Megalo Box is one of the most gratifying sports anime that has been released in the last five years. Originally released on April 6, 2018, it recently had a second season on April 4, 2021, which was called Nomad: Megalo Box 2.
What makes the series stand out is its willingness to tell rich, human stories within the boxing framework. Layered with strong storytelling, a deliberate art style and energetic choreography, it creates a fantastic underdog story that is poignant both within the show and to audiences all over the world. Here is a quick summary and rundown on the anime
First and foremost, the series is intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the classic boxing manga and anime, Ashita No Joe. A story about a young underdog boxer, Joe Yabuki goes out of his rough upbringing in order to go above and beyond the boxing world. The stories and heartfelt messages told through Ikki Kajiwara (writer of Tiger Mask) and the storytelling of Tetsuya Chiba (mangaka for Notari Matsutarō) created a Japanese icon that sold over 20 million copies.
The series has become popular to the working class as they felt deeply connected to Joe’s struggles and journey. Ashita No Joe eventually became influential to franchises all over shonen. Influencing the popular Hajime No Ippo boxing manga and Katsuhiro Otomo of Akira fame. These influences and effects on Japanese culture is why Megalo Box exists.
The story of Megalo Box follows the underground boxer named Junk Dog. Taking place in a future version of Japan, he joins the Megalonia tournament in the hopes of fighting against Yuri. The one who defeats him in the underground ring and pushes him to fight again in the tournament. Junk Dog eventually takes the name of Gearless Joe and climbs up the ladder in order to fight Yuri once more.
However, during the events of Nomad, Gearless Joe has suffered a mid-life crisis. Seven years has passed, and he has gone back into the underground world. Taking strong painkillers in order to run away from his problems. Shifting the narrative slightly from a boxing struggle to a personal one.
This is the core theme across the Megalo Box anime. Gearless Joe as a character was originally a nobody without an ID. Through illegal means, he is given a forged ID so that he can fight in the Megalonia tournament. A chance for the character to prove his worth, especially when the tournament is run by the rich and famous.
Having Gearless Joe live within the slums or dirty outskirts, as well as the frustrations that come with being a true boxer, gives viewers a character to sympathise with. In the world of Megalo Box, various boxers wear gears in order to compete and prove their worth. But Joe doesn’t wear one, becoming a stand out and fighting like a true boxer. Shattering the expectations of audiences in favor of following their own beliefs.
Despite every problem that the characters face, whether it’s a physical or a mental one, they always bounce back stronger than ever. This is more poignant with the second season, which pushes this theme even further.
Gearless Joe is a nomad now, with his glory days far behind him. The expectations he has for himself has been shattered long ago due to a tragedy, and he is having the hardest time of his life. So far in the past four episodes, the character has gone through healing of both the mind and body in order to recover.
To put it simply, the characters in the world of Megalo Box aren’t archetypes, they are people. None of the characters exaggerate their features or have a design that is ridiculous. Instead, each character is layered with their issues and it reflects in their designs.
Gearless Joe’s hair is wild and untamed, his boxing clothes are the same ones he wears when he goes outside. His body is covered in scars and bruises. His personality is rough yet kind and he is able to bluntly see people for who they really are.
Coach Nanbu has an eyepatch which reflects prior trauma and his smooth voice paired with his body type shows a character that tries to smooth talk despite his gambling debts. Yet, when he yells, it comes from the heart and he shows how much he values Joe as a fighter.
When Joe is fighting against the boxers, he isn’t coming off unscathed. He will always come back with a new bruise or scar, feeling pain when he goes to the washroom while getting closer and closer to his goals.
In the second season, Joe is going through a form of PTSD. He gets body shakes and his mental state is filled with past phantoms and trauma. However, he is able to get through it. Not by a magical pill, but by telling himself the truth and healing his body the hard way.
This extends to the supporting casts as well. Individual characters deal with the expectations of what a corporate group wants from them. Immigrants suffer from racism, getting yelled at for stealing the jobs of those who were born there.
The art style of Megalo Box is gorgeous. The definition quality is intentionally standard so that the grain shows up more, making Megalo Box be resonant to fans of the 90s or older anime. It’s dirty, it’s rough and is filled with graffiti. The setting of Megalo Box really feels like a place where stray boxers fight to the end, because that’s all that they know.
The music by Mabanua filled the show with hip hop and electronic music to match the energy the show provides. However, when it wants to reach an emotional or potent chord, the show doesn’t hesitate to go traditional, to strike on the themes that the show presents itself.
The boxing choreography feels real. Each hit and sound the gears make offer something kinetic. Each blow taken feels like it would shake the characters to their core.
The sports anime, Nomad: Megalo Box 2, as of the moment of writing, has 4 episodes you can watch over at Funimation. This show might win people over or it might not. But honestly, not only do I believe Megalo Box is underrated, it is one of the best anime airing in the spring 2021 season. The themes, the hardships of the characters, the purposeful usage in music and art style, all of it connects into a story that defines the human spirit.
People feel real. The setting feels real. The action hits real. Simply put, Megalo Box across its two seasons feels real so if you’re a fan of not just sports anime but anime in general, give this anime a chance.
Screenshots via Funimation stream and official Twitter
Megalobox 2 Official Website
Megalobox 2 Official Twitter
© Asao Takamori, Tetsuya Chiba/Kodansha/MEGALOBOX2 project. All Rights Reserved.