Interhigh is here again, so it’s time to be prepared for several omnibus volumes worth of high schoolers pedaling their hearts out over a three-day period.
The first half of Yowamushi Pedal volume 18 though is spent mostly reestablishing the stakes in the race. The first one is obvious: the title and glory of being the #1 school for a year. Onoda starts succumbing to the pressure when he realizes the treatment Sohoku is getting as well as him wearing the #1 tag. Nerves getting the best of him is one thing, but author Watanabe shows Onoda as losing some serious brain cells before the race. For example, Onoda seems taken aback when his team is moved to the front of the starting peloton since they were last year’s winners. Like, duh! Even I remember that detail from way back when.
Onoda’s flailing about ties into first-year member’s Kaburagi storyline. After meeting Doubashi, Hakone’s new Goliath of a rider, Kaburagi starts to wonder if Sohoku — and Onoda in particular — is truly good. Not that he should be questioning anyone; Kaburagi hasn’t realized he’s really a sprinter!
Or that it’s unlikely a deity of orange sports drinks exists and that said god would be leaving bike riding tips on a piece of paper.
So Mr. Believes-In-Drink-Gods is sent with Aoyagi to try to claim the tag for fastest sprinter, and Doubashi is also competing for Hakone. Kaburagi can’t understand why he’s chosen for the job, but he also doesn’t mind trying to take down Doubashi. So in the second half of the book, the race for the title is on!
But you do know it can’t end this early, right? This is Yowamushi Pedal after all. But so far I have to say this is one of the better races in the series. The tension and backstories should be very familiar to readers by now, but I think Watanabe’s growth as a writer and the combination of characters here adds a layer of freshness. For instance, Doubashi, for as big and bad as he is, is one of the more realistic antagonists in the sense he hasn’t pulled out any abnormal and/or unusual tricks like named muscles or riding up to rivals and putting his hands under their shorts to sample their muscles. (Yes, that happens to Imaizumi here.) And Watanabe seemed to be setting up for Kaburagi to question his senpais’ abilities, he works hard from the start instead of being whiny.
A part of me when starting the Interhigh arc here was full of dread, expecting a lot of delays and Onoda the miracle worker. I don’t doubt those will happen, but the Doubashi vs Kaburagi/Aoyagi storyline hyped me up for Interhigh. If this is a sign of things to come, Sohoku’s attempt to keep the crown should be a good one.