Great Combo of action, slice of life, romance, comedy and sports shounenDated look, old animation and art style


Among the many genre present in the anime landscape today, shounen holds particular esteem for not only extremely popular but very mainstream as well. Titles like Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Naruto and Bleach have propelled the shounen genre to the very top of the Anime food chain. A sub genre of the Shounen library, sports shounen, however, is a completely separate matter. Far from being popular, only the most hardcore of hardcore Anime fans seems to enjoy this incredibly niche genre. It is indeed a tragedy, because with series like Hajime no Ippo, it becomes quite difficult to imagine why this genre hasn’t taken the world by storm.

Hajime no ippo is a sports shounen show, more specifically a show about professional boxing in Japan. The story revolves around a young man named Ippo, who starts off as an extremely weak person (bullied at school), only to be drawn to how strong and impressive the world of boxing is. Desiring a change in himself and wanting to become as strong as the boxers he admires, Ippo steps into the world of boxing, and gradually proceeds to become one of the most talented and fearsome boxers in the professional boxing circuit of Japan.

Hajime no ippo is most definitely a shounen show at heart, but simply throwing the series in that particular category is a disservice to its magnificence. The series could easily double as a slice of life, a romance comedy, a general comedy series and a full on battle shounen series. Unlike most shounen sports shows, Hajime no Ippo rides closer to the more mainstream side of things simply because of the nature of the sport it highlights, making it a great introduction to the world of sports anime.

Based off the manga by George Joji Morikawa, Hajime no Ippo is a love letter to the world of boxing. It glorifies the sport, but it also freely reveals all the dangers, sad stories and the cruelty of the sport with its head held high. Injuries, trauma and all the pain that accompany this dangerous sport are all present and shown in all their unadulterated purity. All the while, the show also highlights the pleasure, the thrill and the excitement that has kept boxing alive even today.

One of the highlights of the series, is definitely the aspect of its story’s unpredictability and high stakes. Very few shounen series can truly make viewers feel a sense of impending danger for their characters. All the matches, battles and even minor slice of life events in the series serve to surprise, amaze and excite. With all these glorious elements packaged in, Hajime no Ippo provides an almost complete story arc. The series chronicles Ippo’s entrance into the world of boxing all the way to a rather significant event in his career. There are very few series in the anime industry that are this good, and that end on a satisfying note while still leaving more further development.

And indeed, should the 76 episodes of the series not be enough, there are a ton of follow up items in the franchise to look forward to. The manga series for the franchise is still currently ongoing, having reached its 100th volume earlier this month. There are also a slew of sequel OVAs as well as a second 26 episode second series. With all the supporting material, its easy to think that the series will hardly end at a satisfying stage, but it clearly does. If there is a reason for viewers to continue, its because of how engrossing the world and characters of the series are.

One of the definite selling points of this show is the wealth of amazing characters it has. Ippo himself, is an extremely relatable and loveable underdog that you can’t help but root for. Surrounding him, is one the most diverse and interesting group of boxers, trainers and people that can only be found in some of the best romance slice-of-life anime of the 1980s. Whether its Ippo’s older brother figure Takamura, or the extremely strict and wise trainer “Kamogawa Gen”, or the more senior boxers Aoki and Kimura, Ippo’s supportive mother, his crush Kumi, the bully turned staunch friend Umezawa, or his many boxing rivals, none of these characters fail to leave their mark.

The attachment that viewers will feel to these characters is immense, as they undergo some truly life altering journeys and some truly touching moments. Yes, Hajime no Ippo has enough emotional omph to rival some of the most engrossing slice of life anime series to date.

If there is one strike against Hajime no Ippo, especially in this day and age of truly jaw dropping animation and artwork, its that it definitely looks a bit dated. Not as bad as say Maison Ikkoku or even Slam Dunk, but Hajime no Ippo is a somewhat old year 2000 series.

The series gets progressively better with time (as budget and popularity probably increased), but it can be off putting to some people at the very start. Studio Madhouse, while definitely not knocking everything out of the park in the visual department, manages to craft a series that can hold its own despite being more than a decade old at this point.

The sound work though, is quite impressive, particularly the japanese voice acting. The characters are brought to life by extremely impressive performances by their seiyuu. The music and Sound track for the series, while not the most memorable, is definitely all about crafting an unforgettably atmospheric experience.

What it all boils down to, is that Hajime no Ippo is an amazingly engrossing experience, and one of the best series to come out of the anime industry. It is definitely worthy of being known as one of the best sports shounen series, and will likely convert many a viewer into a diehard fan of a currently niche genre. Hajime no Ippo, despite being over 12 years old, receives a grade of A+ from us. Rock on and punch hard champion!

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The Owner, webmaster, designer, coder and writer for the site. Anime Evo is Setsuken’s (Hassan's) proclamation of love for Anime, which he can’t seem to get enough of. He’s a 26 year old male, and current resides in the USA . A writer for a number of years Hassan is also a 3D Artist, a Game Designer, a Web Designer and a Huge Anime Obsessed Enthusiast.

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  • MusubiKazesaru

    Great review, Hajime no Ippo is my favorite manga and its anime counterpart is just as good

    • setsuken

      Agreed! I hope they make a new Ippo series eventually. I follow the manga, and SOOO much has happened since the last Ippo!

      • MusubiKazesaru

        hopefully Madhouse will do so after Hunter x Hunter ends (maybe after the Chimera Ant arc ends or the Chairman Election arc if they decide to do that). That’s a ways off though. HxH is something I watch with one of my sisters, but all three (myself and both of them) love Ippo and have watched (and in my case also read) it several times. The only downside is more Itagaki…

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  • Omar Salman

    Okay so first of all a good review. You highlight many good points and its an interesting read.
    Now about the show let me point out that I have been into quite a number of sports but boxing is not one of them for sure. In fact I disliked the sport. I gave Hajimme No Ippo a shot thinking that it would be nice to watch something I dont watch otherwise and after watching only the first episode, I got absorbed into the series. Ippo is one amazing character. Right throughout the series I have been amazed by his effort, hard work, determination, courage and his development into an amazing boxer. As you also mentioned in your review, Takamura, Ippo’s mother, Aoki, Kimura, the chief, Kumi, umezawa and also all the boxers appearing throughout the series are all amazing. I felt a lot of respect towards Sendo in that last fight. And yeah that last fight was one heck of a fight. Very exciting. Both Ippo and Sendo came out with brilliant moves and techniques. Moreover I agree with you on the fact that this series covers action, slice of life, comedy and a bit of romance in a comprehensive manner. Most of the fights are exciting, keep you on the edge and provide an excellent display of action. At times there are touching and painful moments and at times you find yourself laughing over some interesting conversations or interactions between members of the kamogawa gym. Still elsewhere towards the latter part of the series there are some nice romantic moments. So overall a very well balanced out series. Moreover the point you mentioned about how they present both as an interesting sport and as a hard, painful sport is another nice aspect of the series.
    Although you mention at the start that this series did not receive as much attention and popularity as it should have, I would like to end my long comment with the phrase that “This is simply one of the anime masterpieces”.

    • I think like you said, Hajime no Ippo is one of those shows that you just need to give a chance, and then it firmly grabs you and refuses to let go XD

      I think Ippo’s journey is the best part of the show, but its him combined with all the characters and the people we meet along the way that make this such an amazing show.

      The franchise only gets better from here, so be sure to check out Challenger, the OVAs and then the Third season. They’re animated better and continue the story masterfully.

      As for the popularity, Hajime no Ippo is EXTREMELY popular, both as a manga and anime. Its gotten three series, and a bunch of OVA episodes, so if nothing else, that’s a testament to how strong it is. I’m hoping some day we get more animated stuff, but otherwise I’ll just be following the manga and enjoying myself.

      Now… As for the popularity I mentioned, it was more of a general comment on how people seem to avoid Sports anime simply because its sports anime.

      Like you said, Its one of those instant classics, the kind of show that I think everyone should at least try. 🙂

      • Omar Salman

        Yeah thanks for the recommendation. Will give the other series of Hajime No Ippo a shot but after a while :). I dont feel like finishing it in one straight go. So I might have misunderstood, you say that it is popular. Thats nice to hear but even then its nowhere near the majority of the famous and popular shounen anime. I might not have watched it if you hadnt mentioned it in such an amazing manner. But you are right sports anime itself might be a bit avoided and not as popular and good as many other genres. I dont know too much about this genre at the moment this is only the second one I have watched. And this one is a classic and its unique so yeah maybe not all of them are that good. But even then I doubt most people try it. Maybe all of them are not as good but Hajime No Ippo like we were discussing is one thats gets you in if you try it.

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