Tomorrow's Joe (あしたのジョー Ashita no Jō?) is a critically acclaimed boxing manga created by Asao Takamori and Tetsuya Chiba in 1968 that was later adapted into an anime series and movie. It is most commonly referred to as Ashita no Joe. Outside Japan it is also referred to as Rocky Joe or Joe.
Joe Yabuki is a troubled young man who runs away from an orphanage. Wandering through the Tokyo slums, he meets former boxing trainer Danpei. Joe is later arrested and goes to a temporary jail where he fights Nishi, his future best friend and leader of a group of hooligans. He and Nishi then go to a juvenile prison miles away from Tokyo. There Joe meets Rikiishi, a former boxing prodigy, and a rivalry develops between them. They face each other in a match in which Rikiishi dominates Joe until the latter hits him with a cross-counter, resulting in both being knocked out. This inspires the other prison inmates to take up boxing. Joe and Rikiishi vow to fight again.
Danpei instructs Joe in the ways of boxing, but then Joe defeats a young underdog named Aoyama, whom most of the prison made fun of for being so small. Danpei temporarily takes Aoyama under his wing and "abandons" Joe. This causes Joe to feel mentally broken and becomes scared of Aoyama due to the fact that Danpei is teaching him. Joe takes part in the Prison Boxing Tournament. In the semi-finals he faces Aoyama. Joe, being the aggressive fighter that he is, is unable to hit Aoyama who specializes in speed. Joe then learns to effectively defend himself and defeats Aoyama. In the finals, when Rikiishi is scheduled to leave the prison, Joe challenges him to a fight right there and then. Joe cheats by having rocks in his gloves due to exhaustion from his previous match.
Upon his release from prison, Joe manages to go up to Bantamweight, but it isn't easy and Danpei has a very tough time getting him a boxing license due to his past record. Joe then fights a rookie champion boxer named Wolf Kanagushi. Wolf is also a cross-counter specialist and they are thus both considered wolves. Joe challenges Wolf in a locker room brawl in which they both knock each other out. This causes Wolf to have a grudge against Joe and, in retaliation, he harms the neighborhood kids, giving Joe even more motivation to defeat Wolf. Both boxers go under special disclosed training and in the subsequent fight Joe manages to perform a triple-cross counter on Wolf. Joe then earns the right to fight Rikiishi in the professional ring.
Due to the fact that Rikiishi is three weight classes above Joe, he has to cut down on lots of weight and go under a super-strenuous weight loss program. The result is that he is becomes as skinny as bones. To compensate for the power that he has lost, Rikiishi relentlessly trains in uppercut boxing, throwing uppercuts till they hit the opponents. Eventually the two great rivals fight each other. Rikiishi defeats Joe but dies as he is about to shake Joe's hand due to an extremely hard blow to the temple. This marks the end of the first story arc.
(In real-life, a full funeral in honor of Rikiishi was held in the offices of the Kodansha publishing company.)
The story resumes with flashbacks of the match between Joe and Rikiishi as a distant memory. Joe is still shaken up from that match, both mentally and physically. Eventually he returns to his old club and starts training again. Soon after, during matches, his trainer Danpei realises that Joe is having a serious problem with boxing: he is not giving shots to the face. Obviously Rikiishi's death was more of a shock than was first realised. It takes Joe quite some time to get over it and costs him three straight losses. But then he finally conquers his fears when he faces the globally #6 ranked Carlos Rivera. The fight ends with a draw, yet it gives Joe tremendous fame and respect around the world, especially since Rivera was going to face the World Champion Jose Mendoza in his next match.
Joe starts to climb up the boxing ladder, but considering he grew a few inches taller, he had to cut weight which proved to be extremely difficult. He finally defeats the Asian–Pacific Champion, Ryuhi Kin, a Korean boxer who accidentally killed his father thinking he was a hungry soldier who was returning to his son to get him food during the Korean War. As a result of this, he developed a phobia of blood. Joe has quite a bit of trouble in this match, because he feels an inferiority complex considering Kin is able to handle weight without a problem and Joe feeling weak as a result of the lost weight. After winning the title match, Joe has several successful title defense matches and wins them all, ultimately defending it against the Malaysian fighter Harimaio. His unorthodox fighting style is unpredictable but Joe manages to successfully defend his title. He is now given the chance to face the World Champion Jose Mendoza, who defeated Carlos Rivera with a KO punch in the first round, ending his boxing career.
Joe faces Mendoza. He fights relentlessly without giving up, no matter how many punches Jose hits him with. The match goes back and forth with Joe able to knock down the Champion more than once. In some instances, becoming the newly crowned World Champion is nearly within reach. Meanwhile, Mendoza sees in Joe's eyes the ghosts of other boxers whom he destroyed throughout his career.
The match goes all of its fifteen rounds. It ends with Joe slumped on a stool in his corner of the ring, tired and bruised but with a smile on his face after his greatest title match against the World Champion. He requests that his gloves be removed and gives them to Youko Shiraki, who confessed her true feelings for him before the match.
There is much tension in the air as they await the judges' verdict : It goes in favour of Jose Mendoza. He looks fragile and old — his hair has turned white. Joe's coach turns to console him only to find that he has died of his injuries, with a smile on his face.
The series debuted as a manga in Weekly Shōnen Magazine at a time when considerable economic and social upheaval was transforming Japanese culture in the late 1960s. Joe was essentially the tragic hero representing the struggle of the lower class. His trial and sacrifice to the sport was a semi-reflection of the will of the people he was representing. By the 1970s, manga readers and college students across Japan would turn the character into an icon.
Author: Asao Takamori
Illustrator: Tetsuya Chiba
Episode Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Design: Akio Sugino
Music: Masao Yagi
- Jō Yabuki (矢吹 丈 Yabuki Jō?), nickname is Joe (ジョー Jō?)
- Seiyū: Teruhiko Aoi
- Live-Action Film: Shōji Ishibashi
- Italian Name: Rocky Joe
- Danpei Tange (丹下 段平 Tange Danpei?)
- Seiyū: Jūkei Fujioka, Takeshi Aono (game)
- Live-Action Film: Ryūtarō Tatsumi
- Mammoth Nishi (マンモス西?)
- Seiyū: Toku Nishio, Jiro Daruma (Ashita no Joe 2), Shiro Kishibe (film), Daisuke Gōri (game)
- Live-Action Film: Masaaki Yamamoto
- Real name Kanichi Nishi (西 寛一 Nishi Kanichi?)
- Yōko Shiraki (Shiraki Yōko)
- Seiyū: Kazuko Nishizawa, Masako Ebisu (ep. 34~44), Emi Tanaka (Ashita no Joe 2), Fumi Dan (film)
- Live-Action Film: Yōko Takagi
- Tohru Rikiishi (力石 徹 Rikiishi Tōru?)
- Seiyū: Shūsei Nakamura, Toshiyuki Hosokawa (film), Hideyuki Hori (game)
- Live-Action Film: Seiichirō Kameishi
- Italian Name: Toro Riki
- Wolf Kanagushi (ウルフ金串 Urufu Kanagushi?)
- Seiyū: Osamu Katō, Gorō Naya (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Jun Shioya (塩谷ジュン Shioya Jun?)
- Seiyū: Keiko Yokozawa (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Wolf's fiancee.
- Jiro Shioya (塩谷ジロー Shioya Jirō?)
- Seiyū: Yoku Shioya (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Jun's little brother.
- Carlos Rivera (カーロス・リベラ?)
- Seiyū: Taichirō Hirokawa, Ryūsei Nakao (Ashita no Joe 2), Joe Yamanaka (film)
- Harry Robert (ハリー・ロバート?)
- Seiyū: Takeshi Kuwabara, Michihiro Ikemizu (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Carlos Rivera's manager.
- Kim Yongpi (金 竜飛 Kin Ryūhi?)
- Seiyū: Norio Wakamoto (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Harimau (ハリマオ Harimao?)
- Seiyū: Takashi Taguchi (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Italian Name: Hamario
- Jose Mendoza (ホセ・メンドーサ?)
- Seiyū: Yoshito Miyamura (Ashita no Joe 2), Masami Okada (film)
- Goromaki Gondō (ゴロマキ権藤?)
- Seiyū: Chikao Ōtsuka, Takeshi Watabe (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Tiger Ozaki (タイガー尾崎 Taigā Ōzaki?)
- Seiyū: Shōzō Iizuka, Hiroya Ishimaru (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Sachi (サチ?)
- Seiyū: Fuyumi Shiraishi
- Kinoko (キノコ Mushroom?)
- Seiyū: Keiko Ushizaki, Junko Hori (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Tarō (太郎?)
- Seiyū: Hiroshi Masuoka, Kiyonobu Suzuki (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Hyoromatsu (ヒョロ松?)
- Seiyū: Kaneta Kimotsuki
- Chūkichi (チュー吉?)
- Seiyū: Noriko Tsukase
- Tonkichi (トン吉?)
- Seiyū: Jōji Yanami, Hiroko Maruyama (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Chibi (チビ Squirt?)
- Seiyū: Mitsuko Asō
- Noriko Hayashi (林 紀子 Hayashi Noriko?)
- Seiyū: Kaoru Ozawa, Kei Moriwaki (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Keishichi Hayashi (林 敬七 Hayashi Keishichi?)
- Seiyū: Setsuo Wakui, Minoru Yada (Ashita no Joe 2)
- Tamako Hayashi (林 玉子 Hayashi Tamako?)
- Seiyū: Teruko Abe, Shō Saitō (Ashita no Joe 2)
On March 2, 2005 the complete original 1970 anime series was released by Nippon Columbia on 2 DVD box sets covering 33 hour 55 minutes of footage across 79 episodes spanning 16 disks. It also includes an all-color explanation book in 3 volumes totaling 120 pages.
Previous release formats include mini-box sets in September 21, 2001 and individual disks on September 21, 2002.
When the fans of the series saw the death of Rikiishi, there was a special funeral for him. In March 1970, about 700 people packed the streets dressed in black, wearing black armbands and ribbons with flowers and incense, participated in the funeral. The event was called for by poet Shūji Terayama. The service was conducted in a full scale boxing ring watched over by a Buddhist priest.
Joe Yabuki is still a cult favorite in Japanese pop culture to the present day. On October 13, 2006, it was voted "Japanese Favorite TV Anime" placing 4 out of 100 among celebrities votes. It has succeeded in capturing people's hearts around Japan with its quality storyline and excellent boxing matches. The characters are very human and have their own weaknesses like Joe causing trouble all the time and Dampei being short tempered.
The Adventures of the Mini-Goddess anime spin-off of Oh My Goddess! features a boxing match with Gan-chan the rat dressed like Joe.
Volume 29 of the Berserk manga has some brief scenes with Puck dressed as Joe's manager.
The Ashita no Joe movie was introduced in 1980 reusing footages from the TV series to form an identical story but much reduced in length. It was to bridge the gap for audiences who were about to see the 2nd half of the series named Ashita no Joe 2. The 2nd series featured new directors, as it synced up with the final half of the manga. It was in this series in 1973 that Joe's career climaxed in the anime with the memorable finale. He collapsed into the ring corner after 15 rounds. His fate was left open for discussion as the readers don't know whether he lived or died. However, in the last volume of Ashita no Joe the death of Joe is actually confirmed by the author at the very end of the book.
|Title||Alternate Titles||Publisher||Developer||Platform||Release Date|
|Ashita no Joe||Taito||Wave Corp||Arcade||1990|
|Ashita no Joe Densetsu||Legend of Success Joe||SNK||Wave Corp||Neo Geo||1991|
|Ashita no Joe||K Amusement Leasing||SNES||November 7, 1992|
|Boxing Mania: Ashita no Joe||Boxing Mania||Konami||Arcade||2001|
|Ashita no Joe Touchi: Typing Namida Hashi||Ashita no Joe Keyboard Pack||Sunsoft||Sunsoft||PlayStation 2||March 29, 2001|
|Ashita no Joe 2: The Anime Super Remix||Capcom||Capcom||PlayStation 2||June 20, 2002|
|Ashita no Joe Masshiro ni Moe Tsukiro!||Konami||PlayStation 2||December 4, 2003|
|Ashita no Joe Makkani Moeagare!||Konami||Game Boy Advance||December 4, 2003|
|Ashita no Joe Masshiro ni Moe Tsukiro! Konami the Best||Ashita no Joe Masshiro ni Moe Tsukiro! Greatest Hits||Konami||PlayStation 2||July 8, 2004|