Review by: Ai Kano
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Rumiko Takahashi
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Now available
Pound for pound, still the undisputed champion of boxing-themed manga.
Rumiko Takahashi … I love you.
How is it that you can come up with a simple theme involving a gluttonous rising boxer and an attractive novice nun and turn it into something so deeply compelling and utterly moving like One-Pound Gospel? It just seems that with each volume these two characters find whole new ways of staying interesting and you just can’t help but be swept up by its charming humor and excellent characters. It’s no wonder that VIZ Media brought this series back to us again.
Part of the reason we loved it the first time around, of course, are the characters. No matter how many times Kosaku gets slapped on the head by the coach for sneaking off to eat a snack during weight training it will still put a smile on my face. In Volume 3 of the series, Kosaku finds himself the target of food poisoning (the result of snacking on an old box lunch he found) but also a teenager named Yoshihiko who sees Kosaku as a chance to stay in Tokyo to become a prize fighter. You see, Yoshihiko made a deal with his parents that if he knocked down the strongest boxer in Tokyo then he could stay in the city to pursue a career in boxing.
Reluctantly, the coach takes the teen into his gym only to find that Yoshihiko is constantly taking swings at Kosaku who is so completely absorbed in his fascination with Sister Angela that the boy’s punches never connect. Yoshihiko mistakes these misses as true skill and follows Kosaku like a puppy in hopes that one day he will catch him off guard and land a punch. He even finds out Kosaku’s weakness for food and attempts to use it in order to finally get a chance to knock him out. There’s a hilarious moment when Yoshihiko locks Kosaku in a room filled with junk food as the temptation drives Kosaku nuts.
In the following chapter, Christmas draws near and Kosaku wants to spend it with Sister Angela as his first official date with her. When he brings it up, Sister Angela does accept his invitation … to Mother Abbess’ dissatisfaction. At the same time, Kosaku’s next fight is announced and it’s an eight-rounder against an opponent said to be quite a promising contender with a rather impressive record. Along with the coach, Kosaku attempts to sneak a peek at this promising pugilist only to discover that the gym is connected to a Mexican restaurant that specializes in tacos.
It turns out that the cook is Kosaku’s next opponent (with the unfortunate boxing handle of Takos Hachiro) and – to the coach’s dismay – befriends Kosaku after the big lug eats one of his tacos and asks for another. It turns out that Tako share something else … they both attend mass. Taking Tako to his own church, Kosaku introduces his new friend to the Sisters and it is here that Tako shows off his tattoo of the Virgin Mary on his chest. Mother Abbess makes it pretty clear that if Kosaku hits his opponent in the general direction of the tattoo then his is forbidden to spend Christmas with Sister Angela. To the Mother, it’s like hitting the Virgin herself.
During the bout, however, Kosaku sticks with his promise despite the pummeling he takes from Tako. It’s clear to Sister Angela that Kosaku is willing to go to great lengths to not only spend Christmas with her but also to never wanting to let her down. This act also confuses the novice nun and maybe she does have feeling for him that have her questioning her devotion to her faith. This becomes clearer in the next chapter in the volume where Kosaku meets a young girl that – much like him – sneaks off to corner to eat. Kosaku sees a kindred spirit in the girl named Kana and befriends her but every time they’re together Sister Angela gets the wrong impression. Is Sister Angela jealous? Does it mean she actually has genuine romantic feelings for Kosaku?
We get an answer from Sister Angela herself when she notices that Kosaku and Kana’s relationship isn’t what she thought it was despite catching the pair in awkward situations. There’s a reason Kana escaped her house to stay with Kosaku and there are moments when the lovely girl does feel like the only one that can understand her is the young boxer. I won’t go into too much detail about this chapter because this one actually surprised me.
Volume 3 of One-Pound Gospel shouldn’t be a surprise to manga readers who have been following the series, however. It’s still a good series that knows how to maintain all the things we loved about the first volume. This one is easily one of my favorite volumes so far and it’s mainly because of the growing admiration I have for Kosaku and Sister Angela’s faith in each another.
I said it once and I’ll say it again: I love you, Rumiko Takahashi.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
An aspiring teenage boxer sees Kosaku as a worthy target and despite being totally oblivious of things around him, Kosaku ends up being the man the youngster admires the most. He also befriends his next opponent, a boxer from Mexico, loves tacos and helps a young woman. It’s also interesting to see his relationship with Sister Angela become something so much deeper.
The art is as endearing as ever and it’s hard not to love Takahashi’s lovely characters. There’s nudity in this one but it’s never done as exploitation for the sake of fan service.
Once again, One-Pound Gospel had me at Page 1. The chapters in this particular volume are completely enjoyable and thus making it one of my favorites in the series so far. Really, a story this good shouldn’t be missed by anyone who has a fondness for great characters and solid storytelling.