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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ring ni Kakero 1 (Manga): It All Starts Here...

Masami Kurumada started off his career as an assistant in the early-70s to Ko Inoue for Samurai Giants & (allegedly) his idol Hiroshi Motomiya for Otoko Ippiki Gaki Daisho. In 1974, he debuted as a mangaka with Sukeban Arashi, a comedy about a female delinquent who tries to be like a normal girl of the time; it ended the next year with a little over two volumes worth of content. For his next work, he decided to look to one of his favorite titles for inspiration: Ashita no Joe. He decided to make a title that was an homage to the boxing classic, but along the way he created a title that changed the way shonen manga was handled. He purposefully brought in female readers to a mainly male reader base, whereas before it was more of a side effect, went fantastical in execution while still staying accurate to the sport of boxing, and used already-existing character traits & story ideas in ways that would become the standard for shonen from then on out. In 1977, he debuted Ring ni Kakero.

Ring ni Kakero became a hit for Weekly Shonen Jump unlike any that had come before it; it was Jump's first ever "mega-hit". It brought Jump's readership to over 3 million, which is where it hovers at around now, and it brought in a lot of money for Shueisha. In fact, Kurumada once said that when Shueisha renovated their headquarters & made it larger in the late-70s/early-80s, it was all possible because of Ring ni Kakero's success; he was told that people in the company called the building the "RinKake Building" or the "Kurumada Building". Because of that success, when Kurumada ended the manga in 1981, Shueisha did something that had never been done in Jump yet: The last chapter in its entirety was published in color. Jump has only had two other full-color final chapters since then: Dragon Ball's end in 1995 & Slam Dunk's end in 1996. In 2000, Kurumada debuted a sequel, Ring ni Kakero 2, in Super Jump, and to celebrate the return of the series, from 2001-2002 Shueisha re-printed the original manga across 18 volumes under the name Ring ni Kakero 1. Though there were two previous 15-volume re-prints, the "Jump Comics Selection" & bunkoban releases, for this new "RnK1" re-print Kurumada went back to his creation & "fine-tuned" it, making it more concise & focused. But enough back-story, let's get to the review.

Ryuji & his older sister Kiku are the two children of Gou Takane, a world-class professional boxer who was on his way to becoming world champion until his untimely death. Kiku decides to train Ryuji into a boxer, but Ryuji wants nothing to do with the sport. After seeing that their mother Chiyo has suddenly re-married to an abusive drunkard, though, Kiku takes Ryuji and they head off to Tokyo, where Kiku plans to make her younger brother into an excellent boxer, even if Ryuji doesn't want to. Through an encounter with Jun Kenzaki, a young boxing prodigy, though, Ryuji finds his motivation to become a pro boxer, and along the way will meet other junior boxers from all over the world on his path to greatness.

Ring ni Kakero 1 is made up of nine story arcs: The Road to Tokyo Chapter, where Ryuji & Kiku meet Kenzaki & Ryuji starts training seriously; the Metropolitan Tournament Chapter, where Ryuji & Kenzaki compete with other boxers in the region to see who's the best in Tokyo; the Champion Carnival Chapter, where Ryuji enters the national tournament to determine the best junior boxer in Japan & form the team that will represent Japan in the World Jr. Boxing Tournament held in Tokyo; the Pacific War/Japan vs. USA Chapter; where USA Jr. Champion Black Shaft challenges "Team Golden Japan Jr." to a 5-on-5 boxing "war"; the Shadow Chapter, where the Shadow Clan, whose mixture of boxing & lethal martial arts got them shunned from the Japanese boxing scene back during the Taisho Era, aims to defeat Golden Japan & take their spot in the coming tournament; the World Tournament Chapter, which has Golden Japan Jr. take on their fellow national champions, namely those from Italy, France, Germany, & Greece; the Twelve Gods of Greece Chapter; where Japan Jr. must team with some of their world rivals & the Shadow Clan to create the "World Jr. Union" to take on the "Twelve Gods", a group of Greek junior boxers who are all stronger than the members of Team Greece; the Ashura Chapter, where, after a two-year time skip, Japan Jr. member Takeshi Kawai finds out about his secret past & joins the Ashura Clan, and it's up to his old teammates to rescue him (if he wants to be rescued, that is); and the World Title Match Chapter, where Ryuji & Kenzaki finally enter the professional bantamweight boxing scene, which is ruled by the world champion Jesus Christ, where the two will have their final match.

One of the best parts about Ring ni Kakero 1 is the cast, which is full of life & easy to relate to and understand. In true shonen fashion, Ryuji isn't exactly the smartest person in the group (he's far from being an idiot, though; Kinnikuman brought that into fashion), but he's full of passion & drive to accomplish his goal (become world champion), and that makes always makes him great to see in action. Kenzaki is the cocky prodigy, but at the same time he quickly loses some of his ego after suffering a loss in his first fight against Ryuji. Effectively, he'll brag about how good he is, but at the same time he acknowledges & respects when others are just as tough. Ishimatsu Katori is the comic relief of the series, loving to make passes at women (especially Kiku) & generally be silly, but when it comes to boxing & his family he's just as serious as everyone else, if not more; Kurumada has admitted that Ishimatsu is the character most like him in real life. Kazuki Shinatora is an admittedly interesting take on a yankii/delinquent in that he has the pompadour haircut & tough attitude, but he's also the quietest of the group. Obviously, that means that he hides the spirit of a "fierce tiger" inside of him, which comes out during his fights. For an added twist, Shinatora only fights with his left arm, due to a mental block from an injury his right arm suffered from his father's cruel kendo training, forcing him to focus on speed over raw power. Finally, Kawai is the "pretty boy" of the group who is also a piano prodigy. Eventually, Kawai starts translating the flow of a match into different music concepts, like a period, finale, fanfare, or sforzando. Though he originally debuts with a smug attitude, due to his well-to-do upbringing, he loosens up & becomes the second-calmest member of Team Golden Japan Jr., after Shinatora. Looking over them, these characters all come off now as incredibly cliched & unoriginal... But back in 1977 they weren't. Sure, these kinds of characters might have been seen before this title as well, but at the same time the way this manga handled them was mostly different. Looking at them now, these characters are trailblazers, but even if they aren't exactly original nowadays that doesn't mean that they are done badly. Au contraire, Kurumada ends up developing them all excellently, resulting in all of them being tons of fun to read about and it's hard to truly pick a "favorite" among them.

There is also the secondary cast of characters to consider. Kiku is the brains behind Ryuji's growing abilities, giving him the gear for his training & showing him how to do different boxing maneuvers. At the same, though, Kiku realizes after the Champion Carnival that Ryuji has to grow on his own, so her importance slowly lessens before regaining importance in the final story arc. Still, her tomboyish attitude, fun verbal tic of ending some of her sentences with "-ccha" (Kurumada gave her that as an homage to Yamaguchi prefecture, where his parents came from), & willingness to even fight if need be (though it's rare) definitely makes her possibly the best female character Kurumada has ever created. Kiku & Kenzaki also slowly gain feelings for each other that comes into play into later story arcs at some points, notably the final fight, and that relationship works well, too; Kurumada admitted that he didn't plan on a relationship, which results in it feeling organic. Zoroku "Pops" Omura  is a doctor who runs a boxing gym in Tokyo, & takes in the Takane siblings to help them with their dream, becoming a foster father-of-sorts. Omura has a great knowledge of boxing as well as the low-down on other important things, like the Shadow Clan, making him a character that isn't shown too often, but he makes his presence felt. Finally, there's Rock-san, a boxer at the Omura Gym who acts like a second comic relief & is usually seen cheering on Ryuji & the others; similarly, Rock-san isn't seen too often, but he's an enjoyable goof.

Then there are the boxers that Golden Japan Jr. go up against. Locally, there's the Shadow Clan, lead by their leader "Sousui"; the word literally means "Leader", but the cast eventually use it as his actual name. Sousui has a link to Kenzaki & acts similar to him, but replacing the cockiness with a need for the world to accept him & his clan due to the shunning they have had for nearly 50 years. Internationally, there are the World Rivals, all of which are larger-than-life characters &, admittedly, utilize very obvious & (potentially) harsh stereotypes. Black Shaft is an Engrish-speaking, fun-loving African-American who has an ego the size of the country he represents, but that also makes him very fun & enjoyable to watch, even as an American myself. Napoleon Baroa is France's Jr. Champion & is even more of a pretty boy than Kawai, wearing regal outfits & even having a rose theme to him. Obviously, Kurumada was inspired by The Rose of Versailles, with Napoleon even resembling Lady Oscar to an extent. Don Juliano comes from Italy, representing the Jr. Mafia & the "Sicilian Dandy", even going as far as trying to "snuff out" Japan Jr. before their match against each other at the World Tournament. Scorpion & Helga represent Germany, and their stereotype is easily the harshest of them all: They are Nazis. Well, to be fair, the only piece of Nazi iconography the manga uses is the Swatsika/Hakenkreuz, as there is no "Hail" hand salute or antisemitism to be found here, though Scorpion gets some highly organized cheering, calling him "The Great Hero/Führer/God". Just remember that RnK is far from the only manga of the time to portray Germans like this, and it really comes from Japan's more relaxed treatment of Nazism, due to them being allies in World War II; it truly is an example where "cultural differences" can apply. Still, I'd argue that Brockenman from Kinnikuman was even worse of a stereotype, and let's not get into Hetalia; in comparison, Team Germany is rather tame of a portrayal. Finally, all of the Greek boxers (both Team Greece & the 12 Gods) are named after figures from Greek mythology, though two Roman figures do sneak in via Ulysses (Team Greece) & Venus (12 Gods); I'll let it slide, Kurumada. And, yes, you did read that right: The world bantamweight champion is indeed named Jesus Christ, though he's from Monaco, not Israel; he also looks like Gundam's Char Aznable. Sure, these are silly stereotypes, but at the same time it helps make the reader understand the kinds of characters they are right away. Shaft is ego-driven, Napoleon is brash, Juliano constantly thinks he's "cool", Scorpion is all-mighty, Helga is about data & numbers, the Greeks are all "godlike", & Christ is an enemy of biblical proportions, as he beats up Kenzaki as if Genesis is being done, complete with the whole "Seven Days" text being used! In the end, though, these characters become instantly recognizable & memorable, which is the most important thing.

Much like the characters, the way the story handles itself can also come off as clichéd, but at the same time one must remember that Ring ni Kakero 1 did these things first, or at least in the way they are done & recognized as now, i.e the "Jump Style". Before RnK1, there were tournament arcs, but they all tended to be based around individuals, like your standard sports tournament. RnK1 introduced the idea of team-based tournaments, where the fights were still individual, but the goal was a team victory; nowadays, this is the de facto standard for almost any tournament arc. The first half of the Shadow Chapter is about Ryuji rescuing Kiku after she gets kidnapped by the Shadow Clan, & he has to fight his way up the "Shadow Tower" to save her... Hmm, that sounds like your usual "Rescue Arc", not to mention an obvious homage to Bruce Lee's unfinished movie Game of Death (hell, the first floor has Ryuji fighting 100 "Shadow Boxers", like how Lee's character had to first fight 10 black belts); RnK1 did this style of story arc first. The Ashura Chapter has Ryuji having to fight his way up a path to get to Kawai, with the path continually being blocked by gates which each have a guardian that must be defeated in order to advance. Here's your precursor to Saint Seiya's modus operandi, people! Along the way, enemies become friends, attack names are screamed out, blood is poured, & there's a giant hot-blooded style to everything, all with a definite Ashita no Joe feel to it at numerous moments. The ending, in particular, is especially emotional & powerful, truly making the entire story feel like a journey that has come to its natural end. "Reading" those last few pages of the final fight, even simply from a visual perspective, really hit a chord with me, and I almost wanted to tear up slightly because I knew that it was all coming to an end. Just imagine how the readers in Japan felt back in 1981 when the last chapter was serialized in full-color!

That's not to say that the entire manga is like this, though. The first two story arcs, as I showed in my "101" series of overviews from back in March 2011, were definitely more dramatic in execution & resembled Ashita no Joe even more so. Also, the final arc returns the series to this more dramatic style, with the final fight even showing homage. Kurumada eventually admitted that, even though Joe was his inspiration for RnK1, he couldn't just copy it; he had to go in his own direction or else it would be a disservice to both Joe & himself. That's where the over-the-top elements come in, though there were still plenty of signs of it in the beginning. Kurumada had his characters perform punches that resulted in all sorts of things happening, like cutting shirts, opening holes in sandbags, scarring surfaces, knocking opponents into the air very often, & even through the ring ropes at times. Characters also wound up getting "superblows", special punches that delivered immense damage & spectacle, complete with all sorts of imagery to help sell power of these punches, though the imagery is just that: Visual accentuation, not reality.

For this element, Kurumada looked to Astro Kyudan/Team Astro, a baseball manga that ran in Jump during the mid-70s, and it's ability to "attract" the readers. Astro Kyudan featured a lot of the same things as RnK1 when it came to crazy imagery & special moves, but where Kurumada differed was that he still kept everything within the rules of boxing. Ten counts were still enforced, even if they weren't always shown, fouls were acknowledged if done (though they were rare), and the fights were still strictly done in the boxing fashion, whereas Astro Kyudan blatantly didn't care about completely following the rules of baseball (or even the rules of nature, for that matter). Sure, the physics were stretched, but no superblow that was delivered in RnK1 was impossible to do in real life, technically, as they were still straights, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, & other various punches. The only exception would be Ishimatsu, who used his leg strength to jump high for aerial attacks; accordingly, his opponents would be perfect matches for him. Maybe the after effects & results of some of the moves were impossible, mats would be scorched from the heat & walls were left with giant craters, but the punches themselves were real. During its serialization, fans wound up creating a name for the type of fights that were in RnK1: "Sci-fi/SF Boxing". This way of handling the action revolutionized Jump, with Kinnikuman moving from Ultraman parody to hyper-exaggerated wrestling, Captain Tsubasa letting its players do all sorts of things with a soccer ball, and even later titles like Prince of Tennis & Kuroko's Basketball have kept this style alive with wild & crazy maneuvers. To Kurumada's credit, though, the story does eventually end up making the damage these characters have sustained from taking these superblows a focus. Make no mistake, these characters are getting permanent injury from these fights, some there are even a couple of deaths because of the toll their bodies have taken.

I've been showering this title with nothing but praise, but there are still flaws to be found. As I surmised from by "101" series, a lot of what happens in the first two story arcs becomes extraneous, with the Champion Carnival being the spot where characters like Sachiko Kimura & Akira Tajima, Ryuji's school friends, get dropped from the story & the focus turns to the crazy fights; at least Sachiko got to appear in Season 1 of the anime. To Kurumada's credit, he doesn't completely forget about these early characters, as they do appear again in cameos for the final fight to cheer on Ryuji, but it's easy to see why the later anime adaptation skips over these early arcs, with flashbacks covering the important parts. Also, the pace this title goes at is both a boon & a bust. When Dragon Ball became a big hit & ran for 42 volumes, other popular shonen action titles started to go on for longer & longer, to the point where the pacing suffered, with fights literally taking entire volumes to get through, from start to finish. Ring ni Kakero originally got through all of its story in only 25 volumes, and that's because the fights, once the early story was done, tended to be fast-paced & went by quickly. In RnK1, you could literally count the number of fights that takes more than an entire volume to get through with one finger (the final fight), with most fights being done in literally one chapter, sometimes multiple fights being completely shown in one chapter. Now, to be fair, this was before chapters tended to be 20-30 pages on average, with some RnK1 chapters being over 50 or even near 100 pages long, though this is because chapters back then were sometimes initially serialized in parts, before being combined together when compiled. At the same time, though, these fights sometimes go by a little too fast, with some of them being nothing more than "Hero tries his superblow, fails, figures out what to do to win, & defeats his opponent". Still, none of the fights really feel boring & nowadays the fast pace is kind of refreshing. Also, the longer fights don't really drag on, outside of maybe one or two, which is a damn good ratio considering how many fights there are. For example, the fight against the Twelve Gods is done within 2.5 volumes of the RnK1 re-print, whereas now it would probably take up anywhere from five to twelve with today's pacing.

Still, even Ring ni Kakero seemingly was faced with a sense of being stretched out due to popularity, and the proof is in one particular arc: The Ashura Chapter. This arc contributes nothing to the overall story, and simply comes off as Shueisha telling Kurumada to keep RnK going because it was popular. For example, the previous arc explained the mystery of the Kaiser Knuckle, a brass knuckles-esque item that Omura gives Ryuji when he battled the Shadow Clan (before you start wondering, Ryuji never uses the Kaiser in an actual match), yet the Ashura Chapter brings the Kaiser back for nothing more than a couple of uses & and a (literal) throwaway sendoff for it; it had a perfectly fine send off in the previous arc. Also, the fights in this arc are some of the weakest in the manga (there are maybe one or two good ones, out out nine total), and even Kurumada is seen to not put as much detail into some of the art. For example, when Shinatora does his multi-hit superblow Rolling Thunder, or its upgrade Special Rolling Thunder, Kurumada always drew each hit slightly different from the others on the same page... But when the SRT is used in the Ashura Chapter, Kurumada literally drew just one image & copied it four times on the same two-page splash so that the five-hit illusion would be there. Then there's the fact that the Ashura Clan itself seems like nothing more than a slight variant of the Shadow Clan, giving it a feel of "been there, done that". Finally, though it is neat to see some of Kawai's past, this arc really doesn't contribute anything to his character development. While it isn't absolute crap, the Ashura Chapter is definitely the worst part of Ring ni Kakero 1.

Masami Kurumada's artwork isn't always the nicest in the world, but you can tell that he usually put his best into working on RnK1; even the Ashura Chapter tended to look good (just not as good as the rest). While you can definitely see that it's his early work, & not as sharp as his later work, the artwork still looks nicely done; if anything, you can really see how Motomiya influenced Kurumada in the beginning. Sure, there can be a little bit of a similarity in a couple of the faces (Ryuji & Kenzaki look almost the same, at first glance), but as time goes on Kurumada starts to make each character his/her own person. It's also important to point out that Kurumada does subscribe to Osamu Tezuka's "Star System", where a mangaka tends to re-use character designs in later works, with the only things changing usually being hair style & personality; it's like re-using the same actors in different roles for each movie. People like to point out how all of Kurumada's main characters look like Pegasus Seiya, but in reality everyone looks like Ryuji. Kiku, in turn, is a re-use of Rei Kojinyama (the main character of Sukeban Arashi), while others like Kenzaki, Ishimatsu, & Kawai being seen again in the forms of Unicorn Jabu, (Fuma no) Kojirou, & Foh Rafine (B't X). Sure, his artwork may not always be as immediately "manly" as the like of Tetsuo Hara, Tetsuya Saruwatari, or Keisuke Itagaki, and may even come off as "bishonen" & drawn for females... But that was kind of the point. Kurumada admitted that he wanted girls to read shonen manga; he wanted them to be able to enjoy the same stuff guys do. Even if Kurumada's art style wasn't "manly" on the surface, his roots definitely were, growing up on the likes of Motomiya & Sanpei Shirato, the creator of Legend of Kamui & the whole "gekiga" movement. He's also big on very "classical" & romanticized storytelling & character themes, which sometimes seemingly clashes with the usual concepts of "manly" manga. Still, once you get through the bishonen exterior you get an interior that's just as "manly" in concept as some others. Like I've said before, Kurumada is a mangaka that requires one to break through the surface in order to get to the tasty, nougat center.

Also, this may be solely a personal opinion, but Kurumada tends to have some of the absolute best naming sense when it comes to special moves. "Rolling Thunder", "Hurricane Bolt", "Jet Upper", "Cosa Nostra", "Devil Propose", "Heart Break Cannon", "Moonlight Heaven", "Lightning Plasma" (yes, it was first used in RnK1, Seiya fans), "Boomerang Teleios" (Greek for "Perfect/Complete"), "Cyclone Maelstrom", "God Illusion", "Neo Bible"... And, of course, the infinitely awesome "Galactica Magnum" & "Galactica Phantom" are just a small smattering of the great attack names in this manga. Also, there are some completely Japanese attack names, specifically for the Shadow & Ashura Clans. Sure, there are a couple of less-than-stellar names, like "Scorpion Crash" (guess who uses that one...) or "Blooded(?) Medusa" (what the hell does "ブラデッド" translate to?!), but usually Kurumada ends up giving his characters simply awesome attack names that stand the test of time.

In the King of Fighters series, Ralf Jones' most devastating attack is usually a strong blow called the "Galactica Phantom". In the Street Fighter series, Dudley, a gentlemanly boxer, has moves called "Rolling Thunder" & "Jet Upper", and his "Corkscrew Blow" in Super SFIV behaves exactly like Ryuji's "Boomerang Square" when it hits the opponent properly. GaoGaiGar's Rocket Punch-style move is called "Broken Magnum", and is later changed to "Broken Phantom". In the Super Robot Wars Original Generation series, Kai Kitamura names two of his Gespenst's strongest attacks "Jet Magnum" & "Jet Phantom". If you keep looking you can find even more references in other titles. Hell, Kurumada even admitted in an interview back in 2003 (translate from French) that he heard that MMA fighter Kazushi Sakuraba has a technique called the "Hurricane Bolt". Even if you've never heard of Ring ni Kakero before, you definitely know at least one reference to it. Did you enjoy watching Mobile Fighter G Gundam? If you answered "Yes", then know that Yasuhiro Imagawa was a giant fan of Ring ni Kakero when he was a kid & was heavily inspired by it when he worked on this definitely "Un-Gundam" Gundam series, right down to the international stereotypes & uniting of the various world champions to take on a larger foe; the Shuffle Alliance is simply the World Jr. Union of the 90s.

Like I mentioned early on, the 2001 re-print of the manga, which is specifically what I'm reviewing, has some changes when compared to the original version & it's first two re-prints, so let me cover what I know of. Most importantly, and unknown to me until the recent English scanlation effort started up, some parts of the original manga have been removed. For example, chapter 2 of the original manga was all about Ryuji & Kiku on their train ride from their home of Niho to Tokyo, with the chapter detailing how "terrifying" Tokyo is, before it ends with the two meeting a girl named Kana Sanjou and some shenanigans ensue. In the RnK1 re-print, chapter 2 starts off with the two meeting Kana, followed by her involvement in the early story, completely removing the train ride & walking about Tokyo. True, right now this is all I can go off of, but it does explain why chapter 11 ends off with a two-page spread of random manga pages showing off the training Ryuji goes through to gain basic boxing know-how (using a speed bag, sparring, roadwork, etc.). That means a good number of chapters have been removed, making the part where the anime starts happen shortly into volume 4 whereas it starts early into volume 7 of the original version. To be fair, though, these removals seem to be nothing more than "trimming the fat", i.e. they were not essential to the main story. These chapters likely solidified Kurumada's Ashita no Joe influence, specifically the fact that Joe had to learn to become a boxer, but when this 2001 re-print came about Kurumada probably decided that they weren't essential to the story he created, so he decided to excise them & make it so that readers can get to the "main attraction", i.e. the part where the other main characters debut, faster. Kurumada even lists Ring ni Kakero 1 separately from Ring ni Kakero on his website's Works page, showing that, even though they essentially tell the same story, the two are still different enough to the man himself. For all I know later portions of the manga could have been excised as well, but I'm going to guess that the removals were solely from the pre-Carnival portion.

[2/2015 ADDENDUM: I managed to look at the first two volumes of the wideban release of RnK, and I can confirm that what was removed there were training bits & a side-story where Rock-san takes his pro test while Ryuji helps him get a girlfriend. In the end, all Kurumada did was truly trim the fat and keep it focused on Ryuji & Kenzaki. Volume 2 of RnK1 ends at the same exact place as the wideban's Volume 2.]

The other changes come mostly in the form of name alterations. For example, Ryuji's weighted wrist & ankle straps go from being called the "Power Wrist/Ankle" to the "Dragon Wrist/Ankle" & Kenzaki's exercise machine goes from the "Apollo Exerciser" to the "Galaxian Exerciser", due to them being actual exercize products from the era, & Kurumada never had proper license to use those names in the first place. There is also a character who had his name changed in the form of one of the members of Shaft's makeshift Team USA. Originally named N.B. Forrest (after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Lt. General for the Confederacy during the American Civil War & the 1st Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan), the character was re-named Mr. Whitey, due to the still-lingering controversy of Forrest's legacy; "Whitey" being a Grand Wizard of the KKK is still kept, though (it is removed in the anime, on the other hand). These name changes aren't the first time such a thing has happened, though, as Greek representative Balkan's superblow "Shocking Fire" was originally named "Dead End Fire". Kurumada never wanted the "Dead End" name to stay, after already changing it from "Damned Fire", but the chapter Balkan used it in was serialized before it could be changed; it was properly changed in the first tankouban release. The more you know...

Ring ni Kakero 1 is nothing if not unheard of outside of Japan, but in it's home country it is a classic for many good reasons. Though it started as a straight homage to Ashita no Joe, Masami Kurumada admitted that he could never top Joe, and eventually decided to take the title in its own direction. This change in execution from realism to exaggerated physics resulted in a manga that would end up making the blueprint for how shonen manga, especially those of the action ilk, would operate from then on out. In 1983, Fist of the North Star would take this over-the-top execution outside of the world of sports, where it wound up being adopted by the likes of Dragon Ball, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, & even Kurumada's own Saint Seiya... The rest, as they say, is history. As a piece of that history, Ring ni Kakero is worth knowing of & reading, but even on its own merit, Ring ni Kakero 1 is a fast-paced, crazy, action-packed shonen manga that still hits all the right notes and is still worthy of being put up against some of Jump's biggest names. There's good reason why I always feel that the anime adaptation should be more known & appreciated: It's because this series itself is that good.
If you've come to this point then I thank you for sticking with me throughout this entire (long-as-hell) review. With this post I wanted to feel like I could honestly say "I am now done with reviewing Ring ni Kakero 1", and I definitely feel that now. There is nothing else I can say about Ring ni Kakero 1 at this point; I have retired it. Of course, remember when George Foreman came out of retirement & became world champion once again? Well, if more RnK1 anime is ever made, or a miracle happens & the anime that has been been made gets licensed (or at least officially released with English subtitles) then I shall take this series "out of retirement" for a short bit... But, until that time comes, I've "Put It All in the Ring" for the last time.


  1. Excellent write-up. I want to read Ring ni Kakero so badly, but only the first two chapters have been scanlated so far. I'm especially interested in the portion of the story that the anime adaptation skipped, and I didn't even know the RnK1 reprint had excised some of those chapters.

    By the way, I think "ブラデッド is supposed to be romanized as "blooded". Not that it makes any sense, but that's how Kurumada rolls.

  2. Where did you read the RnK mangas?
    I couldnt find any on the internet...

    1. I bought a complete set of the 2001-2002 RnK1 release on eBay a few years ago for a great price, hence why my review is specifically about this version of the manga. There are raws out there for the wideban release, which the extremely short-lived scanlation effort relied on, but that's up to you to find.

  3. Kurumada never was assistant of Motomiya...

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  5. Does the 2001-2002 release has color pages?

    1. No, they sadly don't. Color pages are almost never published in compiled volumes, barring certain exceptions. You can tell what was color, though, due to the gradation difference between regular B&W & color that was greyscaled. I don't believe any compiled edition of Ring ni Kakero has ever contained the color pages. Maybe one day a kanzenban/perfect edition of RnK will happen, because those tend to maintain original color pages.

  6. Are you going to review Ring ni Kakero 2?

    1. That would be the eventual plan, but I only have the first eight volumes of RnK2, so it's not going to happen anytime soon. I did enjoy those volumes, though, so I hope to one day get the remaining volumes & check the rest of the series out. SHould that ever happen & I still do this blog, then a review would definitely be in the cards.

    2. I think there are raws out there, but if you want to get the physical volumes, that's fine by me.

      BTW, do you know if there's going to be a new OAV season of Ring ni Kakero?

    3. To my knowledge, there is no news of any new RnK1 anime being made, though I think next year would be perfect timing to go with the manga's 40th Anniversary. There is a listing over at RnK's Wikipedia page about a new anime in 2017, but it's obviously fake since it lists Hidehito Ueda as director, and Ueda passed away back in 2015.