Ashita No Joe Deluxe Edition Announced For Print



Yes, you read that right. No, it’s not bait. Yes, we have an initial release date. This is an insanely big deal, with incredible consequences and potential for the English language Manga market. Let me explain.

Ahita No Joe, or Tomorrow’s Joe, is a boxing manga that comes from an era of Japanese publication that came to define manga as the medium it’s grown into today. Being published for for nearly 13 years, and producing 20 volumes total, it’s a pillar of foundational manga in the industry. A pillar that remained unlicensed until today, February 22nd, 2024. A pillar that is missing one half of itself, as the author Asao Takamori (the pen name of Ikki Kajiwara) sadly passed away in 1987. Though, before I discuss more about the license itself, some series background would probably be helpful.


Joe, a teenage orphan living in the slums of the Doya streets, meets Danpei, a homeless alcoholic and former boxing trainer. Danpei, seeing Joe’s talent for boxing, decides to train him.


So, if you were living under a rock, you now know what Ashita No Joe is. That means I can move on to the next step of explaining the sheer insanity that is this license. First of all, manga publishers heavily favor manga from authors that already exist in the English market. Similarly, if there’s an ongoing, recent, or upcoming anime there’s a higher chance of that series’ source being licensed. None of these pertain to Ashita No Joe. Rather, it’s the oldest licensed title that Kodansha (themselves) has printed. Vertical Comics dipped their toes into Tezuka before merging with Kodansha (and even then some of Tezuka’s work appears after Ashita No Joe), but the massive manga publisher themselves haven’t licensed a single title older than Ashita No Joe. That in and of itself is a feat that’s beyond belief, really.

It’s such a big deal that I’ve struggled to even come up with an example to display the sheer rarity of this sort of license. The closest I could come is if Viz Media chose to license Go Nagai’s Mazinger Z. The point is that the series is a massive feature of its contemporary manga industry, and came to help define an incredible portion of manga as both art and experience. To this day, Ashita No Joe is getting referenced by contemporary manga and anime. The cultural impact of the manga is on a level that you really can’t say happens often.

In spite of that, Ashita No Joe remains far more of a Japanese cultural phenomenon than a global one. It’s heyday occurred far before the globalization of manga began. For example, I’d say any number of moments from Dragon Ball have a stronger cultural presence across the world than Ashita No Joe. Because of that, the license presents an interesting conundrum. It’s one of the greatest series of its era (an era in which longer running series were quite uncommon), but it has no leg to stand on in North America. It has no name to lean against to garner support and popularity. And each volume has an MSRP of $59.99 USD.

Yes, that price is correct. According to the ICV2 article which got to break the news first, Ashita No Joe is to be released as 8 deluxe edition hardcovers at that eye-watering price, starting in December 2024. No matter how you slice it, this is a borderline unprecedented move from the manga publisher. Many fans were relegated to the series being stuck in digital hell, as Kodansha USA resolutely refuses to print countless popular series. However, that fear no longer exists, of course. It’s just a mind boggling decision, which Kodansha explains in the ICV2 article.

Kodansha believes that the manga market is maturing, as well as looking for past manga classics that have never been translated into English. This work is a true masterpiece that Japan is proud of. This year marks the 50th anniversary since its completion in 1973.Because of this, we think that now is the best time to bring Ashita no Joe: Fighting for Tomorrow to English-reading manga fans worldwide. We consider it an honor and a labor of love to introduce such an important manga masterpiece to a new generation of fans. And we hope that this new edition will be as much of an inspiration as it was when it originally debuted in Japan

Kodansha USA via ICV2

All this information just makes the announcement feel like a sensory overload. This goes against nearly every tenet that Kodansha has preached as a manga publisher/licensor in the last few years. It’s an old series, it doesn’t have any pop culture relations to the modern manga industry in North America, it’s an unproven sports manga (they really don’t tend to sell well), and it’s an expensive package.

A set of Ashita No Joe will cost $500 USD at retail. It’s just mind-blowing. I’ll absolutely be spending that money myself, but it’s one of those things that leaves me genuinely baffled as to how Kodansha USA came to this decision. I perfectly understand their perspective of it being Joe’s 50th anniversary, and that there’s been palpable demand and interest in older series (I mean, Viz recently announced an omnibus edition of Red River), but summing up all the pieces of this license and it feels like something that should have never happened.

So, be grateful and please, buy Ashita No Joe if you can

The North American manga industry has hit a point of maturity after weathering the storms of a covid boom. We’re in an era where publishers like Kodansha are taking these incredible jumps to provide fans of the medium with some of the greatest works to come from it. We as fans need to support that decision and prove with our wallets that we’ll buy these sorts of series. Prove that manga outside of the modern shounen-seinen paradigm can succeed, that they can have faith that classic titles or unlicensed series can thrive in this market. Even more than the manga boom, this era of solidification in North America is imperative to shaping the future of English Manga as an industry. And Ashita No Joe is the latest example of that.

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