Fighting Spirit Vol. #03 (of 15) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, November 26, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2004



What They Say
The debut match with Oda proceeds with an incessant barrage of power punches. Ippo's destructive force initially overwhelms Oda, but then an unforeseen "accident" puts Ippo in danger of losing the match by TKO. Then, Ippo remembers what Takamura taught him when they first met... Following the debut match, the Eastern Japan Rookie Championship Tournament starts. Ippo's first opponent is Jason Ozma, an American KO artist with powerful hook. As the brutal match progresses, the fierce exchange of punches wear out both fighters. Can Ippo survive this match and advance to the final against his rival Miyata?

The Review!
As Ippo gets ready for the Rookie King Tournament, he has a few matches to get through first, including that all important debut match.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a very solid stereo mix here that lets you feel a good portion of the oomph from the hits and just the sound of the speed of the boxers. Dialogue is fairly center channel based for most of the show but there are some key areas where dialogue is shifted to one of the side speakers. Throughout regular playback, everything sounded solid and free of distortions and dropouts.

Video:
Originally starting its airing back in 2000, Fighting Spirit is presented on this disc in its original full frame format and has a pretty solid looking transfer. The shows animation style is a mix that plays up some of the feel of older shows with some of its color palette as well as using thick lines around the characters at times, such as when they act goofy, but it also has some very slick fast motion sequences that are very well animated and have much more vibrant colors to them. Cross coloration is pretty minimal overall here even with as much tight line work as there is in some scenes and aliasing is very light. Some of the backgrounds come across a bit softer and more motion oriented than others, but it's barely noticeable for the most part.

Packaging:
The cover for this release is a decent piece with what we expect a lot of the artwork for the covers in this series to look like with an image of Ippo in his trunks looking fairly beaten up from a match while the shadowed image of one of his opponents is there in the background. Admittedly, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot you can do with this kind of series for cover art. The back cover has a few shots from the show in a strip along the center and provides a simple if decent summary of the basic premise. The discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed as well as the discs features. The insert has a shot of a boxing ring with the chapter listings for all five episodes and that opens up to a two panel shot of the front cover but with a different background color. The back of the insert uses the existing cover artwork but with a few less logo's on it.

Menu:
The menu gets a big thumbs down right from the start with the load up of a critical fight sequence with English dialogue before it actually loads the final menu itself, which is fairly decent but like some other recent SpeeDVD menus looks somewhat software in some areas and blocky in the selection text. Once loaded, the menu has some clips of Ippo doing his movements that's layered on top of a motion background that has various scenes from the show playing as well while some of the harder music plays along. The menu just feels a bit too filled up with animation and a near strange blending of two different clips the way they're layered. Access times and navigation itself is pretty simple and easy to use though. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets which continues to be a plus.

Extras:
The only included piece isn't really an extra but the Spanish language credits for that version of the dub.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Throwing another five episodes of the series out there, Fighting Spirit manages to once more completely captivate with this volume in both its ability to make me enjoy the sport of boxing as well as the general manly camaraderie that's continuing to grow among the group of guys at the gym where Ippo trains. This show manages to so easily create an atmosphere that's "boys only" but still very much accessible to anyone out there that it's impressive to watch just how this series manages to win over women and make them fans of it.

Of course, there's a downside to the series but it's one so far that hasn't really hampered things. When watching a tournament show in general, this comes into play, but it comes more into play with one like this. When Ippo goes up for his debut match, you just know that he's going to win. They can't hand him a defeat right from the bat because that's not what the show is trying to portray. It's ideas of hard work and training always paying off is core to itself and while that can be challenged, it can't be done this early in the series. You can expect a defeat or a real rout at some point, but his debut match? Not going to happen. The same goes when Ippo starts in the Rookie King Tournament. When one loss means you're out of the tournament and he's supposed to have a big fight with Miyata at the end, well, I can see their match-up coming earlier (though it won't) but you can't imagine him losing any of his early matches. They'll be struggles, but not something that would eliminate him.

But that doesn't ruin the series like it does for some others. There's so much going on in these fights and we get the multi-layered nature to them where we get to know the opponent well and their motivations that it doesn't detract from it. Well, for the most part at least. For example, Ippo's opening debut match is nicely done and since we've had an episode or two of back story for his opponent, we know how much each side wants to win and what they're bringing to the table in their attempts to seize victory. His second match though, we barely even get his opponents name and you can tell from that alone that it'll be a single-episode bout instead of a multi-episode fight extravaganza. When the Tournament starts and Ippo finds out who his opponent is, a black American no less, we get to see what his opponent has gone through in his time in Japan and how that's shaped his fighting style and the reasons behind it.

While you may not care for the other side, the understanding of his position and how important a victory is to him really helps change the balance of a show like this. You know what Ippo's been doing, how hard he's been training and what it all means to him, but even then there's a part of you that kind of roots for the other side as well since they're well portrayed. That's what makes this show so enjoyable.

One area that's finally touched on in this volume is something I've really been waiting to see. With his debut match victory and his officially becoming a professional boxer, he sort of lets is known at school. While his wildest fantasies about being treated over it are just that, he does get some interesting comments over it. But the best part is the way the bullies deal with him over the information. The way they're now used in the episodes moves them beyond caricatures and slowly into characters – and ones that I think we'll see becoming more important as time goes along. I'm also really enjoying the way they're being so slow in bringing the potential romantic interest into the show. We're fifteen episodes in and the two haven't even looked at each other face to face yet, never mind actually saying anything.

In Summary:
If you got the first two volumes of this series and found that you enjoyed it, this set of episodes will only increase you love of the show. The pacing and style, as well as the raunchy comedy that kills us, is just spot on from episode to episode. While there are plenty of clichés throughout it that are standard to this genre and we're really not getting anything amazingly new here, this series is just so well done and addictive once you crack it open that you can't help but to try and spread the word. This is one of those shows that I'm glad will be running for a long time, even with five episodes a disc, because it generates a feeling I don't want to let go. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,Spanish 2.0 Language,English Subtitiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 115
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fighting Spirit