[From November Issue 2013]
Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe)
“Ashita no Joe” (Tomorrow’s Joe) is a work that focuses on its main character, YABUKI Jou (Joe) who is a boxer. It was serialized in the weekly Shukan Shonen Magazine between 1967 and 1973. The anime version was serialized twice on TV and so far it has also been adapted into both animated and live action movies. The show had such a big impact on the public that halfway through the season when Joe’s rival RIKIISHI Tooru dies, an actual funeral service held for him was attended by approximately 700 fans.
At the beginning of the story, Joe appears drifting aimlessly through a downtown district. He does not have any family, and we do not know where he came from, or how he lived up until then. Many day laborers live in the area. Joe meets TANGE Danpei there. A former boxer, Danpei recognizes Joe’s talent and tries to turn Joe into a first-class boxer. However, far from responding to Tange’s enthusiasm, Joe gets mixed up in crime, is arrested then sent to a reform school.
There he encounters Rikiishi who is destined to be his rival. Joe has never lost a fight before, but is defeated by Rikiishi. When he discovers that Rikiishi was a professional boxer, he seriously takes up boxing. NISHI Kanichi, one of his friends at reform school who also later becomes a boxer, senses that Joe becomes unhappier as his strength increases. His unease, like a bad omen, brings an air of tension to the story.
Rikiishi and Joe intend to fight each other as professional boxers after they are released from reform school, but there is a big problem. They are ranked in a different class as there is a weight difference between the two. In order to fight, Rikiishi goes on a strict diet to bring his weight under the limit. Although Rikiishi wins after a desperate struggle through eight rounds, he dies right after the match from a brain hemorrhage caused by weight loss and damage sustained during the fight.
The final blow to Rikiishi was a punch to the temple and, suffering from guilt over killing Rikiishi, Joe can no longer bring himself to deliver this punch. Even though he is repeatedly defeated, Joe cannot give up boxing. Carlos RIVIERA, the uncrowned emperor, arrives on the scene. Rising to the challenge of Carlos’ seemingly unlimited ability, Joe overcomes his trauma. During his match with Carlos, Joe fights intensely, delivering punches to his opponent’s face.
After the match against Joe, Carlos is knocked out in a World title match against Jose MENDOZA. Suffering from punch drunk syndrome there is no hope that Carlos will recover. Moreover, the rumor spreads that it was not Jose who inflicted the damage on Carlos, but Joe, who he had fought right before the title match. At the same time Joe had been trying to suppress the weight he’d gained through his natural physical development, by undergoing an impossible weight loss program.
Furthermore, Joe has also been affected by punch drunk syndrome, too. Those close to him recommend retirement, but, just like the late Rikiishi, he pushes his body to the limit and challenges Jose to a potentially fatal confrontation. The depictions of Joe’s victories and struggles are not romanticized or glorified, which is all the more reason why Joe’s vigorous dedication to boxing is so touching.
Text: HATTA Emiko