If you’re not a fan of sports anime, this might just be the one to change your mind.
I’ll say up-front that I expected this finale to be an emotional one. Expectations can be a pretty big burden to carry, but I had faith that Watanabe-sensei and TMS could pull this off because honestly, the foundation for a great anime ending had been laid by the buildup. Whatever issues one might have had with pacing, there’s just so much buy-in with the overall premise and the cast that Yowamushi Pedal always soars when it focuses on the core of the story. And you can’t get much more core than this.
What’s interesting about this finale is that Watanabe had already guaranteed it was going to be a rule-breaker, no matter what happened. By shounen tradition neither Onoda or Manami were supposed to win this race – it’s too soon for either of them, and it removes the theoretical premise for the rest of the series. Of course that’s an arbitrary construct, a trope – and while manga and anime can be reluctant to do so, tropes are made to be broken. That lent the proceedings both a pleasing unpredictability and a sense of freshness that set it apart from other sports series in a very meaningful way. That Yowapeda isn’t a “mass-produced model” should be obvious, but this is a pretty stark demonstration of that fact.
Inwhat was also a break with recent anime protocol, this final episode included the OP – with no preamble. And then we launched right into the race, which was just finishing up as the last ep concluded. You knew things were tight because even Onoda – normally of the Ullrich-like posture and cadence – was out of his saddle and dancing There was the briefest moment when I feared Watanabe was going to give us a tie (he did that once already, if you recall) that’s how close this was – but no, thankfully he did give us a winner. And thankfully it was the one I think most of us were hoping it was going to be.
Make no mistake about it – Onoda Sakamichi is the beating heart of Yowamushi Pedal. I really think there’s a lot of Watanabe Wataru in him, and it’s not just the physical resemblance. Onoda’s qualities are the same qualitiesthat make this a great series – it’s completely straightforward and earnest. Onoda has been utterly selfless through his entire arc, yet equally indomitable and tireless. He’s done whatever he was asked to do without complaint, and far more besides. He never sought glory for himself, and only reluctantly accepted the chance for it when all other avenues were exhausted. But when he knew everything came down to him, he turned from a tireless terrier into a snarling pit bull, determined to rip glory out of the jaws of the opponent on behalf of his team.
So, in short, Sakamichi really fucking deserved to win. And we, as an audience, deserved to see it happen. And (how big a rarity in sports series is this?) Yowapeda made it happen. We got the moment the entire series has been building towards, and it was glorious. When Sakamichi finally allowed himself to exult, striking the classic cyclist’s victory pose (exhausted, arms in the air, head back) I exulted right along with him. This sort of thing just isn’t supposed to happen with sports manga, not in the middle of the story – but it did. Yowamushi Pedal just isn’t like other sports manga.
The aftermath was just as important as the moment of victory, and we weren’t let down there either. I might perhaps have liked to see Onoda on the podium accepting the individual medal, and his mother’s reaction (and his to finding out she was there) but I’m not surprised it didn’t happen – the focus of Yowapeda from the beginning has been on Onoda’s desire to bond with friends, and on the team. This was his moment, and theirs. Makishima hugging Onoda, Imaizumi (where did he find the strength??) lifting him into the air, Naruko and Kinjou dragging themselves out of the medical tent and rushing to the summit for the ceremony – it was all an extended elebration and a reward to the audience. And it was glorious, every second of it.
For all that, one of the biggest emotional impacts for me came with Manami’s meeting with his teamin the tent after the race. Because Manami has been such an unfailingly glib and upbeat presence, seeing him smiling through the devastation he was feeling hit pretty hard. I really feel for him – being a first-year whose captain trusted him with finishing the job, the feeling of having let Fukutomi and his teammates down has to be overwhelming. Manami is right, of course – Fukutomi did build the best team, but the best team doesn’t always win. In the end Onoda simply wanted it more for the right reasons than Manami did, and that was the difference – and if Manami takes any lesson away from this, I hope that’s it. And it’s hard to feel too devastated for the third-years on HakoGaku, because one could easily argue they’ve already won one inter-high they probably didn’t deserve.
The epilogue here was absolutely perfect – a spot-on way to bring the animeto a close. Of course you knew what Sakamichi would do when Kinjou gave him the right to choose the destination for their final practice as a squad, but the trip to Akihabara
was just… superb. It was hilarious watching Onoda back in otaku mode, choosing swag for all the highly-discomfited third-years, but the best part was when he announced that all of them were his presents to them – an expression of his gratitude to them for giving him the chance to each his potential. It’s absolutely classic Onoda right to the end – not giving himself enough credit, kind and honest and heartfelt.
Best of all, I think, was giving 10 “Kumotaros” to Makishima – an accurate assessment from Sakamichi that while all of the others had done their share, it was the Peak Spider who’s really made the biggest impact on his life. Of all the relationships in Yowamushi Pedal,I think Onoda and Makishima might just be my favorite because of the way it’s demonstrated an amazing amount of growth for both of them. They’re a seemingly mismatched pair in every sense, but there are qualities they have in common that are more important than the superficial differences. The sempai in Yowapeda are generally head and shoulders above most sports series, but Makishima is definitely the best of the lot.
I think it’s fair to say that as a series finale, this episode works splendidly. It absolutely feels like an ending, and a totally satisfying one too. That’s a function of the aforementioned rule-breaking that Watanabe-sensei has done here – he’s giving us a real conclusion that isn’t the actual end of the series, and one that finds the hero achieving a monumental goal against long odds. If one didn’t know better, they could watch this episode and file Yowamushi Pedal away as a wonderful experience, and move on to the next show on their list. And an anime ending should always try to do that, even if it’s rarely accomplished.
But this isn’t the ending – not for Yowapeda, and not for the anime. The series is more popular than ever – it sells a ton of manga and discs, has a thriving merchandise business and has literally sparked a cycling boom in Japan unlike any seen in years. There’s a big-screen original film (written by Watanabe) planned for summer, and an “Episode 22.5” OAD on the way. And there’s enough manga right now for something like 3-4 more cours of episodes, even if the TV anime weren’t taking a break (which it is). There’s no continuation of the anime announced at this point, but it would break pretty much every rule in the book if there wasn’t one coming – there’s material, popularity and financial motive, so it’s hard to imagine a rationale for not continuing the series. I suspect we’re going to see a break of sixmonths or a year to give the manga time to build a larger stockpile of material, then the TV will return – part of a new generation of sports anime that have found commercial success by reaching far beyond the original demographic scope of the genre.
I said way back before the first episode of Yowapeda aired in October of 2013 that it was one to watch – that it had everything necessary to appeal to a broad audience. It was obvious from reading some of the manga that this series was special – really funny, tense, pretty realistic with the sports, and incredibly genuine. I think Yowamushi Pedal has succeeded by reaching some of the same audience as series like Haikyuu!! and KuroBas,and also retaining some of the traditional sports manga crowd. But I think it’s also reached into a general audience that’s not usually interested in sports anime, and it’s done so because it deals with a sport everyone can relate to and most especially because of its characters. This is a cast-driven series, make no mistake about it – the canvas is sports and the sports is excellent, but Yowapeda is exceptional because of Onoda Sakamichi and because of the relationships among the cast. Like its main character, it deserves every bit of the success and glory its achieved – and in both cases, I’m ecstatic to see it happen.
Deleted for obvious reasons…
Patsuan, that was a judgment call on my part, but you’re right that I should defer to ultra-conservatism if there’s any doubt. My apologies.
“If you’re not a fan of sports anime, this might just be the one to change your mind.”
Yowamushi is as cliche as you can get for a sports anime. It doesn’t do anything different or new, the characters are all cliche, the plot is 100% cliche and predictable and all the annoying characteristics of shounen/sports manga are still there (like, it takes 3 episodes for them to cover 1 km of a race, and while they’re doing it, they keep having pointless conversations and the anime keeps trowing pointless flashbacks at you – and the whole is a crazy huge emotional rollercoaster with the characters crying during the whole thing).
I like sports anime, so I can get pass all that (it’s still annoying though)…
But somebody who is not a sports anime/shounen fan watching Yowamushi? Their heads will explode from anger before the first season ends. There’s no way somebody like that would watch Yowamushi…
Sports anime anime for people who are not fans of sports anime should be something like Touch, Cross Game, One Outs, Giant Killing, Bamboo Blade and maybe (a very big “maybe” here) Haikyuu!!.
Needless to say, I completely disagree. And I think the demographic makeup of the sales numbers does as well.
Well, I would need to see the data from Yowamushi sales and the data from other sports anime sales to compare the two and see what’s going. Just saying: “oh yeah, but the demographic of Yowamushi seems to different” alone doesn’t do much to me.
And just like the guy said “I’m not a sports anime fan and liked Yowamushi”…
Well, I’m a sports anime fan, I’ve been since the 90’s and I find Yowamushi to be super cliche and super annoying at times (I actually dropped it at one point because the inter high arc was unbearable). My opinion about Kuroko is the same (I dropped it, by the way, and I’m not coming back like I did with Yowamushi).
In fact, I think the guy is not sports anime fan because he didn’t really tried to watch a lot of them… I bet if started watching Slam Dunk, Hajime no Ippo, Overdrive, etc he would love it too. He’s sports anime fan, he just don’t know it and he thought he wasn’t because the tried to watch 2 or 3 of them and didn’t like it (which is not uncommon for people who haven’t exposed to a lot of anime).
Yea- nope. I’m not much of a commenter here, I’ve only gone out of lurking for a couple of times. But I strongly felt the need to side with Enzo and defend his claims on this one. I’m not a sports anime fan, Haikyuu!! was the first one I’ve watched and enjoyed. Normally, I watch 6-10 shows per season, my friends know I love anime and whenever I try to recommend something, 9 times out of 10 it just gets brushed off.
However, this series was one of those few that manages to get to them. Outside of my otaku friends, I’ve made 4 friends, 1 college instructor, 3 cousins, marathon the 1st season with me and keep up with the 2nd season week after week. Now these people don’t usually watch anime in the first place, much less a sports anime fan. For me personally, that’s proof in itself that Yowapeda is enjoyable to watch, regardless of your taste in anime.
Of course, there are issues in pacing. The inter-high alone consumed 3 cours! The flashbacks were annoying at times, and talking-while-holding-shoulders-on-a-bicycle happened too many times. Midosouji was a cartoonish villain most of the time. But the cliches? Sure they were there, you can’t have anime nowadays without them. But then what about Onoda winning the inter-high? As Enzo pointed out, that was a rule breaker for shounen sports. I don’t think it’s right to call Yowapeda as cliche as you can get when the entire build-up led to that conclusion.
Well, that’s just my experience and opinion regarding the matter. Thank you for the post Enzo, been following your posts in LiA for over a year now, still lurking though. Haha. Hopefully people will give this series more than a chance after reading this. Cheers and looking forward to Ore Monogatari with you
Thanks, that’s great to hear – always nice to know non-believers are being converted.
I assume from your handle that Ore Monogatari is going to be high on your list!
“If you’re not a fan of sports anime, this might just be the one to change your mind.”
I’m a huge sports anime fan, seen them all, and I’ve been recommending them to people online and offline for years. Based on feedback, Kurobas and Ippo are the 2 shows newcomers to the genre seem to enjoy/not drop.
As good as i was already a sports anime fan this show has pulled me more into the interest in bicycles and all that stuff. I mean, it’s so good that you can do almost all this stuff and it got me started on my first road bike!
This show has been a huge for me picking it up around its 27th episode in the first season and I’ve been looking forward to this ending.
Glad that Baby Steps S2 is next as it’s also as interesting as this one!
Really awesome ending and I recommend this to other people as the intensity between checkpoints is true thrill!
Great post Enzo!!! Great anime!!!
I don’t really understand why anime omitted the scene with Onoda’s mother (in the manga it’s right between the ceremony and the trip to Akiba). Weird thing to do, considering that it was kind of big deal that she ended up watching the race and recognizing her son. I missed Miyahara, too.
I’m not a sports anime fan and I watch only a few series a year, but I absolutely don’t regret picking this one up, even if the manga designs weirded me out a little at first.
Really hope they make another season. The next riders are even weirder.
My only complaint is – why are road bikes so expensive?
Thank you Enzo for recommending this show back when it first started! I’ve loved every minute of it!
FTR, I’m not a fan of sports anime, and I usually try and stay away from them, but I loved Yowapeda. It was something that I looked forward to every week. I will add it to the very small contingent of sports related anime that I have enjoyed, including: Baby Steps, Cross Game, Shion no Ou, and now Yowapeda.
Rarely a sports anime watcher, but this one hit the spot for me. I really was surprised that they managed to extend a three day race over the whole show and make it interesting (and exciting).
Really hadn’t been thinking that it would come down to Manami and Sakamichi. It was just one brutal race and pitting the two junior climbers against each other at the end was somewhat foretold earlier with the original interaction between the two, something of a fantasy ending. There was a question in my mind till the very end about who of the two would win and the only thing that I think it turned on was Manami going up in gear against his leader’s direction.
I know some people like him but I always felt that Midousuji was too much of a caricature visually. Personality wise he was a good foil for the others and I really expected him to be there at the end of the race, but really detracted from my enjoyment from a visual standpoint. His dropping out was another case of the mangaka letting us just assume what’s going to happen and then throwing a curve at us.
I’d also would have preferred if the series ended the tournament last week followed by a wrap-up this week, but nevertheless this was a great end (I was fearing a tie right till the very end). Having followed your LiA posts, when Imaizumi picked Onoda up the word “tireless terrier” popped right into my head. It would have been a fitting caption xD
On that thought, this was the character for whom I originally coined that moniker…
As a guy who runs a major bike racing organization in the United States. This was awesome.
Actually heading over to Japan this fall for a tourism conference- see if I can get some bike racers over to the States. We already get some from Nobeyama but would be great to get some more. Hopefully this anime will convince more folks to come over!
This is definitely one of my favourite sports anime along side baby steps, kuroko’s basketball and haikyuu. As Bear mentioned in regards to a 3 day inter high race that was run throughout the 2nd season was quite a feat. I had totally forgotten about it all, just cause it’s show interesting! love it.
Only problem I had with this season is that the inter-high lasted the entire damn season. Otherwise, it was more Yowasmush Pedal. And yay for Onoda!