Convinced by my previous post on sports anime? Itching to try out one sports anime, but not sure where to start from the voluminous recent hits, or just wanting to find one that suits your style? Think you’ve hit a wall in sports anime? Fear not, for this post will aim to distinguish between different sports anime and help you find one to your liking!
I admit, though, that I haven’t watched, say, a ton, of sports anime and my choices are probably pretty limited to (1) the ones that have come out in recent years, and (2) the ones whose characters tend to be populated by boys *grins knowingly*
To reiterate, the sports anime I have watched are: Kuroko no Basket (all three seasons), Yowamushi Pedal (both seasons), Haikyuu!!, Big Windup (1st season), Chihayafuru (both seasons), Diamond no Ace (1st season), and Free! (1st season). Naturally, I will just be discussing these anime, though I am pretty sure that there will be one of them at least which will appeal to you!
For starters, this sales pitch would probably take more than a minute to read in full. In fact, it will be the most un-sales pitch-like sales pitch you would ever read because of its length, but it probably doesn’t matter because the objectives of this series are really as follows:
FIRSTLY, TO CONVINCE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT WATCHED ANY SPORTS ANIME AT ALL TO START.
SECONDLY, TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT SPORTS ANIME I HAVE WATCHED SO THAT YOU CAN CHOOSE WHAT PROBABLY SUITS YOU THE MOST. (also, not to worry, there will not be any spoilers!), which I will elaborate on in the next part of this series.
It has been a really long time since my last anime review. Here’s to clearing my enormous backlog on anime reviews …
Yowamushi Pedal doesn’t seem like an exceedingly striking anime at first glance. Hidden amongst the more attention grabbing Fall 2013 lineup, it scarcely garners much attention. Even if one googles it out of curiosity, one would raise their eyebrows at the less-than-impressive art style, with hard-lined, bold strokes and little focus on character’s facial features.
In fact, I was looking for another team sport anime with ‘feels’ right after finishing Haikyuu!!, so I was more than disappointed by the lack of bishounen in this anime. Besides, I was hesitant. Isn’t cycling more of an individual sport rather than a team one? And what is the depth in cycling as a sport? Its like running. You would think there aren’t that many techniques and tactics to improve speed; and besides, there is only one goal: becoming faster. How many ways can you develop this trope? How could it ever be anything meaningful?
Those were the thoughts that ran through my head before I decided that there wasn’t much harm in trying it. I had a month-long holiday and there were people mentioning on forums that it was a team sport that was being portrayed in the story, so that assuaged my concerns a little.
Thanks to that mindset, I now have one more sport anime I can claim to know a little of, and an entire second season waiting for me to marathon during my Summer holidays. (!!!)
Onoda is an otaku who fervently believes that anime is the best thing in the whole world and that there is nothing that brings him more enjoyment than watching anime and talking about anime. (Hmm, that sounds pretty familiar …) As he attends Sohoku High, he resolves to join the anime club. However, a series of events led him to discover his innate talent in cycling and he joins the competitive cycling club instead. As Onoda starts to discover the competitive cycling world, he forges strong friendships with his teammates, all of whom are individual rivals with one another to an extent. He also discovers his love and motivation for cycling. Together they as a team aim for the Inter High cycling event.
The plot is no different from any other sports anime. We have characters that are slowly introduced as the team members in the Sohoku team, each with their different quirks (elaborated upon in the next section). Onoda starts off without knowing anything about pro-cycling, but his talent manages to surpass all expectations. Of course, like any other talented greenhorn, his current standards are not good enough to rival those that have been doing pro-cycling for a long time (like his arch rival and soon to be close friend, Imaizumi) but his immense potential and ability to adapt quickly makes him a rising star. I find myself raising my eyebrows a lot at the start when Onoda’s abilities were portrayed a tad ridiculous and overwhelming; especially when his love for cycling, and wanting to catch up to his nakama and sheer willpower manages to power him through at high speed, when we all know that there is a physical limit to muscle power and strength. This threw me off guard especially after a more realistic anime like Haikyuu!!, and even Kuroko no Basket wasn’t so unbelievable as this.
However, I came to realise that such ludicrity is actually part of this series’ charm. There is no denying that sense of euphoria when these characters win their races; even through the most ridiculous plot developments. It is enough to keep us on the edges of our seats, excitedly going through one episode after another as we pine for a conclusion to whichever ongoing race (but almost always getting disappointed, as the race drags on for some time.) I couldn’t possibly imagine watching this anime from the get-go and waiting weekly just for one episode; I would probably flip out and go crazy.
What I actually wanted to say about characters can actually be summed up in one line: LOL OMG WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE SO UNBELIEVABLY CUTE I CAN’T TAKE IT !!!!!
And therein lies the biggest charm of the series: the characters. Unlike Haikyuu!!, where I am still able to pick out favourites in characters and where each character has a distinct role which makes up the team and humorous interactions between team members that highlight the differences, here characters are not nearly so distinct for me to pick out any particular favourite, but I adore the team in general because of their unbelievably adorable undying positivity and camaraderie. While Haikyuu!! develops character friendships through realistic conflicts of interest, which upon resolving makes the nakama bond stronger, YowaPedal doesn’t develop these relationships that way. Here, the focus is mainly put on the common goal that the team has. In fact, the theme of self-sacrifice to further the team’s objective is more played upon here than in Haikyuu!! and Kuroko no Basket, and the cheeriness of the team makes the mood more uplifting in doing so.
Onoda seems to be one of the ‘wimpiest’ male protagonists that you would ever come across (aside from Mihashi in Big Windup). His talent lies in climbing (as in, climbing up slopes). Yet he is also capable of achieving all levels of crazy as he strives to meet his objective; whether it is passing the extremely challenging training test, or to play his team role well in the Inter-High. His smile comes across as creepy at times, but I personally never found much fault with it.
Imaizumi is also a prodigy in his own sense, and a rival to Onoda with his all-rounded abilities. He has a slightly colder personality at the start and is extremely focused on practicing to perfect his biking abilities. However as he encounters Onoda and the rest of team, you could see him warming up.
Naruko is a talented sprinter who is small, red and loud; similar to Natsu (from Fairy Tail) or Hinata (from Haikyuu!!). I believe Onoda considers him one of his closest friends in the team, and he does often look out for Onoda as well. I personally like the friendship here a lot. However, he bickers a lot with Imaizumi, and only seems to stop when Onoda turns up on the scene.
We also have the third year seniors of the Sohoku team, who are powerful bikers in their own right and are better than the first years; each having a specialty which coincides and hence are direct rivals of the first years. They also have their own ‘special moves’ to boot.
Of worthy mention is how the characters of their direct rival team, Hakone High, are also fleshed out and developed. Each member also has an awesome and touching backstory, which is focused upon as they feature during the different stages of the Inter High. In fact, I respect this team from the bottom of my heart, and emotionally identify with this rival team so much that when Hakone and Sohoku at fighting I can’t honestly say who I would want to win more. (picture below)
Strange that this school contains more bishounen ….
All in all, absolutely adorable characters and a delight to watch. I wanted to also point out this particular scene in the Inter High when Onoda was trying to pull his senior, Tarokocchi along, by making him sing the ‘Princess’ song (an anime song), to motivate both of them. Obviously, Tarokocchi is not an anime fan, but he sings it anyway.
This probably won’t mean much to those who haven’t watched this anime; but during that scene was seriously torn between my heart melting from the adorableness of those two and this:
Art, Animation and Atmosphere
The scorching sun beats down on the gravelled roads. Puddles are water are glistening from the sun. The trees lining the path are lush and leafy. The air is still, the cicadas screeching under the shadows of the tree branches. Suddenly, something yellow arrives at the bend of the road. Within seconds, he has come within view and before you know it, he whizzes past you at such a speed , creating the first gust of wind in this unbearable heat and scattering the leaves in your face. Before you could register his presence, he is gone, leaving behind a pile of scattered leaves that slowly comes to a rest on the roadside, unmoving.
The art and animation here really creates that summer atmosphere along biking tracks. (I could literally feel that heat myself) In my book, I can ask nothing more than background atmosphere to life in complementing the story. I wish I had some screencaps to show but unfortunately I was too mesmerised with the show when I was watching it to organise any of these things.
YowaPedal is an all-time recommendation, unless you couldn’t stand anything that is remotely more unrealistic than Kuroko no basket. If you are looking for some optimism with a dose of fun and joy, with fujoshi/fudanshi material and bromance, look no further! 😀
*All images are hosted by Google Images and belong to their respective owners.*