Ashita no Joe

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Tomorrow's Joe
Cover of the first manga volume of Ashita no Joe
(Ashita no Jō)
Genre Drama, Sports (Boxing)
Written by Ikki Kajiwara
Illustrated by Tetsuya Chiba
Published by Kodansha
Demographic Shōnen
Magazine Weekly Shōnen Magazine
Original run January 1, 1968May 13, 1973
Volumes 20
Anime television series
Directed by Osamu Dezaki
Written by Osamu Dezaki
Studio Mushi Production
Network Fuji Television
Original run April 1, 1970September 29, 1971
Episodes 79
Anime film
Ashita no Joe: Gekijōban
Directed by Mizuho Nishikubo
Written by Shun'ichi Yukimuro
Released March 8, 1980
Anime television series
Ashita no Joe 2
Directed by Toshio Takeuchi
Written by Tadaaki Yamazaki
Studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Network Nippon Television
Original run October 13, 1980August 31, 1981
Episodes 47
Anime film
Ashita no Joe 2
Directed by Osamu Dezaki
Studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Released July 4, 1981
Anime and Manga portal

Ashita no Joe (あしたのジョー Ashita no Jō?) is a critically acclaimed boxing manga written by Ikki Kajiwara and illustrated by Tetsuya Chiba in 1968 that was later adapted into an anime series and movie. The title means "Joe of tomorrow" or Tomorrow's Joe. Outside Japan it is also referred to as Champion Joe, Rocky Joe or Joe. It was adapted into a live-action film starring popular actor/singer Tomohisa Yamashita as Yabuki Joe and Yūsuke Iseya as Rikiishi. The movie premiered in Japan on February 11, 2011.


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 some time later temporarily takes Aoyama, whom most of the prison made fun of for being small, under his wing and "abandons" Joe, without giving him an explanation. This causes Joe to feel mentally broken and becomes jealous and scared of Aoyama because Danpei is teaching him. Joe takes part in the Prison Boxing Tournament, where he faces Aoyama in the semi-finals. Joe, being the aggressive fighter that he is, is unable to hit Aoyama who specializes in dodging and tiring his opponent. During the fight, Joe learns to effectively defend himself by copying Aoyama's guard and sway-back technique and defeats him. This is later revealed to be part of Danpei's plan as he thought he couldn't properly teach Joe defense himself, and needed an opponent whom Joe could instinctively take after. As Rikiishi learns he is scheduled to leave the prison, he challenges Joe to a fight right there and then. Joe cheats by having rocks in his gloves due to exhaustion from his previous match. However, the match comes to halt before its conclusion and the two promise to meet each other again, this time as professional boxers.

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 decides to take the matter between his two hands and purposely provoke 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. The subsequent media coverage forces the boxing commission to allow Joe to become a pro boxer. Joe quickly raises up and gains popularity for his brawling style, and trademark cross-counter KO wins. Wolf retains a grudge against Joe for humiliating him and, in retaliation, harms the neighborhood kids whom Joe had befriended when those come to spy on Wolf, giving Joe even more motivation to defeat him. 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.

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 has to cut down on lots of weight and go under a super-strenuous weight loss program. The result is that he 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 in the 8th round with an uppercut counter but collapses as he is about to shake Joe's hand due to an extremely hard blow to the temple two rounds before and him landing his head on the ropes. Rikiishi dies from the combined effects of the extreme weight loss on his body and brain hemorrage suffered during the fight. 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, Yongpi Kim, 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 Kim 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 defends his title (twice in the original manga; an unspecified number of times in the anime). The notable anime-original defense was against an American named Leon Smiley who accidentally dies in a car accident after the match, furthering Joe's curse of being many boxers' final match. He wins all defenses, ultimately defending it against the Malaysian fighter Harimau. 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. Later revealed Carlos had develop permanent brain damage from his fight.

Joe faces Mendoza, even though he is at an disadvantage since it was revealed he was punch-drunk. 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. As the match progresses Joe's body begins to give out with his right eye losing most of its vision early on in the match.

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 most likely 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

Screenwriter: Osamu Dezaki (Ashita no Jōe 1), Shun'ichi Yukimuro (Gekijōban), Tadaaki Yamazaki (Ashita no Jōe 2)

Director: Osamu Dezaki (Ashita no Jōe 1), Mizubo Nishikubo (Gekijōban), Osamu Dezaki (Ashita no Jōe 2)

Episode Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Producer: Atsushi Tomioka, Koji Bessho

Design: Akio Sugino

Art: Tetsuya Chiba, Teiichi Akashi

Animation Director: Akihiro Kanayama, Akio Sugino, Shingo Araki

Music: Masao Yagi


Tange Gym[edit]

Jō Yabuki (矢吹 丈 Yabuki Jō?), nickname is Joe (ジョー Jō?)
Voiced by: Teruhiko Aoi, Kei Tomiyama (Pilot Film), Yoshito Yasuhara (Radio Drama)
Live-Action Film: Shōji Ishibashi (1970), Tomohisa Yamashita (2011)
Italian Name: Rocky Joe
The protagonist of the story. An OPBF Champion and 4th in the World Ranking. He is known for his long bangs and for always wearing a worn-out beige coat and a red flat cap. Not long after birth he found himself in many orphanages and facilities. However, he quickly grew tired of the boring life and frequently escaped, eventually finding his way to the Doya Town the story takes place in.
Joe is rude and quick to fight, but he can also be very frivolous at times. Because of his rough upbringing he is a delinquent who likes his solitude, but he later grows to appreciate his new friends and rivals. He is not very good at understanding women, and essentially only treats them nice out of giri. As a result of Riki'ishi's death, he temporarily suffers from yips and cannot hit people in the temple, but he later overcomes this. This allows him to move past the loss of Riki'ishi.
He is a bantamweight and his specialties include the cross counter and the No Guard stance. He has extraordinary punching strength, fortitude, and fighting spirit, often standing up after taking killer blows and has been known to counter cross-counters (a double-cross), possessing a raw, natural talent for the sport. He has even countered double crosses with a triple-cross, implying he has high-level technical abilities. Following his fight with Riki'ishi, he begins to better develop his guarding. During his fight with Jose, he even unconsciously uses Jose's own corkscrew punch against him. Near the end of his life, it was hinted that he had developed drunk punch and was confirmed right before his match with Jose. On several occasions it was hinted that he was aiming for the world championship not for his own sake but for Rikiishis's sake since he died fighting Joe and was considered a future world contender.
Danpei Tange (丹下 段平 Tange Danpei?)
Voiced by: Jūkei Fujioka, Takeshi Aono (Boxing Mania Video Game), Akira Nagoya (Pilot Film), Haruhiko Saitō (Radio Drama)
Live-Action Film: Ryūtarō Tatsumi (1970), Teruyuki Kagawa (2011)
Mammoth Nishi (マンモス西?)
Voiced by: Toku Nishio, Jiro Daruma (Ashita no Joe 2), Shiro Kishibe (Film), Daisuke Gōri (Boxing Mania Video Game)
Live-Action Film: Masaaki Yamamoto (1970), Katsuya (2011)
Real name Kanichi Nishi (西 寛一 Nishi Kanichi?)

Shiraki Gym[edit]

Yōko Shiraki (白木 葉子 Shiraki Yōko?)
Voiced by: Kazuko Nishizawa, Masako Ebisu (ep. 34~44), Emi Tanaka (Ashita no Joe 2), Fumi Dan (Film), Hiroko Ushida (Aoi Honō)
Live-Action Film: Yōko Takagi (1970), Karina (2011)
Tohru Rikiishi (力石 徹 Rikiishi Tōru?)
Voiced by: Shūsei Nakamura, Toshiyuki Hosokawa (Film), Hideyuki Hori (Boxing Mania Video Game), Kōji Shimizu (Radio Drama)
Live-Action Film: Seiichirō Kameishi (1970), Yūsuke Iseya (2011)
Italian Name: Toro Riki
Mikinosuke Shiraki (白木 幹之介 Shiraki Mikinosuke?)
Voiced by: Tamio Ōki
Live-Action Film: Bontarō Miake (1970), Masahiko Tsugawa (2011)


Wolf Kanagushi (ウルフ 金串 Urufu Kanagushi?)

In order to get recognition quickly, Joe targeted the bantamweight rookie champion, Wolf Kanagushi. Wolf was a confident and brash fighter who was easily provoked by Joe into a fist fight, ending in a double knockout. This news eventually led to the public demanding a match between them, which Wolf lost. He eventually became a thug who got defeated due to his weak jaw, and later borrowed money from Joe after rekindling their friendship. By the end of the series he finally pays it back and supports Joe for his last match, actively cheering.

Voiced by: Osamu Katō, Rokurō Naya (Ashita no Joe 2)
Live-Action Film: Speedy Hayase (1970), Mitsuki Koga (2011)
Jun Shioya (塩谷 ジュン Shioya Jun?)
Voiced by: Keiko Yokozawa (Ashita no Joe 2)
Wolf's fiancée.
Jiro Shioya (塩谷 ジロー Shioya Jirō?)
Voiced by: Yoku Shioya (Ashita no Joe 2)
Jun's little brother.
Carlos Rivera (カーロス・リベラ?)
Former 6th Rank WBC Bantamweight fighter. Fought Joe Yabuki to a draw before his fight for the WBC Title. Was K.O. in the first round by Jose Mendoza. Note he was still weak from his fight with Joe and was revealed after his defeat, his career had been over and his skull damage to the point where he has permanent brain damage.
Voiced by: Taichirō Hirokawa, Ryūsei Nakao (Ashita no Joe 2), Joe Yamanaka (Film)
Harry Robert (ハリー・ロバート?)
Voiced by: Takeshi Kuwabara, Michihiro Ikemizu (Ashita no Joe 2)
Carlos Rivera's manager.
Kim Yongpi (金 竜飛 Kin Ryūhi?)
Voiced by: Norio Wakamoto (Ashita no Joe 2)
Former OPBF champion. He loses the title to Joe Yabuki
Harimau (ハリマオ Harimao?)

A wild, illiterate Malaysian tribesman who was only interested in exciting fights and chocolate, and challenged Joe for his OPBF belt. The match was orchestrated by Youko to rekindle Joe's wild spirit.

Voiced by: Takashi Taguchi (Ashita no Joe 2)
Italian Name: Hamario
Jose Mendoza (ホセ・メンドーサ?)

The perfect champion who had never lost, fought beautifully and was admired by all. He takes great care of his health and family, and is constantly calm and confident, giving an aura of being truly unbeatable. A recurring theme is his immense physical strength, to the point of leaving big bruises on Joe's body by gripping him, easily forcing him into a handshake, and even bending coins with his fingers. He only breaks down from this during the later stages of his fight with Joe, where he loses his cool and fears for his life against Joe's unrelenting spirit. Mendoza was knocked down for the first time in his career during the fight, and even fouled Joe violently in a moment of terror. He would win the decision, though it drained him of his youth.

Voiced by: Yoshito Miyamura (Ashita no Joe 2), Masami Okada (film)
Goromaki Gondō (ゴロマキ 権藤?)
Voiced by: Chikao Ōtsuka, Takeshi Watabe (Ashita no Joe 2)
Tiger Ozaki (タイガー尾崎 Taigā Ōzaki?)

Called a 'lizardlike' man by Joe, he was the bantamweight champion. Though he rarely spoke, he was very cunning in diagnosing Joe's weakpoint after the fight against Rikishii. Tiger made sure to fight Joe early in the latter's career after his traumatizing fight with Rikishii so that he could take him on when he had the highest chance to win. Though he did using these tactics, he was eventually knocked out in seconds by Carlos.

Voiced by: Shōzō Iizuka, Hiroya Ishimaru (Ashita no Joe 2)

Doya Town[edit]


Sachi (サチ?)
Voiced by: Fuyumi Shiraishi
Live-Action Film: Rina Hatakeyama (2011)
Kinoko (キノコ Mushroom?)
Voiced by: Keiko Ushizaki, Junko Hori (Ashita no Joe 2)
Tarō (太郎?)
Voiced by: Hiroshi Masuoka, Kiyonobu Suzuki (Ashita no Joe 2)
Hyoromatsu (ヒョロ松?)
Voiced by: Kaneta Kimotsuki
Chūkichi (チュー吉?)
Voiced by: Noriko Tsukase
Tonkichi (トン吉?)
Voiced by: Jōji Yanami, Hiroko Maruyama (Ashita no Joe 2)
Chibi (チビ Squirt?)
Voiced by: Mitsuko Asō

Hayashi Family[edit]

Noriko Hayashi (林 紀子 Hayashi Noriko?)
Voiced by: Kaoru Ozawa, Kei Moriwaki (Ashita no Joe 2)
Keishichi Hayashi (林 敬七 Hayashi Keishichi?)
Voiced by: Setsuo Wakui, Minoru Yada (Ashita no Joe 2)
Tamako Hayashi (林 玉子 Hayashi Tamako?)
Voiced by: 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 on September 21, 2001 and individual disks on September 21, 2002.

Tai Seng released the first film on U.S. DVD in 2008, retitled to 'Champion Joe'. Crunchyroll is streaming the second TV series, retitled to 'Champion Joe 2', starting March 24, 2014.[1]


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.[2]

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.[3]


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.

Video games[edit]

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 Wave Corp SNES November 27, 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


  1. ^ "Crunchyroll Adds "Champion Joe 2" Anime and "GTO Taiwan" Drama". Crunchyroll. March 22, 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
  2. ^ Gravett, Paul [2004] (2004). Manga: Sixty years of Japanese Comics. New York, NY: Harper Design International. p. 52-60. ISBN 1-85669-391-0.
  3. ^ Japanese Anime Vote. "TV Asashi Voting. " "Japanese Anime Vote." Retrieved on 2006-11-19.

External links[edit]