Feb 20, 2020
One Pound Gospel is an often overlooked manga created by world-renowned Rumiko Takahashi, who's best known for Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha--both of which were part of what got me into anime and manga as a teenager, so I almost felt obligated to give One Pound Gospel a try. Unlike most of Takahashi's manga, One Pound Gospel is pretty short, clocking in at only four volumes. It ran from 1987 to 2006 (presumably released at a snail's pace) and was licensed in the US by Viz Media. It was adapted into a single-episode OVA that covers the first couple chapters of the manga.
The story revolves around
Kosaku Hatanaka, a boxer who struggles to maintain his weight (anyone who's familiar with boxing or wrestling knows that staying in the appropriate weight class is an imperative aspect of the sport), and his relationship with a nun by the name of Sister Angela. Right off the bat, if you're not familiar with this manga, the combination of boxing and romance with a nun might make you wonder if this manga is anything like Nacho Libre, but rest assured, this manga is nothing like Nacho Libre (thank god).
There isn't necessarily a major overarching story--the manga is mainly made up of slice of life stories that all follow a very similar formula: Kosaku struggles with losing weight, some drama occurs with Sister Angela, and Kosaku faces off in a boxing match against a formidable opponent. Because each of the stories follows a very similar formula, the story lends itself to repetition pretty quickly, which is unfortunate when considering this series is only four volumes long. And because this is a romantic comedy written by Takahashi, you can bet your sweet bippy there are lots of misunderstandings and situations that could easily be solved with simple communication.
The artwork is vintage Takahashi, and I don't mean that offensively. She's always had a very charming art style, and like a lot of her older works, the art improves as the series goes on. There are some very noticeable bumps in the quality of the artwork because this manga went on hiatus a couple times (based on the gaps in the releases between volumes two, three, and four, I would assume it was on hiatus at least twice) and resumed when Takahashi really found her groove with her art style.
The main cast of characters is likable enough, but not also not terribly interesting. With such a short series, significant character development can't really be expected. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the characters is Sister Angela's internal conflict of either continuing her life as a nun or giving that life up in order to pursue her own personal desires, but other than that, there just isn't a lot of substance here.
One Pound Gospel does have its moments of charm and fun, but due to the repetitive story structure, it does struggle to hold one's attention at times. Those who aren't into boxing may ask, "Is this manga still enjoyable if I don't like boxing?", and to that, I will say this: it's no Hajime no Ippo--that's for sure. What I will say is that it's enjoyable in short bursts, and the story, repetitive as it is, does eventually lead to a conclusion that I felt pretty satisfied with.
If you're a fan of Rumiko Takahashi and want to read everything she's created, this is definitely worth a look. It's reminiscent of Maison Ikkoku in a lot of ways, and it's overall pretty benign. In terms of Takahashi's more overlooked works, it's a hell of a lot more enjoyable than Mermaid Saga. If you aren't a fan of Takahashi's works, however, this manga is hard to recommend. The boxing isn't exciting enough to capture the attention of those who are looking for something to supplement Hajime no Ippo or fill the void left by Ashita no Joe. It's also worth noting that the fourth volume of this manga is surprisingly hard to track down and appears to be out of print (and also difficult to find online scans of), so if you're not a Takahashi fan, then it's not worth the hassle.
Overall, One Pound Gospel is a flawed but charming manga that I, for the most part, enjoyed my time with. However, due to its repetitive nature and surprising inaccessibility, it's hard to recommend to anyone other than die-hard fans of Rumiko Takahashi.
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