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Manga / Ring ni Kakero

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Ring ni Kakero (リングにかけろ Ringu ni Kakero?), or Put It All in the Ring, is a manga created by Masami Kurumada. A total of 25 volumes were published in Weekly Shonen Jump between 1977 and 1981. It is one of the magazine's best-selling manga series of all time, with over 13 million copies sold, as well as one of Kurumada's personal favorites.

The sequel, Ring ni Kakero 2, was published as a seinen in Super Jump, between 2000 and 2009. It had 26 volumes. The anime is actually pretty recent, its four seasons running from 2004 to 2011.

The story centers around the life of a young boxer named Ryuuji Takane and his sister Kiku, who is also his coach. Their father had been a famous boxer but is now deceased. Ryuuji and his sister both inherited their father's talent for boxing: Ryuuji inherited his strength and techniques, while Kiku picked up his talent for analysis and strategy. Ryuuji and Kiku leave home to train and become famous in order to help their lonely mother, Chiyo. On the way to stardom, they have to defeat the strongest challengers all over the world...

Ring ni Kakero has the following tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: "Froggy" Rokusuke Ono, a 25-year-old amateur boxer struggling for a professional boxing license, has almost the same spotlight as Ryuji in the early manga... But he almost dissapears from the story when the Five-Man Band members are introduced. Likewise, most of Ryuji's surrounding cast, with the exception of Jun Kenzaki, get almost completely out of focus roughly at the same time.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • The Takane siblings's stepfather is an irresponsible drunkard who abuses the HELL out of Chiyo and the children.
    • Shinatora's dad wasn't the best parent either.
  • The Ace: Jun Kenzaki and Takeshi Kawai are portrayed as more naturally talented than Ryuuji.
  • Break the Cutie: The Takane's past. They go to Tokyo pretty much to run away from their stepdad, in addition to fulfill their dad's dreams.
  • Brother–Sister Team:
    • Ryuji and Kiku, with him as a prospect boxer an Kiku as The Strategist.
    • Also the Kawai siblings, Takeshi and Takako.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower:
    • In this universe, if you train boxing hard enough, your left hook will be powerful enough to scorch the side of a building and pavement.
    • The Kaiser Knuckles only takes this trope to ridiculous levels.
    • To say nothing of Jun Kenzaki actually crushing atoms with his punches.
  • Coming of Age Story: For both Ryuuji and Kiku, who must grow not just as a Brother–Sister Team but also as persons.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The Tokyo of The '70s is described as this in the beginning.
  • Delinquents: The Black Shaft team hires a bunch of these. They kidnap Kiku and Ryuuji has to fight to get her back
  • Defeat Means Friendship: As a Shounen Jump flagship title, to be expected. Many characters that had abrasive traits have mellowed out considerably after being defeated.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ryuuji and Kiku's dad was a promising boxer who died of illness.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Roku, one of the boxers in the gym Kiku and Ryuuji live in, has a massive crush on the waitress Setsuko. Ryuuji ships them.
  • Drugs Are Bad: In his way to his first day of junior high, Ryuuji walks on a bunch of school kids lazing around. One of them is a girl named Sachiko Kimura, and she's clearly seen sniffing glue from a bag.
  • Expy: It's Ryuuji, not Seiya! And it's Kenzaki, not Ikki!
    • You could think this is a case of Only Six Faces, but actually this is deliberate on Kurumada's part. He abides by the "star system" concept and therefore has archetypes he re-uses across his works, hence why the relationship between Ryuuji-Kenzaki matches Seiya-Ikki for the first arc of Saint Seiya.
    • Also, it is not a coincidence if Kawai, who shares roughly the same archetype as Shun, Kawai, follows a similar Character Arc (Pulling a Face–Heel Turn, having a dark destiny forced upon themselves, and eventually overcoming it.)
    • Likewise, you could say Kawai shares some traits with Hyoga, both can be quite vicious and outright ruthless, and are being called "noblemen" in their respective series, and depend on a family member to unhealthy levels, and have to learn to grow out of this.
    • Ishimatsu shares traits with Unicorn Jabu, and is likely a form of Author Avatar, when you compare with how he draws himself in Ao no Jidai -Ichigo Ichie-, and how much Ishimatsu mixes very serious and self-aware moments, and Comic Relief.
    • Kazuki Shinatora turns out to share a lot of traits with Shiryu, if not the face. As for the face, it seems to draw from a personal friend of Kurumada if Ao no Jidai is to be trusted.
    • If there is a badass feat of prowess or downright ridiculous manliness to accomplish, or cathartic punishment to dish out that will send everyone gaping in awe, leave it to either Jun Kenzaki or Phoenix Ikki.
    • In the Ashura arc, the heroes must overcome nine gates to rescue one of their long-time allies, and every gate has at least one assigned protector. Years later, the heroes of Saint Seiya must overcome the guardians of the Twelve Houses to rescue one of their long-time allies. Ironically, the Ashura arc is considered the most pointless arc of the series, yet Saint Seiya's Twelve Houses arc is considered the Signature Series Arc.
  • Flawless Victory: The protagonists insist on accomplishing this. This means for team matches that merely taking one loss is not acceptable, and ups the stakes considerably, more often than not leaving Ryuji to fight the final match against the most powerful remaining opponent, risking being confronted with their efforts being All for Nothing.
  • Foil:
    • The Kawai siblings are a foil to the Takane siblings. Both Kiku and Takako might be bona fide geniuses when it comes to boxing, but they know they are women in the Showa era male-dominated society of Japan, and so decide to realize their dreams of stardom through boxing by training their younger sibling. However, the Kawai siblings are in a very unhealthy codependent relationship, which they are forced to acknowledge and get over.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Kiku wears her hair like that.
  • Heroic RRoD: Happens to Jun after the initial fight with Ryuuji. From then on, Ryuuji fights for both of their dreams for a time.
    • Ultimately, every protagonist suffers this... This is especially visible for Ryuuji and Jun, but it has nonetheless very long lasting, nasty consequences visible in the sequel for those who survived...
  • Hot Teacher: Asaoka-sensei, Ryuuji's unflappable and sexy junior high teacher. Very much so.
    • Badass Teacher: She also slaps Ryuuji and the local bully for beating each other up, without any fear or hesitation.
  • How We Got Here: At some point, we see one of Ryuuji and Kenzaki's most important matches. From then on, the narrative switches to Kiku explaining how this came to be.
  • Innocently Insensitive: As a kid, Kiku truly wanted Ryuuji to toughen up and train so he'd become a good boxer like their dad. Bad thing, this was so hard at fist that poor Ryuuji was traumatized.
  • Japanese Delinquents: Some of Ryuuji's junior high classmates, especially Akira Tajima. Ryuuji ends up befriending Tajima after the deal with the boxing club.
  • Japanese School Club: When Ryuuji gets into junior high, he decides to check on the boxing club. Where the new students (including the bully who beat him up at the start of the day) are totally curb-stomped by the senpais. Ryuuji then fights all of them... and wins.
  • Official Couple: Roku and Setsuko. Later, Kenzaki and Kiku. Their son, Rindou, is the protagonist of the sequel.
  • The Ojou: Kanako Sanjou, a young girl from a rich family who befriends Ryuuji and Kiku.
  • No Swastikas: There is a German team, with very specific and fashionable trench coat uniforms, and in the anime they are very big on the pride of the German people... Three guesses as to what they say in the manga, and the two first don't count.
  • National Stereotypes: The American team is leaden by a Soul Brotha named "Black Shaft" who also recruits a Death Row inmate, a Hells Angels and a Klansman. In the international arc, the sole Mexican team member shown unsuccesfully tries to hit on Kiku, the Italians are a team of mafiosi whose main tactic is Removing the Rival before their fights, the French are effeminate yet gorgeous quintuplets (who look like they've been ripped straight out of The Rose of Versailles), the Germans are science-obsessed Nazis, and the Greeks are named after (and ambiguosly related to) the deities, myths and heroes of Classical Mythology.
  • Pint Size Power House: Ishimatsu Katori is the shortest of the main characters and often confused for a Junior High student, but he is also the residing heavy hitter of the group!
  • Please, Don't Leave Me -> I Will Wait for You: The Takane children decide to run away from their abusive household, but their mother Chiyo catches them in the train station and begs them to stay. They refuse, but promise to come back for her when Ryuuji becomes a proper boxer; as she watches them go Chiyo promises to wait for their return.
  • Plucky Girl: Kiku utterly refuses to let go of her and Ryuuji's dreams. As a proof, when her and Ryuuji's stepfather refuses to give them food and even beats their mother Chiyo for saving some for them, Kiku SNAPS and beats him with her bare fists, using her father's techniques, and then force feeds him rice while loudly calling him out on his bullshit.
  • Princely Young Man: Kenzaki and Takeshi fit the Ice King type.
  • Promotion to Parent: In practice, Kiku gets this when she and Ryuuji escape from Yamaguchi to Tokyo. They later get pretty much Happily Adopted by a local doctor.
  • The Rival: Several, but the biggest one is Jun Kenzaki.
  • Same Plot Sequel: Ring ni Kakero 2's arc progression is very similar to the one of it's prequel:
    • Ring ni Kakero follows Ryuji Takane's growth as a boxer in Japan, after rebelling from his stepfather, until he becomes the best boxer in the nation and gathers a Japanese team ➜ a foreign team challenges the Japanese (USA) ➜ the Japanese go on a journey to defeat another ancient Japanese team (Shadow) ➜ the main team participates in an international contest (against Italy, France, Germany and Greece; and minor cameos from Mexico and Holland) ➜ a team of Twelve Olympians challenges Japan in search of a Macguffin ➜ a mysterious Japanese clan (Ashura) challenge Ryuji, with the help of one of the former main heroes ➜ the main character and his rival Jun Kenzaki enter the WBA Bantamweight championship to demonstrate who's the best.
    • Ring ni Kakero 2 follows Rindō Kenzaki's (the son of Jun Kenzaki) growth as a boxer in Japan, after rebelling from his father, until he becomes the best boxer in the nation and gathers a Japanese team (with a Shadow member) ➜ the Japanese go on a journey to challenge a foreign team (Germany) ➜ two foreign teams challenge the Japanese (Italy, France) ➜ the main team participates in an international contest (against USA, Italy, France, Germany and Greece; with minor cameos from Egypt, Spain and Chile) with the help of a mysterious new Japanese hero from the Ashura clan ➜ a team of Twelve Olympians challenges Japan in search of a Macguffin ➜ the main character and his rival Ryūdō Omura (who is identical to Ryuji Takane) enter the WBA and WBC Bantamweight championships to unify them and demonstrate who's the best.
  • Serial Escalation: One of the earliest trope codifiers on Shonen Jump:
    • The series starts as a relatively realistic boxing drama, although by the time of the all-Japan Junior boxing championship happens, some of the characters start displaying unrealistic signature moves. The following arc reunites the best five fighters from the previous arcs and pits them against a team assembled by the American Junior champion in a Japan VS USA tournament.
    • The Shadow arc throws away whatever portrayal of realism was left by the end of the previous arc: the new enemy is an organization of boxers from an old unsanctioned Japanese boxing offshoot, who challenge Ryuji to prove his true power by overcoming the challenges of a five-floor pagoda. After that, the best five boxers from the organization challenge Japan's five-man band, and almost every member of the cast develops their signature moves. This arc also introduces a powerful brass knuckle that enhances the main character's strength to never before seen levels.
    • The international Junior boxing championship arc constantly introduces teams of five boxers to fight against the five main characters — almost every enemy has its own Signature Move. The renewed American team, the strongest team of two arcs ago (which supposedly improved since they appeared), gets defeated behind the scenes by the main team's first true rival.
    • The Twelve Olympians arc stars an alliance of the Japan team with some boxers from the Shadow / International arcs, who must fight a team of twelve Greek boxers who were the bosses behind the previous arc's strongest team — almost every character from the starring team develops an even deadlier signature move. Also, to show the Olympians' power, two boxers of the five-man Greece Jr. team get killed by no-name mooks. The brass knuckle of the previous arcs turns out to be only one in a pair, which only the Big Bad possesses.
    • The Ashura arc is similar to the Shadow arc: a superhuman clan of (supposedly) invulnerable fighters challenges the Japanese team, even recruiting one of them (who turns out to be the final challenger before the Big Bad, before changing sides) and force Ryuji to pass the nine gate guardians to defeat their leader (who is Dead All Along, but the Ashura clan didn't know it). Ryuji has the opportunity to use the two legendary brass knuckles in the end of the arc, and throws them away in the end.
    • Semi-averted in the WBA Bantamweight Champion arc, which dials back to the drama and semi-realism of the early manga focusing again on the Ryuji-Kenzaki rivalry, yet keeps the outlandish signature moves of the series and even has an opportunity to add some of the most over-the-top moves yet.
  • Shout-Out: The first half of the Shadow arc has Ryuji overcoming opponents on a five-floor pagoda, just like in Game of Death.
  • Shown Their Work: Especially in the beginning, there are rather interesting tips and info on boxing, Japanese boxers and their lifestyles, etc.
  • Spin-Offspring: Pretty much every character of note gets a boxer offspring in Ring ni Kakero 2: Three members of the main Five-Man Band (Jun Kenzaki, Kazuki Shinatora and Takeshi Kawai) get boxing sons or nephews, as does the American team. Don Giuliano and Napoleon Valois, the leaders of the Italian and French teams, manage to raise large families of their own. The whole Shadow, Germany, Greece and Twelve Olympians teams get expies of their predecessors, and even an anonymous Ashura manages to sneak in the main characters' team. In the latter half of the manga, mysterious expies of the deceased Ryuji Takane and Kiku Takane appear, and they turn out to be Rindō Kenzaki's abandoned fraternal twin brother, and the orphaned granddaughter of a Kenzaki family butler, both happily caretaken by the head of the Omura gym (whose backstory gets developed in the sequel).
  • Training from Hell: All boxers underwent this to some degree.
    • Deconstructed with Shinatora and Kenzaki at the beginning. The former had his hand pretty much permanently damaged as a result of his father's brutal kendo training note , while the latter strained his body to the point of turning his muscles into Glass Cannons which resulted in him leaving to America for the recovery surgery, and little to no hope he would recover completely. Of course, this being a shounen, both cases later get Reconstruction.
  • Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: Poor Ishimatsu. Though, it is his love for Kiku that has him raise Rindou.
  • Worthy Opponent: It should be mentioned that while mostly everyone looks down on Ryuji as some backwater kid, or a lucky stand-in for Kenzaki, the latter acknowledges this destiny extremely early on, even when other people are convinced Ryuji as the underdog will never amount to anything. This is after him getting a share of humble pie from Ryuji very early on. From this moment on, he knew they would fight each other for the championship title.