Review by Frank Plowright
A nun and a boxer make for an immediately unconventional pairing, but neither of them conform to the expectations of their trade in this comedy drama, and Rumiko Takahashi has never been a conventional creator. Kōsaku has all the talent in the world, but without self-discipline it’s wasting away. He loses fights because he always has to drop weight quickly, and he always has to drop weight quickly because he can’t resist a burger. He’s also infatuated with the unobtainable Sister Angela, obviously married to God. However, there’s the tiniest spark of love for Kōsaku in her heart, and she takes it upon herself to help him work through whatever crisis he’s experiencing. Meanwhile his dedicated old coach despairs.
Although the set-up is strange, compared with Takahashi’s other projects, at this stage it’s also one-dimensional and lightweight, lacking any real punch. It’s possibly something Takahashi herself realised because it’s far shorter than her best known series, yet despite being only three volumes it took her almost ten years to complete between other projects, with a fourth volume following a decade later. What raises One Pound Gospel above a standard melodrama is Takahashi’s neat art, an ability to introduce the unexpected within a pretty basic scenario and the inherently likeable personalities supplied to the lead characters.
Once we’re past the introductory sequences, the opening plot is Kōsaku scoring a fight against a champion boxer, which he’s not that keen on, but it will enable him to make amends for previous dishonour brought upon his long-suffering coach. After that he may have to move up to a higher weight for his next bout, which will at least settle his appetite. Takahashi includes enough boxing lore or savvy comments to convince with Kōsaku’s world, and he’s very much the dominant character, Sister Angela little more than a sounding board with an occasional dip into being a tough love harridan.
What can be said about One Pound Gospel is that it’s constantly improving. ‘The Remains of Dreams’ is a better piece for taking a look beyond the fights to the world of the fighter and those whose lives are affected. Even with that, One Pound Gospel is fast-moving, fluffy fun, but no more. Will Volume 2 improve?