Check It Out

No.184 (3/25/11)

Ashita No Joe

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

In recent years, the world of boxing has taken something of a backseat to the more intricate and violent sport of mixed martial arts. In recent times, however, it has been featured rather prominently in film and television, such as the critically-acclaimed film The Fighter, and the FX television series Lights Out. Here in Japan, the popular manga あしたのジョー (Tomorrow's Joe), originally published over forty years ago, is back in the spotlight with a new live-action film adaptation starring one of the biggest young stars around today.

Tetsuya Chiba and Asao Takamori's popular manga was first published in 1968. Tomorrow's Joe, also known as Rocky Joe or simply Joe, followed the life of Joe Yabuki, a troubled youth who ends up being taken under by Danpei, a former boxing trainer. His boxing “career” takes rather unorthodox turns, as he finds matches against opponents in unusual places, such as prison. Joe isn't a very clean cut, honest fighter, though his morals do shine from time to time, such as when he feuds with a boxer named Wolf Kanagushi, who harms the neighborhood children in retaliation for Joe knocking him out. Joe’s career eventually takes off, and the story takes many exciting twists and turns from there.

Originally published weekly in Weekly Shonen Magazine, a popular manga magazine that began publication in 1959. Joe became culturally significant as a representative of the struggles of the lower class, and was even regarded by many as an icon. Interestingly, in 1970, about 700 fans of the show donned funeral clothing and mourned the loss of a major character in the series. This kind of dedication is a testament to how important Joe was to the culture.

The anime based on the manga ran for 79 episodes that ran in the early 1970's. Three animated movies were produced in the early 1980's, though that was pretty much the last many fans saw of Joe prior to the DVD release of the original series in 2005. In 2006, Tomorrow's Joe was voted fourth out of 100 on the Japanese Favorite TV Anime list.

Ashita No Joe, however, is back in the spotlight once again, this time with a live action film currently out in theaters starring Japanese idol and member of the group NEWS, Tomohisa Yamashita (山下 智久). Joe, the relentless fighter, seems to transcend genres and manages to engage audiences to this day, over forty years since he first debuted.

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