Makunouchi Ippo has been bullied his entire life, but dreams of changing himself. One day, he is saved by Takamura Mamoru, who happens to be a boxer. After Ippo faints from his injuries, Mamoru takes him to his gym where Ippo asks to be trained in the sport of boxing.
Hajime no Ippo isn’t an anime about boxing. Well, I mean, it is, but it is not 76 episodes of people being beaten in the head. It is 76 episodes of watching the personal growth of a young man that goes from being a weak target to growing fully into his own through a sport. That’s the essence of why this series is so damn popular, and if you want to chase that essence, give these anime recommendations a try.
For Fans of Boxing
Ashita no Joe
Teen orphan Joe lives in the slums where he meets Danpei, and alcoholic and homeless ex-boxing coach. After seeing Joe defend himself, Danpei takes an interest and decides to train him. However, Joe only becomes serious about it after he meets a rival fighter in a juvenile home.
Ashita no Joe was the best boxing anime before Hajime no Ippo came out. Its dated animation leaves something to be desired after Ippo and the story has more of a thug vibe to it, but they are eternal rivals locked in the battle for anime boxing supremacy. Yet, as sports anime about boxing, you have times where things are so similar to each other in plot and themes, but it is the opponents and the characters in each show that keep them each feeling fresh.
In 1955 Japan, delinquency is on the rise. For Mario Minakami and six other teenagers, they are not alone when they are sent to Shounan Special Reform School on criminal charges. Once in their cell, they meet the older inmate Rokurouta Sakuragi, a former boxer, who teaches them how to survive in their new harsh prison environment.
Hajime no Ippo has plenty of light comedic moments that make it more than just the well-animated fights. However, Rainbow has no such comedy. It has some nice manly moments, but otherwise it is pretty dark and the fights are much grittier. While dark and sometimes depressing, aside from the many boxing OVAs and Ashita no Joe, Rainbow is the only other full-length series to get your boxing fix.
Love is in the air for three friends. A love triangle has formed between softball player Minatsu, her classmate Shu, and Naoto, an up-and-coming boxer. However, to make things more complicated, Naoto is also in love with Maria, Minatsu’s alter ego she used to disguise herself to escape from some evildoers. So will someone get knocked out of the ring in pursuit of love?
While Hajime no Ippo has plenty of romantic sub-plot, this boxing OVA has the romance take the main stage. At times it seems like there is more romance than actual boxing, but this series is kind of like the definition of “sports drama” anime.
For Fans of Weaklings Growing Strong
My Hero Academia
Since he was a child, Izuku Midoriya has wanted nothing more than to manifest a quirk, a newly discovered super power that some people develop, so that he can be a hero. Unfortunately, he was not one of those lucky few. One day, Izuku meets the number one hero and his personal idol, All Might. All Might’s quirk is a unique ability that can be inherited, and he has chosen Izuku to be his successor.
The key similarities between My Hero Academia and Hajime no Ippo is that the two weak main characters go from weak to strong in their own way. In My Hero Academia it happens rather quickly in the plot while Hajime no Ippo focuses on slow growth throughout the series. They get stronger through training, they stumble, learn from it, and continue to grow even stronger.
As a shy and frequently bullied kid, Sena is accustomed to running away. However, after Hiruma, the captain of the American Football team, sees his skill at running, he goes to great lengths to recruit Sena as a running back in order to turn the team’s lackluster record around.
Again, the sports are different, but the plot is incredibly similar. You have two weak main characters that are brought in by a stronger sempai to their new world of sports. Of course, Takamura rescues Ippo and Hiruma just sort of watches, but they both result in dragging those two weak main characters into something that makes them stronger in body and grow as a person.
Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple
After years of reading self-improvement books, “weak legs” Kenichi finally works up the courage to join the karate club. Unfortunately, his school bully challenges him, intent on literally kicking him out. While all hope seemed lost, new classmate Miu invites him to her dojo for training. While he was able to defeat the bully, his new strength attracted the attention of a powerful group of students, and in order to overcome them, he must train in many martial arts styles.
Kenichi is like a super-Hajime no Ippo. While they are both comparably good sports anime, Kenichi transcends just being about boxing and shows off a lot of different martial arts. All that aside, both shows are about weak boys being trained by another and aiming for the pinnacle of their various fighting interests.
For Fans of Coming-of-Age Stories
In order to work on his health, honor student Eiichirou Marou decides to spend his free time playing tennis. There he meets Natsu, another student who is determined to become a professional tennis player due to her love for it. Her passion begins to rub off on him, but as he continues to play, the more fascinated by it he becomes.
While the sports are different, the plot is the same. You take two young, relatively weak people, put them in a sport that slowly starts to entice them. The more they play, the better they get, but also the more they begin to appreciate it and begin to apply the lessons learned in their life outside of the sport.
Great Teacher Onizuka
After becoming reformed from his rough and tumble past as a bike gang leader, Onizuka is looking for a new ambition in life. After witnessing a hot girl falling for her ugly teacher, he decides to become a teacher himself. However, instead of hot girls draping themselves all over him, he just has a group of problem students that the school administration had all but given up on.
Although Onizuka is a fighter, he is not a boxer like Ippo. The real coming-of-age story told in GTO is not of the main character, but of the students. In fact, Onizuka is more like Takamura in Hajime no Ippo in the way that he helps his student foster personal growth while growing very little in his own way.
Hikaru no Go
One day, Shindou Hikaru is rummaging through his grandfather’s attic and finds and old Go board. This board also happens to be possessed by Fujiwara no Sai, a once great Go player that committed suicide. This spirits begs Hikaru to play Go so he can search for his perfect game.
The actual plot of these two series have very little to do with each other. However, the core themes are the same. You have otherwise unremarkable people thrust into a new sport or board game and you watch them grow as they play. While Hikaru no Go has that supernatural element to it and more of a shounen vibe than the occasionally more serious Hajime no Ippo, they both follow young men aiming towards the top.
If we missed any more good anime recommendations for Hajime no Ippo, let us know in the comments section below.