Original Run: April 6, 2018 - June 29, 2018 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Science Fiction, Sports
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Megalo Box. Reader discretion is advised.***
In the future, society is split between the licensed citizens of the cities and the unlicensed residents of the slums. Despite the division, one sport has risen to resonate within the hearts of everyone: Megalo Boxing.
Unlike its traditional counterpart, Megalo Boxing competitors wear specialized suits known as Gear which amplify both speed and striking power. To celebrate the sport, an unprecedented tournament is announced. Dubbed Megalonia, its purpose is to crown the undisputed Megalo Boxing champion of the world. The event is open to all licensed citizens. For unlicensed citizens, they are expected to only watch.
Such a barrier, though, is not enough to stop ambition.
An incredibly skilled but nameless — not to mention unlicensed — boxer (voiced by Yoshimasa Hosoya) has his eyes set on reaching the top. Through less than legal means, the fighter procures a fake license and takes the name Joe. With the preparations set, Joe and his team are ready to take on Megalo Boxing’s best.
Unfortunately, no high-ranking boxer would give the time of day to a nobody. To grab people’s attention, Joe chooses to risk everything and fight without the protection of Gear. Such a move is beyond dangerous, but Joe has come too far to back out now.
Megalo Box was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the release of the Ashita no Joe manga. I have never had the chance to read Ashita no Joe, nor have I seen any of its anime or film adaptations. Therefore, I am unable to say if Megalo Box was a faithful interpretation of the series which inspired it.
With that out of the way, let’s treat this series as a stand-alone entity. By doing so: Megalo Box was fantastic.
This series was absurdly entertaining and an absolute treat to watch. Along with being one of the best animated shows of 2018 and possessing one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in some time, Megalo Box was in top form from beginning to end. It knew how to grab a person’s attention and keep it.
Amongst this series’ sci-fi elements and futuristic setting, Megalo Box never forgot what its heart was. This was a sports story; specifically, this was a boxing story.
Perhaps it’s only me, but boxing has always had a unique feel that separates it from most other sports. For instance, events such as swimming, basketball, soccer, etc., require years of dedicated training, determination, and an iron will to win. However, there aren’t many other sports where the primary goal is to literally beat the s@&$ out of the opponent.
You can start a game of tennis, and sure, an injury is always possible (even inevitable). When you enter a boxing ring, on the other hand, you do so knowing you are going to take a hit.
I won’t deny that, on the surface, boxing can appear quite primal. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to disregard the amount of strategy, skill, and fortitude boxers need to employ to reach the top. Megalo Box captured that side of this sport. The inclusion of robot arms that made punches far more brutal was only the icing on the cake.
It wasn’t what Megalo Box added that made it great.
The Gear that boxers wore in this story had surprisingly little bearing on anything (more on this soon). I wouldn’t go as far as to say these enhancements were a gimmick, but remove them, and not a whole lot would have changed. Although a fighter’s Gear gave them a strength advantage, these suits were nothing more than cumbersome hunks of metal if they were in the hands of some average spectator.
In the end, it was the boxer, not the machine that had to fight. Gear turned matches into spectacles, but it was the human factor that made them exciting.
On top of that, there was Joe who fought without equipment; hence his ring-name “Gearless” Joe. This insane strategy forced his hand. He had no choice but to hone his skills to ensure he could survive, let alone win.
Speaking of Joe, he was one of the critical cogs needed for Megalo Box to function. This entire series would have been pointless if there was no hero to root for.
Joe was rough, but he wasn’t a jerk. He proved others wrong through his actions, not hollow words. His personality often pushed him to rebel when he was told “no.” Moreover, Joe was open to advice and took encouragement to heart. His rationality was enduring, and his never-give-up attitude drew people to him. The stronger the opponent, the more Joe wanted to push himself.
This series had a ton of standout characters alongside Joe. More to the point, several of these individuals served as important rivals to Joe.
I make the distinction because I would argue that in a sports story, rivalry, not antagonism, is vital.
Whenever there is a perceived villain, there is usually an accompanying sense of they-must-be-conquered. There really isn’t a want, but rather a need to get stronger. Also, when there is a “bad guy,” that implies that something awful can happen if they were to win.
Such a character is perfect for adventure-esq stories, but for sports, there is an alternative.
A rival can bring out the very best in a protagonist. Knowing there is someone as good or even better than the main character sets a persistent incentive to grow. Although rivals don’t necessarily need to get along, I would say there should, at least, be a respect for one another’s abilities.
Megalo Box had multiple examples of this. Nowhere was this more meaningful than with Joe and Yuri (voiced by Hiroki Yasumoto). In fact, if not for Joe, Yuri would have been this series’ breakout character. He was so well-grounded that by the end of this story you could very well find yourself cheering for Yuri as much as Joe.
The combination of large personalities, big stakes, and future-tech made for some awesome fights. Add in the aforementioned animation and music, and you have the ideal mix known as Megalo Box.
I firmly believe this show’s fusion of sports and science-fiction worked in its favor. Both aspects had the appropriate amount of exposure — most of the time.
Gear in this series felt somewhat irrelevant. This became even more so when Joe entered the ring as, like I said, “Gearless” Joe.
I don’t think I could have cared any less about the science in this science-fiction anime. Megalo Box was at its least interesting when it got into the business and development side of Gear technology.
Why should I have bothered investing interest in this?
There was a character who didn’t use Gear and still managed to win. Any advantage there may have been to the robo-suits didn’t matter much when they kept getting bested by a guy’s bare fists.
Keep in mind: When seen in a match, a Gear-ed up boxer was intimidating. There was indeed a formidable challenge in place. Joe and his team coming up with a way to outmaneuver an opponent’s gear was one of the aspects that made this show interesting.
Plus, who am I trying to fool? Some of the get-ups looked pretty badass.
In this way, Gear had a place in this story.
That notwithstanding, any time this series brought up the potential commercial or military use of Gear, I kept thinking, “When are we going to get back to the fighting?”
I get why this was in Megalo Box. But if I had to pick a low point in this series, Gear would be it.
To wrap things up, I could mention this show’s predictability. It was always clear what the final goal was going to be.
Therefore, the outcome of damn-near every fight was a given.
The reason I’m not holding this against Megalo Box is because “what would happen” wasn’t as crucial as “how it would happen.” When Joe went up against fighter X, the result was never in doubt.
Luckily, the journey to that result made up for the obvious.
This show knew that the path between plot points was as vital as the points themselves. Thanks to this, the whole Megalo Box package, not just a handful of memorable moments, was worthwhile.
Beautiful animation. Outstanding music. A fascinating story. Enjoyable characters. Great action. Robots. What else could you want out of a series?
This was a show that not only knew how to deliver, it knew how to deliver big.
I won’t lie, sports anime is not my go-to selection. But when this kind of series gets it right, boy does it get it right. And trust me, this one absolutely got it right.
You better believe I recommend Megalo Box.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Megalo Box? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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