Yowamushi Pedal, Vol. 1

By Wataru Watanabe. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Akita Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Champion. Released in North America by Yen Press.

This upcoming year will see a bit of a renaissance in sports manga, a genre that has always had difficulty catching hold of readers in North America. Yes, Eyeshield 21 was finished, as was Cross Game, but for the most oart sports manga has been synonymous with “won’t be licensed”. A large part of this is that most sports titles go on for years, with volumes reaching Naruto or One Piece levels. But not selling like Naruto or One Piece. But we may be seeing a change. Viz has a volleyball and basketball manga due out in 2016. And at the tail end of 2015, Yen Press gives us Yowamushi Pedal (it’s untranslated to keep its large fanbase – I think yowamushi means ‘weak’ or ‘cowardly’), a shonen cycling manga that is almost a template of what the traditional sports manga is like.


Fans of Eyeshield 21 may find a lot of this familiar, in fact. Our hero is Onoda, a geeky otaku-type who lives for anime and rides his “mommy bike”, complete with basket on the front, to Akibihara every week to get the latest deals. The gimmick is that riding to Akibihara and back every week is 55 miles. On his little bike he’s had since elementary school. And he’s done this since he was 9. As a result, though he’s totally unaware of it, he has amazing natural skills when it comes to bike riding. As I said, folks may be reminded of Sena, who developed his running speed in response to being bullied every day. Onoda’s life gradually changes when he meets Imaizumi, a serious cyclist who will be playing the ‘stoic competitor’ role, and in the second half of this omnibus he meets Naruko, a loud hothead who would not really change much at all if you swapped the k in his name with a t, to be honest.

The art style is not really as polished as you might see in Jump, but it’s pretty decent, especially for a weekly series. (Compare this with Yen’s previous sports manga Sasameke, which I’ve lambasted before, and whose art was one of its main nonselling points.) But the main point of the series is the characters and the racing. Onoda associates sports clubs with the opposite of him, and to be fair he does lack the stamina that you’d expect a lot of cyclists to have. Getting past this mental block, and showing him how bike racing can actually be fun is the forward momentum of the first omnibus. Like many sports manga, we’re starting to pile on cast. In addition to the three leads I mentioned, we have the token girl in the manga, who works for a bike shop and gets to deliver the exposition; and a large number of guys already on the team we meet right at the end, some of whom will no doubt get fleshed out as we go along.

I anticipate Yowamushi Pedal will be one of those series where you need to double check the cast list on the internet as you go along. That said, most of the cast here is likeable (or sort of irritating in a likeable way in Naruko’s case), and you want to read more of Onoda’s journey of self-discovery – the goal of any sports manga.

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