It’s an oversimplification, but to an extent many anime are only as good as their characters. In a series where all the characters are legends like Golden Kamuy, that means it’s pretty great all the time. With Yowamushi Pedal that’s not the case – this cast has great characters, boring ones, and a pretty broad spectrum in-between. Yuuto isn’t one of my favorites but he’s perfectly fine, and when the main function is as a foil for Midousuji (he’s one of the great ones) Shinkai-minor fills the bill quite admirably.
I’ve talked about it before and DukeofEarls raised it in the comments last week, but the real genius of Midousuji Akira is that he persistently mocks the sports manga tropes that Watanabe Wataru employs quite dutifully, like almost every mangaka of a sports series. If something is nonsense Chimera-kun will point it out, and that’s a sort of refreshing honesty on the part of the writer. I’m still an Onoda Sakamichi fan and I’ll never root against the tireless terrier, but there is a part of me that sort of hopes Midousuji pulls it off this time. Anyone that obsessed with winning sort of deserves it, even if he is kind of a scoundrel.
Chimera-kun calling Yuuto cool was a deliciously funny moment, part of a consistently entertaining exchange between the two of them. I never thought Yuuto had what it took to take down Midousuji but to his credit, he’s not going down without a fight. So much so in fact that the disinterested creeper Komari takes an interest in him – how is this spent force managing to keep repelling Akira’s attacks? Is he actively controlling his muscles (Abu!) using different ones now that his normal cycling muscles are exhausted?
Even if Yuuto is only a speed bump for Midousuji if he can be enough of a shiny bauble to tempt Komari away from pursuing his real prize, Manami, he’s more than earned his place on the team as a first-year. With the top riders strung out along the final climb, being alone is a disadvantage even for Chimera-kun. Onoda and Imaizumi are up ahead, out of the picture for the moment, with Naruko alone behind them now that Yuuto has dropped back to confront Kyoto Fushimi. Yuuto manages to dally with KyoFushi long enough to allow Kuroda to climb back up to where Manami is riding, and Midousuji leaves Komari to his perversions and heads up in pursuit.
As for this showdown between Naruko and Manami, I’m skeptical. These two fill very different roles on their teams – Manami is the ace, and Naruko is not a factor in this finish as a former sprinter. He too is trying to take one for the team here, take something out of Manami and soften him up a little before the final ascent. But if Manami, cool-headed as he is, is willing to play along that means he has so much left in the tank he’s not even worried about it.
This inter-high has not been a stressful ride for Hakone’s ace – apart from the skirmish with Teshima on day one he’s had little in the way of high-intensity riding. He’d still be better off sticking with Kuroda for now, but we haven’t seen a fraction of what he has in his arsenal. Naruko is game as always, but probably not capable of taking Manami down a peg. Midousuji will get there soon enough, whether Kuroda is capable of tagging along or not. It’s going to be interesting to see which Souhoku second-year falls on his sword in the end, but we probably won’t be finding that out for a while.