Yowamushi Pedal, also called Yowapeda, is a show based on the anime of the same name. Yowapeda ran its first season in October of 2013, and has had a long run of additional seasons and movies until as recently as August 2020, when the live action movie was released. The show also has a fifth season expected in early 2021.
Yowapeda flew under a lot of radars at first for a couple of reasons. To start, it was an anime about competitive cycling – something that not a whole lot of people have a specific interest in. Second, it was released a few months after Free! which came out in July of 2013. Free! was a titan in the sports anime world, and it was hard to top it. The art style of Yowapeda also was not conducive to attracting a large audience. The characters were drawn in a very unique style, instead of the “anime pretty boy” trope we’re so used to seeing in sports anime now.
Personally, I think Yowapeda’s art style is what sets it above the rest. It’s incredibly unique, and it’s refreshing to see a show that doesn’t just give every character the same face and just change the outfit/eye color/hair. I will admit that I had a harder time really feeling a personal bond with the characters, though, because of this art style. Some of the characters are just straight up ugly. But this “ugly” art style perfectly reflects the way the characters were drawn in the manga – with the same unique and at times unpleasant features. The character I think of in particular when I think of this show is Akira Midousuji. He’s…well…just have a look.
This dude is all kinds of fucked up. But that’s the point. The artists behind this show skillfully crafted his appearance to match that of his personality in the show – he’s scary, intimidating, creepy, and is often compared to creepy-crawly bugs like a centipede or cockroach. This is what makes this show special, but also causes it to not appeal to certain crowds. Those who don’t (or can’t) appreciate the artistic style simply will not like the look of this show. It’s also pretty unappealing to children, who could pretty easily be scared by quite a few scenes.
But enough about the art, how’s the story? Well, it goes like how you’d expect most underdog sports anime shows to go. The good guys realize they might lose, they bust out some new technique, or the power of friendship and teamwork, or something like that, and they win by a hair. I found this one especially satisfying when the good guys would win, because I genuinely did not like the main character for the first season. Onoda, as he’s called, is portrayed as the most awkward dude I’ve ever seen in an anime. He actually got on my nerves at times when I’d watch the show. But seeing him actually win made me start to like him, which was a pretty crazy (but enjoyable) experience.
The show is split into two parts, with the first two seasons under the name of Yowamushi Pedal, and the second part titled Yowamushi Pedal New Generation. Believe it or not, I never finished New Generation. I didn’t get past the last episode of the third season. Because (pretty major spoilers ahead) the good guys lost. After all of the satisfying endings of the first two seasons, the third one felt like a slap in the face, and I simply didn’t enjoy it. Call me a sore loser or whatever, but I watch sports anime to see the good guys win. And the good guys did not win. After that, I just couldn’t enjoy the rest of the episode, and I dropped the show. I might give it another look after this review, but I’m not sure yet.
So, should you bother watching Yowapeda? Well, that’s up to you. I highly recommend the first two seasons for a strong story, unique art style, and enjoyable and lovable characters. Whether or not you want to continue past that point is up to you and your taste in sports anime.