Wednesday, 21 November 2012

[FILM REVIEW] Boxing, tragedy ((and plenty of shirtless Yamapi)) - it could only be 'Ashita no Joe'!

All opinions are my own, so-on, so-forth. Please remember that, in case of any Pi-ripping, I seriously love Pi and that he is also my 3rd favourite celebrity in the entire farking universe. Thank you~
Looking beauts there, Yamapi, looking beauts

Okay, so, this is my first proper film review, so, I apologise in advance if it turns out to be a ridiculous pile of shite.

Plot : 9/10

Characters : 8/10

Cinematography: 9/10

Humour : 8/10

Soundtrack : 9/10

Overall : 9/10

Manga!Drama! - wait, who are those other guys? They ain't in this film!

So, starting with the bare basics, Ashita no Joe (trans; Tomorrow’s Joe) is the 2011 live-action filmed adaption of Ikki Kajiwara and Chiba Tetsuya’s 70’s  boxing manga of the same name, known internationally as Rocky Joe or, quite simply, Joe. The famed manga series has also seen a televised anime adaption, an anime movie adaption, an older live action movie adaption, a Drama CD adaption and several video games based on it.



Plots? Drama? Dramatic Pi face? I think it all ties up

The plot follows titular character, Yabuki Joe, played in the movie by the fabulous (though…not necessarily in terms of acting, but I love the guy anyway) Yamashita Tomohisa, and the story of how he becomes a pro boxer. I know it’s a review and all, but I’d rather not give away the entire story. Besides, with the tangents I’m prone to going off on, that’d take way too long. Well, basically, after a street fight, Joe ends up in prison and, while he’s there, he receives a postcard from some old guy, who had tried to convince Joe to let him train him up as a boxer, he had met during that street fight which has the basic details on how to jab on it. After losing a fight against Rikishi, a pro boxer who was also in the jail, Joe makes it his goal to become a pro boxer himself and one day defeat Rikishi in the ring. And, yes, I left out a chunk of details, but, that’s all tedious and unnecessary.

Now, sports films/manga/dramas/what have you are not usually my think but the One Pound Gospel drama (and the manga, too, I suppose) and the DREAM BOYS musicals have made me more tolerant of boxing-related stories. Honestly, for reasons I’m not actually quite sure of, I find it easier to take boxing-related stories a little more seriously, too, maybe? Well, OPG and DB aren’t exactly serious but, y’know. Actually, no, I can’t take DB seriously, even if I do love it, but let’s just look past that for now. But, this film I can definitely take seriously. I think that most sports stories are, at least to me, verging on a little cheesy (which is totally fine if that’s the point), a bit too obsessed with those typical manga themes of friendship, teamwork and ambition (not a bad thing if it’s done right, mind you) or they just bore me. However, this film has a really nice plot and a touching dark undertone which I love. The story moves at a pretty steady pace – there are a bunch of time jumps, but they’re good time jumps; in fact, it would have been boring if they’d dwelled on the pre-jump times any longer. So, yeah, simply put, it’s a very well-structured plot. There are a couple of sub-plots too but not so many that the story becomes convoluted and plain bloody stupid.

There appears to be the beginnings of a romantic sub-plot, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. However, this shouldn’t be seen as an example of poor writing, as it’s a seemingly one-sided romance without all that much bearing on the plot. As to that, though, I’m not sure why it was included. It’s a more important issue later in the manga, I believe, but that’s the 2nd arc which never appears in the movie. I guess it’s just character development, then, right?

The commendable structure of the film’s plot pretty much keeps you hooked until the end. The build-up to the climax is so skilfully executed that I almost literally ended up on the edge of my seat (or, uh, couch, if I’m honest) during the entire climax scene. However, there are parts of the film that are a little lacking in development. Though, very few films are perfect and I'm really not one to give a bad review based purely upon something's not being the best out there. It was an interesting story with enough in there, in my opinion, to keep you drawn to it. I do have to point out, though, it wasn't anywhere near the most emotive film I've seen.

Lots of characters! Only two of the properly visible ones are even important characters! Joe doesn't count as visibile cause I can't see his face! D<
So, personally, I thought the characters were great. I found that there were no characters I actually properly hated, at least out of the important ones, and, that's a rare occurance for me. I normally always hate someone! (Okay, exaggeration, but, most of the things where I don't hate anyone without good reason are really, really well-loved by me - this isn't as good, imo, but it says a lot about the film). But, what several of the characters lacked was depth. Joe was certainly the most developed character and Rikishi was probably second but there were a couple of characters in need of a little extra fleshing out.

Yabuki Joe
Ooft, though, Pi, ooft
For reasons other than being totally biased towards the actor playing him (now, I say 'actor' but, what I really mean, is guy - I'm not a fan of Pi for his acting, though, that isn't to say I hate his acting), Joe was my favourite for the entirety of the film. He's not a hugely likeable guy, but he has charm and a certain charisma. By a fair bit the most developed of the film's cast, Joe has a very clear and apparent personality. He's brash, acts without really thinking and sarcastic yet he's got a good heart in him and, as such, he's charming, so to speak. He's openly very anti-establishment, too, which was a typical characterisation seen in older manga and, in fact, is still a pretty apparent trait in many series. However, there were some weaker parts in his development, such as his sudden moral epiphany during a fight with Rikishi. Now, the development itself wasn't weak, as such, but I have a feeling that this was a scene taken straight from the manga. This scene would have worked beautifully in the manga format, but didn't quite translate into film so well, probably due to how suddenly it seemed to have come about. However, it's of note that this doesn't really take away from the film or Joe as a whole.

Rikishi Tooru

He's shirtless for no reason other than this being the only decent picture I could find - I don't like his bod~
For the most part, Rikishi was a great character. However, in some respects, he was bordering on the shallow. He didn't appear to have much of a history, though, in the case of this film, it clearly wasn't necessary anyway, so the fact that he wasn't some amazingly, beautifully deep character isn't really of much importance - sometimes, a limit to these things is okay, and, sometimes, it works better. He has obvious affections for Shiraki, though whether or not they're platonic is somewhat unclear. It's hard to tell if Rikishi loves her or if he just cares for as if she were her sister. Another area in which he lacks is his relationship with Joe. Though it's quite clear that Joe harbours feelings of hatred (earlier in the film) and admiration (later in the film), it's hard to tell how he feels about Joe in return. Well, not too hard, it's kind of obvious that there are feelings of respect and even a little bit of care in there, but he's still harder to read than Joe. However, his personality comes across really quite strongly. As a result, he becomes a rather likeable character, in fact.

Shiraki Yoko
Kimi wa Venus, Boku no Karina~ (lame-ass pun on Pi's song, Carina, btw)
Shiraki was an okay character, I suppose. Well, she was pretty good in that her personality was clear and she was pivotal in the movement of the plot, but she was a little flat, too. However, unlike Rikishi, she has a backstory which influences her actions in story considerably. What was pretty cool, though, was her response to Joe's telling her to stop getting involved in men's business (i.e; boxing, the sexist little shit). I can't remember exactly what she did, she blocked his punch or he blocked her's, I don't know but I remember the line that followed, at least - 'women have fists, too'. You go, Shiraki, even despite the fact that most of what you do seems to be stand in the background and worry, you go!

Tangei Danpe
What a silly 'tache, though
Danpe wasn't a hugely developed character either, but, again, he didn't need to be. In fact, he propelled most of the plot, so, in that sense, he's a brilliant character. He had a very clear personality and was vital to the story. And, despite his being a creepy-looking old man, I still found him likeable! He was actually quite an amusing character in some respects, acting as the Tsukkomi to Joe's occasional Boke.


So, I'm not expert in this field, so there's only so much I can say, but I think the cinematography in this film was pretty nice. It was far from the best but it certainly worked and was still really nice. There are variety of colour schemes in this film and they change according to scene so I won't be analysing them, but, I can say, that they certainly got the moods across well. The lighting in this film was also pretty bloody effective, especially during the boxing scenes. There was also continuous use of the slo-mo effect in this film, which may put some off, but, personally, I think it worked pretty well. Admittedly, the fact they were used mainly to emphasise face blows produced some pretty minging results, with peoples' skin and lips twisting and contorting, saliva and bloody visibly mingling and so on. But, granted you can stomach that, not that's it's really that hard to deal with at all, it's a really nice effect and adds a good sense of drama to those scenes!


Admittedly, the majority of the humour in this film came from Joe - like I said, he's sarcastic, he's brash, he says things without really considering what effect his words will have. As well as that, there some tiny, little things clearly added in by Yamapi himself that added to this (as much as many may deny that Pi has any ability to act, there's no way of denying that he's fabulous at the subtle, funny, character-building, adlibs, which is why I believe he was so good in Nobuta wo Produce - that was most of Akira's role, after all). There weren't any laugh-out-loud moments in the film, of course, it not being the kind of thing where such a thing would work, but, even in the more light-hearted scenes, there weren't many examples of memorable humour and wit. Regarding humour, it was good enough but a little fleshing out on the wit front would have been brilliant and would have really added to the film. Though, I won't deny it, there was a certain scene that amused me so much I had to watch it again, just to giggle - during one fight, Joe lowers his guards and begins to dodge blows, hopping about just a little before wiggling his hips, mockingly. The combination of that wiggling action and his facial expression was something that made me giggle, but it wasn't really an example of substantial humour but rather, an example of Pi's subtle, little details.'d probably be far less giggle-inducing if you weren't a Yamapi


The OST for this film was, majoritively, of a kind of...American-esque style. Very, well, American-rock. If you get what I mean. Like, not rock that is American. American-rock....if you've seen the film, you might get it...or if you've watched Yamapi's Route 66, or if you've listened to Yamapi's SHIVER (it's similar to that track's intro). Or, if you've played Sims 2 for the DS! Well, it's hard to explain, but there's that feeling of old American rock music to it. This kind of music isn't to my personal tastes but it works really well with the film, especially the streetfight scene at the start of the film. It really gives off the right mood - kind of rough, kind of harsh, but has the potential to be a little fun at the same time. Sort of like Joe himself, maybe?
However, I must say that the Credits Song is absolutely beautiful. The song is Utada Hikaru 'Show Me Love (Not A Dream)' and it's a really powerful song. I don't really follow Utada all that closely but I know all too well how respect an artist she is in Japan - it's not like I don't see why, anyway. I don't know why I don't follow her, I just don't but I appreciate that she has some absolutely fantastic songs. In fact, this song right here has the potential to be my favourite of her songs. Well, no, potential to be second favourite - Prisoner of Love (the theme song to drama, Last Friends) will always be my favourite track of her's.

The fabulous Utada - I would have preferred it if the ending were a Yamapi song, but, then, maybe that's too much Yamapi for one film that was meant to be more of an adaption of a manga classic than a film starring Yamapi

Overall Review

Definitely not up there as one of the best films I've ever seen nor is it up there as one of my favourites but, nonetheless,  it's a worthwhile watch. It's a good film, honestly, and watching it would be a good use of time. I'd recommended to anyone who was into this kind of film or was a Yamapi fan, though, I'm not sure who else it would appeal to. It has a certain charm to it that I think anyone can fully appreciate, though, so I'd probably still try and recommend it to anyone who seemed interested. If you're a Yamapi fan, like myself, I'd definitely say that this was worth the watch. There's many a nice Yamapi moment and he has plenty of screentime. In fact, in my opinion, this is one of his better acting roles. Now, I think exaggerated how over-rated he is as an actor, considering how many people bash his acting and, at the same time, I think it's exaggerated how bad he is as an actor. Think about, he can pull decent facial expressions, though he's probably more of a voice actor if anything. Or a comedy actor, granted he doesn't go too OTT like he seems to be doing in MONSTERS. As Nobuta wo Produce kindly proved, if he does the right thing, he's pretty good as a comedy actor. On top of that, you kind of have to be familiar with Yamapi to get what he's doing - sometimes the way he does things is just the way he does them as Yamapi. Of course, that doesn't say much about his acting as it kind of distracts from his attempts to create a character separate to himself. Granted you're the kind of person who can actually watching Yamapi act without cringing, for whatever reason, then, yeah, this film's definitely worth checking out, but you probably won't be missing out on all that much if you never watch it~.

And, to conclude, another poster, featuring the classic Pi!Glare

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