Ippo Makunouchi is a loser. He has no friends, he spends his free time helping his mom with work, and he's constantly being beaten up by bullies. But that all changes when one day he's saved from another beating by Takamura, an up-and-coming boxer. Soon, Ippo turns his life around with a passion for the newly discovered sport, but his new lifestyle is far from easy! Before he can even dream of becoming champion, he'll have to overcome a slew of fierce rivals and learn what 'dedication' really means.
StoryI'm lucky to be female because Hajime no Ippo exists to thrill a viewer's nuts off. Bringing blow after blow of jaw-dropping twists in a narrative that feels as furious as a dog fight, it is the sports anime that challenges all others of its kind to do better. Essentially the coming-of-age tale of a weakling maturing into the strongest rookie boxer in Japan, Hajime no Ippo doesn't deviate from the sports anime formula in any notable manner. Ippo discovers boxing on a school day like any other then spends numerous staged fights and training montages thereafter rising through the ranks. However, the show outshines all lesser versions thanks to its exceptional script. Simply put, it boasts a bottomless supply of twists to make every fight feel as though it were the first. That Ippo has to win his battles despite his great weaknesses is no spoiler; nonetheless the developments during the fights - their sheer visceral power - obliterate all expectations. Whenever I thought the show had exhausted its store of excitement in one episode, it delivered new unscaled heights of the stuff in the next. Aside from that, Hajime no Ippo shows that even neanderthals know how to laugh and cry through healthy doses of comedy and character development. Between the hilariously inane penis jokes and the heart-rending personal struggles, the show brings an endearing warmth to what is usually seen as the sport of humourless brutes. Few anime could rival this series in the shounen ring - the Kyoto arc of Rurouni Kenshin, probably; the first half of Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, maybe; but certainly none of the other sports anime on the market to date. By the end, food and sleep had become peripheral concerns - to sustain myself all I needed was to tap into the show's incredible energy.AnimationAnyone visiting a boxing gym in the hopes of meeting attractive, charming young gentlemen is laughably deluded. In the same way, those hoping to find svelte character designs in Hajime no Ippo should book an eye test as soon as possible - the bishounen checked out long ago. In fact, with a pug-nosed, grotesquely muscular protagonist who looks like a bulldog at best, anyone can be forgiven for thinking the show is a lost cause in the style department. Luckily, the boxing subject matter means what counts are not the looks, but the moves. And on that front Hajime no Ippo delivers! All fights come complete with spectacular effects - rings of smoke, torrents of wind, claustrophobic closeups - to grab the senses by the scruff and haul them through a powerfully kinetic experience. The action is so absorbing that when a rib cracks, viewers are likely to feel it.SoundAn instant way to deflate the tension during a fight or cheapen the character developments is to watch the American dub. Stick to the Japanese dub, however, and the rewards are plenty. Aside from the decent original voice acting, the show delivers blood-pumping electro beats, cool rock riffs, and a ditty that's a cheeky herald to the Rocky theme (it had to be done!). At its best, the soundtrack offers excellent opening themes, in particular the outstanding third instrumental theme 'Tumbling Dice'.CharactersWith seventy-five episodes to fill, Hajime no Ippo comfortably handles a large cast of macho men. (What about the women, you say? You mean those ugly things they occasionally bring out to cook and clean and generate fanservice? Yes, there are some.) At the forefront, Ippo's personality from meek door mat to sporting icon develops in a compelling, accumulative manner - once at the end, his beginnings as the worm his bullies once called him are difficult to believe but easy to retrace. Then, at a count, there are half a dozen memorable fighters apart from Ippo who deliver such outstanding performances that they sometimes outshine the titular hero. Whilst their punches hurt, it's their aching backgrounds that inspire tears; moreover, when two of them fight, be prepared not to know who to root for.Overall"You don't get to see a match of this calibre every day. As a journalist, I wish I could have seen these two fight on a larger stage." - Fuji, on Ippo's final battle You don't get to see an anime of this calibre every day. As a life-long anime fan, I wish I had watched Hajime no Ippo much sooner. From its butt-ugly head to its brawny toes, the series packs such intensity that my poor monitor emitted not sparks but vapours of sweat. It is the kind of rare event that inspires anyone to power through two-hundred squats and step out into the street asking random strangers to punch them in the stomach... or was that just me?! In any case, watch with a heart bypass surgeon at the ready because this show promises the full workout from your seat!
Originally Posted 10/28/09: Note, I've received a lot of negative comments on this review before. Be aware that I'm fine with that so long as you disagree respectfully and don't launch personal attacks. Alright bear with me. I've never written a review before. I just felt as if I had to come here and have my say after suffering through all 76 episodes of this series. Coming into Hajime no Ippo, I was truly excited. I am an avid fan of shounen and sports animes and this was ranked 6th highest in average rating in A-P so I was confident that there was no way this series could bust. In the end, though, Hajime no Ippo isn't exactly bad, but it's mediocre at best. Story: Hajime no Ippo commits the cardinal sin of really any story (anime or otherwise): it's boring. In a series entirely predicated on Ippo's boxing matches, they all (save one) progress EXACTLY the same way. Ippo is the underdog, he starts to lose early, gets knocked down a few times, he has guts, he gets up, he gets a KO and wins. It gets to the point where even the characters in the anime recognize the pattern. They all recognize that when Ippo goes down that just means he's about to pop back up with a KO and they verbally say so. Very depressing there; if your own characters know what's going to happen before you write it, there is a problem. This happens utterly regardless of the skill level or fighting style of his opponent. When every match progresses exactly the same, it's hard to identify if Ippo is actually progressing as a boxer and person and, if so, exactly how much. I mean theoretically if Ippo barely beats the worst boxer in Japan then barely beats one of the best in Japan a few episodes later, what am I supposed to take away as far as Ippo's talent level exactly? I did like how they continued to make references to famous historical boxers, though I wish they had done that more often. Outside the fights the story, well, doesn't really exist. He has a love interest for a few episodes who suddenly disappears for 20 episodes before showing up again months later acting like no time had passed outside of a perfunctory "long time no see". His rival plays a big role in the early episodes before leaving the country and essentially never returning, leaving that rivalry dead. His burgeoning friendship with his former bullier (I think that's a word) shows up for an episode every now and again but has no major role. Honestly my favorite episodes were the ones that dealt the least with boxing, which for a boxing anime is pretty bad. I enjoyed the love interest, rival, and friendship storylines, but no effort was given to flesh them out and all three were abandoned. If I just want to watch boxing, I'll watch the real thing. I watched a boxing anime because I want boxing with a story attached. Perhaps more than anything else what annoyed me was the fact that they tacked on an extra episode at the end of the anime. In episode 75, the entire series is wrapped up including the final battle a series of still-action shots of the aftereffects of the final match of the series. And then after that they added one more useless filler episode in episode 76. Really? Who the heck uses a filler episode for the series finale? I mean come on, even Naruto didn't do that and they have more filler episodes than the average anime has total episodes. Animation: Well I'd first like to point out that I don't think I've ever seen such ugly female character models. Even when we were shown a female character who was supposed to be especially ugly, I could hardly tell compared to the other females that had been shown. The male character models weren't much better either. Outside that, the fighting scenes were good I suppose. I don't know how to critically examine animation so I'll just say it's no Ergo Proxy or Eden of the East, but the animation doesn't detract from the anime. I did enjoy watching the animation of the fights. Even if I knew the results beforehand, actually watching the matches progress is clearly one of best parts of Hajime no Ippo. The animation is clearly dated, but the boxing matches are really exciting to see. Sound: Again, I'm not quite sure how to approach this criticially. The OP/ED songs were good and fit the anime well. The voice acting was good and the sound effects from the boxing matches sonded good. I don't know if this fits under sound exactly, but I got really bored of hearing Aoki and Kimura say something along the lines of "Oh no, Ippo is going to lose/Alright, Ippo's winning" followed by Takamura saying "No he's not and here's why..." as he narrates the fight for the next 30 seconds in almost every match. It got to the point where towards the end of the series I actually shouted "Shut up" at my computer when I saw one of these exchanges starting up. Characters: Now here I'm at a quandary on how to address this. On the one side, I loved the characters. From the cocky and perverted Takamura, to the cliche shounen hero Ippo, to the determined but comical Aoki and Kimura, all were interesting and relatable. The only character that I couldn't stand was Geromichi. He had no story attached to him and he brought out nothing in any of the other characters. Thankfully the writers discovered this as well and shipped him off to God-knows-where. The flipside of that is that many of Ippo's opponents also disappear after fighting him once. This was a real pity as some of these boxers had really good storylines and backgrounds. On the other hand, none of the characters progress in the slightest. Every single character is exactly the same when we first see them compared to the end of the series. The only exception is Umezawa, but outside the 2-3 episodes where his change takes place, he's mostly used as a background character. Takamura is just as cocky, Aoki and Kimura are just as determined yet mediocre, Ippo is just as overly-polite and humble and his self confidence does a 180 in the first episode and remains the same for the rest of the series. The anime tries some half-hearted attempt at making Ippo progress in the final battle when he thinks things like "I must have been crazy to challenge this man" and stuff like that, but that was just stupid. For no reason whatsoever they randomly had Ippo have thoughts that were completely out-of-character. He'd never cared before about how badly his opponent was beating him and he'd always enjoyed the tough fights. All the sudden he doesn't? No, just no. Overall: Honestly I'm not even sure this should be rated as high as 6/10 and I think I was influenced to put it that high because everyone else on the planet seems to love this anime. There was near 0 character progression and the story was almost a copy/paste job for every match except with a different face on the opponent boxer. There are better shounen animes and there are better sports animes. I don't know what people see in this anime but I'm willing to listen if you've got comments. Sorry for the ramble/rant :/
Story – 10/10 Hajime no Ippo is a sports/boxing anime. The story itself is very captivating and exciting. In addition, there is plenty of comedy to go around and also lots of great boxing stories/matches. It is quite realistic and displays the hard work of the cast to overcome many of the obstacles that present themselves in the story. Further, there is very few filler (if any) episodes; thus, the story flows rather smoothly from one to the next. Animation – 9/10 Instead of comparing and grading the animation with the standards today, I am going to compare it with a popular anime at or around the time of its release (2000). Great Teacher Onizuka (1999) is a very similar inspiring anime that was released prior to Hajime no Ippo. Ippo’s animation is actually fairly good in its time. It does the job well and the character designs grow on you as you watch the series. Characters – 10/10 Hajime no Ippo features a great cast of Makunochi, Kimura, Takamura, Aoki, and a few others. Each character is developed quite well throughout the series, thus creating lots of great personalities to embellish the setting with. I felt compassion and sympathy with the characters as they dealt with hardships, which is a testament to how unforgettable these characters will be. Sound – 9/10 I found the OP and ED quite good to pump you up for the boxing battles. The Trigun-like similarity works well here as the scenes were also quite intense (especially the matches and training). Voice acting is top notch and did its job quite well. Enjoyment – 10/10 I was never bored and went through 76 episodes in a flash (around 2 weeks). I highly enjoyed this boxing anime even though I am not a boxer. I do watch boxing sometimes, but I found myself throwing a jab or two while watching this show. So in addition to be a great show in itself, I also learned a little bit about the sport. I highly recommend this show for people looking for an inspiring anime who doesn’t mind boxing/sports. This show is a classic and one of my favorite shows of all time. Average Series Rating – 9.6/10 – Classic
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