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Posted 2/3/14 , edited 2/5/14
Written by Dai_Loli

Yowamushi Pedal: The (Bi)Cycle of Life

Onoda Sakamichi loves his bike. It's an old, overused granny bike and it looks terrible, but with it he can get to Akihabara and back without paying any train fares, and that's what matters! He was looking forward to join the anime club now that he's entering high school, but a lack of members forced it to close down, now he's the only one who can revive it. Yes, Onoda is a hardcore otaku. How hardcore? Akihabara is actually a 90 kilometer round trip. He's been using his granny bike to ride to it every week since he was in fourth grade. That's dedication.

Getting a car ride to school in the morning while taking the super steep alternate road to the entrance, the serious and calculating Imaizumi Shunsuke spots Onoda riding up the hill with his old bike. What's this guy doing? He can't take that path on that kind of mommy bicycle, he'll exhaust himself. Shrugging it off, he returns to this same slope later with his racing bicycle and full-on racing gear. You can instantly tell he has a lot of experience under his belt. Challenging himself to ride up this very intense slope as practice, he attacks it head-on. He soon sees a silhouette ahead: Someone else is riding up the slope with him! He must be a fellow bicyclist, or maybe even a member of the school's Bicycle Club, what a great chance, he'll sprint and pass him in a flash!

He rapidly catches up to a casually singing Onoda, riding up the hill with his bicycle like it's nothing while he himself is drenched in sweat by just catching up to the otaku. He isn't going very fast, but this is still a feat. The next day, Imaizumi summons Onoda to the rooftop and challenges him to a bike race up the slope. Reluctant at first, Imaizumi convinces him by telling Onoda he'll join the anime club if he loses.

Thus begins Onoda's foray into the world of road cycling. As he meets more and more people who see his hidden potential and he realizes reviving the anime club is a lost cause, he gradually understands his own love for bicycling. This ultimately leads him to join the Bicycle Club, where he will meet very talented seniors and face his greatest challenges yet.

We're pretty spoiled with sports animes this season aren't we? Baseball, basketball, boxing, wrestling and now road cycling! Yowamushi Pedal, or Yowapeda, takes us into a world most of us are likely unfamiliar with, and as with any good sports anime, learning the intricacies of what it's like to compete in this sport is half the fun. The anime does this very well by starting Onoda off at the bottom of the barrel with nothing but a deep love for cycling and untapped potential, allowing us to see his progression in the discipline first-hand. His granny bike turns out to have been very strict training for him all along, with its seat placed way too low that makes it harder to pedal, a small front-gear that forces him to pedal more for the same result and not even a second gear to switch to to make climbing uphill easier!

The character designs are quite colorful and varied, as well as likable. Onoda might be an otaku, but his iron will, earnest love for the sport and determination make him a character you feel like following as the main character of a shounen anime. Imaizumi might start off looking like an ass, but he's actually just very serious about road cycling. It's great to see him gradually accept Onoda's talent and get excited to compete with him. Then there's Naruko Shokichi, the red-head with an accent who can't get enough of praising himself all day and will take on anyone and anything when it comes to racing. Don't forget to watch the small bits after the credits for amusing glimpses into the personal lives of the characters!

All in all, Yowapeda doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel (duhuhu) as you could probably take a checklist of "What a Sports Anime is" and check off the boxes as you go, but it pulls it off with such heart and contagious passion that you can't help but be hooked anyway. This, to me, is the mark of a successful sports anime, and it has proven its capability to deliver consistently throughout the eight episodes I've seen up to now. In a crowded season for the sports genre and high profile sequels, you'd be missing out if you overlooked this promising newcomer!
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