Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger

Alt title: Fighting Spirit: New Challenger

TV (26 eps)
4.374 out of 5 from 11,315 votes
Rank #70

Ippo continues his career as a professional boxer, trying to live up to his role as the Japanese champion. Now that a new generation looks up to him as both a role model and a target - even though he's still a little green behind the ears himself - Ippo must develop his skills both inside and outside the ring. Can the kind Ippo ruthlessly crush his challengers and be a man his younger peers can look up to? And ultimately, can he take his skills to the level where he can follow in Date Eiji's footsteps and aim for the international title? Pro boxing is a difficult sport; Ippo and his friends - even the mighty Kimura, must survive in a competetive world where all others must fall in order for one to rise to the top...

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Reviews

Klitch
8

Well despite being completely underwhelmed by the first Hajime no Ippo series, I decided to give New Challenger a shot largely for the sake of completism and I must admit that I was impressed. Nearly all of the major criticisms that I had of the first Hajime no Ippo don't exist in New Challenger. Story: I complained that the original series was a copy paste-job for each new opponent with Ippo being an underdog, Ippo trains, Ippo starts to lose the fight early, he gets knocked down, he discovers his fighting spirit/guts, gets up and has a comeback KO. Well I am very pleased to say that this system is done away with in New Challenger. In fact they get about as far away from that story system that Ippo is actually in the ring in less than half of the fights in this series. The fights themselves are thrilling and, while not completely unpredictable, are at least far more individualized than in the first series. I also whined about the romance and rival arcs being tossed to the curb in the first Hajime no Ippo, but New Challenger fixes that as well with Miyata actually gaining a role in events again and Kumi being given a few episodes focused on her. The other characters are also given more prominence in terms of back story and series focus. The story also gets a plus for smoothly continuing from where Hajime no Ippo and the two OVAs left off and drawing connections and references to the previous installments. The comedic portions of the story are also far above the comedy in the first series and actually left me laughing out loud more than a few times. What really knocked the story down a few points their bizarre way of ending the series...again. In Hajime no Ippo, the climactic final battle finishes at the end of the second to last episode, leaving the series finale as some random filler episode which really screwed the end-series catharsis that I normally experience. In New Challenger, the climactic battle finishes even earlier, half way through the second to last episode. The second half of that episode is spent on 10 minutes of horrible, groan-worthy puns by Manabu's family and Takamura (which seem even worse compared to the earlier comical sucess of the series). The finale returns to the actual story, but it introduces three brand-new storylines. Why the writers decided to start three new arcs in the series finale is baffling. The only two reasons I can come up with is that they though the series would end after the 25th episode (which still doesn't explain what they were thinking with the second half of episode 25) or that this was a blatent attempt to force the audience to see the new season that is sure to be coming up. I can deal with cliffhangers or even introducing a new arc at the end of the finale, but to start a bunch of brand new arcs and go a full episode into them before abruptly cutting them off means they'll spend the first episode of the new season repeating all of the arcs for those who had forgotten which is just a waste of my time, so boooo! Animation: Female character models still suck, such there was an effort to make the male character models better looking including giving Date Eiji a samurai-esq look and making Geromichi at least look interesting. The animation as a whole is crisper and neater than the original series, but that's to be expected as it's been 9 years since then. When New Challenger is stacked up against other 2009 animes, it falls short by a fair bit, especially with the backgrounds which don't seem to be much improved at all. Two specific visual points where I saw a massive improvement from the first series were the chacters' eyes (which are more vibrant and expressive) and the use of light (which makes the boxing matches almost a completely new experience). Again, the boxing matches are the big eye-candy draw of the series. Sound: I loved the OP song. It was upbeat and fit the series perfectly. The ED song seemed like it should have belonged more in a romance anime ED, and that is only further enhanced by the images that accompany it. I enjoy the romance element of New Challenger, but I would have preferred an ED song more along the lines of the first series. Voice acting and sound effects (i.e. punching sounds) were well done again and I don't have a real criticism there. Characters: This is another area where New Challenger fixed the problems of the first series. Opponent boxers no longer follow the revolving door policy of "you're fighting Ippo, that means you're worth following, oops you lost, now this anime doesn't acknowledge your existence anymore," although that may be more of a side effect of the widened scope of the boxing world (there are boxers other than Ippo out there 0.o) and the smaller episode count in New Challenger. I also criticized Hajime no Ippo for having almost no character development and, again, New Challenger answers. We see Date Eiji change because of his championship match and we see Ippo and Takamura really mature throughout the series. They also let the rivalry between Ippo and Miyata develop instead of taking the first series' route of stuffing Miyata in a box and shipping him off to Thailand. My least favorite character from the first series, Geromichi, makes a return, but I was actually happy about that as the writers gave him a completely revamped image and personality while giving sufficient explanation as for why the change happened. Aoki and Kimura don't develop much, but I can forgive that considering they were never forced into a situation that would demand them to change. The series introduces three major new characters, Bryan Hawk, Ricardo Martinez, and Manabu. Martinez is the perfect image of a calm, veteran professional and will serve as a good contrast to Ippo's emotional style of boxing if Ippo ever manages to challenge him for the world title. Hawk is the reigning Jr. Middleweight world champ so he's Takamura's target for his title match. Hawk is a madman who apparently finds sexual gratification in boxing/violence and shows absolutely no respect towards anyone but he's actually been constructed pretty well to be a an enemy for whom the audience has no sympathy, but some pity. Manabu is the newcomer to the gym, but has no bearing on any of the story and has a shallow background at this point. It's clear that he was only introduced in preparation for the next season, so I can't really determine whether he's a good character or not yet. Overall: Solid improvement on the core of the story from the first Hajime no Ippo series means that New Challenger is a must-see for all fans of the original series and could possibly be a reason why I would recommend others to this series. Good comedy, good cast, good development, and good variety equals a good anime. Edited 10/7/10 slight overall score increase (7.8 to 8).

Jageri
6

As a sequel to the 2000~2002 series, this series had a lot to live up to.  In many ways it does fall short, but in the most important places it holds up.The areas where it is on par with or surpasses it's predecessor are in visuals, the sound design of the fights, and the choreography. Visuals are sharp, and in the fights, they have the same intense quality they had before, with screen-shaking punches and blasts of air as the punches connect or slip past their mark. The fight's sound design also lends them weight, and each punch is felt more than just seen, due to the excellent combination of the visuals and sounds. These fights are just as intense as the fights in the first series, and they keep you alert and on your toes with tension the entire time.   However, while the actual fights themselves have great visuals and sound design, the overall soundtrack of the show has become noticeably larger and more obvious.  This can be taken as a good or a bad thing, but fans of the subtlety of the first series won't find it here.   Beyond this, the story and the characters take a significant hit. Ippo has come down with the standard anime protagonist hesitance, and cannot confess his feelings for the main love interest, which the show abuses to no end, drawing episode after painful episode out centered around it, heaping on as many cliches as possible.  Probable confession diverted into a less "dangerous" topic? Check.  Actual confession delivered, to find the target of the confession not listening? Double check.  If you hate prolonged will-they or won't-they romances, there are several episodes you would be better off skipping in New Challenger.  In addition to the "romance", Ippo's character has become even more annoying since the first series, with his now creepy-level of admiration for Miyata, and his over-the-top reactions to any kind of information.  Takamura is the focus of many episodes in the series, and gets development, however in the end, he completely stomps on whatever development he got, in a single line, and descends from being simply a jerk with a heart of silver, to a simple jerkass, whom everyone hates and has good reason to.  Lastly, while the first series was about Ippo's beginning and development as a boxer, with him acquiring new techniques and resolve at every step, New Challenger is essentially "Hajime no Ippo: Dempsey Roll".  Fans of the first series will remember that in order to win his final match there, he employed a string of tactics consisting of his signature Liver Blow, Gazelle Punch, Feints thrown with real intent, and finally the Dempsey Roll to overcome his final challenge.  Remembering that puts me at odds with New Challenger, where the series culminates in him stubbornly insisting that he has to make the Dempsey Roll better because "It's all he's good at". Overall, New Challenger retains some of the life of Hajime no Ippo in the most crucial areas, but between the degradation of the characters, the unnessecarily drawn-out romance, and the actual simplification of Ippo's fighting style down to two words: Dempsey Roll, I can't say that this series has reached anywhere near the heights it's predecessor occupied.   6/10

GosoxJ
7

When I first saw the original Hajime no Ippo series it quickly became one of my favorites, so naturally I went into this new season with high hopes. Sadly those hopes were never fully realized. The first thing that sticks out about New Challenger as opposed to the original series is the jump in the quality of the animation. Everything, from the characters to the fights, look sharp and fluid in a way not often seen in shounen series (i.e. Bleach and Naruto). While the animation is probably the biggest improvement New Challenger has over its predecessor it's not without its flaws. Some features of the character designs don't carry over well into the newer style of animation, most notably the gravel pit of plain lines that the animators seemed compelled to put beneath some characters' eyes. One thing that still hasn't changed is the women; the female character designs in Ippo are still the ugliest I've seen. Once I advanced past the appeal of the new visuals I found there were several things that really hampered the series. The series would have been more appropriately named Hajime no Everyone Else. Over the course of the series the main character plays second fiddle to nearly everyone else, and the little time he does get in the ring is a far cry from his matches in the first season. In the original series Ippo was almost always the underdog going into a fight, New Challenger effectively brings that mentality to a complete end. The expectation that Ippo will win, not only from the audience but from the characters with in the show foils the enjoyment of Ippo's only bout and changes the entire mood of the series, for the worse. I'm not sure exactly what it was about fights in the first series, but I always managed to get drawn into them. They were exciting, entertaining, and came with enthralling intensity. Unfortunately I can't say the same about New Challenger. If I were to say anything it would be that I found that they were hard to get into and failed to match the pace of those in the first series; being one of the larger sources of my disappointment with the series. Furthermore, the series lacked a sense of progress. Regardless of what each individual did or didn't achieve, when I look back at the series I'm overwhelmed by the sense that nothing really progressed. Nobody really got stronger, no one learned any new moves, no new rivals were made, etc. It really feels like each character went into the ring and demonstrated all the abilities we knew they had. Instead of a sense of progress and achievement, New Challenger leaves me with the sense that some people just fought for the majority of the 26 episodes. While my viewing of Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger was wrought with disappointment throughout the majority of the series, the end was enough to grant me some hope that the next season will bring the series back toward what made the first one so engaging. While New Challenger ultimately fails to live up to the weight of its own name it should prove at the very least, an enjoyable respite from the tedium of Bleach and Naruto fillers.

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