The First Step

Hajime No Ippo

Plot

Makunouchi Ippo is a high school student who helps out his widowed mother with their fishing boat business. He doesn’t fit in well and is bullied because of that. Despite his anger at the insults towards him and his mother, Ippo isn’t able to find the courage to stand up to these bullies. One day a passerby happens upon Ippo being bullied and ends up bringing Ippo to a boxing gym.

Mamoru Takamura, the man who came upon Ippo, talks to him. Ippo is ashamed that he can’t do anything even when insults are aimed at his mother. Takamura lets Ippo have a go at a punching bag to help ease his mind about it and also lends Ippo some video tapes of boxing matches to help desensitize Ippo to the idea of a fist fight. While watching these videos Ippo begins to think, “I wonder what it means to be strong?”

"What is it like to be strong?"

The world of boxing becomes more than a fascination, it becomes a means for him to be reborn as a person, but when Ippo approaches Takamura about wanting to become a professional boxer Takamura becomes angry. “Don’t underestimate boxing!” He doesn’t think Ippo has what it takes. Takamura decides to give him a “test” to help rid Ippo of a hopeless dream. What Takamura didn’t count on was how determined Ippo was.

Much of the plot is simple, considering that Hajime No Ippo is a sports anime.  The direction of where the series is going is obvious. There are specific goals which drive Ippo, but from fight to fight the goal is always going to be simple: win. The formula for the story is to train, fight, rest, and train again. But it never feels overly monotonous.

The Fighting


What makes this anime great are the fights. Fast fists, brutal breaking of bones, and the courage to stand up and keep fighting. Each of Ippo’s opponents get developed enough to draw you in even deeper. There are outstanding clashes of spirit shown in the ring and just a few surprises that get past your guard just when you think you know what’s going to happen.

"what will happen when you piss that man off for real"

Stirring and intense, the fights are exceptional. As the characters become stronger and more skilled, so too do their opponents. One of the pitfalls I’m familiar with in fighting anime is the effect where technical skill is sometimes overshadowed by pure prowess and brute force. The balance of physical and technical aptitude in Hajime No Ippo stays rather consistent. The pace of each fight is also done well. Some aspects of the fights became predictable, but you can never really guess the outcome of a fight.

Characters

First we have Ippo, who’s finishing up high school and determined to become a professional boxer. Slightly shy and unsure of himself, Ippo begins to show his true character the moment he finds something in life that he enjoys–boxing. The one who brings him into the world of boxing is Takamura. Takamura is the star hopeful of the Kamagawa boxing gym who is destroying the competition.

Mamoru Takamura

The antics that he and Ippo’s other sempai, Kimura and Aoki, get into are some of the funniest scenes in the anime. Including the new season from 2009, Takamura has some awesome fights and for me, the best fight of all anime (at least what I’ve seen). Kimura and Aoki start off kind of flat as characters except when the comedy is going, but as the anime progressed they get more fleshed out. Takamura, Ippo, Kimura, and Aoki make up the main cast along with the important coach Kamagawa. Most of the fights follow Ippo’s growing career as a boxer, but there will be an occasional fight following the other characters. The characters’ growth as a boxers never exceed reason and sometimes the training of the characters are shown. Characters (mostly Ippo), also develop outside the ring.  One character develops in a way I never expected (I’ll stick with an ambiguous description: the guy with the dream to be a manga artist).

Music


Shocking Lemon and Mori Naoya almost define the sound of Hajime No Ippo. Those songs are ingrained with the most pivotal moments, or at least that’s the way it feels to me. I’m not so crazy about the music from the new season, but it grew on me a little towards the end.

Something to look forward to

It’s nice to know there’s the possibility of more to come, since the manga is still ongoing. From what I’ve seen and heard the anime follows closely to the manga. I hate it when an anime adaptation is made of a manga and doesn’t deliver well enough. No worries here.

Rating

Plot:   5/10
Since this is a sports anime, it has an average plot line.

Animation:   7/10
Usually the animation was pretty good, but there were some slip ups here and there. One episode was especially bad.

Characters:   10/10
Funny, heartfelt, and determined.

Music:   9/10
Inspiring, exhilirating, and powerful.

Action: 10/10
Best fight.

Comedy:
   8/10
Oh Takamura…. what will you do next?

Sentamental Rating:   6/10
A clash of strong emotions is bound to run deep to the core of character and make you care about them.

Overall:   8/10

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