In support of sports drama and Hajime no Ippo

You may scoff at the formulaic concept of sports drama, may think that you can ignore anime like this because you’re not into boxing, but I’ll retort by suggesting that that is a lazy way of thinking. Like every great sports anime, Hajime no Ippo is fuelled by great characters. It is overflowing with feeling. Please don’t ignore it.

One Piece and Hajime no Ippo! A match made in heaven?

Last weekend, I caught a screening of The Wrestler and it was as great as everyone has been saying, particularly Mickey Rourke, who, in the words of my friend, contributes a “massively gutted” performance. However, I’ve always enjoyed sports drama.

And the keyword here is drama; skill, relationships, tragedy, emotion and glory. The sports element may as well be random; just pick any one from wrestling, table-tennis, baseball or boxing, it’s not as though I know anything about these sports in the first place, and it’s not as though I have to, either.

Because sports drama is all about people – watching them rise to glory or, as in Rourke‘s case, sink in to obscurity. These hardy souls are battling with themselves as much as against their opponents; they are infatuated with pipe-dreams, always striving for success and clinging to every last shred of hope.

Duck and dive

This brings me to Hajime no Ippo (also known as ‘Fighting Spirit‘). The new season is finally underway in Japan, resurrected after 7 years in anime purgatory. It is the story of Ippo Makunouchi; a young, hopeful boxer working his way up through the ranks of Japan’s obscure boxing scene. On his road to glory, Ippo meets friends and enemies alike, with his nervous smile and kind nature in-tow. Friends like Ichiro Miyata; the person Ippo admires the most.

Miyata is an elegant fighter, the golden boy of Japanese boxing, but forever haunted by the indignity of seeing his champion father destroyed in the ring many years before. He fights as if to prove his father’s doubters wrong, to regain the pride that his family lost all those years ago.

Another of Ippo’s fiercest rivals is Takeshi Sendo, also known as the “Naniwa Tiger.” His never-say-die attitude was influenced by his father’s own, a brave firefighter who died in a blaze trying to rescue others. Sendo’s two matches with Ippo could be described as the best of the first series, both are traumatic and brutal encounters between two men with so much at sake. As much as boxing is a physical sport, these are duels of emotion, with every punch being felt ten-fold by the viewer, if only because we understand just how much victory means to both men.

So, you may scoff at the formulaic concept of sports drama, may think that you can ignore anime like this because you’re not into boxing, but I’ll retort by suggesting that that is a lazy way of thinking. Like every great sports anime, Hajime no Ippo is fuelled by great characters. It is overflowing with feeling. Please don’t ignore it.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

19 thoughts on “In support of sports drama and Hajime no Ippo”

  1. Thats one great fight scene. The animation is so dynamic and the lines are so prominent, it actually feels like a real boxing match. Unfortunately, Hajime no Ippo has always been about that testosterone feel of dominance, judging from the few episodes I’ve watched. I can’t really clearly justify what kind of anime it is as I’ve never been an episodic viewer of HnI. I’m pretty sure it has its moments, I’m just not into sport shows (especially after the god awful PoT, which went on for way too long). I’ll probably give it a chance once I clear my flourishing backlog (it keeps on growing its uncontrollable!).

  2. Good write up, what I always liked about Ippo was the side characters really made everything feel more story rich than the typical sport/shonen anime. It’s also the ONLY anime that I’ve had friends watch and they all want to go work out afterward cause they’re so pumped.

    The new season was made for Ippo fans only in my eyes. There was only a brief recap and the pace from the first three eps has been rather fast. Hopefully they’ll give it more time for Ippo’s 2nd title defense, Date versus Martinez, and most importantly Takamura’s 1st world title bout.

  3. People say they reject sports anime because of it’s formulaic, but they really reject sports anime because it lacks moe. Make a formulaic sports anime about schoolgirls and everyone will watch it (e.g. Bamboo Blade).

  4. From what little I’ve seen and observed, sports in sports anime were always vehicular. Sports anime is about dreams, trials, rivarly and companionships, getting up after falling down. Strangely though, I have never been into sports anime precisely for the ‘formulaic’ criticism. It becomes quite predictable and even repetitive as it progresses. The last ‘sports’ manga I tried to read was Hikaru no Go, and it couldn’t pin down my interest. However, Hajime no Ippo is like THE sports anime, so I might give that a try sometime. I also have my eyes on Ookiku Furikabutte, which received lot of positive responses from people whose opinions I value.

  5. You, good sir, made one little mistake in the writeup.
    Because everybody knows Hajime no Ippo isn’t fuelled by great characters, it’s fueled by penis jokes. :D

  6. If this was four years ago and I was reading this now I’d probably just be an ignorant kid and disregard it with my frail Shounen mindframe of sports/mecha anime = crap. Oh man… how wrong I was. I still haven’t touched Ippo though and the time is nearing for me to try it out, but the manga is double the size of One Piece and One Piece took me two weeks to read ALL of it (Caught up Enies Lobby when it was 3/4 done.) So Ippo would be take an entire month or two for me to be dedicated to it. Oh, and what’s your take on Ippo’s new OST since you now have the Death Note composer?

  7. This looks amazing — that youtube clip alone got my endorphins flowing — but wow, 75 episodes, a TV special, and an OVA? Daunting, and I find it hard to imagine what a sports drama would do with so much time, but if there is glory such as this to be found in the bulk of it, I’m in.

  8. Everytime I try to push Ippo into obscurity in my ever growing “to-watch” list , it keeps enticing me further. It’s starting to become a “must-watch” show.

  9. heeeeeeeeeey … no Over Drive in the anime poll? It might look deceivingly boring but it’s actually a gem of the gender and I warmly recommend it. If time allows give it a search, you might find it to your liking :). Salutations

  10. @Ivy: It depends what you mean by testosterone, really. Hajime no Ippo is definitely an anime seres with alot of fighting, but I think the story is more about the characters reasons for fighting. It evokes a great sense of pathos through introspection and moments outside of the ring.

    Also, I would hesistate to compare this to something like Prince of Tennis, if just because the latter seems to be all about angst and pretty boys, while Ippo has a more realistic, inspiring perspective on sport (in other words, they couldn’t be more different). In conclusion, it’s worth a look, at least.

    @Square: Yeah, so far the speed of the second season has been break-neck, it’s almost moving too fast, and I’m a bit worried about the length of it, too– ANN is only listing 13 episodes! God, I hope it’s more than that. We haven’t waited all these years for only 13 measly episodes!

    @Baka-Raptor: Damn right, and your theory applies to basically every genre of anime. Can you imagine how much they’d love Hokuto no Ken if it was produced by Kyoto Animation with Kenshiro (etc) as a cute teenaged girl? How depressing.

    @gaguri: If just because it’s short and sweet, I definitely recommend you take a look at Ookiku Furikabutte. It’s another very character-driven sports drama, using baseball as a tool to probe and expose the psychology of its participants. The lead character is very much a Shinji Ikari-esque personality too, particularly with the way things break down in the end, very reminscent of the last couple of episodes of Evangelion TV.

    Anyway, Ippo never struck me as repetitive. Like any drama, the characters constantly breathe life into plot, and when (/if) you come to care about them, their journey always takes on some added colour. I suppose with a show like this, it always depends on how much of yourself you’re willing to surrender.

    @Knurek: Heh :) I do love those jokes, especially with the gross pixelation of that entire ‘area’, but I’m trying to talk this up as a serious drama. People can be ‘pleasantly’ surprised by those scenes! Hahaha

    @Lupus Inu: There appears to be a bad-ass moment in episode 3, so hopefully the OST will shine then, as so far it’s been pretty non-descript. Also, just looking at ANN, I actually preferred the other guy who worked on the Death Note OST, Hideki Taniuchi– he did all the guitar-driven stuff, and his later music for Kaiji was similarly rockin’ and awesome. Anyway, we seem to share a lot of our favourites, so I’m sure you’ll love Ippo too. Watch it, ASAP! :)

    @Anti: Ippo is a slow building series, really. It gradually follows the main character’s rise from a geeky kid in to this powerful boxer. His (and others) moments of glory are constant (if occasionally faultering i.e. you can’t win all the time), as are the moments of intense pathos and ‘manly tears’. If you’re this pumped just from watching that clip, I’d definitely suggest you start watching this now. You won’t regret it.

    @Omisyth: Great anime will always survive the test of time. As far as I’m concerned, it was never a matter of if I’d watch Hajime no Ippo, more a matter of when! :)

    @THM: Hi! I’d never even heard of Over Drive until I read your comment, can’t believe it aired in 2007! Suffice to say, I’m downloading the first episode now and I hope it’s good– 8.00 rating on MAL seems promising, and obviously, I can’t resist good sports anime! :)

  11. As for the music, and bateszi mentioned it, there *is* a big moment in the 3rd ep of the new show. All of a sudden I was thinking “Wait, is this orchestral music?” I dont’ have access to my DVDs to compare, but I definitely do not recall there being orchestral music in the old Ippo TV show.

    They combine some of the rock n’ roll stuff with the violins and brass. The music itself isn’t particularly spectacular (and definitely not as overblown as Death Note’s choral ‘epics’), but definitely adds a lot to the drama.

    As for ‘moe’, I really don’t think the art style for Ippo is good for making attractive characters :P

  12. I just started re-watching Ippo again because of the new season… I am consistently blown away by the amount of empathy the show gives to each of its characters, whether they are transient or main players in the series. There are so many top-notch things about this show–animation, style, heart-pumping music, characters, challenges to overcome and stories to be told at each match… I don’t think anyone should be intimidated by the fact its aimed at a male audience either–I’m a girl, and I think it’s far superior to a lot of the stuff aimed at my demographic nowadays. Thanks for covering it in your blog–it definitely needs more anime blogger love. :)

  13. @qwertypoiuy: I’ll watch one of your recommendations later this year, I promise, and most likely Hunter X Hunter– which you’ve been talking about for nearly two years now, btw! :)

    @JKTrix: I’m looking forward to episode 3, but still waiting for a release (as I’m following the Saizen fansubs). It’s exciting to hear about the soundtrack, though; orchestral music + boxing can only mean epic win.

    @kurisu: It’s lovely to hear from a girl that’s watching something as ostensibly manly as Ippo. I must admit, I was wondering whether or not this was one of those ‘male-only’ kind of things, but then again, good characters are good characters, regardless of gender. Thank you for the encouragement, too!

  14. I don’t mind sports drama. I’ve seen this series, Prince of Tennis, ROOKIES, Eyeshield 21, and Bamboo Blade, but I’ve never finished it. Not that I couldn’t and that I didn’t like it, I think it was because I couldn’t find the time and that it didn’t have enough spark for me to want to continue watching it. But sports drama are definitely good shows to watch because they relay more emotion than anything, proving that weak people can achieve whatever they want as long as they have the heart to. Well, not in all cases, but that’s the message I got from ROOKIES, even though the main character was extremely good at baseball, the team overall wasn’t excellent. And that’s one of the major things I like about sports drama: teamwork. I like watching people work together and being happy. Plus, sports dramas are hilarious!

  15. The fights are quite intense indeed, but it takes some time for me to decide on watching a long series cause i hate dropping them in the middle in case i get bored or didn’t have time, so i think i might check the first three episodes of the first season of Ippo before deciding it is my thing or not.

    And it does remind me of an old Boxing series called “Ashita no Joe”, it was also filled with drama and fateful matches between meaningful characters … i think “ippo” is carrying on its legacy.

    O,h and why isn’t “Bamboo Blade” on the Poll, it is a very enjoyable and light-hearted sports anime … it was a fun watch really.

  16. bateszi:

    Been looking at the Manga vs the Anime. And for the most part ( except the first 2 eps ) it has been faithfully following the Manga storyline.

    Based upon the amount off released Manga chapters, they have the material to do +- 120 episodes. Thats not taking in effect, how many more chapters are released by the time they reach the current known chapters ( in theory, we are talking 160 to 180 episode ). ;)

    So, no way its going to be 13 episodes. There is a high chance that the current season, its going to be a serie like One Piece / Bleach, etc. One with a very long run from now on.

    The fights are just one aspect off the anime. Most off it are the interesting side characters, the development off the main characters, the rather unique drawing style. Most off the side characters have a rather large background, a reason to want to win.

    Very few opponents are betrayed as pure evil ( a typical formula ). Even Mashiba, when first introduced looked like one block off pure evil, but things are not black & white. And soon you learn why he’s like that.

    There are plenty off sport series that have a interesting impact. Slam Dunk, Capeta, Major ( especially the first season ). But Ippo is one that stands on top ( with Slam Dunk, a long time favorite off mine ;) ).

  17. quote’. There is a high chance that the current season, its going to be a serie like One Piece / Bleach’

    I dont think so
    madhouse doesnt do that.

    probably around 50 episode or something,then after few years a new season

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *