Fighting Spirit Vol.02: Debut Match Review
In the first volume Ippo earned respect and membership into the Kamogawa Boxing Gym by taking on their most talented amateur boxer, Miyata in an unbalanced sparring match. Now, the gulf of talent between them has been shortened by coach Kamogawa’s brutal training regiment and their rematch, a full-on sparring session lasting four rounds, is about to begin. When they fought before Miyata was taken aback by the resilience of the fresh-faced rookie, now he’s under no illusion as to Ippo’s talent and he’s more than ready to match his opponent’s superior punching power with his own superior ring experience, technical ability and footwork. This is going to be a whole new mountain for Kamogawa’s newest member to climb.
No time was wasted in establishing a major rivalry between Ippo and Miyata in the opening five episodes, with the dynamic duo’s previous sparring match proving to be a thrilling battle of skill against sheer determination. Now, Ippo has conditioned his body and gained the skill to match his determination and the rematch that takes up the opening two episodes of this volume completely eclipses the original. Full credit must go to director Nishimura Satoshi because the action sequences throughout are handled brilliantly, with every major punch emphasised and exaggerated perfectly for dramatic effect. Cheeks get caved in, saliva is spat all other the place and blood is drawn as Ippo and Miyata knock seven shades of hell out of each other. Other common anime tricks like slow motion, still frames and motion lines eek out every drop of drama and movement from the somewhat limited animation of the show’s more understated style. Sometimes I feel modern series with high budgets and a mix of cell shading and CGI animation tend to rely too much on rapid, heavily animated action scenes. Fighting Spirit proves that deliberate pacing and good composition is all you really need to deliver an exciting sequence.
One of the major conventions of Sports Anime and Manga series are spectator commentaries to accompany the match ups. Usually you’ll have a group of characters watching an event, who provide insight into the characters or the tactical and philosophical nuances of the sport. These commentaries are particularly effective companions for boxing fights and it’s not uncommon to see up to six or more characters commentating on the contests in Fighting Spirit. I’m sure some viewers would prefer to just focus on the action but I for one couldn’t image the sequences without the spectator interludes because they contribute a lot to the pacing of the sequence and the fleshing out of the characters.
Still, as exciting as the rematch is, there’s plenty to enjoy from the remaining three episodes. The third episode on the disc teams Ippo up with Takamura for some intensive training, with some pretty hilarious results. Just about every Shonen series has a highly skilled narcissistic idiot in there somewhere and Takamura lives up to this billing brilliantly and the fans will no doubt laugh heartily at his pre-match arrogance and the dodgy collection of porn mags he exposes the youngster to. The final two episodes deal with the build up to Ippo’s debut match as a professional boxer and the introduction of the first truly nasty character to take up that number one villain slot. Is name is Mashiba and he seems every bit as skillful as Miyata, but about a hundred times nastier because he prefers to demolish his opponents with his deadly jabbing technique, the evil swine! Still, it looks like we’ll have to wait a while for Ippo to face off against him.
While I have tried my best not to reveal too much about each episode in these synopses, please bare in mind that the second episode and onwards may feature spoilers for the episodes prior.
Round 6. The Opening Bell of the Rematch: With the sparring re-match with Miyata looming, Ippo cannot contain his excitement and worry about getting into the ring with his skillful opponent. To help calm him down his mother imparts some advice from Ippo’s late father and with these sentiments in mind he heads off to the Kamogawa Gym. Before the match starts, a roving sports reporter named Fuji pays a visit to interview Miyata, but when he finds out that the prodigy is about to start a sparring session with a new hot rookie the reporter decides he absolutely must cover the event.
Round 7. The Destructive Force of 1cm: The brutal first round has ended with both fighters shaky on their feet. During the mid-round interval Miyata admits that he had completely underestimated the growth of his opponent and from now on must treat this as a match between equals. Ippo meanwhile is reeling badly from the crunching counter-punch Miyata delivered right before the bell. With another three rounds left to fight, the two fighters need to tap into hidden reserves of grit and talent in order to grasp victory.
Round 8. Promise to Meet Again: It’s Ippo’s first day back since his match with Miyata and he’s still on cloud nine from finally being able to fight at the same level as the boxing prodigy. Now he’s hoping he can finally become friends with the aloof genius, but his hopes are dashed when he finds out Miyata hasn’t turned up at the gym today. In fact, Ippo’s so disappointed by the absence, he can’t even concentrate properly on his training – which quickly enrages coach Kamogawa. To shake the youngster out of his lethargy the old man orders Ippo to accompany Takamura, who is preparing for an upcoming professional fight. At first the youngster’s only too happy to comply, but he soon realises that Takamura’s training regime hasn’t earned a reputation as being brutal for nothing.
Round 9. C Class License: Ippo’s professional boxing certificate exam is about to take place and naturally the naïve youngster is worried he’ll fluff the test, but his Kamogawa colleagues are on hand to buck him up with words of encouragement. In fact, Takamura is willing to accompany Ippo to the exam centre and imparts some of his valuable advice before it begins, which has the usual effect of scaring the youngster half to death. At the weigh-in Ippo bumps into a scary looking individual who happens to be in the same weight class and starts to worry that he’ll be sparring against him in the test. If so, he’s not going to breeze through the exam like everyone at Kamogawa assured him he would.
Round 10. Debut Match!: The opponent for Ippo’s debut professional match has been selected: Nishikawa Gym’s Yusuke Oda, a 21-yr old with a mediocre record who has dropped down a weight level thinking he’ll have an easier time. However, even though Oda has lost almost as many fights as he has won, his victories were all stone cold knockouts. It seems Ippo’s opponent has a dynamite right hook that could be a major threat if it’s in top condition for the match. Luckily for the youngster, Oda’s a lazy bum who’s expecting to walk though this match on the basis of superior punching strength alone, but when his girlfriend overhears Kimura and Aoki telling Ippo that his opponent is a no-good bum and total joke within the boxing community, it sparks a complete change in Oda’s attitude from lazy waster to intensely proud competitor.
PresentationPresented in the original 4:3 ratio the quality hasn’t slipped from the first volume. Fighting Spirit has more simplistic, retro art design with broad strokes and little fine detail needed and this transfers very nicely to DVD. Contrast and Brightness levels are strong, colours bold and tight, exhibiting no bleed. Likewise there’s no overt Cross Colouration to find, although you may notice trace amounts creeping into the edges of some of the thicker black outlines. You may also notice some film grain from time to time, but otherwise the print is very clean and compression is strong. If I have to criticise one aspect of the transfer then I’d say the weakest aspect is the sharp, high frequency halos that creep in courtesy of some Edge Enhancement.
A choice of Japanese/English/Spanish DD2.0 Surround tracks are present and naturally for the purpose of this review I primarily listened to the original Japanese mix. The original audio is reproduced warmly with good bass reproduction, handling the thud of the boxing sequences very well. Likewise dialogue is audible and clean as a whistle, while the score is crisp and lively. The alternative language dubs provide pretty much the exact same audio experience.
Optional English subtitles are provided.
ExtrasThere’s an un-amusing bloopers & outtakes feature that lasts for just under 5minutes, Spanish closing sequence and trailers for Cybuster, Submarine 707R and Gregory Horror Show.
OverallAnother cracking set of episodes cap another fine DVD presentation by Geneon. Volume two of Fighting Spirit delivers one great boxing match and builds up quite nicely into Ippo’s debut professional fight, which will start in Volume three. It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait until December to see the outcome of this contest. If you’re even remotely fond of sports dramas, then do yourself a favour and check this, along with the first volume, out ASAP.
Last updated: 23/06/2018 13:27:34