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Manga / "Ippon" Again!

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The Aobanishi judo clubnote 

Towa Hiura: Amane-san... judo is so cool.
Erika Amane: Nah, not quite. It's the best.

After losing her final match in middle school and with nothing to show for her three years of effort, Michi Sonoda decides to retire from judo. She enters Aobanishi High School with Sanae Takigawa, her middle school teammate and best friend, hoping to live a normal and fulfilling high school life and find a boyfriend. However in the school's dojo, she finds that Towa Hiura, the girl who beat Michi in her final match, has also entered Aobanishi. Michi's passion for judo is soon reignited and the three girls decide to revive Aobanishi's dormant judo club.

With their P.E. teacher, Shino Natsume, as their advisor and bolstered by the transfer of Anna Nagumo, Michi's childhood friend, from the kendo club, the girls set out to make a name for themselves. Along the way they'll make new friends, meet new rivals, and always strive to try their hardest with a positive attitude because after all, judo is awesome.

"Ippon" Again! (Mou Ippon!) is a shonen series by Yuu Muraoka, running in Weekly Shonen Champion from 2018-2023 before being transferred to Akita Shoten's Manga Cross digital service. A 13-episode anime adaptation produced by Bakken Record, aired in Spring 2023.

"Ippon" Again! contains examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Michi at the very beginning of the series.
  • Academic Athlete: Both Sanae and Nagumo are among the top of their class academically.
  • The Ace: Every school has their ace and Towa is Aobanishi's with Nagumo as a secondary ace. Among the schools themselves, Tachikawa Academy is the clear number one with a team composed almost entirely of ace-level talent.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Occasionally, other characters will get a turn in the spotlight. Chapter 124 focuses primarily on Hakata Minami, kendo club member Sano is the main character of chapters 196-197, chapter 202 focuses on Amane, and chapter 230 is largely about the managers for Tachikawa and Sakae.
  • Always Someone Better: Kozue always felt overwhelmed by, and stuck in the shadow of, her older sister Tsumugi as Tsumugi is a pretty and popular extrovert while Kozue is a sullen introvert. She originally took up judo hoping to have something she could feel she was better at than her sister. She finally accomplishes this in the third year Kinshuki when, as Aobanishi's vanguard and with Tsumugi watching in the stands, she singlehandedly eliminates their first round opponent.
  • Arrogant Judo Girl: Hana Odagiri is definitely smug and can back it up. But it's as equally Played for Laughs as her teammates and senpai are quick to knock her down a peg when she needs it.
  • Badass Boast: After Aobanishi is eliminated from the first year's Kinshuki, Nagumo declares that she'll participate next year and as the team's vanguard will take down a hundred opponents. She gets her chance after Michi breaks her arm and nearly makes good on it in the first round, eliminating four out of Shuumei's five members by herself before she's finally defeated. She manages to defeat six opponents in total by the end of the tournament.
  • Bifauxnen: Natsume is very much of the "handsome and princely woman" type. So much so that during her high school days she was repeatedly voted as "Mr. Tachikawa" and had her share of female admirers.
  • The Big Guy: Heavyweights are intimidating and a lot of teams have one. Aobanishi acquires their own during second year in the form of Minori Tsukasa, an ex-sumo practitioner.
  • Blood Knight: Amane seems to live for little other than judo and fighting strong opponents while also being one of the strongest and most admired judoka in the entire series. The only thing that comes close to judo in importance is Towa who is also one of the few people able to give Amane a run for her money.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Sachi from Hakata Minami is tall, strong, and nearly as genki as Michi. Tachikawa's Emma Durand as well. Unsurprisingly, they're both among Michi's closest friends outside of Aobanishi.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Frequently seen among the various judoka, most prominently with Sachi and Tsukasa.
  • But Not Too Foreign: It's a downplayed example but it's mentioned once that Tsukasa's grandfather is Russian making her at least a quarter Russian herself.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In the first chapter, Nagumo brags about Michi's flexibility and how she was able to get so low in a limbo contest back in elementary school. Michi's flexibility turns out to be a result of hypermobility which allows her to initially escape Odagiri's attempts at getting her in an armbar.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Midoriko Senoo, from Kasumigaoka, is a mild example. Compared to most other girls in the series she's definitely a little weirder and is referred to as being "avant-garde."
  • Commuting on a Bus: Himeno is a third year and so retires from the club after the first Kinshuki tournament before eventually graduating. She still continues to make occasional appearances as a supporting character, however, due to her younger sister joining the team when she enters high school at the beginning of second year.
  • Competition Freak: Nagumo treats most things as a competition and strives to be nothing less than the best in everything she does. As a result she's not only a top level athlete but she's also academically strong and was even president of the student council in middle school.
  • Cool Big Sis: Himeno, as a third year, naturally falls into this role for the rest of the judo club. Seeing as she has a younger sister, she's also literally this.
  • Cool Teacher: Natsume is in general calm, supportive, and understanding. She cares about the health and safety of her students and is always there to offer advice or encouragement. As such, she's admired by her students and it's very clear that she admires and cares for them just as much.
  • Cosplay Otaku Girl: Jinno is revealed to secretly be one.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Aobanishi is on the receiving end of this when they go up against Tachikawa in the third round of the first year Kinshuki. Odagiri, Tachikawa's vanguard, nearly eliminates Aobanishi singlehandedly and while Towa is able beat her, she winds up losing to Tachikawa's next fighter, Emma Durand.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Takanashi is initially fairly arrogant and dismissive of Michi in their first match. After losing to her in a second match, however, Takanashi's attitude does a complete 180 and she becomes one of Michi's closest non-Aobanishi friends and her most enthusiastic supporter.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: In her initial appearances Amane is quite cold but after her match with Towa and getting to know the Aobanishi girls she warms up a lot. Although her attitude was affected by the fact she tends to be way grumpier when trying to make weight.
  • The Dreaded: Ryou Takanashi is a Played for Laughs example for Kozue. Having lost to her in seconds at a previous tournament, and watching her defeat Michi in Aobanishi's first meeting with Toutaidai Sakae in the team tournament, the next day she finds out she'll be facing Ryou in the individual competition. At first she's so petrified that she runs away for ten seconds, before the referee brings a halt to it and issues her a penalty.
  • Eager Rookie: Once Nagumo joins the judo club, she's quick to want to start throwing and participating in tournaments, so much so that even Michi is taken aback and says she's like a little kid.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: It's not uncommon to see characters and teams showing up in passing before later being given more importance. Toutaidai Sakae, for example, appears as early as the first tournament in the series but doesn't start getting spotlighted until after the first Kinshuki. Likewise Sora, a first year member of Kasumigaoka during the third year chapters, originally showed up in a flashback around 140 chapters before she became a proper character.
  • The Eeyore: Kozue is a moody and gloomy introvert who doesn't deal well with extroverted types and tends to easily, and vocally, fall into negative thinking. It's made worse by the fact her sister is outgoing, pretty, and popular. Her attempts at breaking out of her shell and trying to get past her gloominess (at least a little bit) are a major story focus of second year.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: A flashback to Natsume and Inui's first meeting in high school shows Inui, and a few other girls, giving Natsume chocolate for Valentine's Day and Inui is fairly obviously crushing on her into the present day.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Kotoko Nogizaka from Hakata Minami rarely opens them. Goes with her general quiet and deadpan personality.
  • Eyes Out of Sight: Seijou's Mao Kurogane always has her eyes covered by thick bangs.
  • Face of a Thug: Haibara, from Sayama. She's actually a fairly calm and pleasant, albeit serious, girl though.
  • Fictional Video Game: There's a popular in-universe otome game called Ikenai School Days that many characters are seen playing.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Odagiri is originally from Saitama but doesn't realize until their match that Towa is the same girl who beat her during a practice match back in middle school.
  • Friendly Rival: Aobanishi has a knack for forming close bonds with various schools, viewing them equally as treasured friends and fierce rivals. They tend to be closest with Tachikawa Academy, Hakata Minami, and fellow Saitama schools Kasumigaoka, Sayama, and Toutaidai Sakae.
  • Funny Foreigner: Emma Durand, a French exchange student attending Tachikawa, is a downplayed example. It's mentioned at times that her Japanese can be odd but her goofiness is due more to her naturally upbeat personality. She is also, hands down, the strongest judoka in the series.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: As she wants her students to get the most out of their three years, Natsume is very insistent on trying to prevent these due to an incident involving a friend back when she was in high school. It's the main reason she keeps Nagumo sidelined during the Kinshuki as she'd only started practicing judo a few weeks before the tournament. More than one judoka is forced to miss a tournament due to injury: notably Midoriko sitting out the second year Rookie Tournament due to a foot injury and both Michi and Odagiri missing the second year Kinshuki because of arm injuries.
  • Genki Girl: Michi, Michi, dear lord Michi. Her barely contained enthusiasm and positive attitude is her defining trait though it's also what tends to allow her to connect with other judoka.
  • Grin of Audacity: Towa gets this as a nervous tic whenever she fights or watches a strong opponent. It tends to unnerve people and in some cases, like with Erika initially, is mistaken as her being arrogant and looking down on her opponent.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: Himeno, a third year student and the last member of the previous incarnation of the judo club, is recruited to fill out the roster for the Kinshuki. As third years retire from club activities after summer break, she's only a member of the team for that one tournament.
  • Hero of Another Story: Aobanishi is the central focus of the series but it's made clear that the other important schools (and even not so important) have their own stories going on as well and occasionally they'll get some spotlight to develop them as well. Even the kendo club, who share the school's dojo with the judo club, have their own story running largely in the background.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: The series is absolutely steeped in it. Especially given some characters — like Nagumo towards Michi for instance — who are written as more or less having one-sided crushes on other characters. And then there's Natsume and Inui's relationship...
  • Insufferable Genius: Nagumo frequently calls herself a genius and in general holds a high opinion of herself. And the worst part? Due to how quickly she learns judo, her great athletic skill, and her academic success she's entirely justified.
  • Magikarp Power: Prevalent throughout the series. A judoka or team that's introduced as weak can always grow in strength. Although a few examples stand out.
    • Kasumigaoka's Mitsumi Jinno goes from being unable to do much in her first year to an ace level talent able to go toe to toe with Emma, the strongest judoka in the series.
    • Sanae, likewise, was Aobanishi's weakest member in first year but slowly gets stronger and more confident which culminates in the third year Kinshuki where she sends Aobanishi to the fifth round by scoring an ippon against Tsubasa Hibari, the ace of one of the strongest schools in the series and a national champion with victories over Towa.
    • Aobanishi as a whole. At the start of the series it's simply three girls reviving a dead club and few teams take them seriously. By the time the series hits third year they're one of the strongest schools in Saitama, a prefecture which already houses a lot of strong schools.
  • The Nicknamer: Hakata Minami's captain, Natsu Umehara, is a judo nut and tends to give other judoka nicknames.
  • No Indoor Voice: Michi is loud. Very loud. So loud that when Tamon first meets her during a joint practice between Aobanishi and Kasumigaoka, she immediately recognizes Michi as "the screaming girl from Aoba High."
  • No Name Given: It took nearly 200 chapters before the name of Tachikawa's ever present manager was finally revealed to be Tsukushi Ono.
  • Ojou: Maria Kujou, captain of Seijou's judo team, is a classic one; the school itself is even owned by her family. She's fairly nice as her family's motto is "kindness and humility," although she can also be quite haughty leading to her teammates having to frequently chide her with cries of "humility."
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Michi very quickly bestows the nickname Himeko onto Kozue as she's Himeno's younger sister. Soon enough, the rest of the club begins to call her Himeko almost exclusively.
  • Passing the Torch: The reins of each generation of the clubs are passed onto the next once the third years have to retire with the outgoing captain selecting the new one.
  • Passionate Sports Girl: Arguably most characters fall into this by default but Erika Amane, Kasumigaoka's ace, is probably the biggest example of this as judo is more or less her entire life. So much so that Michi eventually nicknames her the Judo Machine.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Koutoku Academy out of Osaka, Aobanishi's third round opponent in the second year Kinshuki, is made up of five girls who were all close friends in elementary school and reunited in high school after having separated and mostly retired from judo in middle school.
  • Red Baron: Many judoka have some kind of epithet given to them in-series to highlight their skill or a particular quality, most of them bestowed by either Michi or Natsu. Michi is Ipponmichi, Sanae is the Responsibility Demon, Towa is the 1000% Queen of Saitama, and so on.
  • Red Herring Shirt: In the fourth round of the second year Kinshuki, Aobanishi goes up against Kamokita High School out of Hiroshima. They're a random school and beating them would mean Aobanishi meets Kasumigaoka in the quarterfinals, leading to a potential third and final match between Towa and Erika. Kamokita gets quite a bit of characterization, then ends up winning the match, eliminating Aobanishi and achieving their goal of making top 8 in the final tournament for their school's judo club.
  • Sadist: Yukari Komachi, a first year girl who joins the judo club at the start of third year as their manager, really loves to see people who try hard and push themselves past their limits. Unfortuntely, she likes it a little too much to the point where even her own friends say that it probably wouldn't be wrong to call her a sadist.
  • Senior Year Struggles: Michi, Sanae, Towa, and Nagumo are all third years as of the most recent chapters and will thus have to retire from the judo club after summer. As such, they're determined to win the Saitama Preliminaries and make it to the Interhigh in August — something they've failed to do the previous two years — just so they can keep going for as long as possible. Unfortunately, they lose to Seijou in the finals of the team tournament though both Towa and Tsukasa win their individual tournaments.
  • Shrinking Violet: Towa is cripplingly shy in any situation except when she's on the tatami mat. She gets slightly better as the series goes on but shy and soft-spoken is still her default.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Due to being a third year, Himeno is only around for a single tournament before she has to retire. The rest of the club continues to revere her long afterwards and her younger sister joins the team at the start of second year.
  • Stern Teacher: Rinka Inui, Tachikawa's coach, is noted as being stern, quick to scold, and runs an absolutely hellish summer training camp that causes most first year students to drop out. The end result, though, is that her team is the strongest in the country and the girls that do make it through hold her in high regard. That said, outside of the dojo she has a generally nice disposition and clearly holds high levels of affection and respect both for her own students and Aobanishi's. That's to say nothing of her fangirl crush on Natsume, her senpai from high school.
    • Gondou, another P.E. teacher at Aobanishi, is a more straight example.
  • The Stoic: Tsukasa is mostly calm and not given to overemotional displays like most of her teammates which allows her to always keep a cool head during her matches.
  • Tomboy: As a sports series, plenty of characters naturally fall into this.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Tsukasa is tall and very boyish in her appearance. That doesn't stop her from moonlighting in the makeup club or wanting to feel more feminine at times.
  • Tournament Arc: A major and frequent part of the series. A lot of time is spent in tournaments and the time not is usually spent on practices, training, or other preparations done to get stronger ahead of the next big tournament.
  • Tsundere: Midoriko takes quite a while to admit it but she likes and respects Michi a lot and really wants the chance to have a proper match with her. They finally get their chance during the third year Inter-High preliminaries. Their record ends up tied with Michi winning their match during the team tournament while Midoriko is victorious in the finals of the 48kg tournament.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Both Nagumo and Tsukasa started judo in their first years, having come over from different sports. Nagumo's explosiveness (courtesy of her kendo background) and natural athletic ability means that she's Aobanishi's secondary ace despite her inconsistency. Tsukasa, meanwhile, quickly became a regular due to her sheer size and power, plus her sumo skills transferring over rather well.
  • The 'Verse: Shares the same setting as many of the author's works. Tachikawa, for instance, was the main focus of the series Uchikomi!!.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Aobanishi as a team is this. Generally, they're not on the same level as most of the elite teams like Tachikawa, but their hard work and grit (as well as Towa) means that they're able to punch far above their weight. However that, and their upbeat attitude, tends to earn them a lot of respect from even the best teams. They do improve steadily as the series goes however and by third year they've become a top tier team.
  • Well Done Daughter Girl: Rin Amamiya is Seijou's ace and the daughter of her team's coach. She at times puts too much pressure on herself to not let him down.