Now that the series is "complete", I can go with a final review of it. I did wind up dropping a few points from the overall score, mostly because I wouldn't call this series "completed" even though its status (for the first season) is "complete".
Now, I usually don't pick up anime with such "thin" character designs (almost all of the characters have very narrow faces, which aesthetically puts me off more often than not), but that's personal preference. I docked points in animation for a different reason, which I'll get into later.
This actually has an interesting start to the story, which is atypical of sports anime rather than following the flow.
The main protagonist, Sakamichi Onoda, is actually poor at sports and is just looking to join the anime club when he arrives for his first day at Sohoku High school. However, he soon finds out that the club was disbanded due to lack of members.
Onoda attempts to get more members, but as he does so, he finds himself meeting various cycling enthusiasts due to the fact that he doesn't even realize that he's a natural at cycling (this, because he rides his "mama cycle" everywhere, even up steep hills with no gear changers).
As he has to choose whether to join the cycling club or keep trying to revive the anime club, the members of the cycling club are preparing for their biggest race, the Inter-High.
This is a very character driven anime, and being a sports anime, there are tons of characters. Unfortunately, that means flashbacks for those not on the Sohoku High team (some of which are placed well, others not so well). Six members per team, and we get to know two teams plus a couple additional people by episode 35; that's a lot of characters to keep up with, so I'm just going to go into the basics. Though it's a character driven anime, it still feels like something is missing, which caused me to dock a point in this category.
There are a lot of characters, but I'm going to cover the six primary protagonists to try and keep this short and sweet:
Sakamichi Onoda is the protagonist, and a climbing specialist. He's a bit jumpy, loves anime, and isn't very good with athletics. However, he's been riding his "mama cycle" from Chiba to Akiba since the fourth grade, and has an undiscovered ability in cadence (pedal rotation). He brings a refreshing and happy aura with him, as well.
Shunsuke Imaizumi, also a first year, at first appears to be the tsundere character, but he quickly finds a soft spot for Onoda. He's a technical rider, and often relies on his gear shifters. He also has a one-sided rivalry with a character we don't actually see until the Inter-High (Akira Midousuji, who moves like a youkai and is practically made just so viewers can hate him).
Shoukichi Naruko is the final first year amongst the main protagonists, and quickly becomes Onoda's friend. He's a loud, hot-tempered, and brash short teen from Osaka, who recently moved to Chiba. His cycling specialty is sprinting, and he has the perfect, straight-forward personality for it.
Shingo Kinjou is in his third year, and is the captain of the Cycling Club, as well as the ace. As the ace, he is the one who is designated to do the final sprints for the finish line. He is very harsh on the members of the team, but has their best interests at heart and always keeps teamwork in mind.
Yusuke Makishima is also a third year, and is a climber with a rather unique style due to his long limbs. He's more of a strategist, and prefers logic, so he's usually seen as being level headed and mysterious...if not a bit eccentric.
Jin Tadokoro is a sprinter who is sometimes referred to as a "bear" due to his size and build. Like Naruko, he's straightforward, though he's in his third year.
What made me dock points was the flashbacks I mentioned when I started to talk about characters. Again, while a well-timed flashback can increase the tension, a poorly timed flashback can frustrate the viewers.
There were a couple flashbacks placed in the middle of a heart-pounding scene of a race, and I actually skipped over them to get back to the race. This meant skipping between 3-5, sometimes more, minutes of footage, as these flashback scenes not only interrupted the race, but were long to boot.
I can't give a full score with such a thing in there. There are also times when a point is drawn out as far as it can go in order to stretch the episode out longer (episode 35 contained some repeated dialogue; not word for word, but enough that I could tell they were just stalling off the ending).
On the flip side, the "down to the wire" racing was very interesting an well built, and it's always really fun to watch the protagonist as he is helped along with his natural talent, but still remains the same anime-obsessed, happy person. In fact, his love for anime even helps him a couple times, which is interesting to watch.
He also still needs a push now and then, and it's easier to relate to a character like that. It's also different from other sports anime, as most of those characters figure out problems by themselves. Onoda is often getting hints and help from his friends, even when he helps them out in return. It's a new type of protagonist, and very refreshing.
With so many characters, there will be times when Onoda won't even be in even half the episode. The anime does a good job in putting other characters in the limelight and developing them, which is nice. I try to keep these reviews objective rather than subjective, but I will admit that some of the scenes without Onoda bore me a little.
I docked points again with the way the anime "concluded". I'm sorry, but nobody in their right mind would call the series ended, or even that a season of the anime had concluded, by the end of episode 38. That is NOT finished. I'm sorry, it's just not.
I understand anime these days seem to love to put giant cliffhangers between seasons, but a cliffhanger is one thing; to "end" the first season of a sports anime, or any anime, in the middle of the action?
I docked a lot of points off my overall rating of the anime, as well as even the star-system score, due to that huge blunder. Now, if there was an issue with the mangaka, or the anime was cancelled, that would be one thing. However, in my research, I haven't found that to be the case.
In conclusion, it's a fun and interesting anime for the most part with a variety of characters. I'm not big into the world of bike racing, I don't watch it on TV, and I only ride my own road bike for fun. However, I still enjoyed this anime...up until their poor decision on where to end the season.