Film Review: Ashita no Joe / Tomorrow’s Joe (2011)

Mighty Joe Young and the Pecs of Tomorrow

by Ender’s Girl

(Related post: Boxer… Shorts: Vid Clips from Ashita no Joe, Crying Fist and 1-Pound Gospel)

The Cast:
Yamashita Tomohisa, Iseya Yusuke, Karina, Kagawa Teruyuki, and Yomoshita Tomohisa’s various muscle groups in a dazzling repeat performance!!!

Directed by Sori Fumihiko / TBS Pictures, 2011

In a Nutshell:
A scrappy young delinquent discovers a love for boxing and rises from the slums to challenge an old rival in the ring – with a little help from a boozy nut of a trainer, unconventional fighting techniques, and his magic moobs.

(SpoilLert: Everything but the ending!)

[Recommended sing-along companion track: “Eye of the Tiger” by YamaPi. No, by Survivor]

Risin’ up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances…
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive…

Yamashita Tomohisa, he of the “mighty chest” (LMAO) and plum Getsuku dramas, steps into the ring as Japan’s favorite boxing icon Yabuki Joe in this live-action adaptation of the acclaimed manga epic from Takamori Asao and Chiba Tetsuya.

Serialized from 1968 to 1973 in the Weekly Shounen Magazine, “Ashita no Joe” was an ode to the working-class hero – the social archetype that became wildly popular during the boom years of the ‘50s and ‘60s, when Japan’s remarkable economic growth was largely driven by heavy industry and mass production.

While the coming-of-age theme of “Ashita no Joe” holds universal appeal, the story would resonate especially with members of the so-called “manga generation.” Born around 1950, many of these youths were uneducated factory workers uprooted from rural areas, or radical university students when “Ashita no Joe” was first published. In the character of Yabuki Joe, a street punk who boxes his way to a bantamweight championship despite all odds, these readers found a protagonist they could identify with and root for, and who best embodied their own dreams of overcoming whatever obstacles stood in the way of personal progress.

Manga from the 1960s also reflected Japan’s tumultuous postwar Zeitgeist, with its increasingly strident anti-war and anti-establishment tones. Although counted as mainstream manga, “Ashita no Joe” was influenced by works of the more serious gekiga sub-genre, which were heavy on social realism and often featured characters who were disenchanted with the prevailing social order and were thus unafraid to challenge authority through unconventional or even illegal means.

Unsurprisingly, Yabuki Joe was quickly embraced as a political icon – or a sort of poster boy for various dissident movements ranging from wage-earners fighting against exploitation, to college students protesting the US-Japan Security Treaty. In 1970 one terrorist group even released the slogan “We are Tomorrow’s Joes!” after hijacking a Japan Airlines plane, obviously hoping to cadge public sympathy for their cause. And although the manga’s creators eventually bowed to censorship pressure and pulled the plug on the serial in 1973, Japan’s beloved cloth-cap pugilist has remained a pop culture icon for new generations of manga, anime and gaming enthusiasts around the world.

So many times, it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive…

The 2011 movie covers the first half of the 20-volume manga, tracing Joe’s troubled beginnings from the back streets of Tokyo’s Asakusa district (homelessness! running from the coppers! street brawls! jailtime!) all the way to his career-defining championship bout with ultimate rival Rikiishi.

To capture the feel of the period, director Sori Fumihiko opens Ashita no Joe with juxtaposed shots of harried ‘60s urbanites in suits, silhouetted factories and dark, rain-soaked alleyways, and slum communities still suffering postwar deprivations. The bluesy soundtrack, drenched in twangy harmonica riffs reminiscent of those ol’ spaghetti Westerns (made me think of tumbleweed and toothpick-chewing geezers lounging on porches, lol), nicely rounds out the whole retro vibe of the film.

Life for the lower classes is so hard, that when Yabuki Joe crosses a bridge to a shantytown on the other side of the Sumida River, and stops for a snooze on the grassy embankment (oooh a Kurosagi moment! bring out the red suspenders! lol), he narrowly survives a mugging attempt by a gang of… eight-year-old urchins, tsk. (The little scamps look too cute and well-fed to be creditable guttersnipes, but then we’re also expected to believe that Joe grew up miserable! and! destitute! on the sole account of YamaPi’s ORANGE FLAT CAP and BINDLE, i.e. the ultimate proletarian accoutrements. The accessories have to do the talking because, alas, Pi’s pretty face won’t really tell you much. LOL)

It’s in this part of town where Joe meets his would-be trainer, Danpei (played with gusto by Kagawa Teruyuki). With the bald pate, eyepatch and horrible overbite (meaning good prosthetics, heh), Danpei could easily pass for an extra in one of those post-apocalyptic films like Mad Max or Waterworld. When Joe breaks up (or escalates, depending on how you see it) a ramen house altercation between the chronically drunk Danpei and some local yakuza, Danpei – himself a failed boxer – spots Joe’s raw potential to make it as a pro, and tries to recruit the youth with the portentous line, “How about aiming for tomorrow with me?”

Yes Joe, how about it now, Joe? Unfortunately, Danpei must wait a little longer before seeing these hopes come to fruition, because the cops soon arrive at the scene to haul Joe before the magistrate – who doesn’t look too kindly on his prior brushes with the law, and promptly metes him a one-year jail term, tsk.

But Joe’s Slamma Time doesn’t mean jack to Drunken Master Danpei! In fact, he begins their training via detailed instructions scrawled on notepaper and slipped into the kid’s prison cell. Erm, okayyy. So I guess we’re to believe that a semiliterate boy can be schooled in proper fight technique – how to counterpunch and parry and jab and feint! – from a bunch of letters he gets in the mail and reads in solitary confinement? It’s “The Art of Boxing for Dummies” – via correspondence course, oh wow! Points for creativity and resourcefulness I s’pose, but for effectivity? I don’t want to state the obvious, but boxing does have a practical as well as theoretical side, just like all disciplines: you can do 834,347 drills a day by your loneseome with just a fight manual to guide you, but without actual sparring sessions and – more importantly – immediate, real-time feedback from your trainer, I doubt you’d really learn much. *rolleyes* (I’m sorry, Original Writer of “Ashita no Joe,” but this part was.just.sirreee.silly.)

Joe still doesn’t get it, though, that what Master Danpei is trying to do is actually more than just teaching him how to box – it’s giving him a fyooooture. *sniffle* So until this truth sinks into his pretty head, the kid must feed his prison boredom by being, uh, Mr. Congeniality: picking fights with the other inmates whenever and wherever – in his own cell, in the mess hall, etc. etc. – before the guards come to throw his unrepentant heinie in the hole for the nth time.

But if there’s one convict with enough power in his punch to put Punky Joe in his place, it’s pro boxer Rikiishi (played by – *Michael Buffer voice* – Iseyaaaa Yuuuusuke!!!!), who apparently is also serving time for beating up some dude. Joe first encounteres Rikiishi (and his Fists of Fury) at a mess hall brawl (which Punky started, obviously) while howling at nobody in particular, “I am free no matter where I am!” (LMAO) Of course for Rikiishi, the fight’s a walkover from the start, although Joe does manage to sneak in a few jabs (courtesy of Danpei’s long-distance tutorials, which aren’t totally useless after all), just enough to grab the unbeaten prizefighter’s attention before the prison guards arrive to break up the party.

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge
Of our rival

And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the
Eye of the tiger…

In a way, this initial run-in with Rikiishi is a turning point for Joe. Getting creamed by a boxer whose skill set and mental toughness are a cut above anyone he’s ever fought before fires him up and provides a tangible goal (defeat Rikiishi in the ring! or die trying!) into which he can channel all his wild, wayward energy. It isn’t long before Joe scores a re-match with Rikiishi under a new boxing-for-inmates program sponsored by a wealthy property developer and his granddaughter (played to vanilla blah-ness by Karina).

But Rikiishi’s so good a slugger that Joe predictably kisses the canvas a few times to the jeers of the other prisoners (who are only too happy to watch their favorite troublemaker get pounded to dust-o)… but… but… before the ref can count to ten, Joe just… keeps… getting… back… UP. <cue dramatic slow-mo reaction shots from the hushed spectators> This is Japan’s Working-Class Hero after all, people, the symbol of their nation’s Indomitable Spirit, so OF COURSE he’ll keep getting back up, even if it kills him!!!

And here is where it gets even sillier: the clearly outclassed Joe serves as Rikiishi’s punching bag for, like, 95% of the match, and then – just when he’s on the ropes, he delivers a single cross-counter that neutralizes Rikiishi’s straight left, sending them both to the floor as the final bell sounds! Okayyy… so Palooka Joe of the pitty-pat punches can pack a mean wallop after all – never mind if he’s three weight classes below Rikiishi, has never fought in a real, refereed match before, and has but a wad of “Dear Joe” letters to show for his entire boxing training. Really Joe, really??? LMFAO Joe! LMFAO!!! Ahahahaha

After their release from prison, Rikiishi resumes his pro career as the star boxer of the gym owned by Karina’s ojiisan, while Joe moves in with Master Danpei to begin his own arduous climb to the top. <cue Survivor’s Greatest Hits> What drives both men is the inevitable conclusion that they will have to meet again one day to settle the score. But first, Joe must earn the right to face Rikiishi in the ring, and with each opponent he KO’s, each bout he wins, he advances one step closer to their promised rubber match.

In the meantime, Rikiishi ain’t sitting pretty either, and must work hard to drop the excess poundage in order to meet Joe in his weight division. Rikiishi knows he really has nothing left to prove professionally, but then he’s also too proud a fighter to ignore this pugnacious little upstart who once, only once, managed to knock him out cold. Was it just a fluke, or does the kid really have what it takes to be The Greatest? Rikiishi can’t wait to find out. (But why couldn’t they agree on a catchweight fight? Meaning they’d meet at an intermediate weight class, so that one boxer wouldn’t be put at a disadvantage for having to make all the weight adjustments himself. Because the drastic weight loss does take its toll on Rikiishi, as the story later shows. *shrugs*)

Face to face, out in the heat
Hangin’ tough, stayin’ hungry
They stack the odds
Still we take to the street
For the kill with the skill to survive…

The boxing sequences in Ashita no Joe – Joe vs. Opponent X, or Rikiishi vs. Opponent Y, or Joe vs. Rikiishi – work best when the camera moves freely around the ring as the fighters exchange blows; or when the camera assumes the POV of one of the combatants, and the lens zooms in on the other man’s face absorbing a stinging hook, or his head snapping back from an uppercut.

Boxing scenes are always more effective when they approximate the realism of actual bouts. Unfortunately for this film, such sequences are outnumbered by those that rely on too much gimmickry and drama. For one, the director is suuuper fond of suuuper-sloooow-mo shots and stagey balletic choregraphy that detract from the visceral thrill of watching two grown men in shiny, shiny shorts pummel the living sh*t out of each other. The hyperreal effects are good for productions like Crows Zero, but not for a boxing movie where you want to keep the close-quarter action as gritty and naturalistic as possible.

There’s this weird sequence from 1:35:20-1:36:00 where Joe and Rikiishi do nothing but trade body shots in polite, measured fashion. It’s perplexing because there’s no variety at all – no headshots, or clinching, or attempts to block and parry, just an unbroken succession of body punches amid a spray of sweat droplets and theatrical lighting. It’s just so… strange, so very strange. LOL

And then of course there’s Joe’s default fight strategy, which he employs without fail in each of his post-prison matches: he lets himself get whupped to within an inch of his life, then at the very last minute, he dishes that trademark cross-counter that KO’s his opponent and (conveniently) ends the fight. It’s the Finishing Move trope that we’ve seen played out in everything from Ralph Macchio’s “crane technique” in The Karate Kid, to Mickey Rourke’s “Ram Jam” move in The Wrestler, right down to the “rocket punches” and “layyyzer swooords” from those super robot anime shows.

This trope can be a powerful narrative device when used judiciously (see above examples), but in Ashita no Joe the treatment is so ham-fisted, the cross-counter just becomes a big running joke (but with no punchline, hahaha geddit?). How could the writers (of both the manga and the live-action) ever think that this sort of maneuver would make Joe look good in the ring? It only proves he’s no more than a one-trick boxer, and a mule-headed one at that: he never listens to a thing his trainer tells him, preferring instead to flaunt his boxing incompetence with this cheap gimmick that isn’t even thrilling to watch. A predictable fighter is a weak fighter, and in many ways, a not-so-smart one, either.

While Joe’s cross-counter will only make you roll your eyes in disgust, it’s his other gimmick, the “Imma Lower My Hands and Stand Stupidly in the Ring and Refuse to Hit Back Until You Move In for the Kill at Which Point I Will Unleash My Famous Cross-Counter Sucker Punch… Hahaha Suckers!” comedy shtick, that will probably leave you laughing in a very loud and very mean way. Never in my years of watching boxing on TV have I ever seen anything so stupid. Seriously, who bloody fights like that??? Joe gets knocked around the ring so much not because his opponents are necessarily better or stronger, but because Joe is a bozo.

And you know who else is a bozo? Rikiishi, because he thinks that Joe’s efftarded gambit is worth copying, ayayay! In their climactic bantamweight championship bout, there’s one whole round where Rikiishi and Joe just drop their arms and stand semi-crouched and facing each other in the ring like a pair of Neanderthals. Hahahahahahaha – WTF??!?! Best match evar! A real barnburner, that one!!! LMFAO.

And THEN there’s that speech Joe gives from his corner right before the final round. On the brink of defeat to his greatest foe, Psychoanalyst Joe chooses this very moment to probe deep into his vagabond past and deconstruct all the unconcscious impulses, anxieties and internal conflicts that have kept him from self-realization. Never mind that the speech lasts WAY longer than the one-minute break – apparently he is Relativity Joe as well, who can manipulate the space-time continuum at whim!

Read this excerpt from his dramatic monologue and, uh, try not to laugh TOO hard: “I was always angry… I didn’t have any hopes and dreams… I blamed it all on society… Then I met Rikiishi… I never knew this feeling of competition that makes my passions burn. It’s burning, such a bright red. It’s firing me up.” AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Now that’s entertainment-o, yo!!!!!! So that explains Joe’s, uh, dead-fish eyes (hahaha). All that soliloquizing must’ve sapped the remaining energy from his brain-o. You’re the best, Psychoanalyst Joe, YOU’RE THE BEST!!!

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge
Of our rival…

And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the
Eye of the tiger…

Another drawback to this movie is that the conflict outside the ring does little to keep you hooked. Good sports films know that the action inside the ring/arena/rink/etc. only serves to enhance the human drama that the characters go through outside of it – the meaty backstories and subplots, the personal demons that must be purged, the ups and downs in the road to self-fulfillment, the tangle of familial or romantic relationships that can make or break the Hero’s bid for his destiny – all these are what actually deepen and enrich the story and make the viewing experience so compelling. It’s through these personal struggles that the protagonist matures into a contender truly worthy of that championship belt (or trophy/medal/ring). The sports action is just the (sweaty) icing on the cake, and the Hero’s final hard-fought win over his rival but a validation that he has indeed learned his life lessons not only as an athlete, but as a person.

In my 2010 anticipatory primer to Ashita no Joe I also touched on Crying Fist, the 2005 boxing film by Ryu Seung-wan starring two of the most exciting actors in Korean cinema, Choi Min-sik and Ryu Seung-bum. What burns brightest in my memoryof this film isn’t the fight direction (which was excellent), but the thoroughly evolved characters of Tae-shik (Choi Min-sik) and Sang-hwan (Ryu Seung-bum), two men who have never met before, but whose disparate personal trajectories are what drive the plot forward until the final tournament where Tae-shik and Sang-hwan’s lives fleetingly come together in a singular moment of victory for one, and of heartbreak for the other.

Whereas the characters of Joe and Rikiishi are so sparsely written that you’re never drawn into their personal journeys (what personal journeys?). Their scenes together just feel like space fillers wedged between fight sequences, like the one-minute time-outs in a really, really long boxing match. How can you root for two people in the ring whom you know nothing about? Only Karina’s character has a backstory – she spent her childhood in Joe and Danpei’s shantytown, and now that she’s rich she wants Gramps to tear down the slums and put up a chain of fitness clubs and sports arenas in its place, ohWOW – but NOBODY CARES ABOUT HER so all those silly flashbacks of Poor Kiddie Karina getting bullied by the squatter kids don’t mean squat.

There’s a vague, pseudo-romantic subplot involving Karina and the two blokes, but whatever semblance of a love triangle is never explored beyond a few tepid exchanges in an empty locker room before a fight, or on the bridge above Master Danpei’s makeshift gym (I’m talking about the scene where UnLoverboy Joe shows Karina he’s got more affection for a little weed sprouting from a crack in the bridge, than he does for her, tsk tsk. big mistake to fall for… Horticulturist Joe, lol). Personally I would’ve been more invested in seeing Karina develop feelings for Rikiishi instead, because she and Iseya Yusuke seemed to have better chemistry, and because for once it would be nice if the Girl fell for the Rival and not the Hero. Aaand because I‘d be bored to tears if Karina ever ended up with YamaPi – it ain’t no fun if your boyfriend has exactly the same comatose facial expression as yours, whether you’re fighting or making up – or (shudder!) making out, lol.

Risin’ up straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance
Now I’m not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive

But before you write this movie off, look on the bright side – at least there’s the Obligatory Training Montage to pump a little juice into the lackluster storytelling. There’s a reason why even the suckiest of sports movies can become a shade enjoyable when they feature the Underdog Hero – and his Archnemesis too – in MTV-style training sequences set against cheesily inspirational ‘80s rock music. Joe and Rikiishi may not have had the advantage of a macho-mushy signature piece like John Cafferty’s “Hearts On Fire” (Rocky IV) or Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best” (The Karate Kid) to power their workouts, but all the other staples are there: the jump rope drills! the one-finger pushups! the wheelbarrow pushups! the speed bag punching! the shadowboxing! the sparring! the jogging through wide open spaces! the inverted sit-ups! the body building! (lol)

The great thing about training montages is that the actors don’t need to act their faces off because the focus is on the intense physical activity, not the Oscar-worthiness of their performances. They don’t even have to stay in character; all they need to do is look fierce and determined and show off their unbelievably ripped (and usually ungarbed, teehee) physiques. And fierce, determined, and – oh yes – ripped are what YamaPi and Iseya Yusuke are in this film, attacking their punishing exercise routines with admirable zeal. Man oh man, there is not an inch of flab on these dude’s bodies; I wouldn’t be surprised if their combined body fat percentage amounted to… -6% or something, lol.

From my fangirl perspective, at least the gratuitous sprinkling of eye candy (or muscle candy? heh) takes some of the tedium off the two-hour film. My favorite shot of YamaPi is the one at 1:21:30 where he’s wearing an A-shirt while pumping sand-filled bottles in Danpei’s dinky little gym. Objectively speaking though, Iseya Yusuke has the nicer bod – he’s taller and better-proportioned (meaning the size ratio of his pecs to any other muscle group is less than 349:1 – unlike Mr. Mighty Chest here. lulz). I admire Iseya for really committing to the character, but it got a leeetle freaky watching Rikiishi push his sinewy self to the vein-popping (and eye-popping!) extremes of his rapid weight loss strategy, holing up in the gym’s boiler room and abstaining from water like a fakir possessed – just to make weight in time for F(r)ight Night with Joe Sixpack.

(For some reason, this reminded me of BTS clips of Hallyu king(pin) Bae Yong-joon (aka Yonsama) doing sweaty pushups in-between takes for his commemorative photobook The Image: Volume 1 back in 2004. Now the stuff inside that book is not for the fainthearted, especially the section aptly titled “Secret Hysteria,” where an uber-beefed-up Yonsama acts out his not-so-secret “Commando in a Jungle Prison” fantasies wearing nothing but torn denims, daubs of red clay, and his trademark Winter Sonata glasses (don’t ask). Here’s a picture from said photobook which I dedicated to Thundie at a K-drama forum back in our pre-blogging days, and another one which I posted to the same thread at the height of Korea’s mad-cow scare. We had a good barf – er, laugh over the Ramboesque images, never mind if we had to spritz our eyes with industrial-grade bleach afterwards. Good times, LOL. But imagine if YamaPi had gotten hold of this coffeetable monstrosity and decided to, uh, get the “Yonsama look” for his 2008 AnAn cover shoot? The horror! The horror! Hahahaha /end of pointless unearthing of bad memories)

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that a special cast member, uh, unwittingly stole the spotlight from YamaPi a couple of times, beginning with this cameo at 1:09

Hahahahahahahahahha. So the real and undisputed King of the Ring is… YamaPi’s Thing? LULZ. Here’s an encore appearance at Rikiishi and Joe’s pre-fight weigh-in:

Hahahahahahahahahaha!!! Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking – (besides “Ugh, E.G. you lecherous troll!!!” *spits on ground* LOL) – What the FRAK, YamaPi??? Was it that cold on the movie set, or were you just, er, really really happy to be around other sweaty, shirtless dudes? (Eww. Lol)

Before I get pilloried for my lewd observations, let me defend myself by saying I did not I repeat DID NOT actively search for the offending appendage in every frame, as if the whole movie were a “Where’s Wally Weenie?” picture book. Was it my fault if Pi’s little friend, uh, popped out when I least expected it? Hahahahaha. Anyway, enough of that Weenie of Tomorrow talk. Let us purge the nasty imagery by singing the “Eye of the Tiger” chorus! All together now, with feeling!

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge
Of our rival…

And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the
Eye of the tiger…

And speaking of songs, watch out for the Ashita no Joe closing credits, which have the perfect accompaniment in Utada Hikaru’s symphonic rock ballad “Show Me Love (Not a Dream)”. Despite what the song title suggests, there’s a lovely dreamlike quality to this black-and-white music video showing YamaPi and Iseya Yusuke sparring in slow-mo, their faces in shadow. The corded muscles of their arms and torsos are starkly outlined in the low-key lighting as the figthters trade jabs and left hooks – very stylistic and edgy. And leave it to Hikki to jack up the dramatic quotient with her soul-wrenching vocals – “It’s all in my heaaad (Can you show me love) / It’s all in my heaaad (Not a dream)”. It’s a real treat watching this sequence; verrrry noiiiiice indeed.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, in case you (1) never read the manga, or (2) were too lazy to Wiki the synopsis, haha. Let’s just say that Rikiishi and Joe’s epic re-match concludes with the best man winning… although this well-deserved victory comes with the ultimate price, tsk tsk. And as for the loser, he learns that there is honor even in defeat, especially if the fight has been fought hard, and fought well. (Both contenders also learn that drinking a little water never killed anyone, dagnabbit.) YamaPi also gets one last scene to prove his *ehem* drama-worthiness: set in the locker room  right after the bout, it’s a particularly heavy moment that would require any actor to dig deep into his psyche and draw out the complex emotions he needs to convey… But then this is YamaPi remember, so all he impresses on you in that Big Dramatic Scene is that when he cries, he looks like an effin’ panda – from the dark circles around his eyes (“Eye of the Panda”? lol). Although it was prolly all makeup anyway, hyukhyuk.

My 2010 self said this in my Boxer… Shorts post:

…what gives me a faint glimmer of hope is the trailer’s gritty, intense vibe… And the fact that Pi’s face in the final shot, as he delivers a ferocious left hook right into the camera, actually packs more emotion than his characters from his last three dramas ever did, heh heh heh.

Oh, 2010 E.G., what shimmery optimism you had back then, tsk tsk. Turns out, this is the only shot where YamaPi’s face registers any discernible emotion, ayayay!

Ashita no Joe shows us that even the classic underdog boxing tale, with its familiar premise and archetypes – the working-class hero with a troubled past; his eccentric, demanding trainer; the hero’s unbeaten rival; and the girl who comes between them – will still fail to go the distance if all it rides on is a Hero who’s actually more a Chump than a Champ, no thanks to a poorly developed script and a leading man who throws in the acting towel before the opening bell even sounds.

Oh looky – I also tried to recap the movie using YamaPi’s singles and albums:

  • YamaPi and Iseya Yusuke’s ripped physiques: Supergood
  • YamaPi’s acting: Superbad
  • Ashita no Joe romance-o-meter: Loveless
  • YamaPi’s unexpected weenie attack: One in a Million! (hahahaha)

(Sorry, but I didn’t know how to work in “Daite Señorita” and “Hadakanbo” – too hard, lol. Perhaps you’ll have better luck than I did. That’s all folks, see you in 2012!)

Grade, by unanimous decision (lol)
Artistic & technical merit: B-
Entertainment value: C+
Overall: B-

Photo credits:,,,,,,,,

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15 Comments on “Film Review: Ashita no Joe / Tomorrow’s Joe (2011)”

  1. Eliza Bennet Says:

    Thank you so much for this review. The thing I least expected was to laugh out loud more than one but I did. Oh how I laughed, especially at the pic where the just stands there with his fists lowered (And you have given the film’s ending somewhere mid review, just to let you know).

    “Was it that cold on the movie set,”
    Ok given the size of the appendage I can understand why you’d think the above but just FYI when it is cold the said appendage tends to go limp and shrink. But the position of the said appendage indicates that it is not shrinking. It is just in proportion with the body its attached to. So either your second theory applies or he is somehow turned on by imitating to be a boxer. And how embarrasing (for more than one reason) this must be for him.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      You’re more than welcome, glad the review gave you a few (unexpected) laughs! 🙂

      “(And you have given the film’s ending somewhere mid review, just to let you know).” — Aaack, I did, didn’t I???? *thwacks head* So sorry for that boo-boo, I’ve since edited the spoiler out. Thanks for pointing this out! ^^;

      “FYI when it is cold the said appendage tends to go limp and shrink.” — LOL of course this makes more sense!!! *double-thwacks head* (Silly E.G. hahaha. It’s obvious I don’t know that much about the inner workings of the male anatomy LMAO) But yeah, it must have been so, SO embarrassing for Pi when Ashita no Joe first came out in theaters! This is something that’s hard to live down… Unless he’s quite the exhibitionist, which would mean that “embarrassing” is nowhere in his vocabulary LOL 😀

  2. himonogirl Says:

    I loved every bit of your review, and that’s from someone who does NOT love boxing. I love the Rocky franchise though.
    Seriously? You’re DA best! Made me roll on the floor (mentally).
    And you’re quite the boxer yourself: I was feeling for Pi (like “ouch, dude, sorry but you deserve it”) at each of your sentence.

    Man, you almost make me love johnny’s…Scratch that, I’ll never will, but you sure know how to make them hilarious(ly pitiful).

    happy holidays and see you next year for more treats!

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hahahaha! Glad you enjoyed the review despite your feelings towards boxing. 😀 (A Rocky fan, eh? Then the “Eye of the Tiger” sing-along was just for you! ^^;) But oh dear, was I too hard on PiPi? *nasty grin*

      And happy holidays to you too! May the next year be even better than the last — for us and for everyone, puny Johnnies included 😉

  3. tateami Says:

    >> The accessories have to do the talking because, alas, Pi’s pretty face won’t really tell you much.

    *snorts soda through nose*


    Ehehe, see, now that’s dedication to the YamaPi cause, because even the pecs o’ doom couldn’t get me to watch this. On the other hand, the fact that you also know boxing makes the review far more interesting than otherwise, since you pointed out things that either would’ve missed me, or would’ve just been questioned but not really chased, if you know what I mean. That is, I can tell when something’s “off” but not know why.

    Though apropos of this, I’m wondering if you’d ever review Love Fight. Doesn’t have YamaPi, or pecs o’ doom, but it seemed a bit more authentic. At least, to my untrained eyes. I’m curious what an experienced boxing-watcher would make of it.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hey thanks. 🙂 The boxing details didn’t ALL come from memory, I’m afraid; despite my 25++ years of watching televised boxing matches, my boxing lingo was a tad rusty so I had to do some research first. (I usually do online research while writing my reviews. That’s why they take so long in coming, heh) 😀

      Ack, I honestly dunno why I put up with YamaPi and the post-ProDai duds he keeps churning out, but I’m too fond of my little Pi-muffin to chuck him altogether. xP

      Thanks for the rec — I’m mentally bookmarking Love Fight, and I’ll see if I can watch and review it this year. I checked out the AsianWiki synopsis, and it seems pretty interesting. It’s rare to come across a boxing movie where the female lead is physically tough and aggressive, and isn’t the functional equivalent of a cheerleader or a ring girl. I’ll be watching this for the story and not for the eye candy, though — Hayashi Kento has the constitution of a five-year-old. :O (Oh wait, Osawa Takao’s innit, so I guess there’s some eye candy after all! :-))

      • kaigou Says:

        (sorry, that was me, kaigou!)

        just so you know the girl’s not a cheerleader or ring girl, here’s the review I did of the movie — but all that is without any clue as to whether what the movie shows is half as accurate as it ‘feels’, if that makes sense. Review’s in two parts:

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          Hey kaigou! 😉 Oh coolio, thanks for the linkies! I read your recap/review until just shy of the spoilers. I totally went “hihihi” *drooly grin* at the Osawa Takao screencaps. (And the girl is pretty!) I’m more interested in the human drama and dynamics between the three main characters, than in the actual boxing stuff. Definitely looking forward to watching this movie. Thanks again for the rec! =D

          (p.s. Waiiit… so… tateami of wordpress = kaigou of dreamwidth? :-))

  4. Jenny Says:

    Hahahahahaha! Again! This is hilarious, I wasn’t sure if I want to see this even though it has Iseya Yusuke. But I’d like to compare Box(?) with Kora Kengo and Hayato Ichihara to this, that one seemed more realistic.
    But Pi’s abs are something to behold but my bias lies with my Yu-chan, being a former model has it’s perks.
    Those Yonsama pics are scary, please save me and pass the brainbleach 😀

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Thanks Jenny! 😀 Hee hee I know how you feel about your Yu-chan (hey you introduced me to him, remember? ;P), so I’m glad you liked this review.

      Box – Ok I have not seen this, but Kora Kengo is unfairly cute, so Imma have to check this movie out, heh heh ^^;) How does it compare with Love Fight? 🙂

      • Jenny Says:

        I haven’t sen Box but I enjoyed Love fight, I liked the fact that the girl kicked some ass!
        There is not enough movies with strong, confident and kick ass girls.
        And Osawa Takao is always a nice bonus 😉
        Yes, my precious Yu-chan (insert Gollum voice) is very good and very underrated. He definitely deserves some more attention.
        I just wish a Kurosagi series 2 would be made, I enjoyed it and Maki + Pi have always had great chemistry.

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          Yeah, a Kurosagi Season 2 would seem a welcome next move for Pi’s career, seeing that Ending Planner has been pulling in dismal ratings. :-/ (Are you watching this? Any good? Uh, let me rephrase: so just how bad is it? lol) At least there’s an existing Kurosagi fanbase to support a Season 2, regardless of whether the sequel is any good or not. 🙂

          • Jenny Says:

            Haha, yeah the ratings have been abysmal and of course it has nothing to do with the fact that he can’t act or emote anything so the blame has been placed on Maeda Atsuko (even though she is just as bad)
            Tried to watch couldn’t ^^ loving Lucky 7 though, love Eita kicking Matsujun’s ass!!! Eita is so stealing Jun’s thunder which is awesome.
            And Hungry is fun, it makes me want to stuff my face though which is not so good ><

  5. JQ Says:

    You’ve been basically making fun/ ridiculing an important part of the japanese culture; not did you only make fun of the movie, but you made fun of the original story, which is a legend in Japan. After writing all that stuff in the begining, I thought you would understand more about the phenomenon this manga is and what it represents; however, it is pretty clear that you have not read the manga, nor do you understand how much of an impact did it have ( still has) on the japanese culture.
    I don’t necessarly believe the movie was that good; it didn’t portray the manga atmosphere properly, and it lacks a lot of things. However, you sholud keep in mind that, at base, this was a manga. A comic book. It didn’t go for realism; nor does the movie, since it’s following the manga, making all your comments about how unrealistic the boxing was, and so on, seem ridiculous. You took this way too seriously; it was not intended this way; what the manga ( as well as the movie) intended to do, was to send a message; a message that became symbolic since the manga was first written.
    Also, calling yamapi’s acting bad is just…let’s say inconsiderate, since most critics acknowledged his portrayal of Joe as being pretty accurate ( and one of the best things about the movie) another thing only people who read the manga would know.It’s quite different from everything he did, and he did it well, he managed to be convincing as Joe, the character the japanese society (as well as any manga lover) knows and likes. It seems like you watched this movie only because of the hot actors and you were’t able to see anything past that.

  6. […] thanks to E.G’s hilarious review of Ashita no Joe, I can’t look at Yamapi without taking in his, um, entire package…XD Damn, is it just […]

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