Anime Reel – Anime & Manga TV News

Ashita no Joe Live Action Casts Pop Prettyboy as Manliest Boxer Ever

Posted on: February 17, 2010

Little pop idol's gonna have to get himself some muscles...

Image from AnimeNation

ANN has posted some very happy news that comes with some big reservations – classic Japanese hero Yabuki Joe (think Rocky, but Ashita no Joe came 8 years before) is coming to the big screen, with mega-hot singer/actor Yamashita Tomohisa (AKA Yamapi) playing the title role. While I am all for having the Japanese Rocky on the big screen, and I think it has the potential to be a great movie, I have to sigh and shake my head at the casting.

Ashita no Joe‘s Yabuki Joe is the archetypal working-class hero, made of gristle and grime and sweat, while Yamapi embodies modern mass-produced entertainment: he grew up in the Johnny’s stable, grew up as a dancer, led a boy band, and spends much of his time in front of cameras or performing in arenas packed with squealing lady fans. It shouldn’t rattle me that they chose him to play the lead because he’ll put butts in the seats, but… well, read more about the essence of Yabuki Joe after the jump to get to the heart of why I hate this.

If you don’t know the history and importance of Ashita no Joe, let me give you the quick version. The Ashita no Joe manga started in 1968, when Japan was still trying to figure out how to move forward after World War II. The growth of the middle class and the incredible reduction of poverty led to a kind of identity crisis among young Japanese, and they latched on to the story of Yabuki Joe, an orphan from the slums who takes up boxing and becomes a star through sheer grit and willpower, standing toe-to-toe with boxers who have every advantage over him. Joe was so popular with the Japanese that his death in the ring made national news, and the black-and-white image of him smiling and slumped in his corner stool, dead from exhaustion after a fifteen-round boxing match, has been etched into the Japanese cultural memory just as strongly as Citizen Kane whispering “Rosebud” represents a loss of innocence in the industrial age.


"I've burned out... all that's left is ash."

If that’s a spoiler, I’m sorry, but this happened in the ’70s and had a huge cultural impact on the psyche of the rebuilding Japanese economy and social structure. If you don’t see the significance of Yabuki Joe’s ultimate goal of working himself to death, you don’t understand Japan between the end of the war and the burst of the bubble economy.

So, I feel that it’s just sad that they handed this role to a pampered prettyboy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he works hard in his own way, but couldn’t they have gotten someone who could at least pretend to represent the working class?

2 Responses to "Ashita no Joe Live Action Casts Pop Prettyboy as Manliest Boxer Ever"

That’s pretty much how it works in the drama translation. The manga One Pound Gospel had Kamenashi Kazuya play the food obsessed boxer who always ate over his weight class…

Watching a drama with an almost anorexic pretty boy being the overweight boxer….


Yup, I also agree.

I’m disappointed that they chose Yamapi.

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