In his father's absence, teenager Ippo Makunouchi works hard to help his mother run her fishing boat rental business. Ippo's timid nature, his lack of sleep, and the sea smell make him an easy target for relentless bullies who leave him bruised and beaten on a daily basis. Mamoru Takamura, an up-and-coming boxer, rescues Ippo from a violent after-school incident and takes him back to the Kamogawa Boxing Gym for recovery. Takamura and his fellow boxers, Masaru Aoki and Tatsuya Kimura, are stunned by Ippo's powerful punches—a result of strong muscles developed through years serving his physically taxing family business.
Following brief training under Takamura, Ippo impresses the other boxers in a practice match against prodigy Ichirou Miyata. He gains a rival in Miyata and a coach in Genji Kamogawa, the gym owner and a former boxer himself. As Ippo takes the first steps in his official boxing career, he faces off against a series of challenging opponents, each more powerful than the last. Victory, loss, and a cycle of dedicated training await Ippo on his journey to achieve greatness. With his tough body and unstoppable fighting spirit, the kind young man seeks to take on the world.
In its essence, Hajime no Ippo or “The First Step” is an inspiring narrative about the transforming journey of a schoolboy, Makunouchi Ippo, who becomes a professional boxer. Often bullied by his peers, his life takes a turn when he is rescued by Takamura Mamoru, a professional boxer. Inspired by Mamoru’s talent and dedication to the brutal yet artful sport, Ippo embarks on an invigorating path which is filled with blood, sweat, tears, and, ultimately, self-discovery!
Hajime no Ippo is not just about the physical aspects of boxing; it is also about the psychological and emotional challenges that come with the sport. At the same time, it beautifully develops Ippo’s character as he meets fellow boxers, forges valuable friendships, and struggles through his rigorous training.
As The Anime Critic, I can say that Hajime no Ippo was a delightful surprise! Without a doubt, the show’s strength lies in its vivid portrayal of the characters. Rather than presenting one-dimensional characters, the narrative delves deep into their backgrounds, aspirations, and fears. This lends an engaging depth that keeps you rooting for Ippo and his friends while sometimes empathizing with the adversarial opponents.
Hajime no Ippo marvellously keeps you at the edge of your seat during the matches. The boxing sequences are electrifying and in-sync with the story’s pace — each punch, dodge, and knock-out delivered carries an emotional weight that penetrates right into your heart. The palpable pain and towering resolve of the characters in each match reflect the show’s dedication to not just maintaining authenticity, but also advancing the narrative.
Another aspect that sets Hajime no Ippo apart is the impeccable attention to detail. The anime takes pains to explain the rigorous training, intricate boxing techniques, and even the smallest nuances of the sport. It does so without getting burdensome for the viewers. The viewers will inevitably appreciate how the anime beautifully utilizes this to underline the characters’ development arcs.
The voice acting is also commendable. From the dialogue delivery to the grunts and shouts during matches, each voice actor has breathed life into their characters — making every emotion tangible.
Now, let’s address the animation quality. It’s indeed older compared to more recent offerings, but don’t let that deter you from immersing into the world of Ippo. The animation style gives it an old-school charm where its simplicity adds to the raw emotions on display.
The soundtrack complements the anime perfectly, and the opening and ending themes are certainly catchy!
Should You Rent, Buy or Stream?
My recommendation: Stream it! It’s a stunning, emotion-packed series that you’ll most likely appreciate having available any time you want to indulge. Plus, with around 75 episodes in the first season alone and several more in subsequent seasons, it’s well worth the price of a streaming subscription.
In conclusion, Hajime no Ippo is a masterful blend of sports, drama, and incredible character development all executed with a healthy dose of humor. It will get your heart racing with the intense training montages and knock-out matches, while the well-rounded characters will make you come back for more.
As The Anime Critic, I wholeheartedly recommend you to step into the ring with this one. You won’t regret it!
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