The Sankei Sports newspaper has confirmed that the live-action film adaptation of Asao Takamori and Tetsuya Chiba's classic boxing manga Ashita no Joe will open early next year. 24-year-old Tomohisa Yamashita of the idol group NEWS will star as an orphan named Joe Yabuki who rises from the Tokyo slums under the tutelage of a former boxer. Yamashita is undergoing training for the physical rigors of the role.
Teruyuki Kagawa (20th Century Boys, Tsurugidake Tennoki, Gedo Senki) will play Danpei Tange, the former boxer who tutors Joe. Kagawa is a well-known boxing "otaku" who even writes his own column in Baseball Magazine company's monthly Boxing Magazine and provides commentary of WOWOW's live televised boxing matches. Joe's opponent Rikiishi and other characters are still being casted. The Japanese television station TBS denied published reports that Keiko Kitagawa is also starring in the film; Kitagawa co-starred with Yamashita in the live-action television series Buzzer Beat. Fumihiko Sori (Ping Pong, Vexille - 2077 Isolation of Japan, To) is directing.
Takamori and Chiba's original 1968-1973 manga is among the most critically acclaimed stories in Japanese popular culture, and Osamu Dezaki's television series added to the story's iconic status. It would later influence two generations of sports and shōnen manga, including Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit). A crucial twist in the Ashita no Joe television anime's plot made headlines in Japan as people marked the occasion with public ceremonies.
Tai Seng licensed the first Ashita no Joe anime film for North America in 2008. A relatively new anime distributor named Animewho also released the Joe vs. Joe video anime series that same year. There was an earlier live-action film directed by the late Yasuharu Hasebe.
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