After all this time (ten omnibuses, according to the author notes), the Inter-high finally comes to an end as Manami and Onoda head for the finish line.
But the end of the race also means that the third-years’ time in the club is coming to a close. For one member, though, he’s not retiring; he’s leaving completely! As Sohoku prepares for a new season, can the members handle all these changes?
Yowamushi Pedal volume 14 is roughly one-third Inter-high, one-third post-race cleanup and breaktime, and the last third is the start of a new race.
Let’s start with the most important arc. The end of the big Inter-high competition could have gone either way, and you could make arguments for either ending to be the better narrative. I know I had a preference, but my view also comes the fact I know this series has a long way to go to even just to catch up to where Japan is now. Regardless, the author reveals the winner after a victory scream and some two-page spread showing the pair crossing the finish line. I’m guessing it’s not how the anime did it, as viewers could tell who shouted just by their voice, but this mini-flashback works well in a manga.
The result requires a lot of self-reflection and celebrating among Manami’s and Onoda’s teammates. Teshima is then thrust into the manga’s spotlight as he tries to reestablish Sohoku’s team, including handling Onoda’s uneasiness. Onoda credits his teammates for him being able to finish, and not having his senpai around hits him hard. I’ve griped before about how the second-years have been handled in Yowamushi Pedal, and while I love Teshima getting some much-needed development, Aoyagi still hasn’t got much attention. That’s where I think a real training arc, something more than a quick new Team Sohoku bike ride, would have benefited the characters. The first years also get new bikes, so I imagine much of their increased ability will be less “they’ve been working hard” and more “Kanzaki Bike Shop is amazing”, which is isn’t what a sports manga should be like.
That’s also because the race seemed to kind of come out of nowhere. It’s like Yowamushi Pedal is going to have some real training, but bam! All of a sudden, Onoda and others are at a starting line. I had to go back and double-check, but there’s really no indication that a new race is going to start. Maybe the series was slumping in the magazine and Watanabe was urged to start a new race ASAP?
Also, there was one other thing that was distracting in the Inter-high part: the lettering. So many of the shouts did not fit into the speech bubble, and it often looked sloppy. Most of the time there seemed to be easy fixes for these, like having one less “a” in “aaaaah”.
So while the shift to this new mountain bike race is sudden (and with it comes a new phenom who has ties to Teshima), this is a critical volume. It has both big moments like the end of Inter-high as well as smaller key points like Onoda talking to his mom. It’s too bad the suddenness of Makishima’s leaving and the next competition distract from these moments.