Review by Frank Plowright
As introduced in Vol. 1, Kōsaku Hatanaka would be a great boxer if he could moderate what he eats. He can’t, so he’s a constant disappointment to his coach, yet despite that he’s defeated a surprising number of big names along the way. Another re-emerges in ‘The Lamb Resurrected’, now working as a waiter after 14 knockouts in 16 bouts before Kōsaku beat him in the manner seen over the opening pages. He’s spent four years nurturing his revenge plan, and now demands a rematch.
There’s only a small role for Sister Angela in the opening story, which concerns itself with whether or not Kōsaku actually has the willpower to remain true to his calling. She’s back for the second story ‘The Lamb Who Crossed Himself’, when it seems Kōsaku’s head can be turned by another woman after all. Rumiko Takahashi introduces a clever twist to that, and another when we meet the boxer who’ll be Kōsaku’s opponent.
Although only working on One Pound Gospel strips in between her other work, Takahashi developed a workable template for the plots. There’s the fundamental problem before the boxing match, Kōsaku’s battles training for it, often involving several encounters with his opponent, the fight itself and the postscript. She applies this to the first story, but using it again severely limits Sister Angela’s role, so the second piece is stretched out to ensure her use, and it’s more effective because it presents a greater cast balance. Kōsaku is naive enough to believe persistence and protestations of love will turn Sister Angela’s head away from her calling. True enough, she’s only a novice nun, a trainee if you will, but that’s still a mighty big ask, yet when we spend more time with Sister Angela it’s revealed that perhaps he has a chance after all. It’s not just tension that’s introduced, as there’s more going on with Kōsaku’s opponent than has at first been presumed. Takahashi turns the tables because this time Kōsaku is actually keen to have the fight.
The greater emotional depth and Takahashi cranking up the tension considerably for the final chapter makes this a step up for her featherweight project, and offers hope for Knuckle Sandwich being better still.