Ashita no Joe

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Tomorrow's Joe
Ashita no Joe Volume 1.jpg
Cover of the first tankōbon volume, featuring Joe Yabuki (left) and Tooru Rikiishi (right)
(Ashita no Joe)
Written byAsao Takamori
Illustrated byTetsuya Chiba
Published byKodansha
MagazineWeekly Shōnen Magazine
Original runJanuary 1, 1968May 13, 1973
Volumes20 (List of volumes)
Anime television series
Directed byOsamu Dezaki
Produced by
  • Koji Tomioka
  • Tatsuo Ikeuchi
  • Tadami Watanabe
  • Takaharu Bessho
Music byMasao Yagi
StudioMushi Production
Original networkFuji TV
Original run April 1, 1970 September 29, 1971
Anime film
Directed by
  • Yōichirō Fukuda
  • Osamu Dezaki (chief director)
Produced byHisao Masuda
Written byYōichirō Fukuda
Music byKunihiko Suzuki
Licensed by
ReleasedMarch 8, 1980
Runtime150 minutes
Anime television series
Tomorrow's Joe 2
Directed byOsamu Dezaki
Produced by
  • Seiji Takahashi
  • Shunzo Kato
Written byAtsushi Yamatoya
Haruya Yamazaki
Hideo Takayashiki
Yoshimi Shinozaki
Music byIchiro Araki
StudioTMS Entertainment
Original networkNippon TV
Original run October 13, 1980 August 31, 1981
Anime film
Tomorrow's Joe 2
Directed byOsamu Dezaki
Produced byTokuhachi Shimada
Written by
  • Atsushi Yamatoya
  • Haruya Yamazaki
  • Hideo Takayashiki
  • Osamu Dezaki
  • Yoshimi Shinozaki
Music byIchiro Araki
  • Herald Enterprise
  • Fujifilm
  • Chiba Planning
  • TMS Entertainment
Licensed by
ReleasedJuly 4, 1981
Runtime114 minutes
Live action films
  • Tomorrow's Joe (1970)
  • Tomorrow's Joe (2011)
See also

Tomorrow's Joe (Japanese: あしたのジョー, Hepburn: Ashita no Joe, lit. "Tomorrow's Joe") is a Japanese boxing manga series written by Asao Takamori (a pen name of Japanese author and manga writer Ikki Kajiwara, and one that's a variation on his real name) and illustrated by Tetsuya Chiba. The story follows a young man named Joe Yabuki and his boxing career as a Bantamweight.

Tomorrow's Joe was first serialized by Kodansha in Weekly Shonen Magazine from January 1, 1968 to May 13, 1973 and was later collected into 20 tankōbon volumes. During its serialization, it was popular with working-class people and college students in Japan. It has been adapted into various media, including the Megalo Box anime, a futuristic reimagining of the original that was made as a part of the 50th anniversary of Tomorrow's Joe.

The manga is considered by many to be a very influential manga series, with many anime and manga referencing it.[2]


Joe Yabuki is a young drifter who has a chance encounter with Danpei Tange, a former boxing trainer, while wandering through San'ya. Joe is arrested for fraud and is thrown into a temporary jail where he fights Nishi Kanichi, the leader of a group of hooligans. He and Nishi are then transferred to the Tōkō High-Security Juvenile Prison (東光特等少年院, Tōkō Tokutō Shōnen'in), a juvenile detention center miles away from Tokyo. There, Joe meets Tōru Rikiishi, a former boxing prodigy, and a rivalry develops between them after Rikiishi prevents Joe and Nishi from escaping. They attempt to resolve the rivalry by facing each other in a boxing match, during which Rikiishi dominates Joe until the latter hits him with a cross-counter, resulting in a double knockout. Feeling that the outcome of the match did not resolve anything, Joe and Rikiishi vow to fight again. As Rikiishi learns he is due to be released, he challenges Joe to a fight in the future, and the two promise to meet again, this time as professional boxers.

Upon his release from prison, Joe initially has trouble gaining a boxing license due to his lack of formal education, but succeeds in his second attempt with the help of Danpei and Nishi. Joe manages to go up to bantamweight, after provoking champion boxer Wolf Kanagushi. Joe quickly rises in the ranks and gains popularity for his brawling style, and trademark cross-counter KO wins. Joe manages to perform a triple-cross counter on Wolf. Joe then earns the right to fight Rikiishi in the professional ring.

Although Rikiishi is assured a promising career, he is intent in settling his score with Joe, whom he feels stands in his path. Because Rikiishi is three weight classes above Joe, he undergoes an incredibly taxing weight loss program, which includes severe dehydration. Rikiishi knocks Joe out in the 8th round and wins, but dies after from the combined effects of the extreme weight loss on his body and brain hemorrhage that he sustained from Joe during the fight.

Joe is mentally and physically traumatized by Rikiishi's death; during matches, Danpei realizes that Joe is unable to deliver headshots to his opponents. It takes Joe some time to get over it and costs him three straight losses, but he finally conquers his fears when he faces the globally #6-ranked fighter, Carlos Rivera. The fight ends with a draw, yet it gives Joe tremendous fame and respect around the world, especially since Carlos was going to face the World Champion José Mendoza in his next match.

Joe starts to climb up the boxing ladder, but struggles with maintaining bantamweight due to a late growth spurt, forcing him to undergo strenuous training similar to what Rikiishi underwent. He defeats the OPBF Champion, Kim Yong-bi, a South Korean boxer and survivor of the Korean War, dedicating the win to Rikiishi. After winning the title match, Joe defends his title. He wins all defenses, ultimately defending it against the Malaysian fighter Harimau. He is now given the chance to face the World Champion José Mendoza, who defeated Carlos Rivera with a KO punch in the first round, ending his boxing career. It is later revealed that Carlos had developed permanent brain damage from his fight.

The fight is held in a packed stadium, and is attended by many of Joe's friends and former rivals, including Wolf and the now sickly and haggard Carlos. Joe faces Mendoza, even though he is at a disadvantage since it was revealed he was punch-drunk, and has lost vision in one eye. The match is a brutal back-and-forth with Joe able to knock down the Champion more than once. Though originally composed, José starts losing his mind as Joe keeps getting up no matter how much damage he takes, to the point that he wonders if he is trapped in a nightmare. The match goes all of its fifteen rounds, with Mendoza barely gaining a win by points, but much to the shock of the audience, José has seemingly aged decades in minutes from the toll the fight has taken on his body, with his hair turned snow white from the trauma he has experienced. Danpei turns to console Joe only to find him unresponsive, but with a smile on his face. It has been long debated amongst fans whether Joe died or not: Chiba stated that he drew the ending scene at the last minute, and Takamori's original ending was different.[3] Conflicting interpretations have also been given by the manga's authors as a result: Takamori stated in a 1979 biography that Joe died, while Chiba has refused to directly comment, hinting that Joe may have survived.[4]



Tomorrow's Joe originally serialized in Japan in the shōnen manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Magazine from January 1, 1968 to May 13, 1973. It was collected into 20 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha. Most of the chapters of the manga were reprinted in Shukan Gendai from March 2, 2009 to the year end.[5]

Anime series[edit]

Mushi Productions produced an anime television series based on the first 14 volumes of Tomorrow's Joe. It was broadcast in Japan by Fuji TV from April 1, 1970 to September 29, 1971. A second anime television series, which started from volume 9 and covered the rest of the series, was made by TMS Entertainment and was broadcast by Nippon TV from October 13, 1980 to August 31, 1981. Both anime were directed by Osamu Dezaki. On March 2, 2005 the complete version of the first anime was released by Nippon Columbia on 2 DVD box sets, covering 33 hours and 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 on September 21, 2001 and individual disks on September 21, 2002.[6] Crunchyroll began streaming the second anime from March 24, 2014, under the name Champion Joe 2.[7]

In 2018, Megalobox, a futuristic reimagining of the original, was released as part of the manga's 50th anniversary. The series being the final concept of many initial ideas from director Moriyama, one concept being for the story to be based around Rikiishi Toru, Joe’s fated rival and lifelong friend.[8] the show was broadcast in Japan from April 6, 2018 to June 29, 2018 and was simulcast on Crunchyroll. The series was licensed by Viz Media for an English release and began airing on Toonami in the United States from December 8, 2018. A second season, Megalobox 2: Nomad , was released in 2021 that took place several years after the events of the first season.[9]

Anime films[edit]

Edited versions of the two anime series were distributed as anime films by Nippon Herald Films on March 8, 1980 and July 4, 1981, respectively. Tai Seng released the first anime film in the United States on DVD in 2008, under the name Champion Joe. Discotek Media later released Champion Joe on Blu-Ray.[6]

The first film Tomorrow's Joe earned a distributor rental income of ¥500 million at the Japanese box office in 1980.[10]

Live-action films[edit]

A live-action film based on the manga was released in 1970 in Japan, featuring Shōji Ishibashi as Joe Yabuki, Ryūtarō Tatsumi as Danpei Tange and Seiichirō Kameishi as Tōru Rikiishi.

A second live-action film adaptation premiered in Japan on February 11, 2011, starring popular actor/singer Tomohisa Yamashita as Joe Yabuki, Teruyuki Kagawa as Danpei and Yūsuke Iseya as Tōru Rikiishi. The live-action film also received positive response from Hollywood Reporter's Maggie Lee who praised the cast's boxing but criticized the characterization of Danpei and Yoko.[11] Russell Edwards from Variety enjoyed the director's work and, like Lee, enjoyed the work of the leading actors.[12] The film grossed ¥1.1 billion ($14 million) at the Japanese box office in 2011.[13]

Stage play[edit]

A stage play directed by Eiichi Yogi, ran from May 25 to May 29, 2016 at the Sumida Park Studio Kura theatre in Tokyo.[14]

Radio drama[edit]

A radio drama was broadcast by TBS Radio from October 3 to October 28, 1977 for 20 episodes, featuring Yoshito Yasuhara as Joe Yabuki.

Video games[edit]

Title Alternate Titles Publisher Developer Platform Release Date
Tomorrow's Joe CSK Filcom PC-8801, FM-7 July, 1983
Tomorrow's Joe Taito Wave Corp Arcade 1990
Legend of Success Joe Tomorrow's Joe Legend SNK Wave Corp Neo Geo 1991
Tomorrow's Joe K Amusement Leasing Wave Corp SNES November 27, 1992
Boxing Mania: Tomorrow's Joe Boxing Mania Konami Arcade 2001
Tomorrow's Joe Touchi: Typing Namida Hashi Tomorrow's Joe Keyboard Pack Sunsoft Sunsoft PlayStation 2 March 29, 2001
Tomorrow's Joe 2: The Anime Super Remix Capcom Capcom PlayStation 2 June 20, 2002
Tomorrow's Joe Masshiro ni Moe Tsukiro! Konami PlayStation 2 December 4, 2003
Tomorrow's Joe Makkani Moeagare! Konami Game Boy Advance December 4, 2003
Sunday vs Magazine: Shūketsu! Chōjō Daikessen Konami Hudson Soft PlayStation Portable March 26, 2009

Reception and legacy[edit]

The manga was very popular, having sold over 20 million copies after its serialization.[15] Also, during its serialization, it was particularly popular with working-class people and college students who were involved in the New Left, who saw themselves likewise struggling against the system like Joe Yabuki did and revered him as an icon.[16] An example of this New Left influence were the members of the Japanese Red Army who took part in the Yodogo hijacking in 1970 and compared themselves to Joe as they saw a revolutionary message in the manga. During the hijack, they shouted "We are tomorrow's Joe!".[17][18][19]

Tomorrow's Joe has received generally positive reviews, with many critics praising the story and characters. On October 13, 2006, it was voted "Japanese Favorite TV Anime" placing 4 out of 100 among celebrities votes.[20] Joe Yabuki was ranked seventh in Mania Entertainment's "10 Most Iconic Anime Heroes", written by Thomas Zoth, who commented that, "Tomorrow's Joe captured the zeitgeist of 1960s Japan. The story of Joe's rise from nothing touched a chord with Japanese audiences, who were seeing their country prosper after a long period of postwar devastation."[21] Anime News Network's reviewer Justin Sevakis analyzed the series, praising its story line but criticized some aspects about the first movie adaptation. He praised Joe's character development and his relationship with other boxers.[22] According to The Japan Times' Mark Schilling, the series "became the template for not only Fumihiko Sori's 2011 live-action film of the same title, but many Japanese sports movie and TV franchises."[23]

Tomorrow's Joe has been considered one of the most influential manga, with many anime and manga referencing it.[2] For the animated adaptation of the manga Naruto, animator Atsushi Wakabayashi from Pierrot said he was influenced by Tomorrow's Joe. This was mostly because the staff members were fans of the series and felt the character Naruto Uzumaki to be close to the type of archetype they rooted for when watching the series. As a result, Wakabayashi and the rest of the staff members made Naruto stand out in episode 133 where there was too much focus in his fight against Sasuke Uchiha, whom he shared an intense rivalry.[24] The opening sequence of Osamu Dezaki's film also influenced anime director Gorō Taniguchi during the production of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection.[25] Joe was also a major influence in Kyo Kusanagi, the main character of SNK's fighting game series, The King of Fighters.[26] Anime director Kenji Kamiyama, most known for the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, cited the original anime among the 15 best anime of all time.[27]


  1. ^ "Ashita no Joe Film to Screen in France, Southeast Asia". Anime News Network. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Toole,Mike (May 13, 2018). "The Mike Toole Show: Yo Joe!". Anime News Network. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  3. ^ ""We don't read, We FEEL it." – Tetsuya Chiba Interview".
  4. ^ "Did Joe Yabuki die? It's unclear but there are some comments by creators". 21 October 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  5. ^ Kyodo News (February 12, 2009). "Ashita no Joe makes a comeback". The Japan Times. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Discotek Licenses Cyborg 009 The Cyborg Soldier, Tomorrow's Joe, Project ARMS, NieA_7, Lupin III: The Legend of the Gold of Babylon". Anime News Network. August 13, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  7. ^ "Crunchyroll Adds "Champion Joe 2" Anime and "GTO Taiwan" Drama". Crunchyroll. March 22, 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  8. ^ Parker-Dalton, Jacob (2018-04-30). "Origins of 'Megalo Box' Revealed in 'Ashita no Joe' Exhibition". OTAQUEST. Retrieved 2020-10-04.
  9. ^ "Ashita no Joe Manga Inspires New TV Anime With Original Story in Spring 2018". Anime News Network. October 13, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  10. ^ Isao Taniguchi, Hajime Asō (June 2017). 図解入門業界研究最新アニメ業界の動向とカラクリがよ〜くわかる本 [Introductory Illustrated Industry Research A book that gives a good understanding of the latest trends and karakuri in the animation industry] (in Japanese) (2nd ed.). Japan: 秀和システム (Shuwa System). p. 24. ISBN 978-4-7980-5038-6.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link) CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. ^ Lee, Maggie (April 28, 2011). "Tomorrow's Joe (Ashita No Joe): Film Review". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  12. ^ Edwards, Russell (April 28, 2011). "Review: 'Tomorrow's Joe'". Variety. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  13. ^ "2011". Eiren. Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Tetsuya Chiba's Ashita no Joe Manga Gets Stage Play Adaptation". Anime News Network. November 30, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  15. ^ ちばてつやさん「あしたのジョー」 力石の死…描き進めていくうちに「これはもう生きていられない」と. Sankei Shimbun (in Japanese). MSN. 2013-11-25. Archived from the original on 2013-11-28. Retrieved 2013-11-29.
  16. ^ Parker-Dalton, Jacob (July 25, 2018). "50 Years of Yabuki Joe, the Working Class Hero". Otaquest. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  17. ^ "ジョー & 飛雄馬: 闘争の時代のヒーロー達" (PDF) (in Japanese). Osaka University. March 28, 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  18. ^ "「よど号」は、なぜ金浦空港に降りたのか". The Nikkei (in Japanese). January 1, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  19. ^ "よど号ハイジャック事件 ~40年目の真相~ ザ・スクープ" (in Japanese). TV Asahi. November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  20. ^ Japanese Anime Vote. "TV Asashi Voting Archived 2009-05-05 at the Wayback Machine. " "Japanese Anime Vote." Retrieved on 2006-11-19.
  21. ^ Zoth, Thomas (January 12, 2010). "10 Most Iconic Anime Heroes". Mania Entertainment. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2010.
  22. ^ Sevakis, Justin (November 13, 2008). "Buried Treasure Ashita no Joe". Anime News Network. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  23. ^ Schilling, Mark (September 16, 2015). "Japan through the lens of its film genres". The Japan Times. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  24. ^ "Newtype Shonen". Newtype. Kadokawa Shoten. August 2005.
  25. ^ "Interview with Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection Director Goro Taniguchi". Manga Tokyo. 23 February 2019. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
  26. ^ All About The King of Fighters '94 (ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ'94). Micom BASIC Magazine. All About (in Japanese). Vol. 7. The Dempa Shimbunsha Corporation. 25 December 1994. (Translation by Shmuplations. Archived 2020-04-24 at the Wayback Machine).
  27. ^ "Madman interviews Kenji Kamiyama". Madman Entertainment. September 17, 2013. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2014.

External links[edit]