Yowamushi Pedal Volume 1
Yowamushi Pedal volume 1 seems like it might be a sports manga, with its focus on cycling, but it’s really about a loner guy learning how special he is.
Sakamichi is a meek nerd. He regularly rides his “mommy bike” a long distance over hilly roads to get to Akiba, where he can buy limited-release DVDs and toys and other signs of fandom. (Thanks to the translation notes, I found out “Sakamichi” means “hilly roads”.) He doesn’t realize how hard this task would be for most people, because all he’s interested in is saving money, spending what he would otherwise use for bus fare on more collectibles. (Sakamichi’s real skill, though, appears to be bouncing up from collisions and falls.)
He dreams of joining the anime club and finally having friends who share his interests, but the club has been disbanded for lack of members. Then a competitive cyclist discovers his abilities and stamina. Imaizumi is an elite racer, with a ton of knowledge and technology, and a grudge against a former competitor. He finds Sakamichi a distraction, so he challenges him to a race in order to prove that Sakamichi’s trips are flukes.
Sakamichi has a secret weapon, though. There’s a nice girl, Miki, who helps him get his bike adjusted properly and encourages him. She’s also a cycling fangirl, knowing a heck of a lot about the sport. With her help, and his dedication to anime fandom, he just might push through to learn more about his abilities.
Wataru Watanabe’s style strikes me as a slightly edgy variant on the standard shonen manga look, becoming particularly scratchy when conveying the speed of racing, with plenty of speed lines. Madison, Wisconsin, is very much a biking city, so I appreciated the bits of information throughout the story. It helped me learn more about my own bicycle.
The second half of the book introduces a new cycle-crazed character. Shoukichi has just moved from the country, a town where a major bike manufacturer is located, and his wide-eyed, loud-mouthed enthusiasm drags Sakamichi along in his wake. Unlike Sakamichi, Shoukichi isn’t afraid of being noticed. He’s just one of the additional racing club members we’ll meet before the end of the book.
Yen Press was smart to put two volumes’ worth of the series in this larger-size manga volume, since that means we get to spend more time with the characters and see the first race’s conclusion. Yowamushi Pedal has been running for seven years in Japan and is now up to 42 volumes. That’s quite a lot of cycling. (The publisher provided a review copy.)