This month (June 2015), Japan’s Road Traffic Law is being revised, and the penalties for dangerous acts while riding a bicycle are going to become even stricter. Looking at a smartphone while cycling, holding an umbrella in one hand, listening to music with headphones… these things that we tend to do against our better judgement are all considered “dangerous acts”.
If you receive more than 2 warnings by the police in 1 year, then you have to attend a special 3 hour road safety lecture, which costs 5700 yen. On top of that, there’s a test, and you even have to write an essay at the end to reflect on what you’ve done!
This isn’t something that foreigners can ignore either, since many tourists rent bicycles for sightseeing purposes in Japan. Please be careful when you’re cycling in this country!
Yet despite the stricter penalties, Japan is now experienced an unprecedented cycling boom! One of the reasons for this is Wataru Watanabe’s manga Yowamushi Pedal (lit. “Weakling Pedal”). A young anime otaku, Onoda Sakamichi, hates exercise, but loves shopping in Akihabara. Since he doesn’t get much pocket money, he decides to save money by scrimping on train fare. With this goal in mind, he cycles the full 90 km to Akihabara and back every time. In this way, he slowly builds up strength in his legs. Noticing his talent, a fellow student, Imaizumi Shunsuke, invites him to the world of bike racing…
Along with this unique premise, there are also lots of characters who are overflowing with individuality, and this helped make it a major hit! Many readers end up buying expensive bicycles because they love the characters so much.
Female cyclists stand out particularly in this way. A lady named Miyuki made news when, after reading Yowamushi Pedal at age 29, she entered a race called the Tokyo Hill Climb the following year at age 30, and achieved victory in the overall standings!
Bicycle racing is extremely popular in Europe, but it’s still considered a minor sport here in Japan. There’s a government run race called Keiren (where gambling is permitted) but it’s not very popular. So when the smash hit Yowamushi Petal began serialization in 2010, it was good news for bicycle lovers everywhere!
Yowamushi Petal also received anime and stage adaptions which were very popular. Over 40 books have been released to date, and the series is still going strong, with the trend continuing. At first glance, an Akihabara-loving otaku and hardcore road races seem to be incompatible elements, but when combined, they blended together perfectly! That’s thanks to the power of manga!
Article: Korosuke Narasaki
Translator: Andrew L.
Editor’s note: I really like the idea for this manga because it breaks some stereotypes. Nerds and jocks tend to be treated like polar opposites, but who says that you can’t have a nerd in a sports manga?
Also, it’s more proof about how manga changes the lives of the readers. Especially manga based around “hobbies”. A successful manga can set off a chain reaction that can revitalize a whole sport or activity!