Fighting Spirit Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • 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

Fighting Spirit Vol. #01

By Chris Beveridge     May 15, 2004
Release Date: July 06, 2004


Fighting Spirit Vol. #01
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Ippo Makunocuhi's gentle spirit and lack of confidence make him an easy target for the bullies at his high school who regularly beat him up. Then, he?s rescued from a beating by Takamura, a-larger-than-life professional boxer who inspires Ippo to learn the art of boxing. After passing one of Takamura?s outrageous tests, Ippo attempts to join the Kamogawa Boxing Club, but Chief Kamogawa refuses to believe Ippo has a fighter?s spirit and requires Ippo to spar with Miyata, an extraordinarily talented and skilled boxer. Can Ippo even survive the first round?!

The Review!
One of the smaller genres for anime is the sports genre, something that Fighting Spirit manages to fit into and take on perfectly.

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 original Japanese release was done in jewel cases, so the artwork used for that isn't something that would transition well into keepcases, so I'm guessing the artwork used is from the VHS or rental versions of the show. The opening cover is a decent piece that will definitely let you know what the show is all about with a strong shot of Ippo in his boxing shorts and gloves, muscles rippling, as he jabs forward. While not the most eye-catching cover out there, it's pretty solid with some good colors and it definitely lets you know what kind of show it is, so if you pick it up, you're already halfway hooked. 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 spine lists this as "The First Step", so it'll be interesting to see if they keep that naming convention or not. 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 close-up of Ippo doing some talking in English 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.

Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal here. There are just under three minutes worth of dubbing bloopers and outtakes, some amusing and some not, as well as the Spanish version of the end credits. It's unfortunate that they couldn't figure out a way to include them in the proper roll so there'd be proper crediting going on when you listen to the Spanish version and not have to go check the extras for it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a lot of different genres for anime now being explored since there's a wider audience than there used to be, the sports genre is slowly getting some new exposure. Between one or two previous series coming out and some manga series in the genre making headway, it's developing a small cultish following that's looking for more. Having seen the first five of seventy-five episodes of Fighting Spirit, it looks like this series fits the bill perfectly of what I've been looking for.

The show centers around high school kid Ippo Makunouchi. He's a fairly quiet kid, doesn't have too much going on in general such as outlandish hobbies or hairstyles, he doesn't seem like an idiot or super smart, but your average guy that you never think much about in school. Everyone in the class he's in has just been changed out so everyone is new to each other. Ippo wants to head out with a bunch of them after class to check out a movie, but his home life keeps him from being too social, something that lightly ostracizes him from the class. He and his mother run a boating business that takes people out for fishing excursions at all hours. So he's often doing night shifts when his mother takes them out or he's up very early for those morning trawls around the bay. His family life is pretty good overall though, so he works hard at it and it's something that helps keep food on the table and lets him have the basics he needs to survive.

The main threat that Ippo faces on a semi regular basis is a trio of bullies at school that rough him up. Sometimes it's just a light encounter, sometimes it gets downright bloody. One of those bloody incidents has Ippo really getting worked over as the bullies go on about how he smells like worms and they start in on his mom. Ippo starts to show some signs of a backbone here but he instead just continues to take the beating instead rather than fight. What saves him in the end is the arrival of a jogger who manages to beautifully shame the trio pretty quickly and with some style. As it turns out, the jogger is actually one of the upcoming names in boxing, Mamoru Takamura. He's out on his training run and couldn't stand to see what happened and got involved.

One thing leads to another and Ippo ends up at the gym getting his wounds fixed. Takamura takes some pity on the kid and decides to show him a little bit on how to fight back but instead is surprised by the raw power and surprising talent Ippo shows for boxing. Ippo starts to find that he really likes the concept of boxing, especially after Takamura lends him a couple of video tapes of big worldwide challenges. From there he absorbs various magazines and more and really gets into the entire world of boxing, as much as you can within a few days and without actually putting on the gloves himself. Ippo's previously fairly monotonous but happy life has now gained a passion and he wants to become a boxer.

His admission of this to Takamura only disgusts him, since Ippo really does come across as a weakling and a wimp. Takamura tries to get him to understand that there's a serious commitment to it and it's not something you can just do. With his having spent so much time and energy on boxing, the way Ippo seemingly just decides he wants to do it just seems like a lark, so he sets out to ensure that Ippo doesn't succeed. Takamura comes up with some amusing ways of challenging Ippo that he has to do in short periods of time before he'll take him on, but as these genres play out, you know Ippo figures out the basics and is able to show some real talent, thereby surprising Takamura. Fighting Spirit does give its nods to the clichs of the genre, but they're ones that are useful at this stage since it pushes the introduction and setting forward.

Having seen what kind of raw material that Ippo really is, Takamura is set to bring him in to the gym and guide him himself as a prodigy of sorts while focusing on his own career. He's sadly mistaken though as the gym's owner, Coach Kamogawa, decides that he'll make the decision as to whether he stays. He sets Ippo up in a quick three round match with another unlicensed boxer but one that's better than most of the licensed ones in the gym. Since Ippo really does look like a cowardly little wimp here, Kamogawa decides he'll use his guy, Miyata, to take Ippo down and get on with business.

You can guess how the matches go and they're a lot of fun to watch. They shift effortlessly between beautiful and brutal as we follow Ippo's mental processes as he tries to figure out what's going on. He hasn't learned the basics and hasn't a clue what to do other than one or two moves, but he's determined to really get in there and become a boxer no matter what. It's that "fighting spirit" that gives Ippo that special something that will propel him (for seventy-five episodes) along his career in boxing. These opening episodes do a really great job of setting all of this up. Since it is set up, we do get some of the sports clichs you expect, such as the peculiarities of the coach, the wisecracking goofy fellow boxers and in general the way Ippo picks up on the entire sport.

Ippo's a great character though. One of the first things I expected him to do when he gained some confidence about his boxing skills was to lay some smack down on the trio of bullies. But even still he's deferential to them, not thinking of using his boxing teachings as a way to keep back the bullies. There's no vengeance going on in his mind about the school punks. When he takes on Miyata, he's more full of admiration than anything else at the skill of his opponent and tries to learn from him as much as possible, especially through shadow boxing. Ippo is really one of those pure kinds of people that when they discover that passion they hadn't known about, one that they excel at, his mind just has him grabbing it all.

With it being a boxing show, it's pretty male heavy, particularly at the gym, so there aren't a lot of women here early on. I expect some sort of relationship to creep into it, but for now the only woman in Ippo's life is his mother, a hard working widow who does what she can for her son and starts to push him away from the business as he takes on the boxing passion. What's interesting about her is that while she's a bit oblivious to what's really motivating him, she's very encouraging about it. Even better, she doesn't fit the traditional character mold of being either highly beautiful or hideous. She's pretty plain in the end but she shows her love for Ippo just right.

In Summary:
Fighting Spirit was a real surprise. I'm not a boxing fan by any stretch though I'm rather familiar with the sport over the years. You couldn't have HBO in the 80's and not experience some of the best boxing out there. This series captures the passion and love of the sport and of competition beautifully. The two characters that get paired against each other here don't harbor any real ill will towards each other but rather just don't want to lose. So they're constantly being driven by their internal motivations to succeed and grow, and these two find that they're perfect foils for each other.

With the show being as long as it is and being about boxing, I had little expectations in my wife enjoying the show. But as she watched it with me, she was laughing at it more than I was and really enjoying it. Fighting Spirit is the kind of show that when you see it, you realize that this is the kind of show that should be on Cartoon Network. The kind of show that takes kids passion for sports and activities and really drives them home. While we only get some very limited real action fight sequences here, the more we learn of Ippo the more we really root for him. This series is an obviously long commitment with its length, but after these first five episodes, I'm excited that I have something really great to watch over the next two years or so. This is the kind of show that gets me excited about anime and really reinvigorates when I get into those slumps of poor show. Sports isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I definitely recommend trying it out.

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

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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