Let's get one thing out of the way right now: I am a fan of this show. The term "fan" is thrown around a lot these days. People seem to forget that it is short for "fanatic". So I am careful about calling myself a fan of any one series. I truly love this show with a passion, but I do recognize it's faults. Let's take a look:
In many ways, Hajime no Ippo is just kind of a generic shonen show. I know this may not be the best way to endear you to this show, but it's the truth. The main character is a highly skilled fighter who works his way up through progressively tougher foes in the dream of being the best fighter of them all. Does that sound like any other shows you've heard of? I thought so.
But Hajime no Ippo is different, I assure you. It's different because it does away with most of the things I hate about shonen shows. Firstly, the fights have rules. Your friends can't show up at the last minute to save you. You can't discover some new and devastating power. It's just two men punching each other until one of them falls down. That may sound boring, but the fights are creative and energetic, and definitely the high point of the show.
The show repeats the same basic arc over and over: Ippo learns about his opponent, Ippo trains, Ippo fights. But the opponents are so diverse, and the fights are so exciting that you look forward to the next arc, rather than feeling that it is repetative.
Meh, nothing special. The art is very much like all other generic anime art. Now, don't get me wrong. The animation is good. it gets the job done, and doesn't distract from the show. It is especially good during the fight scenes, when everything gets a little rougher and stylized. But the art in this show isn't going to set the world on fire. There's nothing majorly original. It's passable, and good at times, but they could have done a better job capturing the feel and mood of the show.
Pretty good, if you ask me. The show operates by having a few key sounds for different occasions, which it reuses often. I know that probably sounds pretty bad, but the fact is that I think it works well. When you hear the pumping rock music start playing, you know that it is time for the tense finish to a fight. Or maybe it's the plucky, lilting romantic music. Perhaps the strained vocals for when a fight is over. By reusing these songs, you get conditioned to be in a certain mood whenever they play. And they're good, catchy songs, too (if you ask me).
The low point of the music, however, are the opening and closing songs. They range from passable to embarrassingly bad. Then again, I might just be saying that because some of them have gratuitous misused English in them. But no matter the reason, none of them are particularly memorable, and some of them don't fit the mood too well. You need to understand that openings are important. They set the tone for the entire episode.
This is something at the show does really well. The show spends a lot of time building up the characters so that they all have a distinct personality. What I was particularly shocked by was how much time they spend characterizing Ippo's opponents. The show cleverly realizes that if you care about both of the fighters, the following boxing match will be much more impactful. Ippo's friends and opponents are all vastly different from one another, and the interactions between everyone seems believable. I cared about the characters, and what happened to them, and that's pretty much all you can ask for.
Some of you may be puzzled at this point. It probably sounds like I've described an okay show, but not necessarily something to warrant a score of 9/10. Well, remember what I said in the beginning of this review? I am a fan of this. I absolutely loved watching it. I'm willing to admit that it's not the most well-done show out there, but I don't watch shows to study how skilled the creators are. I watch anime to be entertained. And in the end, this is simply my opinion. I have tried to be pretty fair in the previous categories, so you can decide for yourself whether you think you'll like this. As for me, I'll stick with the score of 9.