“Joe Yabuki isn’t Some Sandbag” : The Greatest Boxing Epic Ever

After watching twenty-nine episodes of Ashita no Joe, the time seems ripe to tell my dear readers about why I have become addicted to it.  In the past couple of weeks, I have only twice turned my attention to other anime: Rolling Girls and Angel Cop.  But, I might be forgiven for my narrow viewing by the fact that Ashita no Joe renders everything else mediocre in comparison–especially more recent anime.  Don’t get me wrong.   Rolling Girls is entertaining, Aldnoah.Zero 2 will likely be quite good, and Yuri Kuma Arashi just might find itself on my watch list.  But, none of these has a prayer of meeting the quality of Ashita no Joe.

Joe vs. Rikiishi

So, what makes Ashita no Joe so great?  It’s strongest suit is the characters.  Our hero might be the worst jerk you’ve ever seen; but, Joe Yabuki feels surprisingly real, and certain moments of his characters development blow one’s mind.  The Aoyama Arc’s conclusion almost made me fall out of my chair!  Sometimes you root for Joe, at other times you pity him, and much of the time you want to see him knocked flat.  With Joe’s proclivity for fighting everyone and everything, one does see that time and time again.  Yet, Joe always gets back up.

Abunai Danpei

Joe Preening Himself


A central theme of the anime revolves on rising again after each fall, which makes boxing itself a perfect metaphor for life.  The characters, especially Danpei, hold on to lunatic hopes, which show no chance of fulfillment.  (There is real craftsmanship in this.  For the sake of the series, one knows that certain things must happen, but the storytelling makes one doubt even the things necessary for the continuance of the plot!)  Before Danpei met Joe, he lived as a drunk in the slums, but the goal of seeing Joe become a world class boxer made him turn his life around.  His perseverance is incredible considering the extreme resistance Joe puts up as he lacks any hope of making a good life for himself.  One simply must watch the hero’s journey from a drifter with no hopes and dreams to a man with something worth fighting for!

Sake no Mikata

Devil-May-Care Danpei

Also, laughter plays a huge role in this anime.  Most of the laughter is cold, cynical, mocking, pathetic, or insane.  So far, I’ve only come across one scene where the laughter held real mirth.  People laugh in order to mask their pain.  Central to the landscape of the city where Joe trains is Namida-hashi or “the bridge of tears.”  One is reminded of the phrase “vale of tears” in the Salve Regina, and this Namida-hashi becomes another metaphor for life.  Seeing the characters wrestle with their pains and sorrows is every bit as compelling as watching them fight with their fists.  I can’t recommend this series enough.  I fear lest it take Rurouni Kenshin’s place on my Top Fifty list!

Have a Rice Ball

Even the annoying little girl character is great in this show!

Even the annoying little girl character is great in this show!

8 comments on ““Joe Yabuki isn’t Some Sandbag” : The Greatest Boxing Epic Ever

  1. David A says:

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    Speaking of the new series you mentioned… YKA? what I have read about that one isn’t very good… is a morally objectionable production.

    Rolling Girls instead has maintained certain quality, I was suprised that two fanservice elements in ep. 2, like Ma-chan putting on the Maccha Green uniform, and the new character with the immodest outfit, weren’t used heavily as fanservice… they aren’t even drawn with many details in the torso area.

    The animation and backgrounds are very good too, and the story is interesting.


    • Oh! You should definitely watch Ashita no Joe. It has a great story!

      I’ve been playing around with the idea of watching YKA, but I probably won’t now that I’m watching another awesome old school anime: Urusei Yatsura.

      I really need to watch the next episode of Rolling Girls. What people have said about it makes me glad to be watching that show.


      • David A says:


        Good! that’s a type of show I don’t think it has a good justification for watching.

        How is Uruseri Yatsura?

        Yes, Rolling Girls is an interesting show.


      • Urusei Yatsura is utterly hilarious. The heroine always wears a swimsuit but I don’t pay it much attention–too busy laughing.


      • David A says:

        Just checked on tvtropes.

        What a long series!

        Almost 200 episodes, but the anime finished before the manga. According to the article, there are instances of nudity (detailed, not Barbie style ones) and two crossdresser characters, one boy and a girl.

        It seems to be a series that stablished or started some tropes regarding these type of series.


  2. […] for old school anime stretched from 1960 – 1989.  This was based on the misconception that Ashita no Joe, an old school anime par excellence, aired in 1967, and I expected to find many others like this show in style.  Ashita no Joe […]


  3. Roberto Karabetian says:

    2 days have passed but still listening to Joe’s sountrack with almost tears in my eyes. Got to place this anime on the top1 of my list.I haven’t come across anything like it. I fucking miss Joe so much.. so sad. Nothing can be compared with the character development this anime offers… I wish I could find something similar but I doubt it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The anime is a true masterpiece. My brother tells me the sequel is even better than the original, but I can’t speak to that from personal experience. I really should watch it.

      Joe Yabuki really does have the best character arc out of any other anime character. Part of the reason has to do with Ashita no Joe being a conversion story with Christian elements. If you go to the blog Beneath the Tangles, you can probably find three or four more posts I wrote about this fantastic series.


Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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