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Imaizumi, intrigued and more than a little annoyed by Onoda’s seemingly effortless mastery of climbing the steepest of hills on a completely POS bike, challenges our hero to a race. With a special incentive to sweeten the deal.
And so this brings us to the first “conflict” of the story. Already you can feel the seeds of a certain dynamic being planted that will define the relationship between these two characters. Or will it?
And thus, as if we had any doubt before, we have a full-fledged shonen series on our hands. Is the idea of “genre” in anime and manga defined by age and sex of the principle characters (or by the age- and sex-specific experiences they go through)? Well, that’s often the case, so it’s tempting to see that as a hard and fast rule. But the demographics of the readership/audience also plays a big role in determining what’s labeled as shonen, shoujo, seinen, etc. In reality, it’s probably a combination of the content of the story and the make-up of the audience that decides which of these genres a title will get pigeonholed into. As if any of that really matters, all things considered (genre is, quite often, a meaningless signifier that discourages original thought and narrows the scope of what kind of stories a person will even consider reading at all). A good story is a good story, no matter who it’s about or who it’s “aimed” at, which means less to audiences of a geeky-persuasion today than ever before.
What I like about Yowamushi Pedal so far (among other things) is that our protagonist is an actual underdog, one whose abilities are certainly promising, but are untested and certainly not strong enough to instantly place him in the upper tiers of “strength” compared to the other characters of his world. His natural talents for bicycle riding — not to be confused with bicycle racing — definitely give him a lot of potential to improve. Maybe this will be the focus of the rest of the story? We’ll certainly see.
I should mention that I have watched the debut episode of Yowamushi Pedal (aka YowaPedal?) and I definitely do have thoughts on it, but I plan on blogging a few more chapters first and watching more than one episode before attempting to compare the two. I definitely wish that I’d found this series sooner, since I don’t want to get caught up in the constant temptation to simply compare the manga to the anime as it’s airing, or to read and blog the manga at a pace that stays ahead of the story as it’s being told from week to week on television. Heck, will I even want to continue blogging the manga as long as the animated series is being aired? I’m interested in both, but that might make for a lot of redundant content on this blog. I guess this is all a long-winded way of saying that I have no idea how I’ll continue to approach blogging about this series, but I’m confident that I will continue to in one way or another.
So what’s the best way to do this? Post a chapter summary? No one wants to read that. Post my “impressions” of the chapter? For the longest time I’ve hated that approach whenever I see it on blogs like this. Why? I’m not sure. Whatever my reason for feeling like that is, it probably says more about myself than it actually does about other fans and the approach they take to blogging about their favorite anime or manga. This is actually something I really want to talk about because it’s been a big part of my whole blogging experience. But I’ll get around to that later, maybe.
I read the first 4 or 5 chapters of Yowamushi Pedal all at once, so it’s probably misleading or dishonest of me to try to break each down into a single experience. I will say that I enjoyed this chapter a lot. That much is probably obvious. If reading an early chapter like this was anything but enjoyable, would I have bothered to stick around for any more? Anyway, I do want to mention two specific points about this manga that really come to light in chapter 2.
I’m a terrible artist and my inability to draw a picture that, in any way, shape or form, even resembles the subject which it is supposed to depict, is so serious that I’ve often wondered if it’s symptomatic of some kind of undiagnosed metal disease or significant brain injury. That’s particularly troublesome for myself given how much I love artsy-fartsy stuff, including comics, film, and all kinds of visual arts and design. Furthermore, I’d like to talk about art, and not just the ideas behind it, but the technical qualities of it as well. I don’t know if I have any business doing this. But I might try.
The “art style” of Yowamushi Pedal is very typical of manga in general and many of its most common and traditional conventions. The panel on the right depicts one of the characters — Shunsuke, an experienced and competitive freshman determined to overcome a recent loss against a rival cyclist — in a very dynamic scene. This is one of those full-page panels illustrating the page bearing the title of a chapter, where manga artists will usually go above and beyond the usual level of detail that’s reserved for the “regular” pages of the story. The first chapter opened with a similar sequence of detailed drawings, also depicting one of the characters in an exciting cycling race. Here, Shunsuke is simply in training, but the artist’s work is still done to great effect, not only establishing his determination as one of the defining traits of his character, but also portraying the sport in a dynamic and exciting light.
Pages later, we get this:
This is not a “bad” drawing but it lacks the realistic qualities of the former panel. And it’s, for lack of a better word, sorta rough-looking. Why is this so? I like to think that this was all a choice on the part of the artist. After all, the panel still gets the job done, the “quirks” working to draw out particular qualities of the two characters in ways that a “perfect” rendition would leave rather ambiguous, while lending a lighthearted tone to some of the scenes that rely heavily on dialogue. These two different “styles” — if it’s correct to even call them different “styles” at all — are integrated together well enough that their juxtaposition never bothered me. Then again, I enjoy a pretty big range of art styles, from crisp and detailed “realistic” works to the look of significantly less-pained visuals more accepting of “imperfections” that would seem out of place in the former. Looks like we’re going to get some of each in this story but so long as it obeys certain laws of visual consistency and such, that shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, it could be a very effective technique! But like I said, I’m not an artist and have no training in this stuff so if this all sounds like a bunch of hot air, then that’s probably because it is. I’m trying to learn the “rules” of comics on my own. We’ll see how well that works out.
The other point or topic that I’d like to mention is the characterization of the lead protagonist. The last few pages of this chapter focus on Onoda and show us a side of him that, I fear, may turn certain readers off from him as a character. His reaction to a confrontation with a teacher reveals the depth of his beta-male nature and the resentment he holds toward anyone he perceives as establishing dominance over him. This is meant to inspire empathy in the reader. I wonder how many readers will have quite the opposite reaction to him instead? It’s shocking how often fans of anime and manga will turn against a character for showing any sign of weakness, often to the point of rejecting the entire story rather than even trying to identify with or understand said character. Yes, I know that this kind of attitude is somewhat of an Internet phenomenon and probably a Western one at that. But I still wonder how this is going to play out among typical readers who expect a certain level of badass ‘tude in their lead dudes. This probably sounds like I have an axe to grind with a certain kind of fan, but I realize that’s always been the case with all kinds of storytelling mediums and that there’s nothing anyone can do about it aside from learning to tell when it’s best to ignore other people’s opinions. All I’m saying is that I hope he’s well-received as a character, but I won’t be surprised if 4chan /a/-bros label him a worthless faggot or something after one episode.
I’d hope to have more entries like this finished before Yowamushi Pedal‘s first episode would make its debut. That’s tonight, by the way, so it’ll probably show up on Crunchyroll pretty soon. I don’t know when I’m going to start watching or how much of the manga I’ll finish before tuning in. I wish I would have planned this better.