Nothing can pump you up or inspire you quite like a sports anime–and at this point in time, there’s a series for just about every game out there, from volleyball to figure skating and even American football. A series about cycling isn’t all that strange, but Yowamushi Pedal has proved to be something special since its initial release in 2008.
The power of sports anime isn’t in the games being played but in the characters and their relationships with one another. Admittedly, I’m not a huge sports lover by any means, but some of these series rank highly on my all-time faves list regardless.
The original manga series was awarded Best Shonen Series by Kodansha in 2015 alongside The Seven Deadly Sins. There are four anime seasons, four films, an OVA adaptation, a mobile game, two television dramas and an upcoming live-action film.
Yeah, something about Yowamushi Pedal is special.
From Anime Nerd to the Front of the Herd
Yowamushi Pedal tells the story of Sakamichi Onoda, an anime nerd fresh out of middle school. Largely friendless and shy, he hopes that his luck will change in high school, where he can join the anime club and find people to talk to about his interests.
When he gets to school, however, he finds that the anime club is a thing of the past, and the only way to get it started again is to recruit more members. Riding home one day in a depression on his incredibly lame bike, he’s noticed by cycling club member Shunsuke Imaizumi, as Onoda rockets up a hill with no effort at all.
Another member of the cycling club, Shoukichi Naruko, also notices Onoda, and the two attempt to convince the nerdy boy to join the bicycle racing club at Sohoku High. From then on out, plenty of new bonds are formed, challenges are undertaken, and Onoda slowly begins to come out of his shell.
The Main Characters of Yowamushi Pedal
These characters attend Sohoku High School. While they compete against other teams throughout the series, these characters are the ones you’ll get to know the most, and are known for their insanely difficult training and ability to overcome any obstacle ahead of them.
- Sakamichi Onoda – The protagonist of the series, Onoda is shy and quiet until he joins the bicycle racing club. Over time, he gains incredible confidence thanks to the support and friendship of his fellow cyclists.
- Shoukichi Naruko – A super competitive freshman, Naruko first sees Onoda in Akihabara while buying a Gundam model for his little brother. He has incredible vitality on a bike and wants Onoda to succeed.
- Shunsuke Imaizumi – Typically calm and collected, Imaizumi wants to become the fastest cyclist in the world. He takes care of Onoda, though he doesn’t get along with everyone on the team.
- Jin Tadokoro – A third-year student, Tadokoro is bulky and an incredibly talented sprinter. He’s typically called the dad of the team, since he takes a mentor position.
- Yuusuke Makishima – A third-year student, Makishima is the climber of the Sohoku team. He has a strange look and an even stranger personality, frightening most people.
- Shingo Kinjou – The captain of the cycling club, Kinjou comes off as cold and unapproachable. He’s incredibly fast and tough, and wants the rest of the team to match his level.
The Creator of the Manga is Also a Cyclist
The Yowamushi Pedal manga series began in 2008. It is still being published in Weekly Shonen Champion, alongside other popular works like Beastars and Saint Seiya: Next Dimension. Currently, these chapters have been compiled in 65 volumes in Japan. 14 volumes are available in English, published by Yen Press.
Yowamushi Pedal was written and illustrated by Wataru Watanabe, who often features snippets of his cycling adventures in the bonus pages of the manga. He also posts plenty of bicycling pictures and artwork on his blog, and can often be seen wearing Onoda’s uniform!
With Four Seasons, Could Season Five Be on the Horizon?
The first anime series premiered in 2013, titled Yowamushi Pedal. The second season, Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road, began in 2014.
The third season, Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation premiered in 2017, with the fourth Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line coming in 2018.
All four seasons were animated by TMS Entertainment, one of the oldest anime studios in Japan. They have produced such incredible classics as Detective Conan and Lupin the 3rd, and also brought the world Akira.
Since the end of season four, fans around the world have been anxious to know if a season five is on the horizon. There hasn’t been a green light so far, but with the manga still continuing on and another movie coming up soon, the popularity of the series hasn’t diminished in any respect. Fingers crossed.
Where to Watch and Read Yowamushi Pedal
Seasons 1-4 of Yowamushi Pedal, along with the movie, can be streamed on Crunchyroll.
If you’re looking to pick up the manga, issues can be found on Amazon in both paperback and digital versions.
The live-action film will be released in August 2020.