Hobbies. Everyone has them whether when you were just a kid, during high school, or as an adolescent. But everyone’s hobbies vary. Hobbies pique interest and interest can lead into an obsession. For Sakamichi Onoda, his hobby is watching anime to the point of obsession. You remember that one time when you forgot to record your favorite show that airs late at night? Well for Sakamichi, that could be a catastrophe. But little does Sakamichi know that his hobby will lead him to an encounter with destiny. That encounter leads him to ride the winds and steer the Yowamushi Pedal.
A tour with Yowamushi Pedal will quickly reveal the essence of this show surrounding the sport of cycling. It’s not just the promotional picture but rather the way the characters are designed. Besides Sakamichi, almost every supporting and major character has a degree of athletic form. It’s their passion, their desire, and love for bicycles that drives them to become the best in the world of cycling. But for Sakamichi, he is still riding a mamachari, or better known as the “mommy bike”. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he’s a beginner. Yet, there’s something that makes Sakamichi draw attention with his wit. And by that means, I mean potential. That potential leads him to join the Souhoku High Bicycle Club, the core group of the series starring individuals of all angles.
The show builds paths for our characters to take. For Sakamichi, his journey to stardom begins with his meeting with Shōkichi Naruko at Akihabara. The encounter isn’t anything mind crushing but strikes a bit of curiosity. After all, the two seems nothing alike based on their personalities and appearances. Naruko, the boy with red hair, has a fiery passion with a competitive nature in sports. Sakamichi is the boy with otaku passion with an obsessive nature in anime. Get the picture now? Nonetheless, the episode detailing their meeting highlights a potential for Sakamachi. He is able to ride through the winds and break forth his timid nature. In retrospect, Sakamichi creates an impression that some people might of not originally anticipated. While the show does not warp itself with mind games, Yowamushi Pedal does offer plot twists viewers will be surprised by. Sakamichi’s first step to becoming an elite cyclist is one of those surprises.
However, the real question remains if Sakamichi can talk the talk, but also walk the walk. Comparing to characters such as Shunsuke Imaizumi, this seems to be overkill. Shunsuke is like the professor of cycling, knowing the nature of the game and presented as logical thinker. His competitiveness and dream has no boundary. In fact, the rivalry between him and Naruko is quite intimidating like tiger vs. dragon. Drawing from rivalries usually brings out the best of a character. In this series, it does that easily with the way characters compete whether it’d be friendly competitions or a battle of pride. At the paramount of the story, Sakamichi also shines with brilliance with how much he improves. For a show like this, character building is important and the focus is adamant to draw interest. The competitive atmosphere brings out that focus with obstacles the characters must overcome both physically and mentally. These obstacles ranges from a simple steep slope to catastrophic bike accidents that can lead to potential death for the characters. This is expanded to supporting characters as well and rivals of the Souhku High Bicycle Club. The success here is that the show embraces characterization on them with clever flashbacks and well-timed scenarios. It clearly makes its point across to show what the character wants and desire to achieve. Characterization becomes an important aspect of this show and I am thoroughly impressed by its aspects.
There’s also a niche for sports series that doesn’t need to be unique to set itself apart. The catch for this show is that it can transform cycling into a form of art. Characters brings their skills artistically during competitions with their unique styles of skills. These include a variety of signature moves like Naruko’s rocket sprint, Makishima’s spider climb, Midousuji’s leaning style, Tadokoro’s human bullet train, among others. Even Sakamichi develops his own signature move that truly shows how far he comes across. He might not be a prodigy but potential is one word that draws in people’s attention. As a member of Souhoku High Bicycle Club along with some of the main characters, Sakamichi sets himself as a journeyman. His interaction with characters brings out his potential especially during training camp. When he rides up that slope, Sakamachi is building character with his spirit. We’d like to appreciate his development as he takes on challenges that are seemingly impossible. He has to figure out solutions to difficult problems where they are real, not like the ones in the anime world he came to embrace.
It’s also said that competition often draws out the best of a person. After all, competition has rewards, tests, and strives to make us accomplish and achieve. Despite playing roles of supporting characters, some of them really tests the Souhoku High Bicycle Club. A few of them even have dynamics focused on their characters through clever usage of flashbacks. It ties directly with the story to bring forth development. It’s not just their gimmicks but their nature that will draw out interests for viewers. This interest leads to both friendships and rivalries to bring out the best of the best.
There are also other ways to look at this show. One is from the realistic angle with the mechanics of cycling. There are fundamentals explained that draws in techniques of cycling from the real world. Brand names are also featured to bring credibility with the competitions. From another angle is the comedy that sometimes will feel unrealistic. Characters such as Izumida will draw attention with his signature phrase “ABS, ABS, ABS” or Akira Midousuji’s nightmarish face. At the same time, some of the feats these cyclists performs can seem superhuman and unreal. There’s a boundary that blurs in between fiction and reality as the competitions gets tougher and heated each episode. And don’t forget the ending after the credit song. There’s a little gimmicky afterwards that offer laughs for nearly everyone.
A philosophy to get used to for sports series is generally development and training. Perhaps this show focuses a bit too much on the latter. The training session can feel repetitive and dragged. In fact, the first half exclusively focuses on this with appealing image but will take patience to get through. Furthermore, Sakamichi isn’t exactly a model to look on firsthand. His blend design and obsessive hobby isn’t something to write home about. The crux of the series focuses on his development but this could come as a mixed bags for viewers. The weaknesses also comes forth with his biking style that doesn’t bring impression at first glance. Furthermore, there’s a lack of this show’s style itself when it comes to competitions. Some bits can be predictable while others will feel like a repetitive cycle. And when it comes to destinations, there are times when you might not like what you see. Season 1 is also noticeable for cliffhangers and the endgame isn’t far from that.
Artwork is attractive on most parts of the series. The backgrounds feels natural with the mountain fields and rural roads. Although the characters doesn’t all look cutting edge, they do have a well-built presence. Each character has a design style that matches their persona whether it’s Naruko’s fiery hair to make his equally intense personality, Makashima’s long green hair, captain Shingo’s trademark sunglasses, or Midousuji’s malevolent expressions. It’s silly to say but Sakamichi is probably the most normal looking main character we see. Luckily, there’s limited fan service. (unless of you count Izumida’s friends nicknamed by him as “Andy” and “Frank”) What you get is characters that looks real, competitive fields that look consistently natural, and a respect for the nature of the game.
With an intense sport such as cycling, you’d expect soundtrack as a major backbone for support. The hype is real and the soundtrack does not disappoint with its well-coordinated orchestra. The OST is a strength that is fierce, adamant, and vigorous to the core. Incoming climatic scenes are set up well with thanks to the OST. Along with pacing, we get what fans deserve – high caliber races of integrity and well-timed music. The OP and ED songs also demonstrate degrees of such integrity. Character voicing is also respectable with their voice mannerisms that matches their personalities. There’s also a silly gimmick with the infamous “Hime Song” that will knock your socks off. If you’re not ready for each episode, the soundtrack will get you fired up.
It’s admirable that such an exercising hobby such as cycling can be turned into such a competitive sport. For Sakamichi, he never thought of going from a mommy bike to riding the glorious winds of a national competition. Just note that season 1 serves more as a built-up (for the first half) and execution with the remaining course. The ultimate conclusion isn’t exactly what should be designated as a suitable ending. Still, the experience you gain out of this show will also feel like a journey after you watch the rivalries, the characters’ creativeness, and a story about so much more than just riding a bike to burn calories.