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Anime Reviews: Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger

Updated on May 16, 2015

New Challenger had the potential to maintain the exceedingly high quality the franchise was known for, but decided to be awful just for the change of pace.

Title: Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger
Genre: Action/Drama/Comedy
Production: Studio Madhouse
Series Length: 26 episodes
Air Dates: 1/6/2009 to 6/30/2009
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, some suggestive content)

Summary: The boys at the Kamogawa Boxing Gym are always busy, whether it's Ippo planning for his title defense, Aoki and Kimura prepping for their next matches, or Takamura giving everyone a hard time for the lulz. In a change of pace, the gym receives a new permanent member: amateur boxer Manabu Itagaki, who immediately finds himself fitting in with our heroes. However, two titanic bouts loom over the horizon: First, former Japanese Featherweight Champion Date Eiji climbs the world rankings and manages to score himself a rematch against the World Champion, Mexico's Ricardo Martinez. Second, Takamura finally finds himself a world-class opponent of his own, the ferocious Middleweight World Champion, Brian Hawk.

The Good: The matches retain the intensity we've all come to know and love
The Bad: Horrid art direction; horrid directing; horrid comedy; horrid pacing; horrid music
The Ugly: The director is primarily at fault here

I was so pumped for this series when it was first announced. I could barely sit still. We were finally getting more of the Ippo action we crave, and while the 26-episode length was a little disappointing, there couldn't possibly be any way for this series to go wrong, right? ...Right? Boy, did they ever screw the pooch on this one. We had the same exact animation studio with the same exact voice-over crew (with the exception of Kumi's switching from Sanae Kobayashi to Yuka Hirata), with the only difference being a new director and a new music composer. That's not enough to send a franchise crashing and burning, right?

Wait, no, that sounds pretty major...

But first, let's kick things off in predictable fashion by highlighting what New Challenger does right. The boxing matches are just as intense as we like them to be, and there are some pretty nail-biting moments scattered throughout. It also helps that, as a Studio Madhouse production, there's a tremendously huge budget behind the series, so our action is not only intense, but also smooth and nuanced. Though there are a few unintentionally funny moments (Brian Hawk could use some Clear Eyes to get rid of those red, itchy eyes), it's hardly anything worth griping about. In a nutshell, the bouts look really good. No complaints there.

The writing is also spot-on with the manga, ensuring that everything happens as it should. Normally, this is something I would take for granted in any series that follows a manga, but considering how flat New Challenger's direction is, I'm frankly surprised the story came out as well as it did. And in this particular instance, I'll take whatever I can get.

Why? Because nearly everything else about New Challenger just falls flat on its face. First off, the art direction is just all wrong. Everything is sleek and shiny and bright and high-contrasting and sterile, but while that's perfectly fine in most other anime, it doesn't fit at all here. The series is supposed to look gritty and sketchy and dirty; even the Champion Road movie, while it cleaned the artwork up a bit, still maintained the signature look of the series while being a visual marvel in and of itself. New Challenger just looks wrong in comparison. And they also do that non-moving pattern wallpaper crap on characters' shirts and Aoki's hair. Also, that stupid effect where they darken a corner of the screen to create the illusion of realistic lighting just kept making me think my monitor was broken. They were clearly going for a more modern, high-budget look, but it failed. And it failed hard.

The comedy also suffer in this new installment, reducing the characters to Flanderized caricatures of themselves (or at least that's how it feels). While the funny moments of the manga were downright hilarious to the point of tears, the very same scenes in New Challenger either come across as awkward and uncomfortable or as if they're trying way, way too hard to be as ridiculous as possible. Wacky sound effects and close-ups make everything funnier, right guys? Guys...?

Another major problem is the God-awful pacing and flow of the series. Where the first TV series maintained a consistent tempo with its episodes, New Challenger is all over the place with some episodes rushing past without any rest while others crawl at a geriatric pace. It feels like the storyboard artists forgot to account for the fact that the story is being split up into 26 24-minute episodes. Without any warning, episodes just stop right in the middle of a round or a conversation. No trailing dialogue, no musical cues, nothing.

And speaking of the music, it's bland, like eating plain oatmeal. The first TV series had a perfect (and I repeat: perfect) soundtrack, and I was a bit disappointed that Tsuneo Imahori wasn't doing the score for this series. But we got Yoshihisa Hirano this time around, and he did awesome work in Midori Days and Death Note. Even without Imahori, the soundtrack still should've been stellar, but alas, Hirano failed to deliver his usual brilliant work this time. Where an intense fight would be playing "Inner Light" in the first series, we instead get a weak soft rock track called "Shift Weight." "Impregnable Defense" tries hard to be foreboding and ominous, but comes across as weak instead. And then there's the misguided "Sunday Punch," which falls short of inspiring any emotion whatsoever. However, where the music really takes a dive into the toilet is with the opening and ending themes. Opener "Hekireki" is a mumbling mess of a song that inspires no emotion, while ending "8 AM" is a misplaced pop-rock disaster that has no business being attached to the Hajime no Ippo name.

But to be fair, the background music in New Challenger isn't all bad. "Struggle Against Fear" and "To Be a Winner" both utilize the same pleasing melody, and both are pretty effective tunes. "Role of Champion" manages to be interesting all throughout, as well. The rest of the series' soundtrack falls somewhere between bad and mediocre, and that's a damn shame, considering both the first series' soundtrack and the potential Hirano brought to the table.

Sadly, that's all I really have to say about New Challenger. It's hard to be excited about this series, even though it follows some of the most exciting chapters of the manga, because it's just handled poorly most of the time. Supposedly the crew from the first TV series are coming back for another film in 2013, so I guess we can look forward to that, but as for New Challenger, avoid it at all costs if you have access to the manga. There really is no reason to subject yourself to this mess.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 10. New Challenger could have easily been an extremely exciting continuation of the Ippo franchise, but it's held back by garish artwork, a subpar soundtrack, and massive directorial failings.

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    • Zelkiiro profile image
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      Zelkiiro 24 months ago

      Fast forward to my review of Rising, yo. Rising is awesome, New Challenger is balls.

    • profile image

      Reus 24 months ago

      all I can here is your bitching, stop being so hung up on the first installment of the anime. New challenger was really good.

    • profile image

      norela 2 years ago

      I agree. The hawk fight was pretty well executed but the series' overall art and direction were terrible. Episode 1-3 were particularly bad and that 8am song.....fail.

    • Zelkiiro profile image
      Author

      Zelkiiro 3 years ago

      @Meef: I did say the soundtrack for New Challenger was merely uninspired and unmemorable, though. :V

      But yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. This season just felt so impersonal and distant, when the great strengths of the manga chapters this season covers is that it got so close and personal with the protagonists. The director clearly had no idea how to translate the manga onto the screen.

      I haven't yet seen Rising (the third season), but the return of Tsuneo Imahori has me feeling hopeful.

    • profile image

      Meef 3 years ago

      The first season of Ippo to me was life changing. I was a kid, but it inspired me. I almost squealed when I heard a second season was coming out. And when I watched it. I barely laughed, and something felt off... and i have to agree. The art style. We no longer see his toned body. Where is the progress he made on the mountain? Where's the shading. And I could be mistaken, but did they flatten Ippo's face out and make him look more pretty?

      I may not agree with the music. Although I will forever love the old soundtrack. There is nothing too horrible about the new one. The only complaint I have is that its nothing special.

      But I do agree with the characters development. Where did those fun nights out go? Why don't we see Ippo go about his daily routine anymore. Or have sleepless nights. It seems like a lot of the stage of the second season is set either in the ring or in the in the gym. Its an anime about boxing, but there's also so much more to it.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 3 years ago

      Thank god someone else agrees with me about this awful second series. The more I watch and re-watch the first season the more I'm astounded at the direction this second series took. Characters in the first season were dealt with sensitively, were loveable and more importantly distinct. Takamura was an enigma, a womaniser and loveable rogue. In the second season he's reduced to someone as having a powerful and wealthy background....which shatters his 'Enigma' status completely.

      Hajime's infatuation with Miyata's strength and status as a boxing prodigy, one of the main drives of Hajime's incredible growth as a boxer in season 1, was caricatured as some kind of homoerotic fanboism, Really really disappointed with the second season. The support for the series is great of course...but the awful second season could be more to do with the direction the manga has taken. The first episode of season 1 poked fun at the 'Shounen' genre and you felt this was a series which was more about the love for boxing rather than seeing some one 'level up'. Of course as the series progressed it became your typical shounen series but still the characters' progression throughout the series kept you going.

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      Anonymous 3 years ago

      You know, looking at your review, I can tell your a pretty bias and shitty reviewer. Did you ever consider to look at it from other perspectives, such as from a boxing point of view? Hajime No Ippo: New Challenger had a lot more drama, emotion and also the fights became more intense and breathtaking. The additional graphics add even more color and life to the anime to. Yes, some parts are exaggerated since it's an anime, but seeing how they portray Ippo's determination, as well as showing his human side is very inspirational for a boxer like myself. As for the music, did you even bother reading the lyrics? I found them so inspirational and something I could definitely relate to. The comedy, though a bit slapstick, does tend to make you laugh a lot at times and the pace is suppposed to be progressive, like any other anime. Seriously, you should review your own form of reviewing coz in my opinion, you're pretty shit at reviewing

    • Zelkiiro profile image
      Author

      Zelkiiro 4 years ago

      If it's any consolation, the first season was miles and miles better than this slop. :V

    • profile image

      BetterthanZelkiiro 4 years ago

      Your review has donky balls. The demand, praise and catergorial awards this anime has gotten speak for themselves as to the overall quality of this series. You suck and you deserve to have ur blog site shut down

    • profile image

      Marsproject 4 years ago

      Horrible review is horrible. Did you even WATCH the second season at all? Horrid art? Horrid music? Are you blind AND deaf? The art and animated was a major step up from the awesome first season, it made the fights look more brutal, gritty and exciting, which were fucking AWESOME. And the music! The music was nearly as good, it captured the atmosphere of the series without fault, not to mention that intro being catchy as hell. The only thing I can come close to agreeing with you is about the comedy which a lot of the time was just plain dumb. But even so it made me smile and actually laugh my ass off at times, and yes the pacing may have been slow at times but it built up the tension for the fights tremendously. I mean come on I was pumped when Takamura's fight with Bryan Hawk came around, and I feel the slow build up to it really influenced that.

      I just can't see how someone who apparently loved the first season could just outright shit on the second. Its like you were looking for the tiny bits that were bad, like some of the comedy, and just blowing them way the fuck out of proportion.

    • Zelkiiro profile image
      Author

      Zelkiiro 4 years ago

      Comparing the terrible second season to the immaculate first season is making me feel sick. And the only cure is to marathon the first season again.

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      Bosss 4 years ago

      Bad review, IPPO MUST CONTINUE. I'm sure the manga, voice actors, and directors are ready to make another one and there is high demand. Loved season one and two, wtf are u talking about horrific comedy. You must be gay or a little girl to not find it funny. Art is nearly the same. Pacing? We got to see Takamura world title and ippo meet Geromichi again. Please don't talk any more about Ippo than you have and make proper reviews..

    • profile image

      raph 4 years ago

      is there any updates on an upcoming anime for hajime no ippo this 2013? damn this series is sooooo good! the author's stupid for giving this a low remark !

    • profile image

      franco 4 years ago

      aca somos unos cuantos q stamos re emocionados por los capitulos esos, es lo mejor q hay y nos quedamos todos con muchisimas pero muchisimas ganas nos quedamos re cortos con los capitulos.

    • Zelkiiro profile image
      Author

      Zelkiiro 4 years ago

      Nope, I gave Hajime no Ippo a 9.5 out of 10. And I gave Hajime no Ippo: Champion Road an 8 out of 10. Try doing your homework next time. You'd also know that I have not, in fact, given Naruto a review of any kind, let alone a positive one.

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      Idiot 4 years ago

      Let me guess, you gave naruto 9/10? Seriously, you sound like the typical douch reviewer who doesn't know shit, hajime no ippo is one of the best amines out there, and the high demand is the proof of it. You're on of a thousand that doesn't like it.

    • Zelkiiro profile image
      Author

      Zelkiiro 4 years ago

      I'm not sure what that means, but I can at least assure you that I've seen the first season. In fact, my review of that is right here!

      https://hubpages.com/entertainment/Anime-Reviews-H...

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      STAR 4 years ago

      a person who hasn't watched both of d series of hajime no ippo doent deserve to watch anythin else

    • Zelkiiro profile image
      Author

      Zelkiiro 4 years ago

      Hey, I never claimed to be any good. But at least I can rest easy knowing this series and its squandered potential will always be worse!

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      CuranWolf 4 years ago

      Well this is the first review I have ever read from you, but I now know you kind of suck. So I wont be reading anymore.

    • profile image

      don't hate 4 years ago

      Haters gonna hate.

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      Wolf 4 years ago

      Gotta disagree, Hajime No Ippo: New Challenger is one of the strongest anime series ever made. Highly recommended to all.

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