s thoughts remind us that Naruko had done the same thing when the two of them had their unofficial race back in Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation, and Midousuji also thinks this is Naruko’s way of trying to make up for his defeat back in that unofficial race.

Right at first, as Naruko is catching up, Midousuji looks a little worried. But then he realizes that while Naruko’s mind and spirit want to move forward, his body is likely about to call it quits. And at that moment, it seems like Naruko has done all he can. But Imaizumi surprised Naruko, Onoda, and the audience by riding up to Naruko to support him. At first, it sounds like Imaizumi is saying some cold things to Naruko, but Onoda realizes that he’s trying to give Naruko encouragement… which is something Imaizumi has never done before. It’s even more surprising when Naruko thanks Imaizumi, because he’s never done that before, either. Onoda realizes how much the three of them are changing, and he finds the strength he needs to support Naruko as well.

Thanks to the support from both Imaizumi and Onoda, Naruko finds one last push of energy for the three of them to catch up to Midousuji. But when they do, Naruko’s dialogue makes it clear that he can no longer see what’s around him. Imaizumi and Onoda have to let Naruko fall back and leave the race, but Imaizumi doesn’t let this bother him for long. Imaizumi directly challenges Midousuji, and the interactions between these two truly show how much Imazumi has evolved as a racer, and how Midousuji really hasn’t. Right near the end of the episode, Midousuji accepts Imaizumi’s challenge, and it looks like this will be the focus of Episode 17.

The intensity of the final day of the Inter-High continues to build, especially now that the focus is on the riders at the front. As I said last week, with these two weeks of double episodes, the increase in the intensity likely feels stronger than it would have otherwise. At least this is the final week where two episodes of the series will be airing, so after Episode 17, the feel of the pacing should be back to where it was intended to be at this point in the series.

Additional posts about Yowamushi Pedal: