Those who read my review of the Ring ni Kakero 1 anime series, specifically the first season, might remember that I had mentioned that the anime doesn't start from the beginning. In fact, the anime skips over the first 24 chapters of the manga and starts adapting half-way into chapter 25. Now in the review I mentioned that this early part of the story isn't fully important in the overall scheme of things, or at the very least not knowing about this part won't keep you from understanding who these characters are and what is happening, partially because the most-important parts are brought up through flashbacks in season 1. But, naturally, there will be people who are curious about that early part of the story and with Season 4 debuting on April 10 I think it's probably best to cover these first 24.5 chapters of Ring ni Kakero. Now before I start, let me state these things:
-I will be using the 2001-2002 reprint of the original manga, which was the first time the "Ring ni Kakero 1" name was ever used. This reprint collected the manga in 18 volumes while the original print lasted 25 volumes, so my volume counts will vary with that of the original print. It also changed some terminology, like Ryuji's weights going from being called the "Power Wrist" & "Power Ankle" to the "Dragon Wrist" & "Dragon Ankle"; also, Kenzaki's "Apollo Exerciser" becomes the "Galaxian Exerciser".
-My knowledge of Japanese is limited (read: one semester of Japanese in college + listening to Japanese with subtitles) so I can only explain so much... But that's fine as I don't want to go into every line that's being said. This is simply an overview and nothing more. Wikipedia and Suteki.nu's translator will help whenever possible.
-Parts which the anime does adapt will be typed in bold font, with a mention as to when they are shown (if it's a quick shot from the opening sequence I'll say "OP").
So let's get started with Volume 1 (note: I will try to mention and translate the chapter titles if possible and to the best of my abilities):
-Chapter 1: Kiku to Ryu [Kiku & Ryu]
Kiku and Ryuji Takane are the children of Gou Takane, a professional boxer who recently died. Kiku wants to train Ryuji so that he can become a great boxer like their father but Ryuji wants nothing to do with the sport. One day when they come home they see an unknown man; their mother, Chiyo, reveals that the man, Tomizou, is their "new father", surprising the two. Unfortunately, Tomizou is nothing more than an abusive, chain-smoking drunkard who loves playing mahjong with the local yakuza. On one instance, he tries throwing out the boxing gloves and picture of the real father, prompting Chiyo to try to stop him but only getting beaten down for trying. It all comes to a head one night when Tomizou, in a drunken stupor, beats Kiku and Chiyo, which results in Kiku beating him down using boxing and stuffing rice down his throat. The next day Kiku takes Ryuji to the train station and they run away from home. The mother catches up only to see them on the moving train, where Kiku tells their mother that they're heading to Tokyo and that Ryuji will become a professional boxer so that they can give her a better life [Ep 1].
-Chapter 2: Daifugou Sanjouke [The Millionaire Sanjou Family]
Upon arriving at Tokyo, Ryuji and Kiku run into a little girl named Kana Sanjou who, after hearing about their journey, gives her a card about her rich father, who is also a former boxer. Kana's father hears about these two and boxing, resulting in him fondly remembering a match he had with Gou, and after Kana pleads he brings the Takane children to his home... Via police escort and after having Kiku handcuffed due to her reluctance to get into the car. At his home Kiku tells Kana's father that Gou died and why they came to Tokyo. As his way of paying back Gou he decides to take in Ryuji and Kiku, as long as the two go to school and Kiku helps out with the chores at home. In the meanwhile, Kiku tricks Ryuji into more boxing training [OP], which results in Ryuji breaking down into tears.
-Chapter 3: Sono Otoko Kenzaki! [This Man is Kenzaki!]
Ryuji is crying because he misses his mother, but decides to take his anger out on a tree. Meanwhile, Kana's ride to school arrives along with her schoolmate Jun Kenzaki, who promptly punches the hell out of some falling leaves after exiting the car and makes Kiku admire his skills. Kenzaki meets Ryuji and immediately takes the gloves that belonged to Ryuji's father, even throwing money down as payback. Ryuji doesn't want any of it and tries fighting Kenzaki, who takes down Ryuji with a single left straight [Ep 1 & OP]. Kiku tries coming between the two, but Kenzaki puts her down. Kiku responds by punching a falling leaf that came in front of Kenzaki's face and the two get into fighting positions before Kana and her family come out. Kenzaki goes back into the car and Kana goes with him to school while Kenzaki thinks more about Ryuji and Kiku.
-Chapter 4: Meimon Seika Gakuin [Noble Seika Academy]
Kiku and Ryuji finally enter Seika Academy, where Kana and Kenzaki also go. Kiku notices a poster that shows that Kenzaki is the star of the boxing club. Meanwhile, Ryuji is having a touch time fitting in as his classmates play horrible tricks, getting him into trouble. Kiku's tomboyish attitude isn't doing her any favors either, as her classmates even wrap her chair in barbed wire! Thankfully she had book smarts as well, which results in them not hating as as much. Kiku checks out the boxing club and gets really into it, even getting herself into a match with a guy. Her natural ability lets her avoid all punches and she gets a counter ready...
-Chapter 5: Moeyo Ryuji! [Burn, Ryuji!]
Kiku delivers her counter, an uppercut in the style of Jake Tulley (an African-English boxer from the 50s). Kenzaki and Kiku then engage in smack talk, ending with Kenzaki shooing her away from the club. Meanwhile, Ryuji's kindness towards his classmates results in nothing but them pulling more tricks, like tripping him on his way down the stairs. Kana comforts him, but when Kiku brings it up Ryuji tries running away. Kiku catches him and they crash down on a hill by the soccer field. Kiku tries cheering Ryuji up by comparing their life to that of Shinsaku Takasugi and how his life completely changed after the white ships came to Japan. It helps a little and Kiku tells Ryuji to check out the boxing club, which he does and is promptly laughed out of after Kenzaki recognizes him. Kenzaki continues to tease him during school, but Ryuji keeps his tears to himself. He also watches boxing matches and reads Weekly Shonen Jump magazine when Kiku isn't around. Ryuji slowly realizes that he now wants to take up boxing so that he can finally stand up against Kenzaki and make his mother proud. He tells Kiku that he want to train more.
-Chapter 6: Hidari wo Seisurumono ha! [He Who Rules His Left!]
One day while training a man with his dog sees Ryuji getting tangled up in his training equipment. When he tries to help out Kiku gets freaked out by the stranger and then gets angry when the stranger gives good boxing advice. She gives up and lets the man train Ryuji for a little bit until she gets angry yet again. The man leaves them, but first gives Ryuji some advice: "He who rules his left rules the world." The man and Kiku end up training Ryuji for another month before Ryuji enters the boxing club when no one else is there. When the rest come in Ryuji wants to challenge Kenzaki, but Kenzaki answers with an uppercut into the mirror on the wall. Ryuji doesn't give up and when Kenzaki turns back around he gets his with a left straight of Ryuji's.
-Chapter 7: Hitori Tatakau Ryu [Ryu Fights Alone]
Ryuji's punch knocks Kenzaki down, shocking everyone. Kenzaki's only response is for them to glove up and finish this in the ring. Kana breaks into the club and tries to stop the two, but Ryuji ignores her and Kenzaki kicks her in the face before she's carried out. The gong is rung and the match starts off with Ryuji getting in some good left straights in before Kenzaki starts avoiding. Kenzaki then takes control and starts wailing on Ryuji, making him bleed with every blow. Kana heads home and tells Kiku, who was writing a letter to her mother, what's happening. She and Kana head over to the door and though Ryuji is getting utterly destroyed and bloodied, Kiku is proud to see Ryuji continually get back up and still want to fight. In the meantime Ryuji's blood starts covering the club room (literally, there's blood everywhere) and Kenzaki delivers what he feels is the finishing blow. But Ryuji won't give up and even uses Kenzaki's body to climb his way back to his feet. Kenzaki replies with an uppercut.
-Chapter 8: Omoshiroi Asu he [To an Interesting Tomorrow]
Kenzaki's uppercut makes Ryuji feel as if he's falling from the top of a skyscraper and he lies in the middle of the blood-covered ring. Kana is too scared to continue looking and everyone feels that the match is finally over... But Ryuji still tries getting up. Kenzaki gets angry this time and just starts kicking Ryuji, which finally prompts Kiku to bust in the club room and punch out the first person she sees. She jumps over the ropes and immediately kicks Kenzaki in the back of his knees, making him fall neck-first onto the ropes. After Kiku delivers a few more Kicks to him while he's down Kenzaki rolls out of harm's way and gets into an argument with Kiku until they see that Ryuji is still getting up, wanting the match to continue. They decide to make this into a traditional-style boxing match, complete with seconds and a cleaned-up ring. The match restarts and Kenzaki keeps knocking Ryuji down, only for Ryuji to keep getting up and get knocked down again. Kiku plays some mind games with Kenzaki, calling his punches ineffective. The mind games work and Ryuji is able to avoid Kenzaki's punches and eventually knock him down with a left jab, while the other club members start to realize how good of a second and coach Kiku is. At one point Kenzaki ducks too low and Kiku calls him out on a Japanese amateur boxing foul. Before Kenzaki can release his anger at Ryuji the bell rings, signaling the end of round 1. Kenzaki releases his anger on one of his seconds instead.
-End of Volume 1-