Aug 21, 2017
Zero (Manga) add (All reviews)
YesterdaysJoe (All reviews)
Any boxing manga will immediately be compared to the most famous one: Hajime no Ippo. I'm gonna say this once and for all to probably only a few dozen people who will read this review: Hajime no Ippo is ridiculously overrated. But I get it, it's good, it does everything right, and neatly follows the rules and tropes of the sports genre. But it barely manages to get out of the shadow of the one that came before all of them: Ashita no Joe. Ashita no Joe set the bar and made the rules, and frankly, no one has yet managed to get close to dethroning it. It's still more original and better than anything more recent, as addictive as they may be. Hajime no ippo follows the rules, and therefore, loses.

Taiyou Matsumoto on the other hand, doesn't follow the rules. He couldn't care less about conventions of the medium. This is a guy with style. Just like his characters, he likes to do it wrong. The pages are way too cluttered, but if you compare it to another one his works Hanaotoko, you can tell he deliberately changes his style to suit a more serious or comical type of storytelling. The clutter is part of his unique style and he can bend and shape it to enhance everything he tries to convey.

On the other hand, as unique as the art may be, Zero still bares the stamp of the inescapable legacy of Ashita no Joe. But the artist realizes this, and manages to copy what Hajime no ippo, to my eyes, failed at copying: the spirit. The more you get to the end of the story, you can't help but be thrown back to the iconic match between Yabuki Joe and Carlos Mendoza. Readers of both stories will know what I mean. But this is not a copy cat at work. He's paying homage to Joe and by extension, to manga itself. These pages are dripping with love for the sport and for manga as an artform. Master. Excuse me for getting sentimental.