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Hajime no Ippo

a.k.a. Fighting Spirit

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Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Studio Madhouse
Format: 75 episodes
Dates: 10/3/2000 to 3/27/2002

Ippo was always bullied in school. During the course of a routine beating, the path of his life was forever altered when up-and-coming boxer Takamura made short work of the bullies. Enticed by the notion of being strong, Ippo became intent on learning boxing. Coaches at the gym are astonished by his natural aptitude for the sport and begin training him for the battles to come.

summary by Mugs

 

Reviewed: 07/10/2003 by
Grade: 94% av-Mugs

Highs: Characters; action; comedy; it all works exceptionally well

Lows: Somewhat unfinished

Sports-related anime continue to surprise me, as I expect nothing more than mindless action. Instead, I am frequently presented with sharply-written, deep, and humorous shows which just happen to also contain great action. Hajime no Ippo is, without a doubt, the cream of the crop in the genre.

In a show where everything clicks, the best place to start would be the plot. Ippo‘s story isn’t in-depth with twists and turns, but is instead fairly straight forward: Ippo gains the motivation to box and begins a series of training and fighting. Interspersed throughout are bits and pieces of his home life and interactions with his opponents. This is what brings out feeling, character depth and caring for what happens in the show. The characters are incredibly well-fleshed out in a short period of time; their side of the story is presented well, and this caring on both sides of the boxing card is what draws you into the show.

The animation and art are both fine, on par with other current anime. There are some mighty good tunes throughout the series; I especially liked the first opening Under Star, though I know not everyone shares that opinion. All of the opening and closing themes are used well; additionally, snippets of the themes are oft-played during key fight sequences and really give a nice punch (pun intended). Speaking of which, the in-ring action features a nice blend of realism and anime-style insanity. The action in Princess Nine follows along the same lines. Artistic touches such as smoke and glowing eyes add to the atmosphere.

The only complaint I had was that, being based on a huge manga, the anime opens a few doors that were explored in the manga but, unfortunately, not all of them. A couple of relationships and some one of the other boxer’s future paths were briefly mentioned and then never explored. Hopefully an OVA or movie will explain some of it because I will gladly sign on for more of this terrific show.

This is one of the best anime I have ever seen. Hajime no Ippo is up high on my Top 10 anime list, and I would eagerly recommend it to anyone who likes anime… or Rocky.

 

Reviewed: 07/31/2003 by
Grade: 93% av-Kjeldoran

Highs: Fleshed out and compelling characters; perfect dosage of action, comedy and drama; barely any filler

Lows: Many re-used cels; excessive monologues

Fighting and character development have never tangoed so well together. Hajime no Ippo would have gotten repetitive fast had it not been for the ultimate focus on each of its characters, whether friend or foe. There are times when you do not know whom to root for, but the post-fight development sets your mind at ease. Feeling for them so much intensifies every aspect of this show and makes watching the next episode a necessity.

Sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious, everything merges so well under the boxing theme with perfect proportions and pacing. Even if the characters do a lot more than box, nothing of their daily routine feels like filler, which ultimately affects Ippo and the others’ growth as boxers and as human beings. Only two recapitulating episodes break the tempo. The rest is either motivating training montages, nerve-racking fights or character development through side-splitting comedy and dramatic flashbacks.

A show of this magnitude using the same setting is bound to recycle some of its cels, but this often goes unnoticed in Hajime no Ippo. The only letdown was the constant monologues taking place before, during and after matches. They’re imperative to the understanding of the inner workings of boxing and characters’ emotional states… but are also a bit overwhelming on occasion, distorting time itself and making single rounds last fifteen minutes.

It only takes one episode to become a fan of all the students and teachers in the Kamogawa gym. This is the first time I connected with characters to this extent, and I recommend this series to every action fan looking to expand his or her horizon. A few drops of testosterone certainly help, but there are plenty of other reasons to enjoy Hajime no Ippo. This anime is so much more than a boxing anime.

 

Reviewed: 08/21/2003 by
Grade: 95% av-Keitaro

Highs: Huge cast of deep, fully developed characters; great action; side-splittingly funny

Lows: Music could be better

For me, Hajime no Ippo was no doubt the biggest and most pleasant surprise ever when it comes to anime. I never would have expected that a sports-based anime, much less a fighting one, could possibly succeed on as many levels as this one does. Ultimately, it becomes apparent that even though this anime appears to completely revolve around the sport of boxing, it is truly about the characters, and Hajime no Ippo digs surprisingly deep into the wonderful characters it presents.

No doubt, the best thing about this show is not the boxing scenes. Sure, they are shockingly entertaining and always keep you on the edge of your seat, but certainly what makes this anime so interesting is what happens between the fights. This is when you see the characters interact, train and grow. Each character is fleshed out and has his own reason for devoting his life to boxing. Ippo, for example, was a boy who was unhappy with the way his life was going, as he was bullied in school and always felt weak and helpless. He decided to change his life by getting up and doing something about it. This is where anyone can relate to the characters on a personal level. The fights are not as simple as good vs. evil, as the characters are much deeper than that. There is a very large cast here, but everyone gets plenty of screen time to develop so that anyone can have his or her own favorite character to root for.

From a more technical standpoint, this show is just as successful. I was nervous that the ending would leave me feeling disappointed, as the series ends roughly halfway though the still-growing manga series, but the creators found a perfect stopping place and made it so one who has never read the manga would never even know they missed a thing! The plot is both slow moving and fast paced at the same time. There are really no filler episodes here, and yet things move at a comfortable and constant pace.

The only complaint I have with the series is the reuse of cels and the music, which is not my cup of tea. Putting that aside, this anime simply does everything and succeeds at everything it does. You do not have to be a fan of boxing to love Ippo, but it just may turn you into one.

 

Reviewed: 10/01/2003 by
Grade: 94% av-Eek

Highs: Drags you in from start to finish; versatile design and execution; attractive characters

Lows: Crude character art

Hajime no Ippo first caught my attention when I saw a few episodes at Otakon 2003. However, it was not until I had a chance to see the series from start to finish that was I in awe at the way an anime could flawlessly combine boxing with characters to create something with a lot of style and substance.

Despite the fact that I am not a boxing fan, I was dragged right into Hajime no Ippo from the very beginning and could feel every bit of joy, laughter, pain, embarrassment and sadness with all of the characters. After Ippo won his first fight, I could feel his enormous grin on my face and his pride rocket up to new heights. I am also amazed by just how flexible this series really is. It combines action, comedy and drama, all working well. If it wants to be hilarious, you will be laughing long and hard; if it wants to be dramatic, it will have you thinking deeply about these peoples’ lives and how they are affected by boxing; if it wants to be action-packed, it will have you rooting for both fighters in most fights until a winner is declared. A series like this would fall to pieces if it were not for the beautiful characters; although most are not physically attractive, they are attractive in their ways of thinking and attitudes. Granted, you will not receive an introspective look on each and every character in the series, but instead will get more than enough information to understand their situations and motivations. Watching them interact with one another will make you fall in love with them no matter how silly or serious they become. With such dynamic characters, you will see them slowly change as time rolls by and they mature.

Call me picky if you wish, but the one thing that seemed out of place was the art style used for the characters. Specifically, Studio Madhouse would often use drawn lines and criss-crosses to detail shadows, textures, and bruises instead of using paint. While this method may keep the anime more in line with the manga art style, it felt crude and slightly unprofessional. While more of a minor peculiarity, the character Sendo had an uncanny physical and mental resemblance to Kazuma from Scryed, but it seemed unintentional and really is not a problem.

Hajime no Ippo is very male oriented in both content and humor, and if you are not hooked by the first few episodes, you probably will not be hooked at all. However, this is undoubtedly the gem of the sports genre and is a good sign for the future of anime.

 

Reviewed: 11/18/2003 by
Grade: 92% av-Gatts

Highs: Amazing characters; brutally intense action; absolutely hilarious

Lows: Questionable artwork; music

Initially, Hajime no Ippo failed to captivate me because of a several off-putting factors; the concept of an anime about boxing didn’t really appeal to me much, the artwork seemed a bit on the crude side and the music didn’t complement the on-screen action very well. Later on, I went back to give the series another shot. Am I ever glad that I did! Otherwise, I would have missed out on not only one of the best sports anime but also an amazing title with brilliant characters.

Focusing on the career of Makunouchi Ippo, Hajime no Ippo depicts not only the glory of victory but also the pain a boxer must endure to become a champion and how the devastating blow of defeat can shatter a boxer’s spirit. All of this works thanks to some brilliant characters, who all have their own unique motivations for fighting. The anime goes to great lengths to explain their reasons for boxing. Most of the characters are fighting for reasons that the viewer can connect with. The fighters’ personalities greatly enhance the intensity of the matches, and viewers will actually care about who wins. The fights themselves are amazing, but the added depth that the characters bring makes them something with which few series can compete. Also worth noting is a fairly realistic depiction of the brutality of boxing. Characters’ eyes swell shut and bodies bruise as fights progress. It’s hard not to cringe while watching them getting beaten to a pulp. It all combines to create a great sense of the suffering they endure for the sport they love.

Despite being a boxing anime, many of the scenes focus on time spent out of the ring as boxers train and interact. These scenes are just as entertaining as the fights and allow for better insight into the lives of the main characters. The training scenes also show some genuinely funny humor that will have viewers rolling on the floor in stitches. This series finds a perfect balance between matches and training, creating excitement without becoming monotonous.

After the conclusion of the series, my initial complaints still held true, though. The artwork is definitely an acquired taste, and the music, while nothing terrible, fails to enhance the anime. Even with these problems, Hajime no Ippo is an amazing series. The characters truly make this a unique anime that should not be missed!

 

Hajime no Ippo  can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.

SEE ALSO: Hajime no Ippo: Boxer’s Fist, Hajime no Ippo: Champion Road, and Hajime no Ippo: Mashiba vs. Kimura.

 

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