This episode was two halves if there ever was one. Yowamushi pedal — like many sports series, good and bad — loves himself a flashback. If applied wisely, they do work, but timing is everything. I’m not crazy about them showing up in the middle of the race’s biggest moments. Who shines again is also important – the people who show up as the main actors always do better than those on the sidelines. I have nothing against Kuroda-kun per se – I’m kind of neutral on it. But it’s not part of the climax, nor will it ever be, and that was ten minutes of screen time I’ll never get back.
Of course there is He is Related to this flashback. But it’s fitting that it has more to do with Manami than with Kuroda. Kuroda for his part is sort of a slightly elevated Teshima – a very good racer who’s been given captaincy (well, vice in his case) based on seniority and isn’t unacceptable to anyone on the team. But by telling Manami-kun this story here, he’s trying to instill in a kid a sense of what “team” means more than just racing content to himself. You can debate whether Manami or Onoda has an advantage with their contrasting views on the subject – Onoda-kun carries the added burden of that sense of responsibility, but also an extra layer of motivation.
As for Hakone, I lost the previous year, and that’s the extra motivation and weight. And it was Manami who lost on the line (to Sakamichi, of course), so he should feel that way either way. Truthfully though, once it comes down to the brass rivets, I don’t think any of that matters much. These two are in their own little world when they come together–even though they are so different, they resonate with each other. Each of them puts out fire in the other, not a trace of enmity. One could argue that animosity is a requirement of great sporting competition (and many do) but to me it is gratifying to watch these two good boys take such pleasure simply from competing with each other at what they do best.
Part B is all about it, and not surprisingly, it’s much more compelling than the first half of the episode. It’s a sakamichi with a nose in front of him where we left things last week, but he’s got a pot bogged down in the “swamp” Sangaku refers to. Instead of thinking about the fun duel he’s up against, he starts thinking about the finish line, his legs getting tight. But he’s self-aware enough as a contestant to attack the problem, which he does by gripping the bars tightly and doing something he rarely does – dancing. It’s hardly Makishima’s nods to an angry ostrich, but by Onoda standards, pretty wild stuff.
In the end, Manami does Sky Prince things – he waits for the wind at his back, and spreads his wings. But of course being in the lead shifts most of the pressure on him – Sangaku is pretty immune to that, but now he presents a target for Sakamichi to focus on. Being a tireless terrier, Sakamichi gets great inspiration from watching his beloved friend do his thing. He can’t fly, so Onoda does what he He does – he sings, pushing himself forward in rhythm. “Him, his” is for him Wings, not to be underestimated. When Hime shows up, you know the game is working real well.
Not only is Princess Petanco featured here, there are other pretty girls as well. There is Manami’s classmate and Osanajimi Mihara, who wears the “Best Boy” hat he gave her with a certain disdain. And there’s another old friend of hers too – Saka-Mama, who of course recognizes the headgear right away (she should – she gave it to Sangaku in the first place). I don’t see Manami being too moved by anyone watching, but Onoda will have a huge number of VIPs waiting on the final kilometer stretch, and it will be interesting to see how he reacts if he sees his mother in the heat of the moment.