Sports genre anime are always a nice break from the usual bunch of sci-fi fantasy and school comedy dribble we get fed, and in the history of sports anime there certainly aren’t that many bigger than the original Hajime no Ippo, a boxing-themed series that ran for a total of 76 episodes covering a period of 2000 to 2002.
The general story revolves around the extremely shy Ippo Makunouchi, a high school student who never had enough time to build up friends because he was forever helping his mother out with the family charter boat fishing business. However, bullies soon picked on the small Ippo and before long the beatings he endured managed to lead him into a boxing gym run by the retired boxer Genji Kamogawa.
There the boxing prowess of mild-mannered Ippo was quickly realised and soon he found himself on the steep and painful road to the top of the Japanese professional boxing world.
The original series was always characterized by extremely strong character development between fights and so far, this new series, which is a direct continuation on the old, seems to be following suit, constantly setting up both new professional and personal challenges and obstacles for Ippo to endure and eventually beat down.
As always, the characters are highly likable with a good amount of humor tossed in and then tempered with some over the top drama. All of this is then mixed and matched and then thrown into the pot with some exquisitely animated and well thought out boxing bouts, fights that sometimes seem last forever. The action is intense, the atmosphere tight and yes there are still those annoying analytical bits thrown in during the fights just to inform (an often annoying legacy that seems to haunt most sports-themed shows).
While we have a new director in the form of Jun Shishido handling the reins for this particular outing, famed anime production house Madhouse are once again handling the artistic chores on the series and they’ve managed to come up with a style that still closely captures the uniqueness of the first series but at the same time manages to update it for modern day audiences, such that the fairly quirky character models (particularly the eyes) don’t seem quite so out of place.
The fight animation in particular is being pretty damn well done, with some fantastic impact and dodge effects being employed to make for quite the visual treat in the center of the squared ring. On the aural front, Yoshihisa Hirano seems to have come up with some winning compositions, strongly backed by an enthusiastic and enjoyable voice acting cast who all seem particularly keen on blowing life into this masterpiece in the making.
In other words, so far so good. If you are a fan of sports anime or just perhaps boxing in general, this feel good, action-packed and well fleshed out story is seriously worth checking out and up to this point, it is most certainly a worthy contender to following in the original’s footsteps!
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajime_no_ippo#The_Second_Series