弱虫ペダル GRANDE ROAD 第1話 「フェイズ49」
Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road #01. 「Phase 49」
Source Material: Manga series by Watanabe Wataru (渡辺 航)
Studio(s): TMS Entertainment, TOHO Animation
Director(s): Nabeshima Osamu (鍋島 修)
Script: Yoshida Reiko (吉田 玲子)
Character Design: Yoshida Takahiko (吉田 隆彦)
Yowamushi Pedal is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Watanabe Wataru that is currently ongoing and serialized in Akita Shoten‘s Weekly Shōnen Champion magazine since 2008. The first television anime season aired from October 2013 to July 2014 with an original video animation having been released prior in August 2013.
Kyoto Fushimi, Hakone, and Sohoku all meet at the final stretch of the Inter High’s second day race with all three aces from the respective schools prepared to seize the second day’s win for their respective teams. Midousugi activates the next phase of his plan , Phase 49, in which Nobu is to block Hakone’s ace-assistant, Arakita, so that he cannot reach Fukutomi and lead him to the finish line. Despite wanting to be Midousuji’s ace-assistant and not the initiator of Phase 49, Nobu was easily convinced to do so regardless by Midousuji’s speech of feigned sentimentality. However, Hakone proves to also have a trick up their sleeve as the real ace-assistant of their team for the day, Shinkai, speeds past Nobu while he’s busy cutting off Arakita. Midousuji is thrown into bewilderment not only because Shinkai catches up to them in less than twenty seconds to start drafting for Fukutomi, but also because he had thought Shinkai’s spirit had been crushed in their sprint-off earlier. Once again, all three teams, now consisting only of their ace and ace-assistant pairs, are neck-and-neck, and Midousuji quickly recollects his cunning to now target Imaizumi, whom he views as the weakest one of the current bunch. Midousuji clashes his bicycle into Imaizumi’s, and Imaizumi barely manages to avoid a life-threatening fall in a moment of sensibility and conviction granted to him by the feelings of his teammates. Taking advantage of the moment’s intensity, Imaizumi’s determination fuels him and Kinjou to the lead, where he then has a face-off between Shinkai. At the incoming downhill curve, it is the one who brakes first who will lose the lead, and Imaizumi’s reflex, one second earlier than Shinkai’s, allows Hakone to cut ahead. Meanwhile, Ishigaki’s memories of his past year’s experience with his former captain fuel his complacency of being Midousuji’s ace-assistant despite being older as well as the current captain of the club. It is in this key moment that that complacency turns into an ardent passion to ride to the finish line with Midousuji and win the Inter High; but it is also in this key moment that his bike slips at a right-turn angle, jeopardizing everything he had just wrapped his mind around. Surprisingly enough, a helping hand in the form of Midousuji’s long arm is able to reach out to Ishigaki and prevent his crash. It is an act that also acts as a multiplier for Ishigaki’s will-power, enabling the Kyoto Fushimi duo to catch up to the two other teams with haste and to subsequently take the lead.
Yowamushi Pedal returns for its coverage of the second and third day of the anticipated (by canonical characters and show viewers alike) Inter High, and the high-flying bicycle intensity is even more grand, or should I say grande, than I can even remember. The following explanation for why YowaPeda is such a great sports anime is a descriptor that I somewhat want to save for my year-end anime post, but I just can’t help myself. Simply put, YowaPeda knows how to complement its the atmosphere of its story-telling with the intensity of the sport that it is based upon. It wouldn’t have been so obvious to me until after watching this series that cycling is one intensified-ass endeavor; YowaPeda does a smashing job at imbuing the themes of friendship and teamwork into its narrated competitions of club cycling, but the fact of the matter is that each individual is a race is never allowed a moment’s complete rest from the very start of the race until the very end (although of course it is easy to forget this when the story switches its episode focuses to various face-offs between various characters). Considering that, it’s completely understandable how every episode each week seems to zip by in a matter of seconds. With ceaseless montages of hands gripping handlebars, gears shifting, and character portraits zoomed in enough to more than notice the sweat dripping off faces, indeed, the show is a paradigm of past-faced. And we as viewers easily parallel the show’s cheering crowd stationed at the end of the downhill curve that only catch a glimpse, a flash, of the speeding racers. But we’re also similar to them in that we are just as enthusiastic, wholesomely immersed in the show’s pace despite sitting and watching on an immobile chair. It’s loud, it’s attention-demanding, it’s chock-full of adrenaline, and it’s damn entertaining. Going into the actual episode content, we start right where the last season left off, as expected. A relatively lengthy recap of events has us re-witnessing and re-rejoicing at Sohoku’s grande comeback and then we advanced onward into the real knit and grit of the three-way school showdown. Grande Road‘s premiere is one quite unlike all others this season thus far, and perhaps unlike all others this year; while it isn’t the only follow-up season to a series, it definitely feels like the most seamless transition. Save the aforementioned recap, which may as well be present in episodes that air even only a week after the previous (cough, One Piece, cough), it practically feels like this is just another episode on the first season roster. There’s absolutely no big deal made about the break, and that’s rightfully so. Perhaps the only impact that the hiatus did have was on my own memory, as the most alarming turn of events this week was just how quickly Midousuji, the omnipotent and omniscient Midousuji, slipped into a state of disarray as the predicted elements of his well-concocted plan one-by-one ended up turning into quite the unforeseen variables, i.e. Shinkai and Imaizumi, bolstered by the power of friendship. And indeed, this episode wholly seems like a Kyoto Fushimi-centric one; not only is the title, 「Phase 49」, a direct nod to their path of proposed victory, but it is in Ishigaki this week that we experience perhaps what is Yowamushi Pedal‘s signature pathos-evoking manner of story-telling, the back-story. At the end of the day (and week), I may not know which team will come out victorious; but I do know one thing, it’s been more than one hell of a ride (literally), and each second added is another few dozen palpitations from my eager heart.
*The Hunter x Hunter (2011) anime may be over, but we still have one more Chimera Ant to take care of; my god, even his aura is one-and-one with a certain terrifying antagonist.
*I really like the way that this show draws its background audience characters. Even though their designs are nowhere near as flamboyant as the protagonists, like say, COUGH, MAKISHIMA, COUGH, the normality in their appearance gives off a nuanced normality, somehow, for me at least. They also remind me of random Poké’mon trainer designs.
*Midousuji’s Ishigaki save, just like a Chimera Ant to start becoming like-able right before his inevitable downfall.
*This episode could have just as easily been titled something along the lines of 「The Ace Assistants」. Either that or 「Midousuji x Chimera Antism」.