Director: Yō Moriyama
Japan. 6h 30m ish
This epic mini series was made in honour of the 50th anniversary of the iconic Manga Ashita no Joe. It closely follows the often tragic story of Junk Dog, a young fighter who has been picked up by a trainer, Gansaku Nanbu who has fallen from grace and uses the kid to fix fights to raise money to pay off his debts.
In this future era there’s a classic sci fi set up, there are two distinct classes, citizens and non citizens, Junk Dog is of the lower cast, a non citizen who fights in the outskirts of a mega city but he dreams of making it into the Megloboxing ring as a citizen to fight the number one ranked fighter, Yūri. Who, through a series of unfortunate events turns up in Junk’s ring and the two battle it out, Junk Dog gets his ass handed to him but the young kid never gives up and this intrigues Yūri, who leaves the fight but urges the “Stray Dog” to com and fight him in the big ring. This really awakens something and soon he encourages Nanbu to help him fight in Meglabox. Nanbu is pretty useless but he strikes an all or nothing bargain with the man he already owes money to, the pair arrange for a fake citizen card for Junk Dog who renames himself Joe, and they enter him into the games.
Still living on the edge of society Joe has limited resources and after taking on an orphaned street kid, Sachio, whose dedication to Joe and his ability to study fighters seems to come from his late father who has more to do with megloboxing than anyone could guess. But the trio, very much out of their depths struggle on without their most vital fighting ingredient…
Megloboxing is different from basic boxing as the fighters are all enhanced by mechanical equipment that’s strapped to their torso, shoulders and arms, but Joe turns up for his first fight, a little wobbly and without any gear giving him the nickname Gearless Joe. He isn’t just a participant he’s a walking legend who’s breaking all the rules.
I instantly became a total fangirl over this series, I love the concept and characters, none of them were too kawaii or over the top, everyone was very relatable which made the story much easier to swallow.
As you’d imagine there’s a lot of honour, pride and doing the right thing overtakes even the meanest of bad guys, everyone is trying to prove themselves but unlike other films that follow fighters the way defeat is dealt with is very different but it’s more of a cultural thing than a new concept but it leads to so much pride and iconic scenes, tears and laughter, rather than full on double crossing and anger as you’d usually expect.
Gearless Joe/Junk Dog is a brilliantly written character a kid who stumbles through the movie, much like a samurai, always moving forwards, but at the same time he has this need to get to that void to stare in, at nights he takes his motorbike out and rides blindly in the desert heading towards cliffs and stopping at the last minute, for most of the movie he’s on par with Kowalski in Vanishing Point (1971) more than Rocky. He lives on the edge not fighting for the fame but for the self achievement.
All of this is set against a heavy duty urban rap soundtrack by Mabanua that keeps it firmly grounded on the streets rather than the limelights of the Meglomania tournament. I really couldn’t find many faults with the series apart from the ending, but it can only one of two ways.. Or can it? Joe is definitely my hero and that hair.. To. die. for!
R: Ashita no Joe (1968)
L: Fighting Movies, A-Z of Anime