Sakamichi Onoda loves anime and going to Akihabara to buy anime merchandise. He loves it so much that in order to save money, he rides his so-called “mommy bike”—a bicycle with a little basket in front that is not intended for speed or distance—90 km weekly just so he can buy extra toys. On his first day of high school, Onoda hopes to make friends by joining the anime club, but he’s saddened when he finds that it was shut down due to lack of members. While riding his bike up a steep hill, merrily singing his favorite anime song opening, “Flat-Chested Princess-Princess of Love,” he catches the attention of Imaizumi, an exceptional cyclist who plans to join the school’s racing team. Imaizumi is shocked by Onoda’s natural talent and his ability to ride his mommy bike with speed and stamina. Imaizumi challenges him to a race with the promise that he will join the anime club if Onoda wins. The race is intense, and though Onoda barely loses, his mind begins to open to the potential of bicycle racing, his own abilities, and the fact that there may be more to life than anime. This notion is further enhanced when he meets Naruko, a flashy speed cyclist who leads Onoda on an epic race through Akihabara in order to catch up to a car with a nasty driver who runs over Onoda’s bike. The volume ends with the first years, including Onoda, Imaizumi and Naruko, competing for the coveted first-year spots on the school’s cycling team.
In the beginning of the volume, Onoda is unaware of his abilities as a cyclist and takes it for granted that he treks an unusually far distance on a sub-par bike. He’s somewhat awkward, naturally unathletic, and has no friends, but he is comforted by watching anime and collecting things from his favorite shows. For him, bicycling is a natural part of his life and a means for him to visit a place he loves for free. As he meets new people who are passionate about cycling, he begins to grow, not only as a cyclist but as a person. Onoda is a relatable character who readers will root for on his journey. The humorous and sometimes dramatic storyline is enhanced by Watanabe’s high-quality art, which especially stands out in the racing sections.
One of the greatest strengths of sports manga—a sub-genre of realistic fiction that is becoming more popular with U.S. audiences—is its ability to draw readers into the story and make them care about the characters, regardless of their knowledge or interest in said sport. Yowamushi Pedal is a shining example of this and will make a great addition to teen library collections. The anime is also available for streaming on Crunchyroll.com. For public libraries participating in the Collaborative Summer Reading Program, Yowamushi Pedal is a perfect match for this year’s teen theme, “Get in the Game: Read.” This title would make a great pair with the upcoming summer release of Haikyu!!, another popular sports manga series about a high school boys volleyball team.
Yowamushi Pedal, vol. 1
by Wataru Watanabe
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: T