Well, Volume 3 sure was nothing but fighting, much like what the focus will be when the anime starts adapting. We're now at Volume 4, and this will be a short overview, as the anime starts adapting pretty early into this volume so I'll only be covering the chapters that feature pre-anime story. Afterwards I'll give my final thoughts on what should be taken from these early chapters and how important they really are when it comes to the anime. So here we go with Volume 4:
-Chapter 24: Tada Hitotsu no Shousan [The One and Only Chance of Success]
Ryuji's liver blow to Tsujimoto comes in hard, but Tsujimoto looks to be unharmed and just laughs it off. No one can really understand how Tsujimoto can seemingly take all of Ryuji's punches with no real harm or reaction. Akira then steps on the gum Tsujimoto spit out and Kiku realizes what Tsujimoto's weak point is... But the referee stops the match before anything happens, due to five kids appearing at the ring. One of them runs into the ring, calling Tsujimoto "Anchan/Brother" and another one saying that father has died. Tsujimoto responds by laughing and seemingly celebrating the fact that his father has died, resulting in the audience hating on him. Tsujimoto shuts them up and then talks trash about how he'll be the one who will take on Kenzaki in the finals, but Kenzaki calls him an idiot. Kiku then tells Tsujimoto that she knows what his weak point is and brings up the gum as proof. Tsujimoto calls her bluff and she reveals that his weak point is the chin, which he admits is the truth. Tsujimoto then tells everyone the story of how his father forced him to run in front of traffic so that he would get hit by a car; then the father could coerce the driver into giving them money so that they can pay medical fees for the mother, who was sick at the time. Unfortunately, after Tsujimoto is hit the driver just continues driving away, leaving Tsujimoto with a busted jaw. The referee considers ending the match due to Tsujimoto's revelation, but the audience wants the match to continue and Tsujimoto agrees. The match resumes and Tsujimoto unleashes a flurry of punches that Ryuji is able to avoid, but when he gets the chance to counter Ryuji pauses, letting Tsujimoto get a right cross off and knocking Ryuji down. Kiku screams for Ryuji to get up [similar to how Danpei Tange would tell Joe to get up in Ashita no Joe], but Ryuji is visibly hesitant. Kenzaki offers a towel for Kiku to throw in, but she hits it away. Kenzaki argues that Ryuji could win it with an uppercut, but Kiku feels that a straight is the best way to go. Kenzaki ignores that idea until he knocks over a Coca-Cola can, and then he and Shinatora realize that Ryuji can win with a straight. Ryuji gets back up but Tsujimoto just starts punching him again. Tsujimoto mentions how he'll become a boxer to help his family out, giving Ryuji pause since both of their goals are the same, but another punch knocks Ryuji down again. Kiku tells Ryuji to get up, but Ryuji feels that it's useless to win with a straight. Kiku then stops Rock-san from drinking his Coke and tells him to stand the can on his hand. She then delivers a jab-straight combo to the can, showing Ryuji how to do it and sending the can at Shinatora, who the can seemingly just passes through.
-Chapter 25: Namida no Punch [A Tearful Punch]
Ryuji gets back up, realizing how to finish off Tsujimoto. He tries to hit it, but Tsujimoto leans back and counters with a left. He gets a right ready, but the bell rings, ending the round. Ryuji bounces off the ropes and is caught by his seconds. Kenzaki and Shinatora talk about how the match is going while Tsujimoto comforts his siblings, assuring them his victory. The next round starts and both boxers come towards each other, putting their dreams on the line. Ryuji lets out tears for Tsujimoto's siblings, as a victory for him will severely hurt Tsujimoto dream of helping his family out. Tsujimoto goes for a left hook but Ryuji avoids and takes this chance to counter. Asking Tsujimoto to forgive him for what he's going to do, Ryuji tearfully hits Tsujimoto's glass jaw with a right straight. Tsujimoto goes flying into the ropes, his legs getting caught in them, leaving him hanging upside-down [Ep 7] until his legs get free and he crashes into the ground. Ryuji wins the match, resulting in cheering all around for him. The judges look at the replay and see that Ryuji got a quick left jab in first followed by the right straight. Much like what Kiku did with the Coke can, Ryuji's jab snapped Tsujimoto's head back, making the bottom of his jaw open for a straight. Tsujimoto, not accepting defeat, gets back in the ring and punches Ryuji. When he goes for a second punch a voice yells for him to stop. He turns around and sees his mother, who he promptly hugs. His mother apologizes for everything and Tsujimoto realizes that just having his family together is all that matters to him right now. Tsujimoto then walks away, mother and siblings along with him.
[There is then a two-page spread showing Kenzaki KO-ing his two opponents, sending him the finals, while Ryuji defeats Shinatora with a single punch, sending him to the finals [Eps 3 & 6].]
-NOTE: From this point on is where the anime starts adapting the manga-
Kenzaki is shown exercising on the Galaxian Exerciser, obviously pushing himself. Kenzaki laughs off the worries his cheerleaders show and the passes out. The doctor explains that Kenzaki's right arm is at it's limit and that it might not make it through another match in good condition. The final match of the tournament is about to start: Ryuji Takane vs. Jun Kenzaki in their third fight against each other.
-End of Chapter 25-
The rest of Volume 4 is what episodes one and two of Season 1 of the anime adapt. The only real difference being that Ishimatsu, Shinatora, and the Kawai siblings are nowhere to be found and in their place are members of the Omura Gym who talk about the match while it's happening. The last two chapters also differ from the anime somewhat. In Chapter 30, Champion Carnival Shutsujou [The Champion Carnival Appears], Ryuji has a bunch of love letters from his fellow classmates and is told about the Champion Carnival. While walking down a street he and Sachiko are attacked by a duo of skateboarders who wear KISS make-up. Ryuji and his friends head to the boxing club where the KISS skaters hang out at and try to get payback, only to find out that the skaters are actually girls. They also run into Onijima, who will be in the Carnival, and you find out that the skaters who attacked Ryuji are actually two guys from Onijima's club. Chapter 31, Kenka Champion Katori Ishimatsu [Fighting Champion Ishimatsu Katori], introduces Ishimatsu and finishes up what Chapter 30 introduced by having Ishimatsu fight Onijima until he finds out the truth about the skaters who attacked Ryuji and apologizes, ending Volume 4. In the anime, Ishimatsu is introduced differently & Onijima isn't shown until the start of the Champion Carnival. After that is pretty much what you see in the anime from then on out, some little things notwithstanding.
So what can we take from this early part of Ring ni Kakero 1? Well, it does have a slightly different feel from where the anime starts. Originally the manga was more story and character-driven and it was mostly Ryuji learning how to box and realizing the potential he had, as well as finding a rival in the form of Jun Kenzaki. As it got closer to Ryuji and Kenzaki's third match, though, you could see a little more of that over-the-top style that the title would end up having. Even in Ryuji and Kenzaki's first fight you had characters sent flying around due to certain punches and in that first fight alone Ryuji showed Dragon Shiryu-levels of bleeding (i.e. he seemingly bled way more than a person his age should be able to without dying). Still, it is cool to see where these characters came from and how they got to where they are when the anime starts adapting. It's neat to see Ryuji learn how to do a One-Two combo and how "Tocchan" got to be a big part of his and Kiku's lives. Also, the anime does seemingly ignore Tomizou, which is unfortunate since that one character does give a really good reason as to why Kiku and Ryuji left home in the first place.
On the other hand, there is a lot that ends up being extraneous as the series goes on. The major thing is that a lot of characters end up being unimportant as the series goes on. Kana doesn't seem to appear again once the main part of the story gets going except for a couple of appearances during the last story arc when she's a little older, and Akira also seems to get the shaft after the Champion Carnival is done with. Sachiko is used in Season 1 of the anime as Ryuji's other second but also gets the shaft afterwards. Rock-san, though, is the opposite as he appeared in the manga during the Carnival but didn't get animated until Season 3 and will most likely appear in Season 4 as well. Then there's Tsujimoto, who is important only for the part of the story that he's introduced in and is never seen or heard from again after his loss to Ryuji, except for a few appearances in panels during the final fight as a member of the audience (including one last line at the end of the fight). Maybe he just never got popular enough with the readers to warrant keeping him around....
And what about Shinatora? Yeah, it's neat to see that he was introduced in this early part of the story, but his involvement only amounts to him commentating on the matches that are happening and nothing more. The anime's introduction of him ends up being just fine when you look back at it. And, overall, that's how this early part of Ring ni Kakero ends up as: Something neat to look at and know about but very little ends up being really important in the grand scheme of things. Season 1 of the anime does a perfectly fine job getting newcomers up to speed with what is important and what you have to know in order to enjoy everything and in the end this early part of the story can be ignored when all is said and done.
Still, for those who absolutely want to know what happened early on in Ring ni Kakero 1 here is what you can consider a "Cliff Notes" or "Abridged version" of those early chapters. Yeah, I skipped out on some things here and there, but that was mainly because I can't translate everything, nor would I do so if I could. I only wanted to explain the important stuff that happened in these chapters and now there's a place where people can go to if they want to know this stuff on a, at the very least, basic level. Now let's all look forward to April 10, when the first two episodes Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen debut on Animax. All I ask for is that I don't have to buy the Region 2 Japanese DVDs in order to watch this upcoming season...
[3/2016 ADDENDUM: A scanlation group has since started doing the Ring ni Kakero manga, going off of the 15-volume wideban release, which features the original uncut chapters; the 2001 re-print pruned out unessential portions of the pre-anime portion for tighter pacing. Eventually they will cover everything that I have covered in these "101-104" posts, but these posts will still remain on the blog for anyone who wants a quick & dirty overview.]
[4/2017 ADDENDUM: Turns out that said scanlation stalled out at Chapter 20, which is during Ryuji/Kenzaki II... It's honestly a little sad that this basic overview is still the most complete way to experience the pre-anime portion of RnK1, even 6 years later.]