Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? 30 years after it’s debut in Weekly Shonen Magazine and 125 collected volumes later, George Morikawa’s Hajime no Ippo is receiving its very first stage play in January of next year.
This is quite unusual given that stage plays based on anime and manga seem like a dime a dozen these days. It was only earlier this week that it was announced that Wataru Watanabe’s Yowamushi Pedal would be getting it’s 14th stage play next year (that’s quite a lot of cycling theatrics) and, in general, it seems like the stage play has become a key method with which a publisher can promote one of their properties, alongside the obvious anime adaptation.
This has only been the case in recent years, though. When Hajime no Ippo first started in Weekly Shonen Magazine all those years ago in 1989, the thought of doing a stage play based on a manga or anime probably would have been quite strange. The theatre should be reserved for the ‘high arts,’ after all.
To a certain extent, then, you can forgive Hajime no Ippo for not getting a stage play sooner. The seminal boxing manga missed that boat, in a sense, and it’s only now had an opportunity to get back on it.
Surprisingly, that opportunity seems to come courtesy of the official voice actor for the series’ protagonist himself, Kiyasu Kouhei, who is “helping out” with the stage play. No word on whether he’ll reprise his iconic role yet, however.
Another explanation can perhaps be found in a change in series creator Morikawa George’s own mindset. In his comment attached to the Hajime no Ippo stage play announcement, he professed that ‘I couldn’t imagine boxing on the stage at all, but when I went along to the audience, I really felt the enthusiasm of the actors. When it comes to delivering hardcore action alongside performance, I’m sure that they’ll give it their all.’
So perhaps Morikawa never gave the go-ahead for a Hajime no Ippo stage play because he was convinced that it’d never be any good. That or Kodansha simply pushed him further than they did before – not surprising given that they’re gearing up to celebrate Weekly Shonen Magazine’s 60th anniversary.
Hajime no Ippo The Glorious Stage!! will open January 2020 in Tokyo and will cover the series’ first arc. Check out the official website for more details.