It’s time for Sakamichi Onoda’s first real road race, but with only his granny-bike he’ll have a tough time keeping up with the other first-years on the biking team!

Dedicated otaku Sakamichi Onoda has had a couple of fateful encounters - first with driven cyclist Shunsuke Imaizumi, and then with the “Speedster of Naniwa” Shoukichi Naruko, that have pulled him into the world of cycling. With the encouragement of rabid cycling fan Miki Kanzaki, Sakamichi signs up for Sohoku High’s cycling team, and his first test will be to participate in a race with the rest of the first years. Despite being brand-new to the world of cycling Sakamichi has plenty of experience making the long ride on his granny-bike to Akibahara to buy the latest goods, but he’ll need all of that determination to stay among the pack with such a lowly bicycle.

Yowamushi Pedal Vol. 2 ticks just about every box of your standard underdog story formula: an inexperienced but surprisingly proficient protagonist, skilled and heavily favoured competitors, and spectators counting him out. This volume surprised me in sticking almost entirely to script, continuing this fairly conventional story through a race spanning its entire duration. This race covers all of the ebs and flows of Sakamichi’s experience, and I felt that this was done consistently with the way that his character was established in the previous volume. One thing that this volume did really well was selling this sheer effort in play by all of the cyclists, making for an entertaining race. I also liked that the perspective was shifted frequently between characters, giving multiple views of the events.

Although the series spends some time trying to make Sakamichi’s trek believable and in line with his beginner status, I still came away from this volume feeling that the race was a little unrealistic. Now don’t get me wrong, I get that this is an underdog story but it just felt a little bit odd to see a complete beginner doing so well even within the context that the story provided. If you’re a fan of this type of story this shouldn’t be enough to scare you away, but it did admittedly force me to suspend my disbelief a little more than I felt appropriate in reading this volume. One thing this volume did do very well though was including explanations of the more technical aspects of biking into the story, and Sakamichi’s quick mastery of them notwithstanding they were a welcome addition that helped to ground the race.

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Despite my previous complaint about Sakamichi’s race feeling a little bit unrealistic because of his immediate proficiency, the payoff at the end of the volume was thoroughly satisfying. I was gripped by the events of the race as it approached its conclusion, and I felt that one of the things this volume did very well was in capturing the various emotions in play from Sakamichi as well as the others involved. This made the race much more exciting than it otherwise would have been, and the final chapters of this volume had some excellent emotional payoff which made the long ride solidly worth it. The art also rose to the occasion at the end of the volume, and I particularly enjoyed a scene that saw Sakamichi and the other club members looking out over their race course at the end of the race. This was portrayed through a panoramic view, and I enjoyed the way that this brought the volume to a well-earned emotional close that felt quite appropriate.

Yowamushi Pedal’s art was one of the biggest weaknesses of the first volume, and this continued to be a trend throughout the majority of this volume. Creator Wataru Watanabe’s art is very rough, and characters are drawn with a distinct wobbliness that I found distracting throughout. Many panels felt cluttered, and there were a couple instances where the SFX felt overbearing in tandem with overall sharpness of his lines. However, once thing that the art continues to get across well is the sheer effort of the competitors, and I felt that this grounded Sakamichi’s journey over the course of this volume nicely. Overall, I’d say that Yowamushi Pedal’s art continues to be lacking, and I hope Watanabe is able to clean it up heading into future volumes.

Yowamushi Pedal Vol. 2 will be sure to please anyone looking for an underdog story, and in spite of how convenient some of it felt I still enjoyed Sakamichi’s first road race. While the art is generally difficult to look at, the story makes up for it in creating a thrilling roller coaster of a race between the competitors. I had fun with this volume, and although I wouldn’t consider it to be in the upper-echelon of sports manga, fans of the genre should definitely check it out.

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Yowamushi Pedal Vol. 2 (containing volume 3 and 4 of the Japanese release) was published by Yen Press on April 26th, 2016. Created by Wataru Watanabe, the series is currently ongoing and published by Akita Shoten’s Weekly Shonen Champion. Volume 3 (composed of volumes 5 and 6 of the Japanese release) will be published in English on August 23rd, 2016.

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