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Round 1: The First Step (ラウンド1: ザ •ファースト•ステップ lit. raundo wan, za fāsuto suteppu) is the pilot episode of George Morikawa's popular boxing manga series Fighting Spirit, more popularly known as Hajime no Ippo by fans.
The audience is introduced to Makunouchi Ippo , a young relatively short student working with his widowed mother Makunouchi Hiroko at a seaside fishing boat business. He is shy and noticeably the very opposite of outgoing. As the episode begins Ippo is invited to a movie with three other classmates, and offer he rejects upon remembering his night shift at the family fishing boat business. Upon his classmates' leave Ippo overhears them calling him pathetic and wimpy. It is then revealed when Ippo travels home from school that he is constantly bullied by Umezawa Masahiko and his two friends, who stop Ippo from returning home every day to beat him up incessantly. Routinely, they stop Ippo from returning home that day as well. After giving Ippo a nosebleed Umezawa ridicules Ippo by telling him he stank "like worms" (a reference to his family business), and since he stank so much his mother must stink as well. This enraged Ippo, who glares at Umezawa before receiving another kick in the stomach by the latter.
As Ippo falls backwards he is caught by Takamura Mamoru, who chases the bullies off with little effort. After witnessing the scene, Ippo comments on Takamura's strength before passing out completely, waking up in Kamogawa Boxing Gym. It is here that Takamura allows Ippo to have one shot at a punching bag by sticking a crudely drawn picture of Umezawa on the fabric. After some stance advice from Takamura, Ippo punches the bag with all his strength and, much to everyone's surprise, causes it to fly backwards violently, in the process tearing the skin right off his hand. As he is taken into the first-aid room with Takamura, other gymmates comment on how Ippo's injuries were the mark of a hard puncher. Despite Takamura's encouragement Ippo is still unwilling to fight the bullies, so upon his leave Takamura lends him tapes of boxers from the past, tapes that Ippo watches later that night. It is here that Ippo's curiosity for strength and boxing grows.
Late for school the next morning, Ippo still stops by a convenience store to purchase a copy of the Monthly Boxing Fan magazine. Inside he finds an article on Takamura, and his love for boxing grows stronger. Ippo went as far as to flag Takamura down on his early morning roadwork routines to express his want to become a pro-boxer, thoughts that Takamura quickly becomes enraged over due to his assumption that Ippo is underestimating the sport. Breaking down Ippo claims that he truly wants to become strong like Takamura. Giving in, the latter tells Ippo to follow him to a large tree. Here Takamura demonstrates a series of expertly executed jabs to catch ten leaves in his palms effortlessly. Handing said leaves to Ippo, Takamura states that Ippo must perform the exact same before he is allowed to be trained.
The episode ends with Ippo's disbelief at his current task.
- Jab (introduced)
- "I hate people who pick on weaker guys, but guys who don't defend themselves at all... piss me off even more!" - Takamura Mamoru
- "What is strength? What does it feel like to be strong?!" - Makunouchi Ippo