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Manga / Tomorrow's Joe

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"I'm not fighting because of feelings of debt or obligation to others. I fight 'cause in the end, I love boxing."
Joe Yabuki

Tomorrow's Joe (Ashita no Joe) is a boxing manga created by Asao Takamori and Tetsuya Chiba that was serialized in Shōnen Magazine from January 1, 1968 to May 15, 1973. After the end of its serialization, it was collected into 20 volumes by Kodansha Comics.

The manga tells the story of a young man named Joe Yabuki and his boxing career, beginning from when he meets the man who would later become his trainer, Danpei Tange, in the San'ya slums.

Tomorrow's Joe has been adapted into various media, including Megalo Box, which was made to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018.

Expect any Japanese Boxing Episode to have at least one Shout-Out to it, usually in the form of a character sitting slumped in a corner with heavy line-hatching.

This manga contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending:
    • The first anime ends with Joe giving up boxing after fighting Carlos Rivera.
    • The second anime implies Joe dies, unlike the original.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The two anime adaptations expand the original manga's story by adding new details and characters.
  • The Alcoholic: Danpei at first. He gets better.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The manga ends with Joe slumping down in his ringside corner and passing out, and does not confirm if he lives or dies.
  • Anti-Villain:
    • Yoko. She antagonizes Joe mostly during the first half of the series, then organizes most of Joe's fights, and, as he puts it, toys with his fate like a demon. She is however a good person, and grows to fall in love with Joe, who likes her back in his own way.
    • All Joe's rivals, except for Harimau, are honorable fighters that he respects in some way, despite being his opponents.
  • Art Evolution: The manga's art starts out simple before becoming more and more detailed over time.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Averted with the manga, where everybody has nipples. Played Straight with the anime, where nobody is drawn with nipples.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The foreign characters mix English with Japanese in the original manga, to the point the second anime features foreigners speaking completely in English.
    • The English Scanlation features a lot of Spanish and a couple of sentences in Korean.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Joe fails to defeat Jose in their final match, but put up such an incredible fight that the prideful Jose is shocked to the core at the sheer tenacity Joe exhibits and considers him a Worthy Opponent. Unfortunately for Joe, we last see him being carried out of the arena in the arms of his trainer, and the manga leaves it ambiguous if Joe was actually killed. Even if he did, Joe died doing something he loved and has proved himself to the world, at the very least allowing him to die happy.
  • Book Dumb: Joe, which comes back to bite him big time when it turns out there's a theory portion of the boxing license exam.
  • Boring Yet Practical: Basic boxing techniques. They're boring, seem pointless, and the moment Joe first tried out a jab after reading its description he discovered his punch was much faster and stronger. And then there's footwork and defensive techniques.
  • Byronic Hero: Joe Yabuki goes through many hardships... and he brings almost all of them on himself.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Joe cannot tell Yoko that he likes her, to the point he only confesses after she reveals she was in love with him at the end.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Several characters die like this.
  • Character Development: Nishi goes from a Jerkass leader of a group of delinquents to a Gentle Giant.
  • Cross Counter: Trope Maker. It's also Joe's specialty.
  • Darker and Edgier: Ashita no Joe 2 is this for the manga. Boxers die or retire a lot more often.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: If the player defeats Jose Mendoza, the final boss in the Ashita no Joe arcade game made by Taito, then Joe becomes the World Champion and marries Yoko.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Both the manga and the first anime's opening scenes feature the Tokyo Tower to establish that Ashita no Joe takes place around the Tokyo area.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Danpei.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: It's a frequent trope in the series. For instance Joe's triple cross-counter fractures Wolf's jaw so badly that he has to retire.
  • Gekiga: Has the art and the themes of a typical gekiga, and is one of the more famous works of Asao Takamori, a famous gekiga writer.
  • Gentle Giant: Nishi post Character Development.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Quickly Deconstructed: Joe was established early as a capable fighter even if he only had brawling experience - and then he had a serious fight with Danpei and went down hard and fast, with Danpei being tired from his hard work. That's when it starts becoming a manga on boxing.
  • Heroic BSoD: Joe, after accidentally causing Rikiishi's death in their fight.
  • Heroic RRoD: Rikiishi's death is from the brain damage that Joe accidentally dealt to him with a too-well-placed cross counter in the sixth round, which kicks in right after the fight is over.
  • Hot-Blooded: Joe Yabuki.
  • Identical Stranger: Freelance journalist Kiyoshi Suga looks confusingly like Joe's first rival Rikiishi, albeit with more handsome features.
  • Japanese Delinquents: Joe, Nishi and Rikiishi. In fact, all of them met in a juvenile prison.
  • Jerkass:
    • Joe, through and through. His Jerkass tendencies rise to the point where you have to wonder why Nishi continues to put up with him. After the Juvenile prison arc, he is more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
    • Nishi himself used to be quite the asshole.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: At first, the boxing club presidents composing the Japanese Boxing Commission refuse to reinstate Danpei, openly call him mad for thinking they'd even consider doing so, and tell him to his face he's a cancer and a threat to their sport, a remnant of the time boxing used to be considered little better than street fighting that they'd rather forget about. As a boxing club owner, Danpei was constantly drunk, mistreated his boxers, and assaulted opposing boxers, referees, JBC officials, and even the public, for anything that could vaguely be considered an offense, up until they had to disbar him, and they were genuinely scared he'd resume his antics - and right after being refused, Danpei got drunk, marched back to the JBC building, and attacked them.
  • Jerkass Victim: The sports journalists often harass Joe and put him in hard situations just to have something to write about. Every time the people of the slums rob them is quite deserved.
  • The Lancer: Nishi becomes this to Joe after his Character Development.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Rikiishi has this.
  • Locked into Strangeness: The ends of Jose's hair turn white once he beats Joe in the finale.
  • My Greatest Failure: Danpei Tange became a drunkard after the boxer who he spent years training for the championship threw the fight for money.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Not so much as stupidity as an act: Carlos Rivera purposely struggled against his first Japanese opponents because no matter what country he goes to, nobody is willing to fight him once they see how powerful he is.
  • The Ojou: Yoko Shiraki is a girl from a rich and well-known family. Lampshaded by Danpei, who refers to her as "ojou-san" rather than by name.
  • Refusal of the Call: Joe's initial reaction to Danpei's pleas to train him in boxing. Eventually, Joe gives in.
  • The Rival: Rikiishi, for the majority of the series.
    • Privileged Rival: Unlike Joe, he already had experience in professional boxing before they met and has the financial support of the Shiraki family.
  • Say My Name: Joe's name is screamed dramatically by Danpei several times in the series.
  • Self-Made Orphan: OFBF Champion Kim Yongbi killed a man over food. The man he killed was his father.
  • Shout-Out: Ashita no Joe references several famous 1960s and 1970s boxers and celebrities, most notably Muhammad Ali.
  • Spice Up the Subtitles: The English-language Scanlation and FanSub features a lot of vulgar swearing, even in scenes where there was no swearing in the first place.
  • Stock Shout-Out: The final scene of the series is culturally ingrained enough to be called to in all forms of Japanese media.
  • Take That, Audience!: Part of the manga can easily be seen as a take that aimed at boxing audiences who want to see bloody slugfests and K.O's and don't care how dangerous and damaging these kinds of fights are to the boxers, or about the technical and strategic aspects of the sport. This is even explicitly brought up during one fight when the audience starts to complain that the fighters aren't at each other's throats every second, and justify it with "they paid for a ticket".
  • The '60s/The '70s: The manga takes place in the 1960s and the 1970s.
  • Title Drop: Multiple times in the anime.
  • Training from Hell: The training regimen Danpei puts Joe and Nishi through is brutal even by pro athlete standards, and especially difficult for Nishi, as he needs to drop and maintain a certain weight to qualify for Middleweight, even though he's a natural Heavyweight.
  • Weight Woe: As boxing has weight categories and nobody fights as a heavyweight, they all face trouble to make weight:
    • Nishi is a natural heavyweight, but as there's very few such boxers in Japan Danpei has him fight as a middleweight. Nishi has serious issues following the diet, at least until the time Joe spends as part of a boxing circus.
    • Rikiishi is a natural welterweight, but to keep his promise to fight Joe he slims down to bantamweight - that is, 19 pounds lighter his normal category. This plays a part in his eventual death, as his body just couldn't live long enough for rescue once Joe struck the fatal blow.
    • After the fight with Rikiishi Joe has a growth spurt that would put him at least in the superfeatherweight category... But he wants to stay a bantam to honor Rikiishi, forcing him to a terrifying diet.
    • Averted with Kim Yongbi, who just can't eat enough to get too heavy due to the trauma of his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Wham Line: "I'm in love...with you, Yabuki!"
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Because he accidently killed his father, Yongbi is very scared of blood.
  • Worthy Opponent: Rikiishi and Joe seem to see each other as this.
  • Yakuza: What Wolf Kanagushi turns to, after his boxing career ends. It doesn't end well.

Alternative Title(s): Ashita No Joe