Joe Yabuki is a scoundrel, plain and simple. He's confident, cocky, a con artist and a drifter, and one hell of a fighter too -- or at least, that's what Danpei Tange, the washout and drunk ex-boxing coach believes. Danpei is so sure of Joe's ability to be a pro boxer that he gives up the drink and works hard to earn money to build a gym; but Joe, on the other hand, has other plans that are not nearly as noble. Can Danpei convince this loose cannon to pick up the gloves and box like a world class champion?
Welcome to what I call one of the most epic animes ever. Try to imagine a Japanese version of Rocky, and this is what you get. But I say Rocky is the American version of Ashita no Joe since Rocky came out in 1976, and the original manga of Ashita no Joe started in 1968 and ended in 1975. But anyway, they share the same charms and are both iconic to their respective nations in their owns rights. The story is reasonably paced and easy to follow, and tells a life story about a young man’s career and his struggles in and out of the ring. Initially, Joe was just a bum who had nothing but the clothes on his back. He created controversy that makes Mike Tyson look like Disneyland but yet he was down to earth and had this aura to him in his neighborhood in the slums of Tokyo as if he were Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines. Despite how you can describe Joe in a personal level, it’s bizarre to see him as a hero at the same time. I just find it unique that in real life, people can react the same way when some athlete publicly acts crazy and doesn’t apologize for it, and we don’t really scorn them to some capacity sometimes. The other characters are also unique and some may not be of significant use, but they still have some kind of overall unforgettable impact in advancing the story.Yes, the art and animation are old and outdated which is something that many people today can’t really get past by which I can understand, but if you’re a type of person that can still appreciate the old Rocky movies or old movies in general, then this shouldn’t bother you. After all, Chiba Tetsuya, the artist of the manga still draws in that manner to this day and if he were to draw the manga all over again for today, he’d still do it the same way. But getting past the outdated style, it still does an excellent job of bringing out the expressions in the characters and their builds are well appropriate for their respective weight classes. It’s also interesting to note that with some characters, they will show age and change such as Joe, Nishi, and Noriko. They will look more refined, taller, and have different looking hair to symbolize that they are growing up which I found very unique. I also thought they did a great job of making Rikiishi look dehydrated to make it to Joe’s weight class at 118 pounds, bantamweight, when his best weight class is at 126 pounds, featherweight.Sorry to bring up another Rocky comparison, but the fights are on the same epic level and Joe’s fighting style can be compared to that of the Rocky Balboa character himself. They are both in no ways text book boxers like Floyd Mayweather, Winky Wright, or Pernel Whitaker, and they are go for broke brawlers like Ricardo Mayorga, Rocky Marciano, Antonio Margarito, and Daniel Ponce De Leon. Every punch they throw, is intended to knock you out. Every fight in Ashita no Joe is truly different from the last and brings a different kind of flavors of intensity and will keep you on the edge of your seat. As I described Joe’s fighting style, sometimes you think you’re watching a street fight instead of a boxing match and I mean a brutal street fight. And the ending fight when Joe finally get his shot is one of the best pieces of work I’ve ever seen. Nothing, and I MEAN NOTHING in American, Japanese, Korean, or Mexican or whatever country’s animation or cinema industry can ever come near that fight except real life bouts such as the trilogy between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, or the Thrilla in Manila, and the final fight sets up for the best ending you can ever get.The seiyuu cast is wonderfully top notch. Johnny’s singer Aoi Teruhiko does the voice of Joe Yabuki. He does an excellent job of making Joe sound like a smart ass. Ryuusei Nakao, the voice of Freeza in DBZ, in some versions has played Carlos Rivera and current J-Drama actor Kishibe Shiro does the voice of Nishi. Nishi always came across to me as a Japanese version of Lenny from Mice and Men at a physical level and his voice does come across in that manner also, but his way of speaking symbolizes his good intended heart as well. Unfortunately, some of the other cast members have now passed on but they created a legacy with this anime. Naturally, the music is just something that defines the old school feel to it. A strange way to describe it that, it’s just so masculine and touching at the same time. It’s about conquering adversity and how it will make you a man. But other than that the soundtrack is just one of the passionate singing I’ve ever heard.Well, I’m not sure if Hajime no Ippo fans will like this, but I say if you’re more of a fan of Rocky, than this is probably more for you, while Hajime no Ippo on the other hand, tends to have more of the charms and appeal of the Karate Kid. Many other animes and mangas since then have paid tribute to this wonderful classic by restating lines or re-enacting scenes from it such as episodes and chapters of GTO, Fushigi Yuugi, Berserk, FLCL, Ranma ½ and Urusei Yatsura. If you want to know impact this series has, when one of the characters died, the fans even held a funeral for him. That’s how big it was there, but unfortunately, Ashita no Joe never really made it to America until recently under the title Champion Joe. But to conclude this review, I will say one thing, REAL MEN WATCH ASHITA NO JOE.
Everybody has their own set of trials and tribulations in their lives. But for some, life has truly dealt them an unfair hand.Ashita no Joe is a touching story of a similar young boy named Joe for whom everything in life is an uphill battle. Having run away from home, he now lives as a vagabond, unable to create any attachments or trust people. He whiles his days conning people until he finally meets an old boxer named Tange Danpei who sees the hope of a bright future in Joe's hands.From there begins the tale of unrelenting hope in dark times that is Ashita no Joe. Danpei and Joe form a beautiful relation between teacher and student where Joe slowly begins to discover more to life than he had previously known through boxing, and Danpei finally sees the opportunity for a break from his low in life. They begin transforming each other and represent the hope for the entire slum. For if they can break trump the unfair hand which life has dealt them, so can the rest of the people there.The Anime takes you through very tragic and uncomfortable paces where every victory is more of an opportunity to survive rather than an excuse to celebrate. It truly is an uphill battle called life for the protagonists and the Anime does a wonderful job portraying that dramatically.The characters in the Anime are quite distinct, and even though boxing is a major part of the Anime, it is more of a side-note in the entire story. This Anime is much more of a drama than it is a sports Anime and as such, the only exaggerations which exist are those of damages inflicted, and even then it's not too much.The animation early on in the Anime sucks quite a bit, but as time goes by, they really pick up the quality and once you can get past the animation and the old sound technology, Ashita no Joe is truly a brilliant gem.If you truly wish to call yourself an Otaku, you need to watch all 79 episodes of this Anime.
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