When you look at Japanese and American anime fandom, no subject polarizes the two more than sports anime/manga. While sports manga can grow to be insanely popular in Japan, they’ve never really exploded here in the U.S., despite the efforts of Viz media. One theory for why anime and manga based on sports aren’t really popular in America is because of the stereotype that sports and nerds go together like oil and water so, to your average western anime fan, having sports, those things you hate that have left you ostracized from your peers, combined with anime, those things you love that have also left you ostracized from your peers, can lead to some pretty conflicting emotions. Never the less, this fall season brings us a number of sports-related anime. Some are new seasons for old favorite’s like, Kuroko’s Basketball and Hajime no Ippo while, others are new to the scene like, Ace of Diamond and Yowamushi Pedal.
Analysis: The basic set up for your average shonen sports anime/manga is pretty simple. You take a protagonist who has no interest in the sport the story revolves around, despite have an uncanny potential to be super good at it, a rival who eats, drinks, sleeps and, dreams said sports, a supporting cast of quirky characters and, boom, you have yourself a winner. This show has all of these qualifications fit perfectly. Our protagonist, Sakamichi Onoda is a bright-eyed and cheerful mega-nerd who uses his bicycle to trek to and from Akihabara, the anime otaku mecca located in Tokyo. However he fails to notice that his excursions to Akiba and back are well beyond the scope of what someone should be capable of doing with a bulky old bicycle commonly ridden by old housewives. Sakamichi’s soon-to-be rival, high school cycling aficionado, Shunsuke Imaizuni, takes notice of his uncanny cycling abilities and challenges him to a race. After that, it’s only a matter of time before Sakamichi is embroiled in the fast paced world of competitive cycling.The last component to a successful sports anime is a quirky supporting cast, which is an area that Yowamushi Pedal does not disappoint. Along with Sakamichi and Shunsuke are Miki Kanzaki, a young girl with a comical obsession with bicycles, her deadpan, sarcastic friend and, the seniors of the cyclist club at their high school. One of which is a lanky young man with the most glorious green and red hair you’ll ever see.
Verdict: Despite not being a particularly huge fan of sports, I always find myself enjoying sports related anime. Whether or not that is due to the fact that the average sports anime plot structure is almost identical to your average shonen adventure anime is a topic for another time. However, for now, Yowamushi Pedal has caught my eye and I intend to follow it for the rest of the season.