Yabuki Joe is left downhearted and hopeless after a certain tragic event. In attempt to put the past behind him, Joe leaves the gym behind and begins wandering. On his travels he comes across the likes of Wolf Kanagushi and Goromaki Gondo, men who unintentionally fan the dying embers inside him, leading him to putting his wanderings to an end. His return home puts Joe back on the path to boxing, but unknown to himself and his trainer, he now suffers deep-set issues holding him back from fighting. In attempt to quell those issues, Carlos Rivera, a world renowned boxer is invited from Venezuela to help Joe recover.
*This is a review of both seasons*
Ashita no Joe is a sports manga that ran in Shounen Magazine from 1967 to 1973, drawn by Kajiwara Ikki and written by Chiba Tetsuya. It tells the tale of 15-year-old orphan Yabuki Joe, as he rises up the ranks of boxing, coached by the alcoholic former boxer Danpei Tange; along the way, Joe meets many rivals, most notably, Tooru Rikishi, Joe’s one true equal. It was compiled into 20 tankobon volumes, and is impossible to find wallpapers and pictures for. It has two anime seasons, directed by Osamu Dezaki
Early on, Ashita no Joe has a very cartoony artstyle, but, slowly, the art becomes more and more grounded to better reflect the darker arcs and themes. Despite the cartoony nature early on however, it is still well drawn and designed, so I don’t have problems with it.
The first season of the anime is very hit or miss visually. It’s usually rather cinematic, with a lot of the shots being interesting, but the fact is: it’s just not appealing to the eyes. The shading is very harsh, with a lot of the movement being stilted. The fights have flair, and are very fluid and well choreographed, which definitely gives it points. The second season is a vast improvement, with much more clean designs and far less stills. The music is solid, with a few stand out tracks. It uses a lot of whistling and strange instruments I really liked. My favorite song was "Joe Forever"
The pacing, either way you go, is very steady. Joe never has a rapid speed up, or an abrupt slow down. However, the manga is much faster than the anime overall, and does a few of the major arcs much better.
The characters in Tomorrow’s Joe all get ample screentime and development, with most of the rivals having a few volumes dedicated to them, and the side characters being here and there throughout the series. First there is Joe; an impulsive young orphan with tough skin but a burning passion for competition and striving for the top. It’s by pure happenstance that he picks boxing, as his strong body, quick wit and endless drive are perfect for any sport. He constantly gets in trouble because of his impulsive nature, especially in the early volumes, but his demeanor subtly changes throughout the series, to becoming someone who’s nearly unrecognizable to his former self, yet it’s still perfectly understandable how he got to that point. Next is Joe’s main rival, Rikishi. Rikishi is the opposite of Joe, a prodigy boxer who was destined to be the world champion, and tries to avoid confrontation when he can, which leads to him becoming a favorite of the spectators and fans, both in the manga and in reality. Danpei Tange is Joe’s coach, a washed up old boxer who quit boxing because of his permanent injuries, but tries to manipulate young men into becoming his boxing puppets, to live out his dreams vicariously.
The rest of the cast is more simple. The Mammoth, Nishi, is a close friend of Joe who is also a boxer. He’s a heavyweight, and is often there to cheer on Joe, or work as his second. He acts as a parallel to Joe a few times, as well. Yoko is a rich promoter who owns a large boxing gym, and acts as simultaneously the villain of the series, and also a sympathetic hero. There are also a few more rivals, like the charismatic Carlos, the violent Wolf and the family man Jose. Finally, Joe has a group of young kids who follow him around, none of which get too much screentime, but they are all characterized rather well, as I can describe quite a few of their personalities in detail.
The most prevalent theme expressed in Champion Joe is the darkness of humanity and the boxing industry. More than 3 of Joe’s characters are brutally crippled, both mentally and physically, by the brutality of the sport they play. Every single one of Joe’s characters has a strong darkside, especially the adults or people in positions of power. Even some of our heroes, like Danpei, are only doing seemingly selfless things because of ulterior motives. Ashita no Joe takes place in a shitty world, and it’s the most realistic and grim one of all: Our world.
Yet, the true theme of Joe is nothing like that. Despite all the darkness and depression surrounding it, Tomorrow's Joe is about hope. Hope in bettering yourself and others. Hope that you can change things. Hope for tomorrow.
The fights in Joe are actually rather exciting. The strategies used have real life application, and aren’t exposition dumped on you, which keeps the flow of the fight up while still maintaining clever tactics. There is always, with no exceptions, at least a 2 volume build up to a fight, one of them having a 7 volume build up, which always makes start of the fight seem like a climax within itself.
My one problem with Joe is that some arcs start off pretty repetitive. With one exception, they all start with Joe finding out who is opponent is, usually someone we haven’t met yet, and then we get a comically over the top show of their power, followed by Joe coming up with a plan that we don’t see until he actually uses it, rinse and repeat. Despite the repetition, each arc is different enough in its themes, and the new rivals are interesting enough, that it isn’t too much of a bother.
Lastly, I think that the ending of Tomorrow’s Joe is absolutely fantastic. It sums up the entire thematic point of the series in only 3 pages, does it subtly, and also brings the thunder and epicness in spades. Because there is quite a bit to say, explaining myself involves spoiling the ending, among other things. Spoilers for the rest of the review until the final verdict. So skip to that if you haven’t read Joe yet. SPOILER TIME:
Joe handing his gloves to Yoko is the culmination of the ideas of “passing the torch” expressed in the series, particularly by Rikishi. Danpei trying to wake Joe is the end of his arc, as, despite his best efforts, he can’t relight his flame. But, by far the most poignant image is the final one. Joe, dead, sitting his chair, smiling. His limp dead body, after such a brutal slaughter, obviously represents the brutality and depressing nature I mentioned. But the smile represents the hope that can always be found in that darkness. The light at the end of the tunnel that will always shine through, for a new tomorrow, where everyone can better themselves, even if it takes sacrifices. And after all the hurt and pain, Joe finally got his rematch with Rikishi…
Ashita no Joe, just like FLCL and Tatami Galaxy, breaks my scale. Beyond a 10. It’s unfortunately unlicensed in North America, but the second season of the anime is available for streaming on Crunchyroll. It’s FullmetalGhoul, and I will see ya next time.read more
Joe Yabuki is a young man from the slums who recently came out of juvy where he met his rival Toru Rikkishi. Sadly, this season spoils the conclusion of said rivalry as the events are featured in its 1970's 1st season which should be watch first. This sequel continues where the original anime left off giving a slight recap of events as it moves forward with the themes of the story. The many challenges Joe faces are the consequences for boxing & the permanent damage he delivers to his opponents along with Joe's own torment. Joe's life is full of grief, hope, & commitment to the sport he loves. This is where Joe grows into a man who takes responsibility for his past misdeeds for the sake of his rivals, friends & family.
I definitely recommend watching its 1st season for its very crucial to the story the same way as the 1st season of Hajime no Ippo is to its sequels. This season was animated in 1980 with supreme animation that is movie quality budget also with great storytelling. Don't miss this anime!!!read more
Ashita no Joe 2 started out a little bit lacking, but quickly became so addictive that I made time to watch all 47 episodes within 1 week. I found it to be slightly less appealing than the original Ashita no Joe series, though it's still amazing.
- - - S T O R Y - - -
The beginning of this one overlaps with the later part of the original series. Having watched the first Ashita no Joe series, I immediately spotted some differences. To me, it looked like a lot of details were removed and that they aimed to make it more sportsman-like. The Ashita no Joe I'd come to know wasn't really about sports, it was more of a drama about a wild, young boxer learning about values and how to overcome his troubled past. A fair bit of the drama from the manga was cut out, but this still managed to be very entertaining. The thing I liked least was the ending, which felt a bit abrupt and unsatisfying, especially since there was no aftermath.
- - - A R T - - -
Here's a clear improvement compared to the original series. The animation is pretty fluid and, while it does recycle some sequences, it does a good job of feeling fresh and exciting to watch. Yabuki Joe is a guy who can't sit still, randomly doing things like walking on his hands, and the animation puts in the effort to let his character shine. The art style is also very charming and unique, which makes it all that much better.
- - - S O U N D - - -
I was pretty disappointed with the first opening theme when I started watching this. Both the song and animation made me question whether or not I was watching Ashita no Joe. It was too cheerful and sporty, which is basically the complete opposite of the original series' opening. Worst of all, the opening animation doesn't even include Joe at all. However, despite all my criticism, the song is pretty catchy and quickly grows on you, especially since they play it a lot throughout the series. The second opening theme fits the mood far better. Not much else to say about it, they nailed it.
It's too bad they couldn't include some of the songs from the original series, but this one had plenty of good songs, too. Coupled with Joe's habit of whistling tunes, the whistled song and other catchy tracks made it so I couldn't help but whistle some of these songs throughout my day like Joe would.
The voices for the main characters are all good. Joe sounds manly as hell, something modern anime is lacking big time. There's a surprising amount of characters who speak in Engrish, which is laughable. I find it ironic that Jose Mendoza speaks in terrible Engrish while disposable supporting characters speak with perfect English. In one of the last couple episodes, they described a character as having - get this - "goose flesh". They meant to say "goosebumps". It's pretty funny when you need subtitles to be able to understand what the characters are saying when they're speaking in your own language.
I just don't get how they could have voice actors speak perfect English, definitely voiced by Americans... then they have these other characters voiced by Japanese people who have clearly never used English in their lives. They should've had an American revise the English part of the script. I mean, they have a boy named Chelsea. I can't believe I wrote this much about the sound.
- - - C H A R A C T E R S - - -
Well, there's our hero, Yabuki Joe, who's probably the most unique anime character I've ever seen. He has so many habits and distinct personality traits that I can't think of another character like him. His character is very lovable. It's great when everyone around him is wearing a suit at a formal event while he's just wearing his dirty old coat and cap. He's a manly ass yarou who doesn't let anyone push him around.
The rest of the cast is great, too. You won't find one-dimensional characters in this anime. They behave like real people, not like character archetypes. In particular, I feel like mentioning one of the kids from Joe's gang, Tonkichi. He's ugly and stupid, you'd think you'd like him the least... but everytime he's on the screen, I just know something good is gonna happen. His clumsy, ill mannered behaviour is just hilarious.
- - - O V E R A L L - - -
Well, I enjoyed this greatly. I know I said this is kinda more about sports rather than drama, but that's not entirely accurate. Ashita no Joe 2 has almost no focus on the technical aspects of boxing whereas Hajime no Ippo has a ton of focus on it. This series is still dramatic and stuff, just not quite as much as the prequel. I just kinda wish they stayed a little truer to the manga... and I wish they got some American help with the English parts.
I wish more anime was as good as this one. read more