Megalo Box: A Rivalry for the Ages
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The Spring 2018 anime season had many shows that are worthy of being called great, but arguably the most deserving of that title is Megalo Box. Even with other strong contenders like Golden Kamuy, Hinamatsuri, and the already established My Hero Academia, Megalo Box almost literally came out swinging with its more traditional, yet not less moving story of a man who wanted to win at boxing and do it his way. An engaging story, unique visuals, and a killer soundtrack, Megalo Box is a show that has it all.
Megalo Box tells the story of Junk Dog, a man who moves to a new city in order to compete in Megalo Box, a form of boxing that is conducting using gear, special equipment that enhances the physical abilities of those who wear it. Soon after entering the city, Junk Dog finds out about Megalonia, a one of its kind competition meant only for the best of the best Megalo Box fighters. With the help of his longtime coach Nanbu, Junk Dog, or Joe, according to his illegal citizenship card, will compete to win Megalonia, not just for victory, but also to help Nanbu with his looming debts.
The characters are usually the focus when it comes to sports-centered shows and movies, and Megalo Box is no different. Almost everything in the show revolves around Joe, the scrappy underdog from nowhere who looks to take on Yuuri, the number one fighter in the land. Even by the end of the show, though, a lot of Joe’s past and who he is as a person is left very much up in the air. To be honest, it would be a lie to say that Joe is especially interesting. However, the story’s forward momentum and supporting cast make up for it plenty.
Speaking of the supporting cast, Nanbu, Joe’s underground boxing coach, is a big part of the show’s plot. While he is the one who gets Joe into Megalonia in the first place, as is revealed later on, he also owes a lot of money to some powerful people, which usually gets the two of them in trouble. I wrote a piece defending Nanbu and some of his actions which you can read here, but even still, he is not a great person overall, because of his history of rigging underground fights. Many who no Nanbu often call him a scorpion, because he will stab anyone in the back to get ahead.
Yuuri is the other half of the intense rivalry between him and Joe that makes the show so interesting. He is a little more interesting than Joe, as his relationship with the owner of Shirato, Yukiko, makes him a bit more dynamic. As the show progresses, Yuuri comes to understand what it is that motivates Joe to fight: his love of fighting. Joe has no Ulterior motive when it comes to Megalo Boxing because he just wants to be the best. By the end, Yuuri recognizes this, and the two show it by fighting the final match of Megalonia without any Gear.
The other major supporting cast member would be Sachio, a small kid who decides to start hanging around Joe and Nanbu after the two help him get out of trouble with a store owner. When Sachio first meets Joe and Nanbu, he is still rather cynical about their chances of getting to Megalonia. However, as time goes on, Sachio starts to believe in Joe because of his fighting ability and eventually starts helping Joe from the outside the ring.
Megalo Box’s story is one that, on the surface might seem stale in played out even when it comes to boxing, but in reality is one of the most compelling shows that have aired this year. Even despite Joe’s somewhat lackluster personality, the show more than makes up for it with his mysterious background and dynamic storytelling. Joe and Yuuri are people that at the outset of the show seem like polar opposites. Yuuri seems more than happy to live the high life and enjoy’s his status at Shirato while Joe is really coming from nothing and has to do everything himself. But, as is shown in the end, the two love fighting and they see that in each other.
Another part of the story that I personally enjoyed was the relationship between Nanbu and Sachio. The way Sachio’s innocence makes him really believe in Nanbu only to be betrayed later on is not only great storytelling but it also serves as a great parallel to Joe’s relationship with Nanbu, which is always usually on thin ice. It is also hilarious because Sachio’s innocent belief in him is part of what makes Nanbu do the right thing in the end and come back and help Joe.
Normally I would not feel super bad about summing up the animation and music in one or two short paragraphs and calling it a day, but Megalo Box brings an insane amount of talent and uniqueness to both the categories. The Music in Megalo Box is a fun and creative mix of a lot of different genres, but mainly a lot of Rock and Rap. The best example of this can be heard on the show’s opening song “Bite” by Leo Imai, which turns out to be an intense Classic Rock ballad. Another great example would be the song “Intermission” which, as you might expect, plays during the show’s midway point whenever it needs to go to commercial break. This song is very much a Hip-Hop beat with a guitar at the center of it, very much fusing Rock and Hip-Hop together. The credit for the music goes to Mabanua, who’s only anime credit according to MAL is Megalo Box, which is quite impressive considering how great this soundtrack is overall.
Many noticed right away how different Megalo Box looks in terms of its animation. This likely comes from its relation to the Ashita no Joe franchise and that fact that Megalo Box was created as a celebration of the series 50th anniversary. Either way, the ruggedness of the animation style and the very drab color palette for the show gives it a huge amount of realism that would not be there without those design choices. The quality of the animation itself is also breathtaking. Megalo Box’s fight scenes are absolutely some of the best in recent memory, and I am including season two of My Hero Academia in that evaluation.
If I were to pick two words to describe this show overall, they would be unique and dynamic. Megalo Box does everything a great sports show should, and more. Its rivalry between Yuuri and Joe is phenomenally well-written, Its animation and music are insanely amazing, and its story does not shy away from more human elements of its characters. If you have not seen Megalo Box, it absolutely needs to be at the top of your watchlist.
What do you guys think of Megalo Box? Is it in the running for Anime of the Season? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you want to support the Aniwriter through donations or are just feeling generous, consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Otherwise, thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!