Ippo’s back to defend his title!
4 years ago, New Challenger ended with Ippo successfully defending his Featherweight title, Takamura winning the WBC Middleweight belt and a man in a magazine carrying a fish over his shoulder proclaiming that he would destroy the Dempsey Roll, Ippo’s major technique. The series ended there leaving anime fans wanting more, and thankfully there is a time for more Ippo, and that time is now. Round 1, start!
The montage of Ippo walloping his opponents goes back to the end of the 1st series where he won the Featherweight belt from Sendou and his title defenses after that. It reminds us of how hard-hitting the action can be, especially the sound effect that accompanies the Dempsey Roll as though the boxers just got hit by a train. After an opening in which my initial visual comparison to it was Street Fighter IV, the story goes back to Ippo’s childhood and the tragic passing of his father. It provides a layer for Ippo’s character and his motivation to continue defending his title for fans both new and old.
Kamogawa Gym, a hotbed of boxing talent… and Aoki
Hajime no Ippo’s main event are indeed the matches, and Rising’s first episode felt as if I was watching the series just yesterday, seeing and remembering all the elements of an Ippo boxing match that illustrates the fights so well, though at a quicker pace than usual to start. Madhouse solidly animates these fights to where you can feel the weight of how physically strong the boxers are and how hard these punches are being thrown when they land. The announcers provide verbal emphasis to the action in the ring, Genji in Ippo’s corner and the other boxers from the Kamogawa gym discussing the strategy. I say quicker pace because we didn’t see Kamogawa Gym strategize against Shimabukuro Iwao and Ippo training for days on end in preparation for another title defense. It’s only episode 1, and it’s been 4 years, so I’m glad they didn’t leave me waiting for the excitement of the fight; we have 24 more to bring take us through the process of “The Sweet Science” in anime form that is Hajime no Ippo.
In discussion of the fight so far, Ippo’s extra height over Iwao provides the challenger something he can use to his advantage; Ippo’s never been the shorter guy in a match before. Iwao’s short, stupid-muscular frame makes it seem like Ippo is fighting a rock that has the ability to punch back, which the challenger uses to force the champ into the corner for a part of the fight, and by episode’s end Ippo starts showing signs of cyanosis as “the water gets deeper”, the metaphorical visual theme for this fight. The tactic of in-fighting worked very well for Ippo, but it doesn’t surprise me that he thought he could get a wide-swinging blow in; Ippo has a tendency to be anxious at times and go for the big blow instead of, as Genji says, chipping away and “going to work” against his opponents.
Ippo’s in trouble as Shimabukuro’s plan has gotten the champion “deeper in the water”
Missing mostly from the premiere episode was the humor that I’ve enjoyed from the Kamogawa Gym guys, though Takamura got in a nice one though by telling Ippo to ignore minor crap like Aoki’s title fight. There was little room for the comedy to operate with a sad backstory and the direct jump into the ring for a championship bout, so stay tuned for Aoki and Takamura providing most of the laughs; Kimura gets in on that too from time to time.
I generally appreciated the way the first episode was handled from the standpoint of bringing familiar fans like me back into this 3rd series and potential new fans. Hajime no Ippo hasn’t been around for a little while, and certainly not on a streaming anime site until this season, so Ippo is bound to attract new fans that have not seen the previous 100+ episodes and the OVAs but are maybe fans of sports anime. If you’re a shonen fan, I’m telling you it is absolutely worth it to watch the previous two series or to start progress on one of the lengthiest manga any of us will ever read (currently scanlated up to Chapter 1033). The first time I saw the Ippo anime was via a friend who brought over some subs and showed the first few episodes with a sparring match when Ippo was just getting started with boxing, and I was addicted from that moment forward. The boxing matches are well done and exciting and the series humor is a plus.