“It’s not the gear that decides who wins. It’s the fighter.”
– Gansaku Nanbu
Megalo Box (Megaro Bokusu) follows Junk Dog, an underground megalo boxer and illegal citizen. Set in futuristic Japan, megalo boxing uses mechanical stirrups to enhance a boxer’s speed, power, and defense. Junk Dog’s trainer, a gambling drunkard named Gansaku Nanbu, forces him to throw games in order to win big-money bets on rigged games. This changes when Junk Dog meets world champion megalo boxer, Yuri. He gains a fake id and a name: Gearless Joe. Joe, Nanbu, and a spunky kid named Sachio entersMegalonia, a title that could win them eternal glory and riches, or cost them their lives.
Review: / 5
It’s hard not to love these characters; it’s hard not to root for them. If you want true characterization, filled with faults and humanity’s gritty side, this is the show for you. The characters are round and dynamic, and you’ll find yourself falling in love with them and their individual dreams.
Megalo Box offers truly dynamic storytelling. While sometimes predictable, the elements are portrayed in ways that retain freshness and heighten interest. Similarly, the concept, while nothing novel is expertly presented. The twists and turns, like a familiar roller coaster, are expected and yet nostalgically welcomed.
Realism & Authenticity:4.5/5
To be honest, I thought part of the realism to be lacking. And sometimes, I questioned whether the series truly fit in the Sports genre. The truth is this: Megalo Box, like Yuri!!! on Ice, is so much more than a sport’s anime. It’s a glorious wonderchild of Hajime no Ippo x Afro Samurai. It leaves you with a lot of moral implications and questions. If you’re looking for a seinen that uses boxing as a scafolding, this is it. If you’re coming in expecting to learn all about boxing as a sport, maybe go somewhere else.
Sound & Animation: 5/5
This is the area I wish I could give extra points for. Megalo Box is heads and tails better than most other series with their sound design. We’re talking March Comes in Like a Lion quality, here. And that’s a compliment I don’t give lightly. Check out this post where I give you the play by play of my favorite Megalo Box tracks. This is a show I wish I could award a six out of five to. Its choices with sound and animation are flawless, and reminiscent of the Mad House greats like Samurai Champloo. It gives you major nostalgic vibes, and is full of that late 90s, early 2000s anime goodness.
“To be quiet and do as you’re told: that’s the cowardly choice”. These are the first words we hear in the series during the first episode. Upon first glance, we assume that this is Joe reflecting on himself, listening to Nanbu’s training and instructions. However, could this not be applicable to all of our major characters, apart from, say, Fujimaki?
Think about it: Joe is listening to Nanbu, and Nanbu is listening to Fujimaki; Yuri is listening to Yukiko who is listening to the Shirato Board of Directors. Sachio is listening to Nanbu when he leaves to live with Yukiko. In this way, all of our characters are cowards, making cowardly choices. This is part of what makes the characters so rewarding. Their roundness allows us to connect and understand them and their motivations. Nanbu shows some of the greatest growth, going from shady scumbag to a supportive trainer while still retaining his grimey-ness. He’s still a scorpion, but he knows when and whom he wants to sting.
Joe and Yuri are foils of each other: they start off representing opposites. Yuri has all of the money and fame and status he could hope for. Joe, on the other hand, comes from the concrete, the dirt and the slums. He’s fighting for his scrap meals and is an undocumented nobody. And yet both paths have a profound emptiness to them. Both paths are equally as hollowing and harrowing.
I mentioned earlier that MB pushes the boundary of the sports genre, and encompasses quiet a few others under the guise of sports. The sport is really just a metaphor more than anything else. So how the heck does a show rank so highly when it uses its genre as a metaphor? Simple: the show’s not about boxing, but it couldn’t exist without the boxing. It’s about fight, undoubtably: the fight against economic/class/immigration constraints; the fight for one’s dream; the fight for one’s life. At a fundamental level, it reminds us we’re all fighting for something, whether we think we are or not. It shows us that we’re a part of a greater whole, a team, whether we think we are or not. And in the end, those sports concepts of competition, endurance, growth and companionship all ring true with this series.
The underdog story is one we’re accustomed to well, and we can’t help but root for Joe and his dream. The hero’s journey is executed well. It doesn’t feel overused. That’s in part because this is a seinen anime. It’s an older-shounen piece, which has some violence and profanity. It’s allusion and similes are easy to understand. For example, in Episode 11 Fujimaki makes a great metaphor with the fish he’ll be eating for dinner. He Proceeds to pluck out eye of fish at table to foreshadow what happens with Nanbu. If you’re not paying attention, you just might miss it. A hallelujah for series that don’t throw the same plot points in front of your face just in case you didn’t get it the first seven times.
Another reason is because it’s paced so well–and perhaps too brief. For example, I wanted more of the ending fight with Yuri, and felt the end was a bit “wrap, wrap, and now we’re done”. I talked to Jamage about this and he convinced me of some things. Namely, the fight isn’t what’s important. It’s more the fact that they get to fight each other at all, on equal terms, that’s the real hook and sinker.
The big reason though, is the series treatement of cinematography. An example here is Joe’s fight with Mikio in episode 9. The show uses camera angles and confines itself to cinematic panning as a use for transition between the present fight and past practice with Nanbu. Throughout the series there are instances of CG, but these instances are sparingly done and excellently executed. It’s truly a tool that’s used to enhance viewer experience, rather than a cheap tactic to cut corners. Even the color-scheme is enough to pay homage to the anime greats, and Megalo Box truly is standing on the shoulders of giants.
If you’ve read my earlier piece on Megalo Box’s amazing soundtrack. you already know I love it. Hell, if you read the spoiler-free session of this review, you know I love it. What I haven’t mentioned is how the sound design of this series heightens viewer experience. The use of silence and sound is so profoundly moving, that many times throughout the series, like when Joe is knocked out in our first episode, where I am left speechless, breathless, and overall flabbergasted at the talent it would take to create something like this.
What about you guys? Are you on the Gearless Joe Hype train with me? Let me know in the comments below!
Watch on, Annieme-niac!