Monday, January 30, 2017

Ring ni Kakero's Supreme Superblows Part 2

I'd say it's fair to say that the most identifiable aspect of an action manga is the wide variety of named special attacks that the various characters use in battle, and Shonen Jump has a gigantic girth of them. The Kamehameha, Hokuto Hundred Crack Fist, Pegasus Meteor Fist, the Kinniku Buster, Getsuga Tensho, Gum Gum Pistol, the Rasengan, Rei-Gun (get it?), Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, Cool Drive, Sunlight Yellow Overdrive... All of them owe some inspiration to Ring ni Kakero. As I stated in Part 1, while Team Astro did feature crazy special maneuvers with wild names first, it was RnK that really put it towards the forefront, and it's become a bit of a standard in many action series. After all, the kids who read these manga needed something to scream out while they played around & tried to recreate some of these for the fun of it.

Therefore, let's end this 40th Anniversary celebration of Ring ni Kakero's debut in the beginning of 1977 by looking at some more of the best (in my opinion) superblows that inspired too many other to count.

Cosa Nostra
When Ryuji first delivered the Boomerang Hook during the Champion Carnival, it was showcased as Ryuji having something special about him. When Shinatora first hit Rolling Thunder later in that tournament, he was shown as being similarly special. But then Black Shaft hit Ryuji with his Black Screw during the Pacific War, showing that other strong Jr. boxers had their own special attacks. Similarly, when each of these were first done, Kurumada treated them with more impact, but nothing really special about them. It wouldn't be until the World Tournament that the term "superblow" would first be used, and to go with new term Kurumada decided to give these ultimate punches the visual flair that they'd become iconic & inspirational for. The first person to be given this type of treatment is Don Juliano, Italian Jr. Champion, self-proclaimed "Sicilian Dandy", & head of the Jr. Mafia. Understanding that Ryuji Takane is a dangerous person to take on, he makes no attempt to try to make this fight a long one, so he starts up right away with his superblow, Cosa Nostra.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ring ni Kakero's Supreme Superblows Part 1

Finally, to end this celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Ring ni Kakero, we take a look at an element that is likely one of the most influential: The superblows. Now, to be fair, the concept of named attacks was nothing new when RnK debuted. Various martial arts manga utilized such things, the idea giving attacks names existed before manga was even a thing due to the legendary Wong Fei-hung, and the idea of over-the-top signature moves was outright taken from Team Astro, which featured baseball techniques like the Giacobini Meteor Shower Swing, the Skylab Pitch, & the Andromeda Nebula Swing. What Kurumada made iconic was giving his characters' various superblows names that were not quite as literal, instead giving them larger than life names that evoked various feelings & ideas. After all, an uppercut is an uppercut, but naming an uppercut something like "God Dimension" & making it look like Apollon's opponent has been hit with the power of the Sun itself makes it look badass as all hell.

Therefore, here are my personal twelve favorite superblows in all of the original Ring ni Kakero manga. Unlike the prior list, however, I'm only going with the way the manga showcases them, because otherwise I'd have more than just twelve. The anime managed to take Black Shaft's Black Screw, Napoleon Baroa's Devil Propose, & Orpheus' Dead Symphony, which all looked a little plain in the manga, and make them look outstanding. Therefore, let's just stick with how Kurumada originally drew them.

Heart Break Cannon
We're starting off with a superblow that's admittedly simple, but is just as dangerous in real life as it is in the manga. When Jun Kenzaki stands to fight against Theseus of Team Greece in the final set of matches of the World Tournament, he only had so much opposition against him. Team Germany's Scorpion gave him a fight, but not even he could stand against the newly-debuted Galactica Mangum. In comparison, Theseus is something different, knowing exactly how to hit Kenzaki without a care for his well being & able to counter any punch at first. Once Kenzaki finds an opportunity he tries to fight back, but Theseus has the perfect move to stop him with... A heart punch. However, this isn't a measly little punch to the heart. Instead, this move is a cannon of a punch.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ring ni Kakero's Best Bouts Part 2: From the World Tournament to the Final Fight

In creating this list of the best fights in Ring ni Kakero, & this is seen in the first half, I noticed something... Ryuji Takane is all over this list. I guess that makes a certain sense since he's the main character, but at the same time I can give an easy explanation to that. In short, Masami Kurumada tended to give Ryuji the fights with a lot of meat to them, likely due to his status as main character. That's not to say that the other characters have fights that aren't any good, because there are really enjoyable fights from Ishimatsu, Kawai, Shinatora, & Kenzaki, but the main issue with most of them is that they don't tend to have the same amount of time that Ryuji's fights are given. This can be considered a bit of an example of how RnK is the "bible" of fighting manga, and therefore later titles would give more time to the supporting cast's fights, but it's something to point out.

That being said, let's get to Part 2 & see which were the best fights in the second half of Ring ni Kakero.

(WARNING! As I'll be covering exact fights, please keep in mind that I may venture into spoilers at times. I'll try to keep them as general as possible, but fair warning.)

Ryuji Takane vs. Napoleon Baroa
After being first mentioned at the end of the Champion Carnival, the World Tournament Chapter finally starts up, and the fights in this arc are almost all really damn good. While there are still some rather short fights (two of the fights against Team France are good examples of that), the rest all have something really cool to them. Ishimatsu taking on four members of Team Italy on his own, the crazy ability all of Team France have (which I'll get to in a bit), the scientifically concocted counter-strategies Team Germany uses to combat Golden Japan's superblows, & the sheer spectacle that is Team Greece are all excellently memorable moments, so choosing just one from this entire arc is really damn hard. If I can for a moment, I just want to give "honorable mentions" to Ryuji vs. Don Juliano (a very strong start for the arc), Ishimatsu vs. Tiffany (another showcase of Ishimatsu's tenacity), Shinatora vs. Himmler (if only for the Special Cross Counter), & Kenzaki vs. Theseus (the first time Kenzaki actually is pushed hard).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ring ni Kakero's Best Bouts Part 1: From Tokyo to the Shadow Clan

Befitting a manga series about boxing, Masami Kurumada's Ring ni Kakero is very much focused around combat. Almost every story arc has many, many 1-on-1 fights housed within, especially once it hits its genre-defining groove & enters its more tournament & challenge match-focused direction. With that in regard, it's obvious that not every fight is going to be a knockout (cue rimshot). This is all the more true for RnK, as many of the fights don't follow the seeming standard that people nowadays associate with fights in shonen manga. Instead of primarily stretching out battles for drama & emotion, like how it's generally done today, bouts in RnK are primarily fast & over fairly quickly, though there are a handful of exceptions. Therefore, deciding which fights are the "Best Bouts" in this series comes down to not just the action itself but also the circumstances in & around them. In the end, I decided to round it down to one fight for each story arc in the manga & one special inclusion so that it's an even ten bouts. So, without further ado, let's get started.

(WARNING! As I'll be covering exact fights, please keep in mind that I may venture into spoilers at times. I'll try to keep them as general as possible, but fair warning.)

Ryuji Takane vs. Jun Kenzaki II
First up is what is officially named the Road to Tokyo Chapter, which shows how Ryuji & Kiku Takane go from a downbeat life with their mother & their new deadbeat stepfather to eventually living with Zoroku Omura at the Tokyo boxing gym that he runs. The main focus in this arc is character development more than anything, showing how Ryuji starts off completely resistant to taking up boxing before he meets young prodigy Jun Kenzaki & finds a reason to take up the sport. In that regard, there are really only two actual "bouts" in this arc, so this wasn't a hard choice to make. The first (impromptu) fight between Ryuji & Kenzaki isn't bad by any means, but as a fight it's pretty one-sided. It's simply Kenzaki beating the ever-living crap out of Ryuji until our lead manages to find an opening & knocks his newfound rival out of the ring & into a giant mirror on the wall of the boxing club's gym. The second fight, however, is another thing entirely.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ring ni Kakero Trivia Track: Six Neat, Important, or Interesting Factoids

Masami Kurumada made his professional debut in 1974 with Sukeban Arashi/Delinquent Storm, a comedic series about Rei Kojinyama, who tries to be an ideal schoolgirl to honor the memory of her deceased mother but can't help leaning back into her delinquent lifestyle. After that wound up getting cancelled, he decided that his next series would pay homage to one of his favorite manga of all time: Ashita no Joe. He quickly realized that simply following AnJ's style would both be a disservice to that manga as well as his own series, so he wound up adopting a more over-the-top style influenced by Astro Kyudan/Team Astro, a popular Jump manga that was running when he debuted. While being technically a baseball manga, the feats & games that were actually played were so absurdly over-the-top that it kept readers captivated for four years & 20 volumes; it was that concept of "attraction" that Kurumada wanted to bring to his boxing manga.

In doing just that, Ring ni Kakero wound up becoming an important part in the evolution of not just Shonen Jump but also action manga, often called "fighting manga" in Japan, in general. You can read my review of the manga to get a better understanding of why that is, but what I want to focus on are the little things. I've brought most of them up before on the blog but want to describe in more detail here, while one of them in particular I've only alluded to. Call it "trivia" if you will (hell, I did in the name of this post), but let's have some fun here. First up is probably the most important piece of trivia of all, though.

"The Hot-Blood Fighting Manga Bible"
It's easy for something to be called a "classic", since most just equate that word with age instead of saving it solely for those with good quality; personally, I think the word "vintage" should be the general term, instead. It's tougher for something to be called an "icon", as that has to indicate not just age & quality, but also a status as being something that represents an entire group, whether it's a genre, style, medium, etc. What's nigh-impossible, though, is for something to be called a "bible", because to reach that status it has to not only have age, quality, & a status of being a representative behind it, but also be considered the product that everything that comes after it follows; it's an (or the) authority on something. You almost never hear anyone try to actually define something as being the bible on a concept or style, so when something is deemed to that level, then you have to take note.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Put It All in the Ruby Anniversary: Ring ni Kakero Turns 40!

A belated Happy New Year, everyone, & welcome to the year 2017... If you wish to hold on tight or kiss your ass goodbye, then go ahead & do so.

Once again, I have reserved the first month of the year to be "Jump January", and like the previous times I did this there is a singular theme behind it. For this year, I want to celebrate what I feel is an important anniversary that will likely get next to no celebration elsewhere, even in its home country of Japan. Forty years ago, on this very day (or, at least, on the second Monday of January), Masami Kurumada's Ring ni Kakero/Put it All in the Ring debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine.

Calm down, Ryo-san, you'll run for WAAAAYYY longer...

Yes, for those who didn't know (like myself until I checked), 40 years marks the Ruby Anniversary of something, and that's what applies to this boxing manga. Since Shonen Jump doesn't mark exact dates, I had to calculate what day Issue #2 came out on, and since the magazine (officially) comes out every Monday in Japan, that means that Ring ni Kakero debuted on January 10, 1977; interestingly enough, this year is only one numbered day off in that regard. I'm sure most people are not familiar with RnK, so here's how I described it when I reviewed the manga back in 2013:

"Ryuji & 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, 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 (potential) greatness."

Since I am a big fan of this manga (& it's eventual anime adaptation), I wanted to celebrate this anniversary. Sadly, however, I feel as though I might be the only one out there who actually will give a hoot about this anniversary, even counting Japan itself.