Shelf Life
Tomorrow's Joe: The Movie

by Paul Jensen,

I saw The Night is Short, Walk On Girl last week, and it's quite a trip. The visuals are fantastic, and the story walks a fine line between being surreal and relatable. If you get a chance to catch it in theaters, go check it out. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Tomorrow's Joe: The Movie

On Shelves This Week

18if - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A young man wakes up in a dream world, where he meets a professor who claims that they're in a dream created by a girl with "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome."

Extra: Our formal review coverage for this series only goes as far as the Preview Guide, but it was also covered in This Week in Anime. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.




All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku - Complete Collection BD
Discotek - 700 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $59.95
Currently cheapest at: $38.97 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Android girl Nuku Nuku was created to fight the evil appliance robots of Mishima Industries, but her greatest challenge may be blending in at a local high school.

Extra: This collection includes the TV series and both of the OVAs, and we have an old review for one of those here.




Angel Cop - OVA Collection BD
Discotek - 183 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.95
Currently cheapest at: $19.47 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As the members of a special police force try to hunt down the members of a terrorist group called Red May, they uncover a violent conspiracy.

Extra: This OVA series was covered in a "Buried Garbage" edition of Buried Treasure, but that's about as far as our coverage goes.




Aura Battler Dunbine - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 1225 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $99.98
Currently cheapest at: $64.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A Japanese motorcycle racer is transported to the fantastic world of Bryston Well, where two rival groups are waging war with a mix of magic and giant mecha suits.

Extra: James reviewed this series earlier this month and gave it a Rental rating. It's available streaming on HIDIVE.




Beast Fighter: The Apocalypse - Complete Collection DVD
Discotek - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $39.95
Currently cheapest at: $25.45 Amazon

Synopsis: In the aftermath of an apocalyptic event, a man with the powers of multiple wild animals seeks revenge on his mad scientist father.

Extra: No formal reviews for this series, but our user ratings for it have an average of around 5.2 out of 10.





Cardcaptor Sakura: The Sealed Card DVD
Discotek - 80 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $19.95
Currently cheapest at: $12.97 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Sakura has finally captured all of the Clow Cards, but a new threat appears and threatens to bring destruction to her hometown.

Extra: This movie was also released on Blu-Ray back in July. We have an old review here, and the TV series is available streaming on Crunchyroll.





Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 1250 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $52.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As the Holy Britannian Empire expands its control across the world, an exiled prince named Lelouch sparks a rebellion using a power called Geass.

Extra: We've covered this series a lot over the years, with our most recent review coming in early 2017. It was also the subject of an ANNCast episode, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.




Convenience Store Boy Friends - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A group of high school students navigate the ups and downs of teenage life, with many of their encounters happening at the local convenience store.

Extra: This series only got as far as the Preview Guide when it aired last year. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.





Devilman - OVA Collection BD
Discotek - 120 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.95
Currently cheapest at: $19.29 Amazon

Synopsis: When demons threaten to destroy human society, only a young man who has been possessed by a demon himself has the power to stop them.

Extra: This franchise has spawned several adaptations over the years, and our user ratings for this OVA version have an average of around 6.8 out of 10.




Eternal Alice - Complete Collection DVD
Discotek - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $39.95
Currently cheapest at: $25.45 Amazon

Synopsis: High school student Aruto Kirihara is drawn into a secret conflict between super-powered girls called Alices, who are competing to have their wishes granted.

Extra: No formal reviews for this series, but it is mentioned briefly in a feature article on Alice-themed anime. Our user ratings sit at around 5.9 out of 10.




Knight's & Magic - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A mecha otaku is reincarnated in another world with his memories intact, and he sets out to become the pilot of a powerful Silhouette Knight.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.




My First Girlfriend is a Gal - Complete Collection BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 275 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$63.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: High school nobody Junichi Hashiba is pressured into asking out popular girl Yukana Yame, and to his surprise she actually says yes.

Extra: You'll find our episode reviews for this one here, and it was also covered in This Week in Anime. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.





Naruto Shippuden - Part 35 DVD
Viz - 323 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $39.99
Currently cheapest at: $27.96 Amazon

Synopsis: As the dream world of the Tsukuyomi continues to unfold, Sasuke learns the truth about his brother's past.

Extra: Our episode reviews cover the entirety of this set. You can stream the series on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.





No Game, No Life Zero BD, DVD, Limited Edition
Sentai - 105 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98|$19.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $17.99 Amazon|$12.99 Right Stuf|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Long before Sora and Shiro's arrival in the world of Disboard, humanity struggles to survive in the midst of a war between more powerful races.

Extra: I reviewed this movie last week, and we also have another review for your reading pleasure. It's set to go up on HIDIVE next month, and the TV series is available on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Hulu.




Psycho-Pass - Season 1 BD
Funimation - 550 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $52.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In a city where law enforcement relies on advanced technology, a team of Inspectors and Enforcers must pursue a devious killer.

Extra: We have a full review of this season, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.





Sound! Euphonium 2 - Part 1 BD
Ponycan - 188 min - Sub - MSRP $80.00
Currently cheapest at: $80.00 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After advancing through their first tournament, Kumiko and the other members of the band set their sights higher while struggling to overcome past regrets.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this sequel season, and both seasons are available streaming on Crunchyroll.




The Vision of Escaflowne - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 650 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $52.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: When an ordinary high school student is transported to another world, she meets a young prince and joins his quest to fight against a sinister empire.

Extra: This series was also released on disc last year, and we have a review of that set here. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.




Yuki Yuna is a Hero - Complete Collection BD
Ponycan - 280 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $90.00
Currently cheapest at: $90.00 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Yuki Yuna and the other members of her school's Hero Club try to balance their ordinary lives with an ongoing struggle against supernatural foes.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, along with reviews of previous physical releases. It's available streaming on Amazon Prime and Crunchyroll.





Shelf Life Reviews

Watching Megalobox earlier this year got me interested in the Ashita no Joe franchise. Thanks to the recent release of the movie version, I got a chance to check out the original story of a boxer named Joe.

This movie version of Tomorrow's Joe comes from way back in 1980, but it's essentially a recut of the 1970 TV series. It was meant to catch audiences up on the story before the start of a sequel season, which makes it a convenient entry point for folks who aren't too familiar with the franchise. It gives viewers just enough of the original story to understand why it was such a big deal in Japan, and it stands pretty well on its own despite its age.

Like its manga and TV counterparts, this movie tells the story of Joe Yabuki, a young drifter whose street fighting skills catch the eye of a washed-up boxing coach named Danpei. Danpei wants to train Joe as a professional boxer, but our scrappy hero isn't interested. Instead, his violent tendencies land him in a juvenile detention center, and his troubles only get worse once he beats the stuffing out of his cellmates. Joe's time in the slammer leads him to meet former boxer Rikiishi, who immediately becomes his rival. Once Joe and Rikiishi are both back on the outside, they climb their way up the ranks of the pro boxing world, eventually meeting again in the ring for a final showdown.

This film is nearly forty years old at this point, and it definitely feels like a product of its time. Even in this condensed version, the story's pacing feels pretty slow by modern standards. Plot points are often repetitive, driving home the same idea more than once. Everything just seems to take longer than it really needs to, despite the fact that the writing is incredibly straightforward. There's not much emotional subtlety here, and nearly all of the characters wear their hearts on their sleeves, which often sets a melodramatic tone for the story. It's also clear that we're getting a short version of the plot, with entire story arcs getting removed or reduced to just a brief scene or line of exposition. As with many older titles, you will need to manage your expectations a bit in order to enjoy this.

With that caveat out of the way, Tomorrow's Joe still makes a strong case for itself as one of the defining works within the sports genre. It features significant growth and development for its characters from beginning to end, whether it's Joe's evolution from obnoxious street punk to genuine contender or Danpei's redemption as a boxing coach. Joe's rivalry with Rikiishi makes for a particularly interesting dynamic, and Rikiishi himself is just as compelling and arguably more charismatic than our underdog hero. Their final fight carries an impressive amount of emotional weight, and the ending comes as a genuine shock if you go into it without knowing what to expect.

Perhaps more so than its specific story, the big reason to watch Tomorrow's Joe in any form would be for its historical value. You can see early blueprints for a lot of what we now take for granted in sports anime here, from simple visual cues to whole character arcs. If you've ever seen two anime characters do a “cross counter” punch where they hit each other simultaneously, that also comes from Tomorrow's Joe. For anyone who watched Megalobox earlier this year, it's also really interesting to go looking for all the connections between the two titles. There are the big, obvious similarities in terms of character designs, names, and personalities, but even smaller things like the connection between “Gearless” Joe's fighting style and Joe Yabuki's “No Guard” stance or the location and appearance of their boxing gyms stand out. Rikiishi and Yuri also have a lot in common, especially in terms of the measures they take in order to fight their respective rivals. It's pretty cool to be able to make those direct comparisons between one of this year's standout titles and its decades-old spiritual predecessor.

Visually, it's the direction that stands out here more than the animation. By coincidence, I've ended up watching several of director Osamu Dezaki's works for this column, and his sense of  style and shot composition is as apparent here as it is anywhere else. This combined Blu-Ray and DVD release includes an English dub, but it's from an older release done by a company that apparently didn't have access to all the necessary audio tracks. As a result, it's full of some really weird edits in the music and sound effects. Aside from that, this release's audio and visual quality is about as good as you could ask from a title as old as this. On-disc extras are limited to a theatrical trailer, but I would have loved to see some kind of commentary track to help put the movie into context for new viewers.

If you're looking for an easy way into one of anime's more influential franchises, this movie is a pretty good option. Given that neither the original manga nor the first season of the TV series have seen any official English release that I can find, it's also one of the only options. It's worth watching as a prototype for so many of the sports series that followed it, and it also holds up pretty well on its own as long as you recognize just how old it is. Give it a look if you're interested in how anime got to where it is today, and go check out Megalobox if you want to see that original blueprint adapted into a more modern form.
- Paul[TOP]

That wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send your Shelf Obsessed entries to [email protected]!


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