A good number of you are familiar with the anime installments of Hajime no Ippo that span over 100 episodes which debuted back in 2000. However, the original manga debuted back in the fall of 1989 in the pages of Shounen Magazine, is still in publication upon uploading of this list, and presently stands at over 110 volumes!
Hajime no Ippo tells the story of Ippo Makunouchi. who goes from bully victim to Japan’s hardest hitter. After being inspired by Mike Tyson’s story of how he was bullied in his childhood to becoming the baddest man on the planet, Ippo decides to embark on his own boxing career and adopts his fighting style. After showing he has the heart and can put in the hard work, his coach decides to make him a champion.
Though Hajime no Ippo may be one of the most popular boxing/fighting/martial arts series of all time, there are plenty of other quality manga out there that may be for fans to check out. Some are about oppressed victims finding the strength to fight back, some are about the spirit of competition, and others are purely about the combat. So let’s get into six manga that fans of Hajime no Ippo are likely to enjoy!
Similar Manga to Hajime no Ippo
1. One Pound Gospel (1 Pound no Fukuin)
- Mangaka: Rumiko Takahashi
- Genre: Sports, Romance, Comedy, Seinen
- Volumes: Jul 24, 1987 – Dec 21, 2006
- Publication Dates: 4
Kousaku Hatanaka has the potential to be the best boxer in the world. He won the high school championships and his road to becoming a champion in the pros should be paved in gold. Unfortunately, his occasional mishaps of not making weight have disqualified him from matches and he jumps between weight classes. But if in the case he does make weight, he pigs out after a weigh-in and it ends up negatively affecting his performance (to the point he vomits in the ring!). Coming in to help Kousaku is Sister Angela, a young nun who befriends him but their blossoming feelings for each other put themselves at odds with their professions.
Hajime no Ippo does feature two characters that go through severe weight control, Miyata and Takamura. While their situations are handled more maturely, One Pound Gospel’s portrayal has a more comedic punch (no pun intended) to it. The art style is very consistent with Rumiko Takahashi’s so fans of her other works can immediately recognize it. The fights take a more Ashita no Joe like approach by being more brawling oriented as opposed to being technical. They are excellently grounded and not as gimmicky as Takahashi-sensei’s other action titles such as Ranma and Inuyasha. Plus, the romantic tensions between Sister Angela and Kousaku are very similar to that of Ippo’s and Kumi’s but for different reasons. So if you want to read something by Takahashi that has her usual comedic and romantic tropes but has more senses of realism, this might be the manga for you!
- Mangaka: Jun Watanabe
- Genre: Sports, Comedy, Drama, Seinen
- Volumes: 10
- Publication Dates: Jan 29, 2007 – Aug 24, 2009
RRR, or short for Rock ‘n’ Roll Ricky, is the unlikely story of an aspiring musician, Rikitaro Iwamaki. The good news is he has a record deal ready for him to sign. The bad news, he needs to lose his beer gut so he takes up boxing to lose the weight. Around the same time, his sister loses her life in an accident and accepts custody of her son, Aomori. Unfortunately, fate has other plans and Rikitaro finds himself aiming for a pro-boxing career at the age of 27 at the insistence of his trainer, who happens to be a former world champion.
Like Hajime no Ippo, it heavily emphasizes on realism and some of the technical aspects of boxing. Not only does it cover the physical, but the mental and most importantly, the emotional demand that boxing requires. In order to succeed, sacrifices are necessary, and RRR is the best manga when it comes to portraying that. Though 27 might seem like a young age to some people (which also happens to be the same age of death as many legendary rock musicians), it is considerably old in combat sports (in real life, many boxers, especially in lower weight classes, tend to retire by the time they’re 30!). But with hard work, dedication, and having the right people around you, anything is possible.
3. Ganbare Genki
- Mangaka: Yuu Koyama
- Genre: Shounen, Sports
- Volumes: 28
- Publication Dates: 1976 - 1981
Upon the start of the series, 5-year-old Genki Horiguchi just wants to be like his father, a boxer attempting to make a comeback. His widowed journeyman father takes him from one city to another to take whatever fight he can get. At the same time, Genki trains with his father and enters matches for children his age, and finds considerable success. One day, his father fights a hot prospect named Kenji Seki. He makes weight, gets in the ring, but unfortunately loses the bout and dies. Vowing to avenge his father, Genki dedicates the rest of his life to boxing and to settle the score with Seki, even at the cost of leaving behind his remaining relatives.
This manga is a great representation of those who dedicate to the sport their whole life 24/7. In Hajime no Ippo, a character who shares most of Genki’s traits is Miyata, who is the son of a boxer who started his training from childhood. Though Miyata’s father never died in the ring, he suffered a devastating loss but uses that to motivate him. The manga also realistically shows how cutting weight can have disastrous effects. Maybe for some people, losing 10 pounds may not be a big deal but when it comes to combat sports, especially for fighters in smaller weight classes, can really mess up the body. When Genki was 5, he was trying to imitate his father’s weight cutting and he ended up malnourished showing that growing children shouldn't do such drastic things.
The fights are entertaining in their own way. It does have the same technical detail as Hajime no Ippo, but also has a distinct sense of drama and emotion. You feel the pain the characters go through, the trauma, the sacrifice, the goals, and the dreams.
Any Manga Like Hajime no Ippo?
4. Grappler Baki (Baki the Grappler)
- Mangaka: Keisuke Itagaki
- Genre: Action, Sports, Martial Arts, Shounen
- Volumes: 113 (as of Dec 2016)
- Publication Dates: Oct 1991 - Present
Trained from birth to be the ultimate opponent for his father, Baki Hanma sets out to become the ultimate fighter. In his journeys, Baki will face masters of other martial arts and learn from others. His training can go as far as fighting the equivalent to a Sasquatch or imagining himself fighting a giant praying mantis.
Though Grappler Baki can have some really ridiculous characters (such as Baki’s father being immune to every disease and radiation), Hajime no Ippo somewhat shares this quality with Takamura being capable of fighting a bear, or the young Kamogawa shattering the ribs of a boxer that outweighs him by 30 pounds. For the most part, the fights are heavily grounded and embrace the spirit of classic martial arts cinema such as Enter the Dragon and Bloodsport. Since Grappler Baki debuted two years before the UFC (though other forms of MMA were already in Japan and Brazil), it sticks to the old roots of style vs. style.
Just like how Hajime no Ippo takes influences from real life boxers, there are characters in Grappler Baki who take inspiration from real life martial artists. In Baki, there are fighters who are inspired by Brazilian Jiujitsu fighter Rickson Gracie, Kyokushin Karate founder Mas Oyama, Pro-wrestler Antonio Inoki, Greco-Roman medalist Aleksandr Karelin, and the Greatest Muhammad Ali. Sometimes it goes as far as portraying Miyamoto Musashi and Che Guevara! So if you want old school style of MMA that is balls to the walls, Grappler Baki is the manga for you.
5. Ashita no Joe
- Mangaka: Ikki Kajiwara (Story), Tetsuya Chiba (Art)
- Genre: Sports, Slice of life, Drama, Shounen
- Volumes: 20
- Publication Dates: Jan 1, 1968 – May 13, 1973
Joe Yabuki is a teenage orphan with a huge chip on his shoulder. But when he finds himself in one of Tokyo’s slums, he immediately gets into trouble. While in juvie, Joe decides to take up boxing after getting into a fight with Rikiishi, an imprisoned boxer. Under the training of Danpei Tange, Joe uses the basics of the one-two mixed with his natural brawling prowess to settle the score with Rikiishi in the ring once and for all.
You can say that Joe and Ippo as people and as boxers are polar opposites. However, Sendo, one of Ippo’s opponents, shares many qualities with Joe. For starters, they were both natural brawlers prior to becoming boxers and bring those traits into their fighting styles. Plus, the children of their neighborhoods worship them as role models (despite the fact they are less of a role model than Charles Barkley). The boxing in this manga compared to Hajime no Ippo is much more brutal. While Hajime no Ippo is excellently technical, Ashita no Joe’s matches are more of a brawl. Every punch thrown is with the worst intentions. In some instances, Joe is not afraid to fight dirty while Ippo will always play by the rules.
Both manga are character studies in their own distinct ways. Both of them come from humble backgrounds but they have their own paths. Joe is an orphan and had to take care of himself. A lot of his bad attitude even remains after he gets out of juvie. There are instances he conducts himself to the point that he makes Mike Tyson look like a saint. Last, both manga also delve into the consequences a boxing career can have on the athlete such as the harsh weight control, and the possibility of getting brain damage.
6. Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi
- Mangaka: Syun Matsuena
- Genre: Action, Martial Arts, Comedy, Ecchi, Drama, Shounen
- Volumes: 61
- Publication Dates: Aug 9, 2002 – Sept 17, 2014
Kenichi Shirahama is the weakest kid at school, so weak that even the other weak kids can whip him. Hoping to get stronger, he joins the school’s karate team but the members use him as a human practice dummy. Thankfully, he makes friends with the new girl, Miu Fuurinji. But don’t let her innocent looks (and her voluptuous figure) fool you. She happens to be a master martial artist and resides in a dojo that is home to masters of various martial artists. From there, Kenichi moves into the Ryozanpaku Dojo to learn from the masters.
Kenichi is the old school MMA equivalent to Hajime no Ippo. Like Ippo, Kenichi starts out as a bullied teen. But through hard work and perseverance, they learn to master their crafts. While Hajime no Ippo is competition based, Kenichi is action oriented where he must fight other teenage martial artists like it’s an old school gang war. Though Kenichi is an action Shounen manga, the fights are reality oriented compared to Naruto and DBZ. For example, if Kenichi fights a boxer, instead of trading punches, he can use leg kicks. Or when fighting against a takedown artist, he can sprawl to stop their momentum. Like in boxing, styles make fights and Kenichi does a great job of conveying this.
For some shout outs, we have Katsu, Rokudenashi Blues, and Tough. Almost virtually, no one can doubt how imaginative anime and manga can be. Dragon Ball Z, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Naruto have unique action sequences that stand out with how destructive and unpredictable they can be. But sometimes, fight sequences in anime and manga don’t have to be over-the-top by blowing up mountains or leveling cities. With Hajime no Ippo, it can be about how an in-fighter and an out-boxer face each other. How does a Mike Tyson fight a Muhammad Ali? Or how does Floyd Mayweather match up with Conor McGregor? Of course, they don’t do it with Kamehameha's or Sharingan's, they do it with their fists! But it’s not about using their fists, it is also about using their brain and conditioning.
In addition to Hajime no Ippo, other manga we listed do share a bit of these qualities. Though MMA is still a young and evolving sport, some of the MMA inspired titles we shared were released during a time (such as Baki) when the sport was still new and was based on style vs. style. Even so, the principles still apply and the manga does a very good job of presenting that in a very realistic sense. So sometimes, realism in manga and anime doesn’t hurt, and that’s what makes Hajime no Ippo and these other titles appealing to their fans.