Hajime no Ippo is based on a very simple concept. Ippo Makunouchi is a high school student who gets bullied very often and when he finds boxing, his world turns upside down. Ippo puts such dedication in first being accepted to the gym, and then developing his skills as a boxer, that the story has to be labeled as inspiring. But even though the story on paper is pretty straightforward and maybe even a little cliche, there are many elements that make this anime something special.
The thing that are truly loved about his ultimate goal in starting boxing was that he didn’t want to become stronger, but he wanted to know what it “meant” to be strong, and how it “feels” to be strong. Several episodes into the show, when Ippo is becoming a true master of his craft, he still stands unchanged and still desires the feeling of what it means to be strong. This feeling and meaning could be left upto the viewer to decide as Ippo never makes it clear what he was looking for, but the intriguing thing about it is that it obviously isn’t physical strength. Even as Ippo climbs his way up through the boxing world and life in general, his search for “strength” continues. Perhaps in Ippo’s mind, this strength can never be attained, as life always allows room for one to grow even more. Perhaps Ippo’s search never will, as one should always be looking to better themselves, no matter how high up in status in life they are.
Though they don’t get as much time as Ippo gets in the show, the rest of the characters are still so lovable. Ippo begins to form a bond with a group of boxers from his gym. It isn’t the typical, cheesy “best friends forever” scenario, but it’s rather more real in nature. There are just so many different sides to the character, and watching them all is a blast. The anime goes to great lengths to explain their reasons for boxing. Most of the boxers are fighting for reasons that the viewer can connect with. The fighter’s personalities greatly enhance the intensity of the matches, and viewers will actually end up caring for the victor. The fight themselves are amazing, but the added depth the characters bring makes them something with which few series can compete. Also worth noting is a fairly realistic depicition of the brutality of boxing. A tremendous cast can be found in this one.
The animation and art are both fine. There are some great tunes throughout the series. I especially like the first opening theme, Under Star. All of the opening themes and ending themes are used well. Additionally, snippets of the themes are played during key fight sequences and really give a nice punch. The soundtrack is pretty amazing and holds the series well throughout its 76-episode run.
For me, Hajime no Ippo was no doubt the biggest and most pleasant suprise when it comes to anime. I never thought that a sports anime, much less a fighting one, could possibly succeed on so many different levels as this one does. Ultimately, it becomes apparent that even though this anime appears to revolve around the sport of boxing, it is truly about the characters, and Hajime no Ippo digs suprisingly deep into the wonderful characters it presents.
And on that note,