Fighting Spirit Vol. #10 (of 15) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 21, 2006
What They Say
"Ippo boxes Volg at the final match of the Level A Boxer Tournament. The bell rings. They both fight a ferocious in-fight battle. Volg's high speed combination ""White Fang"" relentlessly pummels Ippo, but Ippo also returns with his ""gazelle punches."" Volg falls down in the second round,
but the blow Ippo puts all his power into does not become the final blow. More determined, Volg starts his ""hunt."" There is nothing left that Ippo hasn't tried. When Ippo asks Chief Kamogawa for advice, he simply says ""Do your best"" Can Ippo live up to Kamogawa's message?"
Deep in training and ready to face Volg, Ippo continues his search for greater power and new ways to deal with his opponents.
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.
It seems like almost every fight has Ippo with one eye in bad shape so having it on the cover isn't a surprise as we see him from Volg's point of view during the fight, a view that I certainly wouldn't really want to see. 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)
When all is said and done here, this volume brings us up to episode fifty of the series yet it feels like we're still in the teen episodes in a way considering how smooth and enjoyable the show is. So many other series would have crammed each fight into one episode in order to get it done in twenty six but Fighting Spirit lets each blow in the fight get its moment in the sun as the two monsters rail against each other.
Anyone who has watched the series up to this point has now seen the established cycle of how the fights go and what comes before and after it. In its own way it is very formulaic but it's the kind that does manage to work well because the characters give the formula such life and energy. With the fight with Volg having been set, it moves through the motions that we've come to expect and just like Ippo we go along with it and see what will come from it. Prior to the fight we get some very interesting material that shows some of the differences we can expect this time around. Part of the tension that's come with this fight is the way it's being looked at not necessarily as a Russia vs. Japan angle but in terms of how each country tends to train its fighters.
The meeting of the coaches before things really get underway is interesting since it brings out some of those differences and the Russian coach is able to praise the Chief in some very small but subtle backhanded ways that it completely riles him under the surface. The Chief's able to take that challenge right to Ippo who trusts him so completely that he accepts the regimen that the Chief wants to give him in order to defeat Volg. Volg is definitely the biggest challenge that he's going to face yet but it's the kind of evolution that Ippo continues to really need since he's not put in as much time as other boxers have and the variety only seems to force him to grow and adapt in ways he really needs. The training regimen that the Chief gets him is fun to watch since it brings out a lot in all those around him as well and sets him in motion for what he really needs to do.
The fight with Volg has been built up nicely in ways previous boxers have as well in that we get something associated with him that is his killer move, such as the White Fang trick he uses to essentially cause such a problem in the head that it'll throw someone completely off balance or even retinal disconnect. His trademark move is something that's been examined and looked at by the Chief and others and Ippo's new move should provide a good balance to it provided he can of course get it in there. Both before and during the fight we get to have some good moments where we learn more about Volg, including some time where he and Ippo actually end up together out in public and talk about the things that really motivate them. Volg's past is different than Ippo's to be sure but the similarities are strong as well and Volg's admiration for some of Ippo's qualities are quite apparent.
One area that I thought was particularly amusing here and something that is hard to believe would be allowed to happen is the commentators that they get for the match. While Takamura isn't that much of a stretch considering his knowledge of Ippo and the gym in general, and he does certainly dress up nicely for the event, I was surprised to see Date being the other commentator. It seems strange that they'd let someone who was obviously on the path that Ippo is on to serve as a commentator. Anything he'd said could be biased, but that may simply be a difference in the culture of sports between what I'd expect from an athlete/commentator in the US as opposed to Japan.
I'm like a broken record with my praise for this show but warts and all it continues to be one of the most engaging series that I've been watching in the last year or so. It's also a series that's being released in the best way possible considering the episode count and style of the episode layout. This show about a young man who finds his way in life through boxing and betters himself and those around him has just such a life and energy about it along with a great sense of wit that it engrosses completely. This volume brings us to one of the big points in the series as Ippo faces his toughest opponent yet and puts everyone in their place for the bigger picture that's been building since we first met Date. When it's as good as it is here, it's great. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,Spanish 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: 115
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fighting Spirit