Warning…Incoming Wall of Text…Warning…Incoming Wall of Text…
Fair warning, people, this is going to be a pretty big post. And why shouldn’t it be when you’re talking about your favorite show of all time? Hajime no Ippo transcends just being a sports anime. It has everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, you could ever want in an anime!!
You want drama…It’s Got It!!
You want humor..It’s Got It!!
You want action…It’s a friggin’ boxing anime!
It is literally a melting pot of what makes anime so enjoyable!! And because this is my #1 pick, I’m going to treat this post like a normal review and break down every aspect of the anime, starting with the Story/Characters.
For those of you who do not know the plot of Hajime no Ippo…
Seriously, the plot of the show follows Makunouchi Ippo, a kind-hearted dorkadoofus who literally gets beat up almost every day of his life. During one said beating, a pro boxer named Takamura comes to his rescue, which leads to Ippo taking up an interest in the sport of boxing. Seeking to test his mettle, Takamura states that if Ippo can catch 10 falling leaves with 2 hands he will teach him about boxing. Ippo manages to compete the task using only one hand and Takamura agrees to help as promised.
Following the theme established by my last two posts, the plot of the anime is driven by the main character, Makunouchi Ippo. It follows Ippo’s journey in finding out what true strength is. Is it merely being physically strong, or does it have something to do with what’s inside of you? Maybe at the end of the day it’s a combination of both. The enjoyment to be found is in the journey to find out what that answer is. And man, what a wonderful journey it is! From the episodes portraying the grueling physical/mental training he has to go through, to the bone shattering fights that take up the majority of the show, there is really no wasted episodes in this series. Even the filler episodes help to further things the majority of the time.
Ippo as a the main character is a likable one. He’s not too much of a coward to make you want to punch him in the face when he wusses out, and he’s also humble enough to not let his success get to his head. The latter is the job of Takamura Mamoru, the brash, boastful, degenerate, inhuman, lewd “idol” of Ippo. Takamura is basically the jock at your high school whose guts you hate with all your might, yet you know he’d crush you in an instant if you were to fight. This guy is a beast in every sense of the word. He destroys his opponents in the ring each time he fights and even took down a bear with his bare hands!! He isn’t always an jerk, however, as he looks after Ippo like he was a little brother. Also, there are times when his overconfidence gets him into trouble both inside and outside of the ring. When his humanity shows through is when Takamura shines the brightest.
Other stand out characters include Kimura and Aoki, the veteran boxing duo that help to provide most of the comedy in the show. Kimura is the straight man who always has a kind word to offer, and Aoki is basically whipping boy of the show. There is almost never a time when he gets on-screen that he isn’t being made fun of or abused. He gets his moments to shine here and there but he’s basically just around to be dumped on. There’s also Miyata, Ippos rival, Kumi his love interest and Coach Kamogawa, Ippo’s mentor. The only other character that I could bring up is Sendo Takeshi, my favorite character in the entire show. Brash, hard-headed and hard-hitting, Sendo is the epitome of what I would look like if I boxed. XD I could go on about him, but I’ve yammered enough already. Time to move onto the show’s animation.
The manga for Hajime no Ippo began serialization in the late 80s and it shows. Having been watching anime mostly in the mid to late 90s, I was initially thrown off by the older style of character designs. There are quite a few pompadours floating around, and occasionally some of the females look rather mannish. Eventually you get accustomed to the shows art style and it transitions to a much smoother one with time. Where the animation really shines in the fast paced, bare knuckle brawls of the show.
Like with Gundam Build Fighters, the majority of the budget went into making sure these fights were as epic as they could be. No fight is the same and every one brings a new challenge for Ippo to overcome. Whether is the overwhelming mid-range onslaught of Hayami’s Shotgun, or Volg Zangief’s ultra accurate White Fang combo, each opponent has some crazy fighting style that makes each battle unique. And no matter how crazy these fights get, the creators made sure that each blow is fluidly drawn.
Ippo is no slouch when it comes to having “special moves”. And while there are many that could list, only one deserves any mention. Say it with me now:
My jaw dropped when Ippo first unleashed this glorious rampage of full body, back and forth hooks. Forget the excellent animation that goes along with it, just thinking about the pain that each person must endure when he hits this on them gives me goosebumps. And given that Ippo is the underdog in every fight he goes into, the satisfaction when he turns into a human whirlwind is that much greater.
Going to end things with a list of my favorite fights in the entire series, in no particular order:
- Ippo vs Date: His first ever loss
- Takamura vs Bryan Hawk: Devastatingly beautiful
- Ippo vs Sendo Pt. 2: Ippo becomes champion
Probably won’t spend too much time talking about music as I usually just focus on the opening & ending themes when I watch anime. The BGM music only shines, in my opinion, when there are fights involved. From bombastic trumpets signaling when Ippo wins to the eerie sounds of violins playing in the background, the music does its job in both setting the mood and emphasizing the tension within each of the boxing matches. The sounds of gloves hitting face and boots squeaking against the canvas also sound incredibly accurate and not too cartoony. On the opening/ending theme fronts, “Under Star” and “Inner Light” both help to get you in the mood to watch the show while “Yuuzora no Kamihikouki” helps you to breathe and unwind from the intense battle you just witnessed.
The most notable track from the entire series is without a doubt is “Hekireki”. Not even going to talk about it, just going to let you listen to it:
With as much love as I’ve been giving this show you would think that I would have no gripes with it at all. And you’d be right…..ish. As I’ve stated before, nothing man-made is without fault and Hajime no Ippo is no different. One of my biggest problems with the series is its fascination with penises. There’s a running joke about Ippo being well “endowed”, and it gets to the point where Takamura and the gang actually draw on it. An even more head scratching moment happens in the manga when Takamura tricks Aoki into grabbing his wang thinking it was a banana. I just don’t get why the author thought those types of jokes would be funny.
The biggest con with the anime is the romance between Kumi and Ippo. Not that it’s not done well, BUT MY GOSH…WHEN WILL THEY HOOK-UP!?? Every time I see them on the screen I literally yell out ” JUST KISS ALREADY!!”. They drag this thing out for sooooooo loooonnnngg! And it’s not like they haven’t had chances to confess to one another. Heck, Ippo actually mans up and says he loves Kumi at one point, but she doesn’t hear it cause she passes out from being drunk! Then there was the moment on a hill where they are about to kiss, only to have Kumi slide down the hill on a piece of cardboard right before their lips touch.
Ok, I’ve gone on long enough. Despite those minor shortcomings, Hajime no Ippo is without a doubt one of the best animes ever made. It’s up there with the likes of One Piece, Cowboy Bebop and Hellsing. The characters of likable, the story is well woven and the action is well animated. There aren’t enough adjectives in the human language to describe just how much I love this show. It is definitely an anime you have to see before you die. Those are My 2 Cents and I’m sticking with them!!!