Post Reply Champion Joe 2
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Posted 6/13/14 , edited 6/13/14
by FloydYoder

Before Hajime no Ippo graced our screens with its brand of high octane boxing action there was Ashita no Joe, or Champion Joe. Champion Joe is Ikki Kajiwara and Tetsuya Chiba’s classic about a young vagabond who gets scouted by an alcoholic bum and together they grow and find new hope in the future through boxing. Champion Joe 2, now available on Crunchyroll, is the second half of this classic series.

It can always be difficult to jump into an existing series halfway through, so I’ll try to get everyone up to speed. In the beginning the main character, Joe Yabuki, is just a vagrant roaming through town. When he gets involved in a brawl, Danpei Tange--the eyepatched town drunk--is impressed by his strength and tries to get him to box. Joe refuses and just gets into more and more trouble until he is arrested and sent to a juvenile detention center. While in the detention center Joe meets future gymmate Nishi and his future rival, Rikishi. In the juvenile detention center Joe finally starts learning to box and learns his greatest weapon, the cross counter. The rest of the first half is Joe making his way up the rankings until Rikishi decides to settle their score. Rikishi’s weight control is brutal but the fight is a fierce slobberknocker of a match. The fateful fight ends with Rikishi’s death and the sorrow of all Japan. Champion Joe 2 begins right after. If you can get an opportunity to watch the first half I highly recommended it.

The central theme of Champion Joe 2 is Joe Yabuki trying to get over the death of his friend and rival. Despite being an abrasive jerk Joe Yabuki is actually a tortured and emotional man and that leads him to be a consistently tragic figure. He is talented but he is too proud to open up to anyone so he habitually pushes away those who are close to him. He is too proud to obey his coach’s instructions most of the time, he is too proud to admit his obvious love for the heiress Yoko Shiraki, and he was too proud to admit to himself that Rikishi was not just a rival but also a friend. Joe’s constant struggle with adversity adversity, his inability to let go of his stubborn pride, but also his youthful fire and will can be an allegory to the Japanese working class who were going through a huge social and economic upheaval at the time the original manga was written. Champion Joe 2 is an older series and therefore does not have the crisp animation or clean visuals as some of the more modern sports series like Kuroko’s Basketball or Hajime no Ippo (both of which are excellent and available to stream here at Crunchyroll), but what it lacks in modern flair it makes up for in raw, gritty emotional content. Every defeat, whether professional or personal, sticks out like a bleeding wound. Every victory is the result of blood, sweat, and tears and they often still leave their own scars. Moody is the word I’d use to describe the tone.

Champion Joe 2 is one of the first sports anime series but it still is one of the best. Its impact in Japanese culture cannot really be understated. One fun fact is that the Japanese people actually held a real life funeral for Joe’s rival Rikishi. That’s right, a fictional character got a real funeral because he (and this series) was loved that much. I highly recommend this series and this goes double if you like moody series, tragic heroes, and bittersweet moments.
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