Sports became my favorite anime genre in 2012 when I discovered Major. Since then, I have seen great amount of series which I think very highly of. The magic of sports series lies in two thing, to me at least. No matter how much they focus on single sport, their author often is so knowledgeable of it, and so talented at creating content around it that it never becomes repetitive. The other thing being the practically infinite potential there is for character development, thanks to the settings. Unfortunately, Yowamushi no Pedal fails in both of the things that have made many sports series so great.
Since season 02, there has been nothing new in terms of main characters and story writing. Season 03 was the exact copy-paste of its predecessor, and now season 04 has proven that the author is only capable of creating two things: a) side characters who are exponentially more uninteresting than side characters who have already been introduced in the past b) character-centric comedy. Comedy which is now the sole reason why I am still watching this show. Which is pretty much what the show is anyway: comedy on bikes.
At this point, the writer should have introduced something new between the lines of high school cycling and tour de france. I would have been happy with practically anything new from unicycling or tandem riding to underwater pilates with exercise bikes. To this writer, stuff like training and variety are not even secondary factors. Instead, they are nonexistent in the series. It looks like the series will forever be the exact same thing it has been for years already, creating content so similar to what there already is that it all just blends together in one, lengthy mass. The word "repetitive" is not even enough to describe how Yowamushi's author works. He is practically ripping off his own work with copy-paste. It's so stupid the more you think about it the worse it seems.
At least the real main character Akira Midousuji with his saddle up in 7 feet and chin so low it touched the ground occasionally, is still here. And the most well-known pair of pectorals, Andy and Frank. I admit, the cast is incredibly strong and alone carry the same thing for the 3rd time in a row. I enjoyed this season for the comedy moments, but at the same time, I am mainly impressed by how bad the decisions our author makes are. I assume he as a cyclist himself, values his school times and simply cannot let go off those memories, and that's the reason why his work is also stuck.
Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line contains some of the franchise’s best moments, but also shows occasional signs of stagnation.
With the previous season of YowaPeda (New Generation) being a pretty straightforward transitional affair, more focused on following the aftermath of the 41st InterHigh and introducing new characters now that the third years graduated, I wish I could say Glory Line dives instantly into adrenaline-heavy, fast-paced cycling action. It does just that… for the most part of its run.
The show still invests too much time on characters I couldn’t care less instead of jumping right into what matters: hot, sweaty 2D boys battling for dominance.
Still, this season
starts with a bang. The first five episodes are classic YowaPeda: the main teams send out their aces, homoerotic interactions occur between them, pure cringe mixes with total badassery very naturally, twists happen at the blink of an eye and then we have one zillion flashbacks mere meters before the finish line. So far so good, and if you ignore the slow pacing (I couldn’t hold my laugher when one member of the audience shouted “they are going so fast!!!”, while the riders seemed to stay in place since the pacing was so goddamn slow) and a new emphasis on some characters’ “super-powers” (you can call this season Yowamushi Formars if you want), there’s plenty to enjoy.
Personally, at this point, four seasons in, I treat all these characters as good friends, so even in the down time between the races, there’s always something to look forward to. Drama and comedy blend together very well at these particular moments, and we get to see what exactly is at the stake for each of the powerhouses.
Hakone Academy has four new members and looks like a totally different team, but keeps the “total victory” motto of the previous members alive.
Sohoku seems like its barely hanging on most of the time; with no apparent ace or a strong captain like before, they struggle to even sustain their underdog status.
Kyoto Fushimi is the one I feel like changed the most; they still rely on Midousuji Akira to get the job done, but the team isn’t the one-man-army it used to be.
The problems I have with this season arise when the second day of the race starts. It seems like the author ran out of ideas as some events from the previous Inter High are reprised, only now with different characters and very minor tweaks. It feels cheap, because the enjoyment one could get from these situations depends a lot on how invested you are with said characters. It’s very hard to care for a character you know for 20 episodes against one you know for over 50 and who has waaaaay more charisma.
We’re over 100 episodes, some repetition is understandable, but it’s still frustrating nonetheless. And while there’s plenty to like from the new cast (except Yuto, fuck that guy), some more Onoda moments would be nice… I forgot he was the main character of the anime for a good chunk of the season.
Still, this season, as much as it falters, contains some of my favorite episodes ever.
Episode 14, a bound-to-be-divisive episode, is one of these personal favorites. Not only because it ended a stream of subpar episodes, but also by how boldly the show delivered its message. I won’t spoil what happens, since half of YowaPeda’s fun is getting to know who races who for the sprint/mountain/finish tag, but let’s just say this episode did more for the LGBT+ community than all the whining on social media could ever hope to achieve.
It’s the simple story of a young man coming to grips with who he is and how he truly feels inside. I haven’t re-watched an anime episode as much as I did with this one in quite some time. Then again, it’s a polarizing episode. Some may claim it to be obvious fujoshi-bait, or be bothered by the lack of any thrilling cycling.
And while the climax of the second day can’t compete with the first episodes of the season, episode 23 still packs quite the punch. Episode 24 may dwell too much on nostalgia; but is another highlight of the season.
If the story line wasn’t always top shelf material, the visual and sound department remains some of the genre’s best. Both the races and the slice-of-life moments are well-animated, and the art hardly ever dips in quality. The CGI is barely an issue like on the first seasons (although I may have grown used to it), and the voice acting is engaging. It’s a shame Onoda doesn’t get much screen time this season, as his voice actor Daiki Yamashita is turning out to be a shonen king; both his work here and on Boku no Hero Academia is stellar.
The original soundtrack is on the same level as the past seasons, I liked some of the new additions, but the old, classic tunes stand out more. I can’t get enough of the creepy tune that pops up whenever Midousuji makes a move.
The opening and ending songs took more time to grown on me compared to the previous seasons. First opening has great animation and blends well with the above-average song, while the second one is a bit uncreative with its visuals, but makes up for it with a catchy song.
First ending is an upbeat track by the voice actors of the Sohoku team, and the second one finds the cast of Hakone Academy delivering this jazzy, horn-heavy song that is a far cry from any other OP/ED in the series. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, and I'm still left craving for something from the guys voicing Kyoto Fushimi, but it does its job.
Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line changes almost nothing in its formula, which is a double-edged sword. In music, when a band sticks to what it knows best, the fanbase will likely take its side. Not the same applies for long-running anime shows. For me, it’s a win, but I recognize why some people have lost the interest in it over time.
This series started as something to kill time while Haikyuu wasn’t airing and now I can hardly wait for a new episode/season.
A fifth season is bound to come eventually, and as much as I like the show, some variation is going to be necessary if Yowamushi Pedal wants to keep racing for 100 more episodes.
For a sport that emphasizes pacing, it feels like they reeaaalllyyyy stretched this one out. Glory Line picks up where New Generation ended—about a quarter of the way through the Inter-High bike race—and ends maybe three quarters of the way through the Inter-High bike race.
It's not like they haven't done this kind of thing before, but at this point we don't need a 3 episode sprint when we already know the backstory of one of the two characters involved.
One advantage of having basically the same crew at the same studio is that the music has remained pretty much remained consistent throughout all four seasons.
This allows certain themes to become associated with certain emotions or moments.
I like seeing my man Teshima lead the team, but it's pretty clear that the Yomamushi Pedal franchise peaked with the YowaPedal movie. Still, this season does manage to capture at least some of the intensity and comedic charm that the earlier ones offered.
To put it in the simplest terms, Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line is a perfect example of a show that has overstayed its welcome.
New Generation (s3) was one thing, but a fourth season for a show where there are lots of new characters (first years) and almost zero time dedicated to focusing on the main character himself is very aggravating, particularly when next to none of the new characters are even likeable.
Throughout my time watching Glory Line this winter season, I often found myself wandering off to another tab to do something else instead. Onoda and his team already won once, and the characters
that struck a chord with me emotionally aren't there anymore. It's boring. As a whole, New Generation and Glory Line both felt unnecessary to me-- somehow or other, Sohoku will win again, right? I don't actually know. But regardless of whether they do or not, it feels like they're dragging out something that really shouldn't have been there from the start.
The story itself is also less compelling now that Sohoku is no longer an underdog trying to win, but rather a champion trying to defend a title. As cliche as it is, more people relate to having to work hard to reach the top rather than already being on the top and having to try and stay there. Toying with whether or not they stay winners isn't nearly as much of a fun journey as wondering how they will win for the first time.
All personal gripes aside, the art, animation, and sound are well done. Objectively, Glory Line is a good show, but when you've seen the previous three seasons, you really wonder if you even want to watch this one, and if they're ever just going to let the series rest.
In these opening weeks of the Spring 2018 anime season, Steins;Gate 0 starts off as the by far highest rated anime, although Megalo Box is the new heavy hitter if we look past sequels. This and more in the opening edition of The Seasonal Quarterly.