Fighting Spirit Vol. #09 (of 15) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2005
What They Say
While Ippo plans to train hard at the camp with the Kamogawa Gym's gang, his mother comes down with an illness. Determined to save her rental fishing boat business, he decides to give up on boxing. Then, he receives a surprise visit by his old friend who says he would take care of his mother's business so that Ippo can keep boxing. Ippo resumes his training to fight with Saeki, a.k.a "The Speed Star." Can Ippo keep up with Saeki's speed? Meanwhile, the former amateur world champion from Russia K.O.s his first opponent with ease.
Boys will be boys figures into this volume for a bit before the A-Class Tournament kicks off and everyone finds out just what they're up against.
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.
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.
With the way the character artwork is done for this series and there being little more than that for each one, they provide for some very striking pieces and this one is no exception. This volume introduces the next big opponent for Ippo with the Volg and his signature style and it just feels like it exudes the characters power here. 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.
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 SpeeDVD menus looks somewhat soft 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With so much having come before, Fighting Spirit takes a bit of a break to have fun with its characters and dole out some obvious but usually necessary personal issues for them to deal with. At the same time though, some of the solid drama and character growth material is woven into these kinds of stories that only makes you root for Ippo even more. Even better, Yamada finally starts to become a bit more interesting and his story arc moves along quite well.
.The character stories from this volume are pretty amusing and well done I think as they bring some good light hearted material in one sense and some understanding of relationships in the other. While Fighting Spirit has been strangely odd in its real lack of an actual romantic relationship for Ippo, he is very much male however and when he finds out that a popular reporter named Kumiko is coming to the cover the gym for a story, he's just as star struck as the rest of the guys. Kumiko's a lot of fun in this bit as she interviews the various guys and they all show off while still keeping to their actual training moves. Ippo's moments in the ring with her to showcase some basic fight material is the absolute best though. These light moments are nicely balanced by Ippo being serious as he's the senior to Yamada and works with him through his certification process and exhibition match. It's an area that Ippo takes very seriously and you can see him realizing the similar things he went through during his own certification and how he tries to help Yamada work through them.
The one episode I thought I wasn't going to like much because it plays on some very obvious material is the one that's focused around Ippo's mother. There are so many basic clichéd stories that you can go with that it would seem like a time waster. What happens is something that's been hinted at for awhile and she finally collapses from over work and finds herself being confined to the hospital for a month to recover. Ippo naturally knows his place and refocuses on keeping the business going and trying to do his roadwork and other training but it comes at a time when he was about to leave for training camp and a match not too far away. Losing his plans and routines causes him to rethink doing boxing in general as he knows he has his primary responsibility to his family and he can't even think of losing the boat that his father left to them.
What was really nice about this episode that helped save a lot of is that Ippo doesn't get whiny about it or anything but just tries to figure out exactly what he needs to do and to just do it. This becomes a bit more complicated for him though when a character we haven't seen for a bit comes back into play as Umezawa claims to have quit his job so he could come help Ippo. Doing this kind of work, which would eventually free up Ippo, would work well for Umezawa since he wants to follow his own dream in the same way and he reveals he wants to do a boxing manga based on Ippo's fights and rise. It's a bit of an inside winking move to do something like this but it so nicely brings this character back into the storyline and allows for some very surprisingly sweet moments that I can't bring myself to really complain about it since I smiled during the majority of it.
This volume does feature some solid fighting sequences as well as the first couple of episodes lay the groundwork for the A Class tournament as the ranked boxers of Kamogawa Boxing are all slotted to fight it out in their respective classes. Ippo's a bit surprised at first considering he's gone through his recovery process and finished it fine but he's more than ready to get going on his dream of taking on Date, something he very publicly makes mention of. The tournament brings in some fresh new blood such as Ippo's first opponent with Saeki, a "Speed Star" whose footwork and grace is just so high that he practically disappears during the fights from Ippo's field of vision. This particular boxer presents a new challenge for Ippo and one that he can't glean much from his usual friends in order to beat but it was interesting to see him piece it together from his training sessions with Yamada of all people.
We also get to see another new boxer who's come from Russia in order to take on the world title and his goal of taking down the big game in other countries having conquered Russia is his first step to doing just that. He also makes some surprising public comments about Date which sets the challenges up nicely and through his first fight we get to see just what kind of dangerous person he really is. It'll be interesting to see what motivates this character and how he fits into the larger scheme of things. Seeing how everyone ends up revolving around Ippo isn't a surprising thing but watching how they react from there usually is. Ippo's challenge to Date and his meeting him previously has led to some amusing moments such as when Ippo's in the ring and you have Date and Takamura watching the fight together and commenting on it, or even later when Ippo finishes his match and watches with them. Ippo has so smoothly over his two years become "one of them" that he doesn't realize it and still has a lot of that newbie-ness to him when he realizes it. The way these characters have grown and come together has resulted in one of the best casts out there.
This volume of Fighting Spirit serves more as a bridge from what's come before and where things are going as it brings in some personal stories, wraps up one arc and shuffles around a few characters so that they're in new places and have more interesting roles. There are lots of laugh out loud moments, a number of edge of the seat fight moments and overall a set of episodes that just makes you wish this show would go on forever and not just another thirty episodes. Fighting Spirit continues to be one of the best shows out there that we simply cannot recommend enough.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
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.
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fighting Spirit