Ashita no Joe is also known as Tomorrow’s Joe. It is a manga that was created by Tetsuya Chiba and Asao Takamora. It began its run in 1968 and ended in 1973, after making a total of 20 volumes. The story of Tomorrow’s Joe was turned into an anime series and later a movie. It has also been known as Rocky Joe. The manga has received numerous awards and accolades from critics as being one of the best boxing mangas ever created.
Joe Yabuki is an orphan who runs away from his orphanage. He is lucky enough to run into Danpei, a washed-up boxing trainer. Danpei takes Joe in and teaches him the sport of boxing. Soon after, Joe becomes a bantamweight boxer. Bantamweight boxers must maintain a weight between 112 and 118 pounds. He becomes quickly recognized as a great bantamweight boxer, and makes an enemy in bantamweight boxer, Rikiishi. Eventually, Rikiishi boxes with Joe and, during the match, Joe accidentally kills Rikiishi.
Later, Joe flash backs on the fight between he and Rikiishi. It takes him a long time to deal with the fight, as he is shaken up mentally and worn out physically. Eventually he heads back to where it all began; the club that Danpei started training him at. He begins training again, and eventually Danpei notices that Joe will not hit any of his opponents in the face. It was a face shot that killed Rikiishi, and Joe is not eager to try it again.
He ends up having a match with Carlos Rivera, who is a well-known boxing champion. The match ends in a draw, which brings the respect and self-confidence to Joe that he needed. Joe keeps climbing up the boxing ladder, eventually being given the chance to battle World Champion Jose Mendoza. Mendoza knocked out Carlos Rivera right after his fight with Joe, in the first round. This cost Rivera his career.
The two battle it out, with Joe giving as good as he’s getting. In the last scene, he’s sitting in his corner, bruised and beaten, but with a wide smile on his face. He knows that he’s battled his best and has taken more shots from Jose than he ever expected to. The match ends as a draw, and the judges take their time deciding on who the winner is. Joe gives his gloves to Youko Shiraki, the woman who loves him, and smiles, his eyes closing. Joe dies sitting in the corner before the verdict is ever read, knowing that he finally found the match that he was waiting for his entire life. He died the way he wanted to.
In March of 1970, the fans of Tomorrow’s Joe found out that Rikiishi died in a battle with Joe. Over seven hundred people dressed in black, wore black arm bands and flowers and had a funeral for the beloved boxer. The service was actually conducted in a boxing ring, while a Buddhist priest performed the last rites.