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 :/