I’ve not being enjoying the current Fall 2017 anime season. I just couldn’t find an anime I found interesting or better than a 5/10. Then I watched an older anime whose premise and ideas are the most terrible thing to me, whose genre I tend to shy away from and aesthetic I tend to dislike, it was called Hajime no Ippo, and I fell in love with it instantly.
The fact that this happened to occur with this show in particular whilst all current shows failed kind of baffled me, especially when I like the premises of other shows a whole lot more. Interestingly enough, a show doesn’t need to be about a magical five leaf clover, as school romance or a high stakes death game to keep you coming back to it with eager anticipation week after week, if the characterisation is just that good. And believe me, Ippo’s characterisation from Hajime no Ippo is just that, absolutely impeccable.
As we start the episode we’re shown that Ippo is hardworking and caring because of the help from his family business. His strive to want it to succeed is demonstrated yet not forced as we pull away to another scene moments later. What this opening shot establishes is the idea that he’s a good person who loves his mum and keeps active after school. He’s a person with something more going on in his life than school and video games, and whilst it could be considered a little unbelievable that his mum would have a family business the personal connection is there. And this is shown further through the classmate scene since he rejects the company of friends to prioritise the business.
I’ll mention now that Ippo’s character is more fleshed out with his facial expressions. Not just expressions that communicate his opinions of the scene but the very nature and personality within his character. Without explanation it’s clear that he’s a shy and often nervous person through his interactions and reactions to others.
Ippo also has a clear history with the characters in the stories he’s in. It doesn’t feel like a new story’s just began, rather that Ippo’s been living his life and we’re just tuning in at the moment it gets interesting. This is shown by the characters talking about his history and the character interactions with the bullies which aren’t explained because they really don’t need to be.
Speaking of bullies they encounter Ippo and the encounter with them is brutal. Their immense intimidation and Ippo’s immediate response of shyly trying to get out of the situation is relatable and tragic to see unfold. This bullying creates sympathy and a trait to latch on too, it’s very rare for someone to be perfect and have any other conflicts besides their two dimensional obstacle and the fact that we’re shown a huge part of the rest of Ippo’s life makes it feel like a daily dread instead of the one true opposition in his life. This shows his life to be gruelling and really makes you appreciate the happier moments of the episode so much more.
They insult his mother and Ippo starts to rage, his first sign of lashing out. He’s selfless and cares more about others than himself which makes someone pretty much instantly likable.
Once he’s saved he ends up at the gym where he is taught his first punch. And it sucks, it’s pitiful really yet it gives us a starting point for the series. He’s starting from ground zero and every step of the way will be a struggle for improvement. Relatability isn’t essential yet it helps to establish a connection between the character and audience which wasn’t there previously.
Then, in a series of normal life events, an amazing thing happens. Ippo pulls a brilliant punch and it goes flying. We’re amazed, and so is he. The emotions both sides have are equal and that’s truly great.
The most emotional part of the episode was the moment with his mother where she was worried about holding him back. His mother is the watchful and loving eye over him and watching Ippo’s passion quickly develop from nothing is truly a brilliant move since it shows how a weakling, a person who doesn’t want to fight despite feeling massively insulted can fall in love with the sport just like the author wanted the readers too. The videos and distractions in class show this and you can begin to appreciate his fascination, going so far as to shout for his sport despite the fact that he’s a nervous wreck around his classmates.
We are then given the first opposition to Ippo’s character. He must show how determined he is by grabbing ten leaves from a tree so he can train to become a boxer. This goal looks challenging and the fact that we’ve been so acquainted with Ippo up to this point and known him so well makes us root for his success in the next episode, getting you completely and utterly hooked because of the characters.
So when people bring up the three episode rule I tend to disagree with it due to these facts. A premise might take three episodes to develop yet a character can be made completely endearing and lovable almost instantly, and a show failing to do this might not deserve a second watch if the premise is failing.
Hajime no Ippo is a brilliant show and an anime that even displayed half the characterisation as shown in this would instantly sky rocket to the top spot on my Fall 2017 season ranking because premises and stories aside, a brilliant character should be able to thrive in any series they’re fit to be in.