One-Pound Gospel, Vol. 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Ai Kano

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Rumiko Takahashi
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+
Release Date: Now Available

One-Pound of something too good to put down.

What can be said about One-Pound Gospel that hasn’t been said before when it was released the first time around so long ago? It was literally a work of art that stood out among the very brilliant Rumiko Takahashi’s other work such as Ranma ½ or the action/fantasy epic that is Inuyasha. In short, One-Pound Gospel was a truly memorable and endearing manga series that, thanks to popular demand, VIZ Media has released yet another printing of this enjoyable story of a boxer with a hearty appetite and a pretty nun who believes in him.

Personally speaking, as a reader who picked this one up in Japan under the title “Ici-pondo no Fukuin,” the first volume is by far one of the best beginnings. We meet Kosaku Hatanaka, a young boxer with much promise despite the fact that he just can’t stay from fatty foods. In a profession that demands a certain weight requirement be maintained in order to officially step foot in a ring, Kosaku has no willpower and will jog his way into ramen noodle stand or a Korean BBQ restaurant. His coach, an older gentleman with a bad ticker, is already yanking hair out his head in frustration.

Aside from his obvious eating disorder, Kosaku also has another weakness. You see, he’s a slightly religious fellow who follows the Catholic faith but the real reason he drops into church for confession is to see the very lovely Sister Angela. The cute nun is considered a novice but she is still a servant of God and it becomes apparent that Kosaku likes Sister Angela. He even makes his feeling known to her … although the nun’s reaction is not quite enthusiastic as Kosaku’s admission of adoration for her.

Yet even after that unfortunate incident, Sister Angela believes in Kosaku and prays that he win his fight in the ring as well as off it. She believes he’s able to overcome temptation but, sadly, Kosaku is one of those guys who are just too weak to put up a good fight against tasty treats. It’s almost a miracle that the young gluttonous fighter is able to walk out of his first fight in a long time.

In the other chapters, Kosaku becomes an embarrassment to the coach and the sport of professional boxing to the point that it is becoming increasingly difficult to even find an opponent that would take the young man serious. It isn’t until he accidentally knocks a prizefighter on his rump that he gains another challenger and another chance at building a reputation for himself. Kosaku’s real motivation, though, comes from Sister Angela. He pushes himself because he really doesn’t want to let her down and, in turn, the Sister pushes the young man to try his very best.

In another instance, a welterweight contender pays Mukaida’s Gym a visit just to persuade a featherweight like Kosaku to drop out of the bout against him. Yet instead of seeing this as an opportunity to move up in the division, Kosaku simply sees this as a chance to eat more of what he likes. Like his last opponent, the welterweight fighter sees Kosaku as a waste of talent and an insult to the sport he so loves. They also think that Kosaku could be a champion if he really put some effort.

The true strength of One-Pound Gospel comes from the storytelling and art itself. Takahashi – as we already know – is a master storyteller as well as a worthy artist. She does not flesh out her characters through background stories but rather through their actions and by the end of the first chapter you just can’t help but like them. There’s a love story here but there’s more to it than just that. Takahashi even makes boxing interesting while staying technical and true to the professional circuit. The art itself is uniquely Takahashi’s and it’s actually really good and works well for the series.

Anyone who has missed out on a chance of reading One-Pound Gospel is in for a real treat thanks to this newly released edition of the first volume. It’s a wholesome, likeable and beautifully written and artistically pleasing piece of work that made the series such a wonderful hit back in the day. I can sing its praises all day but I much rather let it speak for itself. Like a well-placed uppercut, it will most definitely connect and you’ll feel it well after you put down this first volume.

 

REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
A beautiful and inspirational work that can only come from Rumiko Takahashi, One-Pound Gospel is hard to put down and easy to love. If you read it before then you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t, then you’ll see why we picked this one as an early winner of our Editor’s Choice Award.

ART: A+
Takahashi’s art has always stood out whether you love her work in Inuyasha or Ranma ½. The art here is downright gorgeous if you ask me.

OVERALL: A+
With over 200+ pages, One-Pound Gospel’s first volume will win your heart if this is your first time reading it. Those who remember it fondly would still be happy to own this edition either way. Even if boxing is not your thing, there’s a deeper and more interesting story here that makes this July’s first real Must Have.

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