Fighting Spirit Vol. #04 (of 15) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, March 18, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2005



What They Say
Ippo and Takamura watch Miyata's bout- his second fight in the Eastern Japan Rookie ChampionshipTournament. Contrary to everybody's expectations, Miyata poses as an in-fighter. It is a decisive change in style in anticipation of the bout with Ippo! His lightning-fast counter takes his opponent down with ease. Miyata is unstoppable now prompting Ippo to train harder. With the help of Takamura and the Kamogawa Gym's gang, Ippo labors to conquer his weaknesses and prepares himself for his next oppornent, Kobashi. Nobody thinks Kobashi would be a serious threat to Ippo, but Kobashi has a clever plot. If he pulls it off, Ippo won’t be able to win by points. He must K.O. Kobashi to win!

The Review!
Ippo continues his journey to become Rookie of the Year while Takamura finally gets his chance to truly shine.

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:
Much like the past couple of covers, we get more in-ring material here this time with a slightly haggard Ippo taking a break in his corner while the image of his opponent looms behind him. 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:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If there is one thing to say for most sports series is that while they may drag out the matches and events at times across too many episodes, each episode is seemingly guaranteed of some sort of action. Fighting Spirit doesn't quite fall into this category just yet but each of the episodes on this volume provides some great action material to it that's either related to the critical matches or with the training. And just like past volumes, most of the opponents we're introduced to aren't your usual cookie cutter one dimensional pieces but rather people with the same kind of hopes and aspirations as Ippo himself.

Ippo's continuing to keep his eye on the real prize which is his eventual fight with Miyata to determine the Rookie of the Year at the end of the tournament. But even better, he's still very focused and attentive on each individual fight that's going to lead up to that and treat each one as the crucial things they are, regardless of how weak his opponent looks. Things are slowly setup here at the beginning in addition to more training and viewing one of Miyata's bouts for the next fight Ippo gets to go to and his opponent for this one looks to be quite different from past ones. Instead of an insane powerhouse or someone crafty, his opponent is a man named Kobashi who manages to win by points and running out the bell on it by doing a lot of light jabbing and clinches. It's a legitimate way to win but it's a way that a lot of fans don't consider boxing since there isn't a lot of fighting to it. Even worse for Ippo, his match is now going to be the opener for Takamura's next bout which is set to be a grand fight indeed.

So what to do? Road trip! Takamura decides that he needs a weeks training camp in Izu and he convinces the old man to let Ippo come along with them but without him so that it's just a guys trip. Ippo is psyched for his first training camp and it's probably one of the best non-fight episodes we've had here in awhile. With the other two senior boxers of the gym, the four of them head to the beach and take advantage of all the fun that can be had there. Heavy practice in the morning, massive tomfoolery in the afternoon and then heavy practice again in the evening. It's great to watch the guys continually strike out with the girls but also their initial worry of "Elephant Trunk" Ippo outshining them. The training side of it eventually takes over for the most part and we get to see some interesting techniques to help Ippo master some of his weaknesses. This plays out really well and while it doesn't supercharge Ippo, it does add to his confidence.

One area that continues to be done really well and I appreciate their not making it a major focus early on is his potential relationship with the girl on the bike. Ippo gets a couple of new encounters with her in this volume and gets to talk with her even but it's something that isn't a huge part of the show but a really neat little side story at this point. We get to see that she has some interest in boxing through someone else but she doesn't make the connection of Ippo being who he is when he shows up in the bakery that she works in. What's even nicer about all of this is that while she's cute she's not a "real beauty" like the ones they come up with for the trip to Izu on the beach.

In Summary:
With a couple of great fights and footage of some other fights, we get a good progression through the tournament for both Ippo and Takamura in this round. The bonding level of the guys continues to be a really strong point and this really is a guys show but it's got such a great crossover appeal to it that women should really enjoy this as well. Just like the past three volumes, this one is solid all the way through and with five episodes it feels like you get just the right amount of material. This show is one of the best things I get every couple of months and I'm glad that it's as long as it is since it means a lot more enjoyment. Excellent stuff, very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,Spanish Language,English Subtitles

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: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fighting Spirit