I regret having down-played how much I loved this series while it was airing. This show is funny, yet sentimental. It contains elements of sports and the science behind it, along with a humorous look at horrifying events. It made me laugh until it hurt and made me flood tears. Every last character is handled with justifiable treatment, even if we know they turn out to be terrible people in the end.
It is easily one of the most inspiring anime series of this decade.
This anime review comprises the entire animated series of Yowamushi Pedal. That includes the first three seasons of the original series and the two concluding seasons of Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road. If you don’t know my review style, I shall warn you now: there will be SPOILERS! I’ll try to cover as much as I can about my thoughts, but I can’t explain everything!
Yowamushi Pedal introduces us to Sakamichi Onoda, your average otaku with glasses and a “mommy-bike,” always singing along to his favorite anime theme song. He is a first-year at Sohoku High, and dreams of establishing an Anime Club on campus, just as he did when he was in middle school. But unfortunately, the other students don’t share his same passion and fails to open the club of his dreams.
Onoda has already failed to get the one thing he wanted by the first episode, but his opinion of high school life is about to change.
He may not have created the Anime Club, but Onoda decides to join Shunsuke Imaizumi in the Bicycle Racing Club instead, and for one of the simplest reasons: he wants to make friends. Onoda may be a huge anime fan, biking his way to Akihabara and back over a long, hilly road, but he’s also quite the extravert. Onoda loves being around people who have similar interests with him, and he feels a certain sense of kinship with these competitive guys because they also love biking.
But little does Onoda know, that Sohoku’s Bicycle Racing Club is a very competitive sports club, and they have one very ambitious goal. You guessed it: to become the champions of the National Interhigh Tournament!
Sohoku’s third-years Kinjo, Tadokoro, and Makishima all want revenge after the unfortunate accident that happened to their team in the previous year’s Interhigh, and they’re not going to let the perennial champions of Hakone Academy, who practically host the event, intimidate them!
Like many other sports series, Yowamushi Pedal describes in detail some of the technical aspects of racing, such as the purposes of gear shifts, or favoring different styles of racing, whether it is sprinting on straightaways, mountain climbing which puts strain on uphill climbers, or all-around racers who are most likely to cross the finish line first. The physics behind some of the series is a little questionable, such as how much wind resistance a racer actually gets when tailing another racer, or the impossibility of just about any of Midousuji’s techniques, but it does stay true to some of the biological factors. Shaky knees can be a problem for newbies if they don’t properly cool down after a race, and high protein bars can help maintain stamina on long rides.
And of course, if there is any other secret to the success of an athlete, it’s reviewing old plays of your selves and your opponents.
Yowamushi Pedal can be serious at times, but the heart of the series is relating to the personal side of each character. The name of the series literally translates to “Weak Pedals,” so of course we know that there is more involved in this sports anime than just raw technique.
Flash backs to explain some characters’ motivations can be annoying, but they provide some insight to each person involved in the drama, whether it is our protagonists, the rivals, the bizarre enemies that you want to see eat concrete eventually, or side characters you probably wouldn’t have cared about otherwise.
And I assume you already do this, but always stay after the credits for the side stories that are not made to be serious at all! Not only have they made me fall out of my seat, but they give each character a little more substance that gives us a chance to love them.
There are plenty of teams and individuals to love in this series, and at times, it becomes difficult to know which one we’re supposed to be cheering for. Every character seems to have a justifiable reason to want to win this three-day long race, but ultimately, I think my choice came down to each team’s personal philosophy, and what strategy they come up with to win.
Akira Midousuji’s Kyoto Fushimi team relies heavily on him, the team ace and captain, to win. He does so through deception and cunning tactics that put his opponents and his team mates in negative psychological states.
Eikichi Machimiya of Hiroshima knows that only the third day of the race counts, and banks on all the remaining racers who have lost teammates up to this point to want to get their revenge. As the leader of the Pack, he brings a fierce and horrifying element to the series.
As champions, Juichi Fukutomi of Hakone leads only the best of the best individuals on his team. Strength is his mantra, and he utilizes every last bit of strength in each individual to pull victories. Together, they are formidable rivals and rightfully called the champions of the Interhigh.
But of course, my team is still the one that we follow in this series from beginning to end.
Shingo Kinjou of Sohoku doesn’t give up so easily, and knows that individual strengths alone isn’t going to get him very far in the tournament. Sohoku rides as one unit, setting individual aspirations aside and treating each member of the team like family, whether they are the aces of the team, or the supporters cheering from afar. Oneness is the spirit of Sohoku.
The drama behind Yowamushi Pedal is very deep, and rivalries and agonies are bound to happen. It hurts to see any of the guys fail or fall behind in the course of a three-day tournament, and proverbial “losses” happen along the course.
But I did say that this series in the long run is very inspiring for those who have watched it. And if I didn’t warn you about the spoilers already, I should say, the ending is very satisfying.
Most sports anime are epically long tales about a main character that improves over time, with every experience that happens along the way, proving that the process is just as important as the outcome. But in the end, it always seems like sports anime wants to commit to teaching folks the lesson that there is always room for improvement, by making the team or individual we follow have a very abrupt loss, and for good reason. But the fact is, we like the underdogs of any sport or game, regardless of all the statistics against them in terms of actually winning. We often identify with these kinds of people, because we know they can get better. But more importantly, we like underdogs because in the entire history of sporting events, we know that occasionally, they will win!
On the surface, Yowamushi Pedal’s ending is highly unrealistic. I’m not going to doubt that. But it is the ending that I think most of us secretly wanted (or some of us loudly proclaimed we wanted), no matter how much we actually rooted for the other guys. Onoda wants to be accepted and make lots of friends, but he also loves cycling just to cycle, keeping his cadence very high as he goes, knowing how joyous it is to be around everyone. Onoda was told at the very beginning of the race to just have fun, and that’s exactly what he did. It may not be the most probable outcome, but it is a very positive one that brings the rest of us hope.
And once again, I’m sure some of you are upset that I neglected the girls from this series again. While they are not necessarily a pivotal part of the series, they are a joyful addition to the drama, and will always keep me smiling. So to end, I would like to share the final title card of this series that shows even the author loved the girls of this series, as you should, too.
So if you like a sports drama that doesn’t fail to tell the honest story of every last one of its characters, but continues to inspire that champion in all of us, watch Yowamushi Pedal. Happy racing, everyone!