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Champion Joe (1980)

Ashita no Jô (original title)
Not Rated | | Animation, Action, Drama | 8 March 1980 (Japan)
While serving his sentence in a Tokyo juvenile detention center, a wandering orphaned slum-dog enters the world of professional boxing after befriending an incarcerated pugilistic prodigy.


Ikki Kajiwara (manga) (as Asao Takamori), Tetsuya Chiba (manga) | 2 more credits »


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Credited cast:
Teruhiko Aoi Teruhiko Aoi ... Joe Yabuki (voice)
Shôji Ishibashi Shôji Ishibashi ... Joe Yabuki
Jûkei Fujioka Jûkei Fujioka ... Danpei Tange (voice)
Ryutaro Tatsumi Ryutaro Tatsumi ... Danpei Tange
Toshiyuki Hosokawa Toshiyuki Hosokawa ... Toru Rikiishi (voice)
Seiichirô Kameishi Seiichirô Kameishi ... Toru Rikiishi
Fumi Dan Fumi Dan ... Yoko Shiraki (voice)
Yôko Takagi Yôko Takagi ... Yoko Shiraki
Shirô Kishibe Shirô Kishibe ... Mommoth Nishi (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Speedy Hayase Speedy Hayase ... Wolf kanegushi
Osachi Ishiwatari Osachi Ishiwatari
Masao Komatsu Masao Komatsu ... Tadashi aoyama
Bontarô Miake Bontarô Miake ... Kannosuke shiraki
Eiji Mutô Eiji Mutô
Shôji Nakayama Shôji Nakayama ... Wakayama


While serving his sentence in a Tokyo juvenile detention center, a wandering orphaned slum-dog enters the world of professional boxing after befriending an incarcerated pugilistic prodigy.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Never give up! (USA DVD)


Not Rated






Release Date:

8 March 1980 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Champion Joe See more »

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Version of Legend of Success Joe (1991) See more »


Goodbye Joe
by Sue Susanna
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User Reviews

Movie version of celebrated animated boxing series
5 September 2011 | by BrianDanaCampSee all my reviews

ASHITA NO JOE (TOMORROW'S JOE, 1980) is a 152-minute theatrical movie edited from the 79-episode animated series, "Ashita no Joe," which ran on Japanese TV from 1970-71 and which I've also reviewed on this site. The DVD copy I watched is in Japanese without subtitles. It covers key moments from the pioneering series, which charts the rise of Joe Yabuki, a kid from the Tokyo slums who is chosen for a boxing career by a down-on-his-luck trainer but has to suffer a stint in prison first. In the first 17 minutes, a condensation of the first four TV episodes, we see Joe meet Tange Danpei, his future trainer, and wind up in prison after a run-in with the Yakuza and a battle with the police. The movie devotes a full hour, two-fifths of its running time, to Joe's stay in prison and how an encounter there with another boxer, Rikishi, changes his life and his attitude. Joe fights a series of matches when he gets out, including an important one with reigning champ Wolf Kanagushi, who had previously fought and defeated Rikishi. It all culminates in a brutal championship fight between Joe and Rikishi, who has to lose a significant amount of weight to qualify for Joe's bantamweight class and is considerably weakened as a result. (Which begs the question—why didn't Joe simply GAIN weight?) This fight takes up 17 minutes of the running time near the end of the movie. I don't know how many episodes were devoted to it in the TV series, but I imagine it would have been at least three or four entire episodes at the end of the series.

I have two VHS volumes of the TV series, also without subtitles, containing episodes 1-4, which offer everything leading up to Joe's being sent to prison, and episodes 37-40, which detail Joe's match with Wolf Kanagushi. The value of the movie is that it fills in parts of the story that aren't available to me, particularly the one hour devoted to Joe's life in prison. However, the condensation resulting from the editing can be very misleading. When Joe spends a night in jail after a run-in with the Yakuza in the TV series, he's let out the next day. It's a later incident that gets him sent to prison, but the movie compresses all that to show Joe going to prison after the first arrest. Joe's match with Wolf takes up two entire episodes in the series, but is cut down to eight minutes in the movie. The slum kids who idolize Joe and the supportive denizens of the shantytown district where Joe resides were a significant part of the TV series but are hardly seen in the movie, except for one bus trip where Joe takes them all to a winter resort after one of his matches. As a result, the whole social context of Joe's life in the slums is seriously diminished in the movie.

Speaking of which, I could never understand why Joe avoids the trappings of his boxing success. He wears the same shabby clothes throughout, lives in the same ramshackle structure where he first started training, never eats well, and never goes out on a date. Maybe it's explained in some of the dialogue in the series, but it sure baffled me. There is a woman in the picture, a rich girl named Yoko Shiraki whose father runs a top boxing club in Tokyo, but I could never figure out the nature of her relationships with Joe or Rikishi, neither of whom seems to display any romantic interest in her. She's attractive, but cold-blooded, never smiling or showing emotion and quick to walk out of the arena during the final moments of a grueling fight involving one of her boxers. I couldn't figure that one out either.

The movie uses a whole new music score, eliminating the evocative strains that contributed so heavily to the mood of the TV show. Instead, the music here sounds like a synthesizer churning out elevator music, with the occasional rock guitar riff. I don't understand why they threw out a perfectly good score for a new, mediocre one.

Also, in comparing the images on the VHS TV episodes with those on the movie DVD, I find that the movie images are cropped on top and bottom to fit the theatrical aspect ratio. The colors are different, with blues practically nonexistent, reds enhanced, and gray backgrounds now colored brown. As a result, many of the background details are softened and everything looks a lot less gritty than it did in the TV episodes. I'd much rather watch the entire TV series on VHS than the movie on DVD.

There was a follow-up movie, ASHITA NO JOE 2 (1981), a compilation of the second TV season, which was produced ten years after the first.

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