Review: Yowamushi Pedal vol. 1

While I’m a sucker for most sports manga/anime, I did not think I would like this particular one. I mean it is about bicycling. The craze for this sport has long since faded after numerous doping scandals and frankly, my general lack of interest in the sport. Then I read it. Is there any sport that manga can't make intersting? IS THERE!?!

Then I hated the ending because it meant I would have to get the second volume to find out the conclusion of the storyline. Since when did manga start having cliffhangers? How very dare you.

yowamushi-pedal-volume-1-coverIf you didn’t figure it out from the above statement, I actually enjoyed the hell out of this story. It’s not the typical “I'm already a sports prodigy” character, but rather about an Otaku that has no idea how good he is.

We meet Sakamichi Onoda as he starts high school and is excited to join the manga/anime club. He’s also very excited because he’s closer to Akihabara and with the money he saves by not taking the train he can buy an extra capsule toy. Clearly, he’s a young man with his priorities in order. He nearly gets run over one day by a rich kid’s driver because no one was expecting him to be on the huge hill leading to the school… on a “mommy’s bike.” Mommy's bike is the term that the book uses for what’s typically called a “cruiser bike” here in the states. It's the last bike you’d want to ride up a steep hill on because it’s heavy, only has one gear and… did I mention it's heavy?

Eventually, we learn that our rich kid is in the bike club, and that’s he’s looking to go pro. He rides his bike on a custom treadmill because that’s how intense this dude is. His path continues to cross with Onoda’s, and he’s just baffled how this kid can do what he can on a mommy bike, so he challenges him to race. The catch is that if the rich kid loses he’ll become one of the members of the anime/manga club that Onoda is trying to get started… because the old one was closed due to lack of interest, thus crushing Onoda who had looked forward to joining. Their race is what takes up a lot of the book and is the most interesting part. You’ll learn about bicycling in a way that you never knew possible and certainly wasn’t explained during the cycling craze years ago. That’s where a supporting female character is introduced as she begins to help Onoda during the race and changes how he sees cycling. Like me, you’ll have to wait for the next volume to find out if the rich kid joins the manga club.

The pacing of the story is the biggest strength of the volume. There’s enough downtime between cycling talk that you get to know Onoda quite well. He bikes to save money for his hobbies and yet there’s more to that. He’s waited for high school to find like-minded friends and felt the ultimate disappointment only to keep going and press on. There’s a charm to him and his ambitions that I’m sure a lot of people reading this particular manga can understand.

The art was also surprising because it has a western feel to it. If it weren’t for the tropey facial expressions and other aspects you could easily forget you were reading a manga. The art is detailed, but gritty giving the world a lived-in feel. It’s not your clean looking world with everything in place. It feels like a real town, a real high school with students. It’s the first time I’ve read a manga set in high school and thought, that’s a real high school. Mostly because the story isn’t so laser focused on Onoda that it forgets to build the other students and setting around him.

I will likely pass on the anime because I really want to keep reading the manga. I don’t want this unique reading experience spoiled for me, because again, it has a very different vibe than other manga I’ve read. It understands the genre but changes things just enough that it feels familiar, but not cookie-cutter.

[su_box title="Score: 5/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]

Yowamushi Pedal vol. 1 Creator: Wataru Watanabe Publisher: Yen Press Price: $24.00 Format: TPB; Print/Digital