Riding to a New Future!
- Episodes : 25
- Genre : Comedy, Sports, Drama, Shounen
- Airing Date : January 10, 2017 – June 27, 2017
- Studios : TMS Entertainment
Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation Review Introduction and Story
A new school year has begun! The Sohoku cycling team is still reeling from their victory from last year’s Inter High. However, before the crew gets too full of themselves, they bid farewell to Kinjou, Makishima, and Tadakoro as the trio graduates. As his final act as captain, Kinjou names Teshima, their head support member from the last Inter High, as the new captain of the Sohoku team, while Teshima’s best friend and main support Aoyagi is named vice-captain. Meanwhile, Hakone Academy, has promoted Izumida, one of their main sprinters, to captain; and Kuroda, a talented climber who just barely missed out on making the previous year’s team, becomes vice-captain.
In order to test out the strength of their new teams, both Sohoku and Hakone enter some of their members in the Minegawa Hill Climb nearby. Teshima and Onoda enter as representatives of Sohoku, while Hakone enters one of their new members, Ashikiba. As it turns out, Teshima and Ashikiba have some shared history, as Teshima was the one who actually got Ashikiba into road racing in the first place. The only problem: Teshima himself is not actually that great of a racer, whereas Ashikiba is naturally talented at the sport. Onoda, in something of a slump since the beginning of the new year, stays further back while Teshima and Ashikiba race. However, watching Teshima valiantly struggle in the face of pure talent motivates Onoda back into form and he ends up winning the race.
After the Minegawa Hill Climb, Imaizumi approaches Naruko and requests for him to quit focusing on sprinting so much and to think about training as an all-around rider instead. This troubles Naruko, as sprinting is why he got into racing in the first place, but he does realize how much more useful having a second all-rounder on the team would be. Naruko returns to Osaka to ruminate on his cycling future at the cycling track where he got started. He starts racing with other riders at the track, and vows that if he loses to any of them he’ll give up on sprinting and focus more effort on building up his climbing ability. However, the evil mastermind of Kyoto Fushima High School, Midousuji, shows up and challenges Naruko to a race. Midousuji wins, and Naruko gives up climbing as he promised.
Naruko returns to school, and Sohoku is shocked to discover how many more applicants they have for the cycling club and has to find a way to deal with all of them. Teshima decides that now’s the time to hold their yearly first year race to get a sense of where everyone is in their development. However, one exception is made for the race: Sugimoto, a weak second year who joined the team along with Onoda. Teshima promises him that if Sugimoto can place first in the race, he’ll allow him to ride in the Inter High this year. However, unbeknownst to Sugimoto, he also made a similar deal with two hotshot first year students named Kaburagi and Donchiku. In the end, Kaburagi manages to pull ahead of Sugimoto, filling out the final slot for the Inter High team.
Sohoku has now finalized their team for the Inter High. To prepare, the team begins their yearly 1000 lap ride at a private sports center. Teshima announces to the team that they must be able to complete said laps over the course of 4 days, or else they’ll be kicked off the Inter High team. However, that’s not all! He puts a stipulation on Kaburagi and Donchiku that they can’t ride close together for more than a few seconds or else Kaburagi will lose his position on the team as well, in order to teach Kaburagi some independence. In the interest of fairness and his own growth, however, Teshima places the same limitation on himself and Aoyagi.
During the course their training camp, the Sohoku first and second years are shocked to discover that Koga, a third year student who has largely worked in the shadows supporting Sohoku, is actually a prodigy at riding himself. Koga’s specialty is stamina, and has only not been riding with the team up until now due to an injury. He challenges Teshima to a race to see who can complete their 1000 laps first and whoever wins gets to be captain of the team and ride in the Inter High. Koga leads for a while, but eventually Teshima and Koga agree to change the rules and make their stand on one final race. Towards the end, Koga thinks he’s got it in the bag and begins to relax. This proves to be fatal, as Teshima passes him in the last second. Koga realizes how vital Teshima’s tenacity is to the team, and agrees to let go of his leadership pursuit. Instead, Koga agrees to play the team’s support during the Inter High.
Sohoku breezes through the preliminary rounds and easily qualifies for the Inter High. The big day arrives, and the race begins! The first major event is the sprint challenge. Hakone sends newcomer Doubashi to race, while Sohoku sends Aoyagi with Kaburagi to assist him. Aoyagi does his best to keep up with Doubashi, but he’s too wild a rider for him to keep up. However, this was all just a ploy to help Kaburagi realize his potential as a sprinter. Aoyagi convinces Kaburagi to try his hand against Doubashi after a great deal of cajoling. This proves to be futile though, as, while Kaburagi gives him a run for his money, Doubashi claims victory.
Next up is the climbing challenge. Normally, Onoda would be Sohoku’s rep, but he unfortunately gets caught in the pack of all the other riders. Teshima is forced to ride for Sohoku on his own up against Hakone’s ace climber and Onoda’s longtime rival, Manami. Much to the surprise of everyone, Teshima is just barely able to keep pace with Manami, and Manami is forced into going into his max gear to keep up with him. Miraculously, Manami’s bike chain breaks and gives Teshima the advantage he needs to take the lead. However, not wanting to win dishonorably, Teshima decides to wait for Manami to fix his chain so they can have a proper race. Manami catches up, and just barely beats Teshima by milliseconds. The Sohoku team is inspired by Teshima’s near victory, and the series ends with both Hakone and Sohoku prepping for the sprint to the finish line of the first day.
What We Enjoyed About Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation
Much of what makes Yowamushi Pedal as a franchise fun is accepting a lot of what is thrown at you as is without thinking too much about how realistic a depiction it is of the sport. For example, during the race between Koga and Teshima, it doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense why they would decide to use a race that was determined by milliseconds when it’s clear that Koga is the better cyclist. It’s about using the sport to capture the drama of the moment; Koga lost due to his arrogance and Teshima was finally rewarded with a win after seasons of struggling to justify his position after 2 seasons of not having much of a role on the team. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama and heat of the moment.
And really, it’s the big-hype moments that drive Yowamushi Pedal. Watching Sohoku come back from the brink of defeat because they stopped to help out a teammate is exhilarating because the series knows how to sell a moment. It’s not just the moment itself, but everything that makes up a scene: establishing the odds of their success, the pulse-pounding music, the exaggerated, over-the-top animation… it all adds up to an explosive moment. It’s borderline camp, and that’s where the main charm of the series lies.
There are two major camps for the fandom of Yowamushi Pedal: people who enjoy the boys love subtext to the franchise and indulging in fun activities like suggestive fan art, fan fiction, etc, and those who enjoy a good sports battle anime. Fans of the former are probably going to find plenty to like about New Generation. The series introduces a lot of new characters and relationship dynamics that BL fans have plenty of new material to work with here. For example, if someone really likes Teshima, but got bored of all the Teshima/Aoyagi works out there, no worries! New Generation gives plenty of fuel for new relationship possibilities, like say Teshima/Manami, or Teshima/Ashikiba.
For people who enjoy shounen battle series, however, New Generation is unfortunately not up to the standard set by the original series. The biggest issue is the lack of focus. Flashy spectacle and hidden romantic undertones are only pieces to the original series’ success. The core of the story was largely about Onoda and his personal journey to find a social group. His victory against Manami in the original series was earned because of how much he struggled to find his place and then keep the team together. In New Generation, however, he fades into the background, popping up every now and then to have a quip or brief moment of character growth. It would be fine if there was a new central character to take his place, but the series never provides a new character or focus to take his place. The only real goal is Sohoku defending their title, which isn’t a terribly relatable motivation for most anyone watching the show.
1. Fun Races and Match-Ups
Thankfully, one of the ways in which New Generation succeeds as a battle series is the fun and unique characters. The first major race in the series, Ashikiba vs. Teshima and Onoda, is a real joy to watch based solely on Ashikiba’s bizarre personality quirk. He starts swinging back and forth like a pendulum and gets into this mental space where he envisions riding along to a symphony. The bombastic approach the series takes to depict this is a real treat and starts the series off on a strong note.
2. Comedic Timing
Shounen sports series generally throw some gags in there to not make it all brooding pretty boys and their struggles for victory, as they were originally written with children in mind. It should come as no surprise then that Yowamushi Pedal will generally get a chuckle out of you most episodes. Onoda’s terribly helpful and non-confrontational personality gets the most mileage, like going along with Ashikiba confusing him for another member of his team, or assuming that a new member of Kyoto Fushimi is actually a new member of Sohoku because he doesn’t want to embarrass himself by asking who he is.
3. Unexpected Twists
Sports anime generally gets looked down upon for being relatively formulaic. However, a lot of the fun of the genre comes from the ways in which a series might deviate from the standard formula. Focusing on characters who aren’t Onoda does give the series a chance to stretch its legs and have some fun with the match-ups since it’s not forced to end in a win for our hero. Instead, we get some (mostly) surprising outcomes from some of the races, such as Kaburagi vs Sugimoto and Naruko vs Midousuji.
1. Unfocused plot
We touched on this during the discussion, but effectively, the main issue with the series is that it seems unsure of who it is we should be rooting for. Onoda was clearly the main character of the original series, and while it did shift focus to other members of the team or other conflicts that were taking place throughout the Inter High, it was effectively done to set up the final match of Manami and Onoda. It was all about how Onoda’s social group came together as a unit, or to set up a bigger threat that eventually Onoda would have to deal with.
In New Generation, however, the plot doesn’t seem to know quite where it wants to focus. Is the story about Teshima’s growth as a captain and how he can rise up as a leader in spite of his own lack of talent? Not really, because the series still presents him as the all-knowing wise captain who can almost perfectly predict how a race is going to go. Is it about Kaburagi and him trying to live up to these legends that he’s come to idolize? He’s introduced a little under halfway through the series, so he can’t be the focus. Sometimes the series even moves to watch Hakone and their struggles, and they’re frequently painted as just as sympathetic and important as Sohoku. There’s no emotional core to the story as a result, and it’s difficult to get attached to anyone.
2. Plays it too safe
Sequels can be difficult because successful ones manage to capture what people love about the original work while still providing a twist to differentiate it enough to stand on its own. To its credit, New Generation does try a little bit by introducing a mostly new cast and mixing up the character dynamics a little bit. Characters like Onoda and Imaizumi who were first years in the prior two seasons are now second years that need to learn to be mentors to their underclassmen.
The problem is that while this kind of growth could have made for an interesting show, Yowamushi Pedal leans too hard on the surface level traits of the original series to drive viewership. It’s mostly about the guys of the series exchanging meaningful words with one another that don’t amount to much beyond “We are friends, and we are going to ride together/for each other!” There’s not a lot of real meat to the character relationships.
Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation starts pretty strong, but it struggles to capture what made the original series a fun ride (pardon the pun). It’s not a bad watch by any means, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone outside of diehard fans of the original series will find much here.
Agree with us? Disagree? Please let us know in the comments below and share your favorite moments from the series!