Immediately after Ryuuji Takane won the Champion Carnival, the U.S. Junior Champion Black Shaft appeared, and challenged the best Japan has to offer, just before the World Tournament is about to happen. Now Ryuuji, Takeshi Kawai, Kazuki Shinatora, Ishimatsu Katori, and Superstar Jun Kenzaki have to prove to not only Black Shaft, but the world, that they are truly world-class boxers before the World Tournament starts. But Shaft is not recruiting boxers for his challenge, but instead gets a life-timer criminal from Death Row, the leader of the Great Angels, one of the toughest gangs in America, a mysterious woman, and the "Dark Emperor of the South". Also, Shaft negotiates with Don Juliano, the Italian Junior Champion, just in case...
Ryuji conquers the Jr. Japan circuits. But before he can go on the world stage, Black Shaft of the US challenges the Japenese to a tune up fight. It will be 5 on 5 between team Japan, consisting of Ryuji, and his rivals in the tournament such as Takeshi, Katori, Kazuki, and Jun against Shaft and fighters of his own choosing. Since the Japanese barely finished their tournament, they of course need time to recover and train. Jun’s arm has recovered but Ryuji is starting to have injury problems of his own from the tournament from repeatedly using his boomerang. Despite that, he endures
it and takes the challenge.
Black Shaft on the other hand, does not even recruit boxers. He recruits adults and all types of weirdos telling team Japan he wants a street fight and thinks of them as a joke. Black Shaft, recruits Monster Jail, a death row inmate for multiple murders; the mysterious and charming Miss Charnel from Chicago; Mick, the leader of the New York branch of the infamous Hell’s Angels; and NB Forrest a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, who was renamed Mr. Whitey in the anime and portrayed as just an unserious womanizer. So now Team Japan must fight these thugs in the ring and will do all they can to maintain the honor of their country and their people and put down the motley crue of an American team.
OK, as if the fights themselves were weird enough, they got a weirder cast of characters in this season. I’m so glad that Kurumada recognizes America’s diversity here and uses it very creatively. To paraphrase Don King, “Only in Japan, can we have a manga, where a KKK Grand Wizard and a black man on the locker room.” I say it’s either stupid, or funny. I find it to be funny personally. I can’t believe Japan’s Jr. boxing commission or whoever sanctions the fights allowed these fights to happen.
But other things that really bothered me were changes from the manga. Such as Katori and Kazuki easily beat their opponents in a matter of seconds. Probably not a page or 2. While in the anime, it went to DBZ anime street where they make the fights longer and Katori and Kazuki have a much harder time with their opponents to the point they may actually lose. Also, when Kazuki was fighting Mick in the anime, they added this filler story where the Hells Angels were raiding Kazuki’s family’s house which I thought was a waste when they could have easily gotten to the shadow story arc (which should be next season if they do make one). The shadow organization is briefly present in the anime, but it ends where the USA and Japan fights ends and I hope a new season is made soon.
Granted this season aired 2 years after the first one, there is really no distinctive improvement with the quality. Still the same. The character designs are still faithful to the manga and so on. If you saw my review of season 1, anything I said in that one can be applied here too. So I’ll talk about the fights again. Granted the fights are still based on super powered boxing, but some things I really liked about it were the angles and the shots. Especially when Kazuki does his final rolling thunder against Mick and when Jun uppercuts NB Forrest was awesome too. It really made it more dramatic and represents that it’s truly Shounen Action, and not necessarily boxing.
The previous opening theme was the same, but the changed the ending theme which is titled Shining Like Gold. The music isn’t hard rock or anything intense or adrenaline pumping. It’s more calm sounding and has a blues like sound with the harmonica. Instead, it emphasizes more on innocence and youth which I think helps brings more of a balance to the series than just being a juiced up version of Ashita no Joe.
The voice cast from the original season also comes back. Anything I said in the first review can mostly be applied here.
All I can say is, the casual or even hardcore anime fan that is not Japanese will still have trouble recognizing the significance this anime has culturally because it’s so old and even though the anime is new, retains the old school feel to it with the characterization, art, and story telling being all so simple. I feel the only non-Japanese fans that are going to like this anime are probably fans of Saint Seiya because the style of it is of course similar and some of the story arcs in the manga of Ringu ni Kakero would later influence Saint Seiya. Like they will have outside boxing fights with evil organizations. Like the fights after Team America, the Japanese team will fight an organization called the Shadow which use boxing as an assassination art and they will also fight another weird mystical organization known as Ashura.
And in the later half in the manga, each representive from each country will fight Team Greece and Greece’s members use the same name as the Gods. And the when they become pros, the World Champion is named Jesus Christ. And he’s from the Netherlands and does not at all look like the Jesus Christ we know. So yeah, on one hand, I can understand why most people will not like it. But no matter how much you may not like it, you can’t deny if it weren’t for Ringu ni Kakero, there would be no Dragon Ball Z; no Bleach; no Yuu Yuu Hakusho; no Naruto; no Slam Dunk; Shounen Jump would just simply not be where it is today. I guess the manga is entertaining when you try to see things in a Japanese perspective that it was something new. But in a western perspective, you’ll be freaked out and probably offended by how the nationalities are portrayed. But the manga in terms of story still has structure and organization and the characters are diverse. I say the premesis overall is of course screwed up both anime and manga wise, but still somehow iconic to the Japanese