by Chris MaGee
Back at the beginning of 2009 I reviewed the 1980 animated film based on Tetsuya Chiba's iconic manga "Ashita no Joe". While manga characters like Astroboy, Gegege no Kitaro, and Doraemon have gained fame around the world none of them can boast the huge cultural impact that Chiba's orphaned boxer Joe Yabuki had to young Japanese during the tumultuous late 60's and early 70's. This was the scrappy pugilist pulled from the gutter to be a prize fighter who was adopted as an ideological hero of Japan's left-wing student movement including the Red Army Members who hijacked a Japan Airlines Boeing 727 and flew it to Pyonyang, North Korea in 1970, plus the manga character who was honoured with a real-life funeral organized by avant-garde filmmaker and playwright Shuji Terayama. Let's see if Astroboy can top that!
So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I read this report posted over at Anime News Network this week. It looks like "Ashita no Joe" is going to be going the way of every other successful manga and anime character and will be recycled into a big budget live-action film. Japanese TV Network TBS is behind the project and apparently Tomohisa Yamashita (above left) of the boy band NEWS is set to put on slip on the gloves as Joe.
Now, a live-action "Ashita no Joe" isn't without precedent. Yasuharu Hasebe, the man behind the camp classic "Black Tight Killers" directed a live action film of Chiba's manga with Masatsugu Ishibashi in the role of Joe. Yes, Ishibashi had a career as a singer as well, but as you can see from the clip of Hasebe's film below he's a bit more butch that Yamashita... although Yamashita does look studly with his shirt off...