a.k.a. Hajime no Ippo: Extra Round
Once again it is time for the annual champion carnival in which the top boxer in each weight class is given a shot at the Japan championship. Mashiba Ryo, the current Junior Lightweight champion, is dominating his weight class and has successfully defended his title seven times since winning it the previous year. In fact, he has become such a monster that the first and second ranked fighters in his weight have declined to fight him, giving Kimura Tatsuya, the third ranked Jr. Lightweight from the Kamogawa gym, the opportunity he has worked for five long years to get: a title shot. Realizing that his entire future depends on the outcome of this match, Kimura decides to put his career as a boxer on the line in this showdown of a lifetime.
summary by Keitaro
Highs: Spectacular fight scene; throws several curves
Lows: Slow to start; Kimura is a bit bland
Just as Hajime no Ippo: Boxer’s Fist shifted the focus of the story to Takamura rather than Ippo, this OVA puts a character in the spotlight who was largely overlooked in the series, Kimura Tatsuya.
What makes this one different than the other specials is Mashiba vs. Kimura can be watched without any previous knowledge of the series. With the main character, Ippo, pretty much out of the picture, this show dives straight into the regular formula that we have all grown to love: a good balance of training, character development and fighting. All this with a new lead character and without spoiler-filled flashbacks of the series, which ran rampant in Champion Road. This OVA features outstanding art, animation and sound effects, as the movie did, but also has one of the greatest boxing matches in the entire series. And it came to an amazing climax that had me wholeheartedly into the action. If you like Hajime no Ippo for the fights, this OVA was tailor-made for you.
On the other hand, in my opinion Kimura could not carry the role of the lead character the way Ippo and Takamura did. This series contains countless amazing characters, but why Kimura? He is a bit of a dull and predictable character. I much rather would have seen Mashiba, the other main player in this anime, be given the role of protagonist. It would have made for a more interesting introduction to the showdown.
Overall, Mashiba vs. Kimura is a strong continuation for the long-running Hajime no Ippo series and stands out from the rest because of the standalone plot that doesn’t require any previous knowledge of the series to enjoy. This just makes me hungrier to see more of the manga adapted to anime form, as there are countless other fights out there that deserve their place on screen.
Highs: The Ippo formula is still consistently amazing fun
Lows: Could have been a little longer
This OVA is definably a brother piece to the previous special in the Ippo series, Boxer’s Fist. Whereas that OVA chose to explore and focus almost solely on Takamura, this one’s spent entirely illuminating Kimura. The only major difference is that this OVA steps the series forward instead of shedding light on the past.
Taking place after the events of the television series, this show focuses little on anything besides Kimura and his title shot with the closest thing the series had to an antagonist in Mashiba. While initially presented in the series as evil, he grew to be a much more rounded character. Like all the opponents in Ippo, Mashiba possesses a stark amount of depth, and the viewer can really see things from his point of view. Flashbacks of his past and interactions with his sister, Kumi, soften his image further and make him more human than ever before. Kimura gets almost all the screen time, and it helps flesh out his character… although with only half an hour dedicated to setup and half an hour for the fight, don’t expect anything too in depth. Kimura is undeniably tied together with Aoki, and a show focused on him also reflects and brought to light a part of Aoki. Takamura really has little to no role, as does Ippo. Miyata has slightly more involvement but nothing that really pushes him forward.
The animation and art are identical to that of Boxer’s Fist and Champion Road, which is to say darn good, and after this many episodes, it feels just right. Songs are of the Ippo standard; while we’ve heard them a ton of times before, this still doesn’t stop the power and excitement of when Inner Light blasts during the climax of a fight.
Any Ippo fan should watch this one. Whether you like it or love it will depend on how much you liked Kimura and Mashiba during the series. It should go without saying that someone who’s never seen the series really has no reason at all to watch this. In the end, I don’t know how they manage to produce such high quality consistency, but I hope they keep doing it for a long time to come.
Everyone knows sequel-happy anime are bound to have at least one disappointing episode somewhere along the way. Then what is it about Hajime no Ippo that makes everything so perfect all the time? I personally blame the strict faithfulness to the manga. The title of this OVA special is self-explanatory. “What, no Ippo”, you ask? He is indeed taking a short break from this anime, but I feel this is just what this franchise needed.
Kimura is a wonderful character that did not get much recognition in any of the preceding Hajime no Ippo features. His past as a boxer is far less glorious than Ippo’s or Takamura’s, so even if it’s still the same formula, this extra round is very refreshing in its own way. While I’m glad Kimura has his own special, I would have enjoyed more interaction with the other characters. Even when we were following Ippo in the television series, it was the whole cast that made everything work. Here, Aoki’s angle on his best friend fighting in a championship match, for example, was taken too lightly. I would not have traded any of Kimura’s scenes, but this anime could have been a tiny bit longer so that it could have squeezed in more Takamura/Ippo/Aoki/Kamogawa time.
The fight itself, however, was perfect in length. Fights in Hajime no Ippo have a slight tendency to resemble one another, but this one, while being just as action-packed and riveting, felt fresh and creative. The same goes for the preparation for this weighty bout; not too long, not repetitive, just right.
This is once again another great chapter in the book of Hajime no Ippo. Even if I strongly recommend following the chronological order of the releases, I have a feeling even the uninitiated would appreciate the thrilling culmination present in this OVA. If such releases could become an annual tradition, much like with Lupin III, I would become dangerously ecstatic.
Hajime no Ippo: Mashiba vs. Kimura can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.