4 Kilometers remain on the 2nd day of the grueling 3 day team cycling battle that is the Inter-High Championship Race. Against all odds Onoda Sakamichi, and the rest of the Sohoku High School’s cycling team find themselves in the running to take the ultimate prize. But with 4 more kilometers, as well as the daunting 3rd day climb ahead of them, will they be able to take the Sohoku jersey across the finish line?
If it wasn’t abundantly clear, Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road, is the sequel series to the original Yowamushi Pedal, and by sequel, I mean that Grande Road is the final 3rd of the story that the first season hadn’t got to yet. That series was reviewed by our Ace reviewer veteran Koda, who has left the final stretch of this review to the newbie (me). So if you haven’t seen any YP yet, go start there. For those that have then, the question is really does this series finish strong, or does it fail to cross the finish line?
Everything that was great about the original season is back in full force. Exciting, emotionally charged biking battles, touching moments, funny after credits skits, anime songs and great love-to-hate villains, they’re all here. Which is good, cause frankly if you watch this back to back with season 1, as I had, you barely register that this is even a “second” season. Which is great as I thought season 1 did its job very well, and more of it is, frankly, awesome.
On the topic of those love-to-hate enemies, Grande Road pulls one of its greatest sleight of hands when it manages to turn the main villain of season 1 into a sympathetic character in just under 2 episodes. It was a stroke of genius, I found, that they managed to turn this creepy bastard into a tragic and sympathetic creepy bastard, who ended up breaking my heart. It was a glorious turn, and one that was awe inspiring even the first time i watched it.
Yowamushi Pedal as a whole has an emotional core that is amazing. Going into this show I thought this would be a fun sports series, but it turns out to be so much more than that. Grande Road in particular is awesome as the entire show escalates as it hurtles towards the final finish line. It was a roller coaster that would have all the sadness and despair of a funeral one episode, to the next having air punch worthy moments of vindication as the Sohoku team once more did the impossible, to the next having such a hopeful and uncontainable joy expressed that you almost want to cry. And all of that from a bunch of guys riding bicycles. It was a mesmerizing and lovely journey.
Yowamushi Pedal is a fairly grounded anime, though not completely realistic. It becomes very plain to see that Onoda is, without a doubt, one of the strongest riders in the Inter-High, he simply has to be given the right push to unlock his potential. The sense of growth and accomplishment from his heroes journey is exhilarating, and in the hands of a less competent author likely would have felt cheap, and unearned, but Yowamushi Pedal manages to do it with such a sense of grace and earnestness that you don’t even think how ridiculous some of this show is while watching it, because it’s just that good.
Whoever was in charge of the episode direction was a genius, as this show has a sense of momentum that is great, and makes this show very, very good for marathoning. Each episode has its own emotional peaks and valleys, reaches a climax and then sets up a hook for the next show right at the very end. It made each episode a great watch by itself, but also always made me want to watch the next one right away. (Just don’t start this show if you are crunched for time, you’ll thank me later.)
If there is one thing Grande Road has going for it, above all the things that season 1 also accomplished, it is that it actually ends. Season 1 is a great show, but without Grande Road it would be incomplete. With Grande Road there is now a definitive and satisfying conclusion to this epic journey, one where you can finally set it down, take a breath and finally relax, thinking with a contented smile and think “it’s finally over.”
If there is one thing that could be leveled at Yowamushi Pedal as a criticism, I would say that, plot wise, this show did not necessarily need 62 episodes in order to tell the “story” and while it has a brilliantly paced narrative, it is not the fastest paced show out there by a long shot. But even if they could have done the show’s “plot” in half the time I don’t know if that would have been better, because what they did with the episodes they made was great. All that really means though is if you are wanting to start watching YP be ready for the long haul.
Yowamushi Pedal was a surprise when I first started, I didn’t realize how good a sports anime could be, but this show crushed my own expectations. It was a show that was brilliant to begin with and ended as strong as ever. It was a journey that I would happily ride again, and would give my own hearty recommendation to enjoy this show to pretty much everyone.
Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road was a Fall 2014-Winter 2015 anime by TMS/8PAN, and was a followup to the Yowamushi Pedal that aired Fall 2013 - Summer 2014. Both can be found for legal streaming in North America over at Crunchyroll.