Michi Sonoda planned to give up judo when she ended her middle school years; but with some coaxing from her friend (and fellow judo club member) Sanae Takigawa, the two girls seek to start a new judo club at the high school they end up in, West Aoba High. (An argument over whether it really IS a "new" club at that school itself winds up causing an impromptu bout between Michi and Sanae.) You need three for a club, but fortunately they find their third, a girl named Towa Hiura who, it turns out, has even had some tournament experience. And there's a fourth girl who seems interested in the club...
After the judo scenes in Nagatoro Season Two, doing this one seemed like a natural segue.
The structure of the show reminded me a little of Farewell, My Dear Cramer, even though the sports involved are VERY different. For one thing, there's the fact that people who were in the same club/team in middle school may find themselves rivals in different high schools. That new rivalry is compounded by some unfortunate past business between Towa Hiura, the third member of Michi's "new" (or, according to Sanae, "revived") club, and her former judo clubmate Erika Amane, who's now in a judo club at a different high school, Kasumigaoka High. (Michi's and Erika's clubs at least seem to be friendly rivals- despite an incident involving a misappropriated parfait- and we even see them practicing together.)
Concerning our main cast, Michi herself is cheerful, exuberant (once Sanae gets her back into a judo uniform), and cherub-faced. (But my notes also say that she "can't read a room".) Her friend Sanae is our "glasses girl". Sanae's mother is a little reluctant to sign her permission slip to join the club. (It seems she feels that Sanae's grades in middle school suffered because of her involvement in judo then.) (My main complaint about the show is that I wanted to see more of the girls' home lives/backgrounds than the show manages to show us in 13 episodes; the series should have been longer if necessary to accomplish that. I may come back to this.)
Towa Hiura I've mentioned; her character (so far) is mainly defined by that past tiff with Erika. Erika, for her part, has somewhat mixed feelings about Towa now; but Erika isn't really a bad sort of person.
My favorite character, by far, is Anna Nagumo. She and Michi go way back, but that has mainly been defined by Anna's efforts to get Michi to join her Kendo Club instead of doing judo. We see more of Anna's home life than just about any other character. (Her VA also sings the show's opening song, a rock ballad with a driving beat that works perfectly in this show.) Michi seems to have no desire to give up judo- but SOMEONE may indeed yield, in the end.
Rounding out our "home team" is their coach/adviser, named Shino Natsume. (Michi wanted a coach who was attractive and MALE; well, she got one out of two.) Natsume is maybe a little overcautious about injuries. While this is attributed to Natsume's being injured herself, apparently that had nothing to do with judo. Natsume has to recruit (at least temporarily) one other girl, named Tsumugi Himeno, to get the five girls required for tournaments.
Our girls' tournament experience also reminded me of Cramer, in a way. In Cramer the girls' coach early on exposes her team to a much more experienced team for the "shock value". Here, in Michi's team, only two of the girls have (very limited) tournament experience; one girl is so inexperienced that she's not allowed in the bouts AT ALL, only being used as a placeholder so the team technically has the five members required. And even the two with tournament experience were in bouts that were regulated by weight classes. THIS time, they're in elimination rounds: one member of each 5-girl team faces one member of the opposing team, then the winner fights the next girl of her opposing team, and so on until it's Last Girl(s) Standing. Weight classes are not used here, so our girls (who are pretty average sized except for Michi, who describes herself as a "runt") may find themselves up against... well, opponents with much more formidable physiques. (The show, to its credit, neither insists that its female characters be conventionally "beautiful", nor even that they be "conventionally" feminine.) As for the comparison with Cramer, I'll just say that the girls in both shows came into their contests with, maybe, a wee bit of overconfidence.
Well, the girls are adorable, but as mentioned earlier, I just didn't feel we saw ENOUGH of their personal lives- or maybe more other stuff needed to happen than we were given. Cramer (at least the basic series) was also only 13 episodes, but I got the feeling that there was a lot more "content" in that one than we have here- this one also doesn't delve into as many of the girls' competitions as Cramer did. And yet I can't call this show slow-paced. (I was never bored.) I'm not sure what the problem is, but somehow, I just wanted MORE than we got.
The girls were lovable enough for me to go four stars, even though I was considering only three. The visual designs of some of the characters (Nagumo in particular) were a little unusual too. I did also like the little ties between Towa's (Michi's) team and Erika's- especially the fact that a member of Erika's team helped Michi's team acquire their fifth teammate. And there was, of course, that lively opening song. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: HiDive rates TV-14. Mild violence (well, it IS martial arts after all.) There's some fanservice in the opening titles, but nowhere else in the show.
Version(s) Viewed: HiDive streaming video
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Ippon Again! © 2023 Yuu Muraoka (Akitashoten)/Ippon Again! Production Committee
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