It’s been literally more than 4 years since I’ve written about the first Tomorrow’s Joe film. I wrote it when Discotek released it a long time ago and now I am discussing this one because I got the next blu-ray from Discotek. So of course, this is the sequel of it and Joe’s story still continues because it has places to go. These are both, of course, recap movies based on both of their series that are a lot longer. They cut down a lot of the plot and details into more digestible two hours in length. That means missing out on a lot of the story nuance, but they still stand out on their own because they are just that good. The best things are just really good no matter how they are handled. Dezaki is still behind the wheel of this movie like the tv show, which means that it’s going to be good.
What Could Have Been?
Following the first film after the death of Rikishi in Joe and Rikishi’s final battle, Joe Yabuki disappeared for six months. He didn’t want any fame, just to fight and live his life to the fullest again. After six months, Joe says he can fight again and he does. He wins a lot of battles by punching people in the stomach instead of ever hitting people in the head. As much as Joe said he got over killing Rikishi, he clearly hasn’t. Joe was never at fault for what killed Rikishi, but he still blames himself and is stuck in place as a boxer because of what he is currently lacking, aggression and a general love for the sport.
So what happens? After doing nothing for a while, this new champion boxer from Venezuela, the King without a Crown, by the name of Carlos Rivera shows up and the two are instantly a rival for each other in terms of skill and dedication. If this was any other sort of series or movie, this would be the arc that Tomorrow’s Joe would finish on. Joe can box again and can do it to his heart’s content. The short but great relationship the two found with their boxing and now they can box together. If this was a happy series that didn’t have a guy die dedicating his life to fight someone who is in a lower weight class last movie, this is what would happen.
The Reality of Tomorrow’s Joe 2
Enter drama. Enter the real world Champion, Jose Mendoza. The strongest man in the entire world who takes on Carlos Rivera in a fight after Joe just faced Carlos in a Christmas Eve battle and Carlos getting his clock cleaned. Not just defeated, but defeated to the point where he can barely function as a human being. This is the tension of the entire movie. Jose Mendoza is the strongest man in the world who has shown he is beyond Joe’s level, yet Joe wants to fight him anyway. He knows the costs of fighting because he has seen Carlos face it instead of him. Well, for the most part. I think everyone who has seen the classic whited Out Joe knows where this is going. I don’t even need to say anything.
So obviously, boxing is a vehicle for something right? People call Tomorrow’s Joe or Ashita no Joe or whatever title you want and say it’s a boxing anime. Just like every other sports anime in existence, it is the vehicle for pushing the tales this series wants us to get across. Especially in this case with the dangerous and destructive obsessions that can ruin lives. Not just other people’s lives, but our own lives too. How far can obsession go? What if we see the danger signs and keep going anyway? Are our passions we enjoy worth so much that it’s the last thing we ever do or see or focus on? At what point does it become hard to turn away from something? Is this that supposed toxic masculinity buzzword people like to use?
Joe Yabuki is a young man and there are some small moments in this film that show how far his obsession has led to him pushing away a normal life. A young woman he could go out on a date with asks if he just wants to go out and have a normal night with his friends, but Joe refuses because he only wants to train and beat the strongest man in the world, Jose Mendoza. Something he wants to give everything single fiber of his being into and Jose represents the wall that Joe wants to defeat him. It is so obviously clear that Joe is also punch drunk throughout the film from how he can’t button up a normal collared shirt or walk in a straight line on a beach shore. What if he did break the chain and away so he can be a coach instead? It never happens.
The irony behind this is that Jose Mendoza is the opposite of Joe on almost every level. He is a strong man. Strong enough to leave bruises on Joe just from touching him, so you can see how became a threat. Yet, the guy has a normal family. Joe visits Jose when Jose has his massive boxing match in Hawaii and Jose just makes it such a good family trip. Some horse riding with his kids. They even visit the beach to allow everyone to swim. The man at the peak of boxing is living a normal life because he can do anything he wants to do. Yet, Jose finds Joe interesting and wants to see if Joe would be a challenge for him at the end of the day. This leads into the final fight of Tomorrow’s Joe 2.
What intrigues me about this final fight is not what Joe is doing, but Jose’s own journey. We know about Joe, he is putting entire life on the line. It is very harrowing, but it is that self destructive nature that we expect Joe to face. Jose starts everything as usual and hits Joe with his patented corkscrew punch that takes out opponents very quickly in the first round. Yet, Joe just stays up and that leads to the many pushes and pulls in the fight. Suddenly, Jose has to start trying and at the end of the match, he is a changed man who has aged twenty years in an hour or two. The poor man is fighting against the spirit of obsession and toxicity directly and he can do nothing but survive for as many rounds as possible in this fight. It’s literal insanity.
That is what makes the fight so good though. Before even talking about the art and animation, It is the longest part of Tomorrow’s Joe 2 at thirty minutes or so in length and everything is set up to the conditions of this fight happening. A lot of good character stuff. What character did what to who? What happened to Joe and how is he pushing himself this hard? Who is this best boxer in the world Jose and what is he about? What is the relationship between these two and how can it be pushed to the maximum dramatic levels? You know it’s all really good stuff though right? Because it is. I’m definitely sure it’s missing a lot of the context of what a longer tv series can do, but at two hours in length this film really is a work of art that can stand on its own too.
Wrapping Up Tomorrow’s Joe 2
Dezaki’s magic leaks heavily into the visuals, design, and direction of this show. This is obviously an older movie that has been around for over 40 years and it’s based on a television show so it doesn’t have the time and dedication to make it move smoother. Yet, I love everything about the visual design in this film. Great character designs that can only come from Tomorrow’s Joe. Excellent animation when it happens, but the way scenes are paced out and shot give you so much impact in a visceral way even when movement isn’t there. It is smartly allowing the scene to give you the impact from fighting to just seeing some moments on the beach with footsteps. The limitations of older styles of animation really show their strengths when every frame can mean something or evoke so much great emotion.
So yeah, I don’t have any major negatives when it comes to this film for the most part. The only issues I have come from the fact that it’s an older recap movie of a television series. Only the most important moments get any focus while other characters and such are thrown a bit to the way side to focus Joe, Carlos, and Jose. I didn’t even mention Joe’s coach who plays a role in this film or the rich Youko who runs a gym that allows Joe to do everything he wants to do and her last minute declaration of love to Joe that just leads to Joe giving her his boxing gloves before the end. This film is a wonderful bit of a tragedy of a film that I am glad that I own. I’m glad that I can own a lot of Dezaki anime in disc form now. Dezaki is a legend and so is Joe!