Passion gives people a meaning in life. This is seen extremely clearly in Yowamushi Pedal (also known by the nickname Yowapeda), a manga that has inspired multiple stage plays, two anime seasons (with a third on the way), an upcoming live-action series, two compilation anime films, and now a new animated film titled Yowamushi Pedal: Spare Bike.
The concept of Yowamushi Pedal is simple: various boys in high school spend their days in their respective schools’ cycling clubs. Through cycling, they find what is important to them, whether that be friendships, thrills, or something else. In the one-hour Yowamushi Pedal: Spare Bike film–which is a prologue to the story of the original Yowamushi Pedal–we are able to see what served as the spark of the passion of cyclists and rivals Yuusuke Makishima and Jinpachi Toudou before they even met each other.
The film is split into three (or four, if you count the comedic animated short Sore Ike! Arakita-kun) sections–with two dedicated to the powerful climber of the Sohoku High School cycling club, Yuusuke Makishima. Makishima’s story begins just as he is entering his first year of high school (tenth grade in the United States). Immediately, we learn that Makishima is a little bit different from the rest of the crowd–he’s lax, somewhat sloppy, and most of all, bad with other people. He doesn’t have many (if any) friends and is often scolded by teachers for not doing things by the book. However, there is one thing he can really shine in: cycling.
At first, Makishima was thrilled to join his new school and make friends with the members of the cycling club–people who would understand his passion. Despite his confidence in uphill cycling (also called climbing), unfortunately, he is ridiculed by his upperclassmen for his strange style of swerving his bike back and forth while ascending slopes. Unable to stand up for himself, he tries to reform his style to match the norm, though it makes him slower as a result.
For a long period of time, Makishima tries to adhere to the adage “the nail that sticks out is the one that gets hammered down” by hammering himself down in an effort to fit in with his new teammates. However, as a consequence, he loses the freedom of cycling that was once his only real joy in life. What saves him is his upperclassman Kanzaki, who teaches him that it’s OK to do what you want, even if others may think you’re weird.
In fact, Showtaro Morikubo (pictured above, on the right), the voice of Makishima, touched on this point at the premiere screening for the film. He said that Kanzaki was a big influence on Makishima; something he realized not while recording for the film, but when watching the completed movie instead. And he’s right–to the introverted Makishima, Kanzaki becomes a pillar of support that allows him to be true to himself. Throughout the film, Kanzaki constantly sees through Makishima’s nervous exterior and helps him become not only a better competitive cycler, but a better person. As we can see in the story of the television series, by the time Makishima has become a third-year, he still marches to the beat of a different drum but is confident and relaxed with who he is. Kanzaki is the spark that made Makishima have passion for cycling as a serious competitive sport.
The other main segment of the movie focuses on Jinpachi, a member of Sohoku’s rival high school’s cycling team. While Makishima knew what his passion was at the beginning of his story, Jinpachi’s tale is about actually finding something to be passionate about. At first, Jinpachi (still a middle school student) is hesitant to wear a helmet and race on a bicycle competitively–even though his good friend Shūsaku invites him. Why? Because he doesn’t want to mess up his beautiful hair. Instead of putting his time into riding his rickety bicycle, he would rather keep his mind on being fashionable.
Though Jinpachi acts dramatic and fun, you can immediately tell that he doesn’t have any major goals in life. His friend Shūsaku, on the other hand, is filled with energy and ambition–he’s determined to win their local race no matter what. Of course, Jinpachi couldn’t care less, but gets dragged along anyway. It’s only when Shūsaku tells him about the prize that awaits the winner of the race that Jinpachi’s motivation for cycling blooms and his true character shines through; he wants to become the best and be in the spotlight.
But that doesn’t mean that Jinpachi is just a superficial, self-centered cyclist. No, in fact, this film shows that he’s actually a good person. Throughout his portion of the film, Jinpachi shows that he’s a reliable and kind friend to his buddy Shūsaku. Despite seeing narcissistic behavior from the youngster over and over, we learn that he will never abandon his friend when he’s in need.
It’s been years since I’ve seen the first season of Yowamushi Pedal, but this film was strong enough to stand on its own as a prologue with two very unique and powerful characters at the helm. After knowing where their passion for cycling came from, I’m a little more interested to see how Makishima and Jinpachi’s passions will clash on the course in season three of the anime.
Yowamushi Pedal: Spare Bike will premiere in Japanese theaters on September 9 with a limited two-week screening; you can check out the trailer for the movie with a translation by us now. You can also watch the first two seasons of Yowamushi Pedal on Crunchyroll for free with subtitles. Discotek Media has released the first season on DVD in North America. A third season of the anime is scheduled to premiere on Japanese television in January 2016.
© Wataru Watanabe (Weekly Shōnen Champion)/Yowamushi Pedal SB Production Committee