What They Say:
Even though Ippo’s right fist is healed, the psychological damage has been done. His fear of damaging the fist again prevents him from throwing hard punches. Sendo is not the opponent Ippo can defeat with weak punches. Takamura suggests that Ippo knockdown Sendo with the first punch before he feels pain. After the bell rings, Ippo dashes toward Sendo, but his ferocious presence stops Ippo. Can Ippo even survive the first round!?
The audio presentation here brings us the original Japanese language and English dub in stereo encoded at 192kbps. 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 mostly 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.
Originally starting its broadcast run back in 2000, the series is presented on this disc in its original full-frame format and has a pretty solid looking transfer. The series was animated by Madhouse but is one of the shows where they really stretch the budget so that the payoff scenes stand out while the rest is pretty standard stuff, if not something that feels a bit older because of the age of the source material. 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 linework 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.
Ippo has no presence on this cover at all which is appropriate as it’s given over to a good close-up of Date in the midst of fighting while the background pushes forward with the roaring lion. The design for it is really nicely done with a lot of detail and it blends well with the swirling blue background giving the overall cover an impression of power. The back cover has a few shots from the show in a strip along the center and provides a simple if a decent summary of the basic premise. The discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed as well as the discs features. 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 fewer logos on it.
The menu gets a big thumbs down right from the start with the load up of a critical fight sequence with English dialogue before it actually loads the final menu itself, which is fairly decent but like some other SpeeDVD menus from this period 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 are 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. The disc also correctly read our players’ language presets which continues to be a plus.
Fighting Spirit moves past the fifty episode mark with this volume and the whole thing just doesn’t feel like it’s come that far yet at the same time feels like we’ve been watching and enjoy the series for years upon years. The show has done such a good job of evolving over the first fifty episodes and avoiding some stereotypes that when it actually swings back around to some of them it’s almost amusing and it reminds you of just how well things are done here.
After the way the fight went in the last round, the epilogue to it is as always one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show. Where they usually have a lot of fun with this is when the guys torment Ippo in some way and their method of it here is priceless as they help one of the nurses with a typical job for those kept in bed. And they do it with their own style which is only more priceless as it plays out. The time spent in the hospital does allow for something new and interesting to take shape and that’s the gathering of nurses for a victory celebration party with the guys and Ippo. Ippo dating is generally comical in itself as we’ve seen in the past as is the way the other guys have their own tastes and methods, but what makes this fun is that one of the nurses is a particular young woman we haven’t seen in some time and I didn’t think we’d see again. The innocent nature of it all is beautifully complemented by the fact that it brings Mashiba back into the show and he is like a living dead type with how he messes with Ippo now.
The Ippo material for all of that is what makes the in-between portions of the fights so much fun. The characters don’t do much beyond just live and have fun though they do tend to bring in simple coincidences which help to set up the next fight or some other angle but since it’s not so heavily tied to anything it’s a great way to breathe after all the intensity of the fights. It’s very much needed here as the last fight was tense enough itself but now it’s all leading towards the fight with Date who has his own issues. While one of the remaining four episodes deals with a recap of fights as seen by Date as he’s watched Ippo come up from nothing two years ago to what he is now, the other three start to provide more of a reason why Date fights himself and what he’s angling towards. The threat of a young challenger like Ippo certainly isn’t new but there’s something different with him since he’s grown so fundamentally since starting so recently and the way he seems to adapt so quickly and gain new abilities. It’s not something that we’ll see as strongly here I think as there was precious little in the way of a real lead-up episode or two of training but with Ippo you never really know.
In a way, the lead-up to the fight with Date is considerably different from all of the other fights. Where we usually get to know the other fighter fairly well beforehand so that we don’t view them as a villain, no matter how bad they may be. Understanding the other side and removing the simple black and white aspect of each fight, making sure the viewer understands what the other side has to lose and that it’s often just as important as what Ippo has to lose, is what’s made the series so exciting and fun to watch. With Date, we don’t really get that though we do see some of what’s going on due to his being older and having dropped out of things six years earlier. The next level of fighting is what Date is representing as we see the international level of things. While the lead-up is definitely shorter for him, it’s also considerably longer as he’s been watching Ippo for some time now and has been a part of the series longer than any of the other opponents in a way. Date also sort of represents a different point in time to a lot of other boxers in the show since he’s far closer if not already past his prime and length of life for the sport.
Fighting Spirit is definitely helped out by having five episodes a disc as the show just flows so well with it and we get to hit so many highs on each volume. At the same time, when you get a volume like this where we start off with the big title match fight, only getting one real episode of it and having it be such a tease is just frustrating. Frustrating in a good way of course but still.
As we get through the eleventh volume in the series, I have to say that I can’t think of a single volume that’s disappointed in any way so far. This show simply is one of the best sports and fighting series out there. This volume has brought us to a place where we’ve been expecting to go for some time and the kick-off to the big fight is everything that’s been expected. Even with an episode of recap here, there’s a perfect balance of new fighting material and character-building material. Simply put, Fighting Spirit just hits every mark right on, crosses genders with its audience and provides for almost two hours of solid entertainment. This is the show with which folks should be trying to expand their interests with.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: April 25th, 2006
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.