Ashita no Joe

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
Music by Yagi Masao
Studio Mushi Production
Network Fuji Television
Original run April 1, 1970 September 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 Osamu Dezaki
Written by Tadaaki Yamazaki
Studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Network Nippon Television
Original run October 13, 1980 August 31, 1981
Episodes 47
Anime film
Ashita no Joe 2
Directed by Osamu Dezaki
Studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Released July 4, 1981

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.


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, 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. Joe and Rikiishi vow to fight again. As Rikiishi learns he is scheduled to leave the prison, he challenges Joe to a fight right 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, after provoking a rookie champion boxer named Wolf Kanagushi. Joe quickly raises up 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 has to cut down on lots of weight and go under a super-strenuous weight loss program. Rikiishi defeats Joe in the 8th round with 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. Joe is still shaken up from that match, both mentally and physically. 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. 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 defeats the Asian–Pacific Champion, Yongpi Kim, a Korean boxer. After winning the title match, Joe defends his title. 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. 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. The judges' verdict goes in favour of Jose Mendoza. Joe's coach turns to console him only to find him unresponsive, but with a smile on his face; it is implied at this point that Joe has passed away.


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.


Tange Gym

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)
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 the manga, more and more hints build up implying that he is becoming punch-drunk, a condition that is confirmed right before his fight with Jose. On several occasions it is hinted that he is aiming for the world championship not for his own sake, but for Rikiishis's, 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)
Joe's boxing coach. He was formerly a boxer as well, but retired after losing his left eye. Afterwards he becomes a coach, but as shown in a flashback in episode 2, he was very harsh and his student refused to work with him. He then becomes an unemployed drunkard who only changes his ways after meeting Joe. After seeing Joe's potential, he decides to bet everything on him, believing that Joe can become an extraordinary boxer. He teaches him in the form of individual tips called "For the Sake of Tomorrow" (明日のために ashita no tame ni).
Kanichi 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)
Referred to as "Mammoth Nishi," Joe initially meets him in the retention center and later on the boat ride to the juvenile detention center.

Shiraki Gym

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)
A wealthy girl who lives outside of the slums. Joe tricks her into giving large amounts of money to him by saying that it will be used to help the orphans of the slums. Because of this, Joe regards her as a fool.
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)
Joe meets Rikiishi in the juvenile detention center. He was a boxer but was sentenced to the juvenile detention center because he punches an audience member half to death after the audience member says that the match was rigged in Rikiishi's favor, enraging him. Joe challenges Rikiishi without knowing he was once a professional boxer and manages to punch him in the face once before Rikiishi knocks him out in one punch. He is quintessential in motivating Joe to start taking boxing seriously, even if his only reason is to beat Rikiishi in a rematch.
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)
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


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

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)

Anime adaptations

On March 2, 2005 the complete original 1970 anime series was released by Nippon Columbia on 2 DVD box sets covering 33 hours 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]

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 also 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.

Reception and cultural impact

The series is a cult favorite in Japanese pop culture to the present day. 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 and was conducted in a full scale boxing ring watched over by a Buddhist priest.[2] On October 13, 2006, it was voted "Japanese Favorite TV Anime" placing 4 out of 100 among celebrities votes.[3] 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."[4] According to a character designer from the video game company SNK, Ashita no Joe was an influence in designing Kyo Kusanagi.[5] Anime News Network's reviewer Justin Sevakis analyzed the series, praising its storyline but criticized some aspects about the first movie adaptation. He praised Joe's character development and his relationship with other boxers.[6] According to The Japan Times's 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."[7]

The live-action film also received positive response from Hollywood Reporter's Maggie Lee who gave praised the casting' work to do boxing. On the other hand, she criticized the characterization of Danpei and Yoko.[8] Russell Edwards from Variety enjoyed the director's work and, like Lee, enjoyed the work of the leading actors.[9]

One of the most popular character of the Ultra Series franchise, Ultraman Zero in fact had his outlook and traits being based around the manga's main character Joe Yabuki.[10]

Video games

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.
  4. Zoth, Thomas (January 12, 2010). "10 Most Iconic Anime Heroes". Mania Entertainment. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2010.
  5. "King of Fighters '94 – Developer Interview". Shmuplations. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  6. Sevakis, Justin (November 13, 2008). "Buried Treasure Ashita no Joe". Anime News Network. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  7. Schilling, Mark (September 16, 2015). "Japan through the lens of its film genres". The Japan Times. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  8. Lee, Maggie (April 28, 2011). "Tomorrow's Joe (Ashita No Joe): Film Review". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  9. Edwards, Russell (April 28, 2011). "Review: 'Tomorrow's Joe'". Variety. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  10. 円谷プロ50周年記念 ウルトラ怪獣総選挙 ウルトラ怪獣のセンターと四天王を選抜 - Yahoo! JAPAN, archived from the original on 2013-10-11, retrieved 2016-08-22

External links

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