|Japanese Title:||ザ ファースト ステップ|
|Romanized Title:||za fāsuto suteppu|
|Arc:||Early Days Arc|
|Anime Episodes:||Round 1 (p.1-44) (S1 - 01)|
Round 2 (p.44-61)
(S1 - 02)
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- Characters Introduced: Makunouchi Ippo, Makunouchi Hiroko, Umezawa Masahiko, Takemura, Matsuda, Takamura Mamoru, Aikawa
- Techniques Introduced: Straight, Jab
- Locations Introduced: Shiritsu Zoujirushi High School, Kamogawa Boxing Gym, Makunouchi Fishing Boat
- Mentioned Boxers: Mike Tyson
- Cover Page Characters: Makunouchi Ippo
Makunouchi Ippo, a student at the Shiritsu Zoujirushi High School whose work at his family's fishing boat company is limiting his social interactions with schoolmates, rejects a proposal to go to the movies after school (much to his classmate's annoyance) due to his night shift at work.
Ippo begins walking home, but is shortly stopped by school bully Umezawa Masahiko and his friends who proceed to insult a submissive Ippo in order to provoke a reaction from him. Unsuccessful in their attempts, they insult his mother, Makunouchi Hiroko, which causes him to show anger, but he refrains himself from physical actions and gets beaten into submission. The trio is soon stopped by a jogging Takamura Mamoru, who with an impressive display of evasive skill that intimidates the bullies, causes them to run away. Doubtful at first, he takes the unconscious Ippo to the Kamogawa Boxing Gym.
Ippo wakes up and sees Takamura next to him who expresses his disliking towards bullies and weak people before telling him to leave once he feels better. However, noticing that Ippo is upset, he lets him do something "fun" by taping a crudely drawn picture of Umezawa on the sandbag. He then tells Ippo to punch the bag with all his strength. After a couple failed attempts and a tutorial on follow-up movements for a Straight, he punches the bag with all his might, causing it to fly backwards from the powerful blow surprising everyone. Ippo, ecstatic from the feeling punching the sandbag had brought, does not notice the skin from his knuckles had torn from his fist. Takamura takes him to the medical room where he applies bandages to his hand and inspects his well-built muscles. He suggests that he seeks revenge against the bullies but noticing Ippo's submissive attitude, he gives him a set of tapes of Mike Tyson's greatest knockouts and tells a story on how the champion was also bullied before discovering his true power. Ippo, hearing this, feels as if he could be reborn as well and becomes entranced with boxing. As Takamura notices the time and leaves for roadwork, Ippo heads back home.
Upon arriving home, Ippo helps his mother with the work, displaying his strength that surprises the customers. After seeing his bruises, she insist that at his age, he should focus on his personal life and leave work to her. After seeing the clients off, Ippo watches in awe the video of Tyson which inspires him to pick up boxing as he wonders "How it feels to be strong?".
Determined to learn boxing, he catches a jogging Takamura who wonders how Ippo knows his name, the latter replies by showing a magazine where Takamura can be seen as a Rookie King. Ippo tells Takamura he wants to become a pro boxer. Takamura, disturbed at the idea of boxing being taken lightly, angrily tells him not to underestimate it and to not compare himself to Tyson. Upon hearing Ippo's real feelings, Takamura gives him a challenge he demonstrates; to collect ten falling leaves via a series of quick punches in seven days. Should he succeed, Takamura will agree to train him.
Having been underestimating the technique at first, Ippo becomes frustrated at his own inability to perform it correctly. In his frustration, he trains for hours and even forgets about work, worried at first, he sees a letter from his mother which encourages to keep up with the activity he is doing. After several days of failed attempts, he reflects on his struggle and notices Takamura's fist formation and speed, quickly adapting himself to perform the technique on the eve of the promised day. Happy with his progress, Ippo shows Takamura his newly acquired skill in his fatigued state the next morning. Takamura, taken by surprise and in disbelief that he was able to do it with only one hand, states that it couldn't be helped, and praises Ippo on his jabs. Ecstatic with the praise, he practices his jabs on Takamura's open palms at the latter’s request. Angry at an uncontrolled Ippo, Takamura knocks him on the head to stop him and subsequently runs away with Ippo following him closely behind.
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