If you want to learn about anime history, then parodies are often the best starting point. Sure, you can spend a lot of time watching all the classics and analyzing what they contributed to anime as a whole, or you can pick up an Excel Saga or a Magical Witch Punie-chan and see how they make a mockery of these seminal anime. Honoo no Tenkousei, also known as Blazing Transfer Student, does this for old school sports anime. Sure, it’s no Tomorrow’s Joe, but it makes fun of it quite a bunch and is at least 124 episodes shorter.
The story of Honoo no Tenkousei follows Noboru Takizawa; an excitable youth who has just transferred to a school where every dispute is resolved through boxing. It doesn’t take long after his arrival before Takizawa is swept up in the school’s violent drama, as he manages to make an enemy of both the local bully and a hall monitor with a Messiah complex. When he then finds out that the beautiful Yukari Takamura is the prize for an upcoming competition, Takizawa decides to join the fight as well for a chance to win her affection.
Honoo no Tenkousei is quite short at just 2 episodes, but it tells a fun story within that brief time. The tone of the plot is delightfully silly, poking fun at the tropes of both sports anime and high school drama. Dialogue is cheesy, action scenes are ridiculous, every punch has some preposterous name, and the characters take it all completely seriously. Intrinsically the plot doesn’t have much to it—just a textbook damsel-in-distress story—but there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in the meta humor that surrounds it.
That the OVA was produced by Gainax certainly helps in this regard. The presentation of the jokes is consistently spot-on, with lively animations, great comedic timing, and hilarious reactions from the characters. The anime also enjoys a fantastic-looking artstyle and manages to make the battles look genuinely exciting, even though they are meant to be jokes. It’s certainly a credit to the studio’s talented staff. Honoo no Tenkousei could also be said to be an early example of the kind action-comedy hybrids that would come to define Gainax in the two decades that followed.
So is this a comedy masterpiece of the olden days, forgotten by time until archeologists such as myself came along? Well, I am not prepared to go that far.
While Honoo no Tenkousei presents its comedy well, it does have a tendency to fall into repetition. This makes the second episode particularly lukewarm, as it attempts to pad out the runtime with repeated gags and scenes that get terribly prolonged. At the same time, it feels like there was a lot of missed potential here, both in terms of more storylines as well as in character development. To make a comparison, it feels more like Puni Puni Poemy than Excel Saga, at least in regards to how significant its story feels.