Fighting Spirit Vol. #02 - 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: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fighting Spirit

Fighting Spirit Vol. #02

By Chris Beveridge     October 08, 2004
Release Date: October 12, 2004


Fighting Spirit Vol. #02
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
"It wouldn't be right to just lie down and not keep fighting..." The bell for the sparring session with Miayata rings. To everybody's astonishment, Miyata falls to the mat first. Ippo's fierce determination to give his all overpowers Miyata's superior boxing skills in the first two rounds, but clever Miyata quickly recovers and outboxes Ippo with his lethal counters. Chief Kamogawa advises Ippo to stop the bout, but Ippo says "I have one more thing left to do...". The result was the astounding conclusion that nobody had expected. After the match with Miyata, Ippo trains rigorously with Takmura and waits for the day of his professional debut match with Yusuke Oda.

The Review!
Ippo's rise in the ranks goes forward but not without some solid challenges for him to face along the way.

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 cover for this release is a decent piece that pushes the main rivalry early on between Ippo and Miyata. With the dark line work and the boxing nature it's likely to be a males only kind of appealing cover but the show has such great crossover appeal. 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 and Miyata 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 five 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)
After a lengthy delay between volumes, even worse for us by an additional two months, Fighting Spirit gets back into the groove once more and the show manages to do what it did the first time around and that's just really entertain us. There are very few shows out there that really generate solid laughs but this is one of them. And that it's a boxing show at that is even more surprising.

The series manages to move time forward nicely in this volume with a couple of episodes moving the plot forward by an average of three months at a whack. Between the last volume and this one, there's been three months of training that Ippo has gone through since the Chief took over his training. Ippo's continuing to live for the day that he can meet Miyata back in the ring again and go up against him. The tension is one of his strengths since it keeps him focused and alive but also with a decided goal in mind. The kind of training that he's undergone has definitely been harsh but you can see the results in him both physically and through his level of confidence in general. He's not arrogant but he's feeling good about himself.

A new twist that enters into the series with this volume is the arrival of what looks to be a recurring character for at least a little while with Fujii, a writer for one of the boxing magazines. There's plans for a series of articles and up and coming boxers so he's hitting the pavement early with it and comes to check out Miyata since the unlicensed kid has such potential due to his counterpunch. Of course, while everyone still thinks highly of Miyata, they're all in awe at times at certain aspects of Ippo's abilities and his relentlessness so they're joking with him a bit. As the four round sparring match goes on though, Fujii is able to see why. Crossing through two episodes, this is a great match that once again pits the two against each other and shows their strengths and weaknesses. While some of the commentary by those around the ring are blatant with their explanations of what's going on, it's done well enough that you don't feel insulted by it.

The rise of both of these guys so fast, particularly Ippo, pushes the Chief to get him licensed and into the professional world as quickly as possible once they figured out what it was that had him so tense and upbeat about what he was doing. Ippo's love of boxing is strong and one of the things that got him into the entire sport, but something else had been driving him up until his fight with Miyata and the disappearance of that after the fight definitely caused some concern. The shift to the world of professional boxing though brings in a lot of new things that only help expand and entertain rather than bog things down.

Having him in a tournament mode of sorts now, as both he and Miyata are determined to fight again once more in the future, isn't something I can complain about since it's obvious that the show would go in that direction just based on the sport itself. It's well done in that we get a variety of new boxers thrown into the mix and Ippo has to undergo even more severe training in order to be able to take any of them on. Some come across as average, some weak and some with amazing skills that harken back to some of the greats of the sport. With Ippo now officially licensed in the featherweight division, he's ready to move forward into a much larger world that he continues to seem to love with all his heart.

As the show moves forward into the professional realm, we get a lot of solid material, particularly as Ippo spends some time training with Takamura to see what it's really like and what kind of focus and goals are required to really go the distance. Ippo's desire to excel and improve himself is one of the best driving forces of this show and it provides a lot of great little bits of incidental humor that has you laughing out loud when you least expect it. Ippo is such an honest and simple character that he's got this great charm about him, even when he starts to relate to others how he doesn't have any friends and just how lonely his life is, yet how completely happy he continues to be. There's so little angst in here that it's such a great change of pace from so many other teen dramas.

In Summary:
Fighting Spirit is one of the best surprises of the year and while we had a huge wait of five months between volumes, these episodes more than made up for it. Ippo's such an engaging and fun character and the series so masterfully shows great fight sequences without really skimping on the animation but telling it in a stylish enough manner that even people who are not boxing fans become engaged in it and watch every move to try and understand what's going on is not something easily accomplished. While there are a lot of obvious top tier titles out that are easy to recommend and everyone will flock to regardless, Fighting Spirit is the one that I have to say to people to just get it and try it. This is one of the best hidden gems of the year and there's so much more to come.

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

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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