Fighting Spirit Vol. #14 (of 15) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 31, 2006
What They Say
Takamura defends his Japanese championship belt for the fourth time. He defeats the challenger only using his left arm. His explosive power assures his ticket to the world title. Sendo is also defending his belt. Contrary to the majority's expectation, Sendo is unable to land his blows on his opponent, Shigeta. Just as Ippo had a difficult time during sparring sessions, Sendo experiences uncharted territory with the tricky southpaw fighter. Shigeta's careless comment causes Sendo to snap, and he goes for the "kill."
In possibly the weakest volume of the series, Ippo takes the back seat to events but still keeps his eye on the prize.
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.
Really being indicative of the content of this volume, Ippo is nowhere to be seen while Sendo gets the full color treatment and his opponent makes up the fiery background visual. It's still a good looking cover and with Sendo there with the title belt, it shows the object of Ippo's goals plainly enough. 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 expanded nicely. 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)
Those who've been following this series along with me know full when my enjoyment of Fighting Spirit is simply hard to shake. The series has done a wonderful job of making something I don't find interesting exciting to watch. And they've managed to do it so that in watching it in five episode chunks still feels like it's barely enough at a time. This volume, though in keeping with some of the previous standard formulas, feels weaker since Ippo isn't quite so strong in it as the focus shifts elsewhere.
But even that criticism is mild because we do get to have a lot of fun along the way. Ippo being the central fighter is certainly the appeal but other than a couple of practice rounds here, the real fighting is kept for Sendo later in the disc. The characters are what make it work so well when they're outside of the ring, often with some of the best comedic material. This volume thankfully brings us to the end of the training trip to the mountains. It's been a decent arc but it hasn't felt quite as solid as some of the previous ones even though it introduces some new elements that work well. The introduction of Nekota previously was light comedy but as it moves forward here we understand that he and the Chief were strong rivals back in their youth and neither of them actually managed to settle the score between them. Watching the two of them trash talk each other is amusing as is the way they continue to get into mild matches against each other.
Once back in the city though, the show changes back to more of its regular routine in terms of training. It does have a bit of a twist though in that Nekota has come to visit with them and we really start to get more of an understanding of his past as a boxer and it reflects well on the Chief since they're both so similar. Ippo's still in regular training for his eventual match with Sendo and this is getting some real promotion from Sendo as he's intent on making the event something that settles the score between the two of them. Neither of them are happy with the technical win that Sendo got but Sendo is able to bring those feelings out in more clarity than Ippo and continues to make the challenges and plans the date for their eventual rematch.
Ippo does thankfully get some down time while back at home after the trip. This is almost a bit out of place in the show but he gets to spend some time with Kumi who is slowly getting closer and closer to him. The two end up on a date, of sorts, and with Kumi all dressed up and looking pretty, Ippo is naturally nervous and lands himself in the kinds of situations that only he seems capable of " even at a zoo. The lack of a serious relationship in this series has always been a positive I thought since it didn't turn the show into a relationship drama that would really skew it in a bad direction. That doesn't mean I'm against a romantic angle though and it's good to see it getting built up again after some previous episodes that have shown the awkward motions of these two kids.
There are some very enjoyable fights here. Takamura in particular gets to expand his character a bit as he works his way towards a world title. The previously shown bear issue rears its head again and it changes Takamura in a most amusing way but it gives him something of a signature mark that he can and does utilize in his next fight. Being Takamura, he does take it over the top though but it's just the way his mind works and it's a great bit of theatrics. The main fight that fills up the last couple of episodes on this volume is centered around Sendo and his fight against the challenger Shigeta. Throwing another Southpaw into the mix, it's one where having seen Sendo fight so many times in the past now that we're able to enjoy it pretty well but it still lacks the same kind of intensity and commentary that Ippo's fights do. Having Ippo and the Chief comment on it during the fight does help but it's not the same as being inside Ippo's head in the midst of a fight.
As much good material as there is on this volume, it just felt weak in its execution because it works purely as five episodes of setup for the next and final volume of the TV series run. It doesn't build up to a real crescendo anywhere here outside of Sendo and Shigeta's fight but even that didn't have the impact of previous fights. These episodes definitely have plenty to like and if you're enjoying Sendo's method of getting a proper fight with Ippo it'll be plenty worthwhile, but if you want to see some really engaging fighting spirit moments from Ippo you won't find them here.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,Spanish 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI-DVI, 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.
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fighting Spirit