"To be quiet and do as you're told, that's the cowardly choice." These are the words of Junk Dog, an underground fighter of Megalo Box, an evolution of boxing that utilizes mechanical limbs known as Gear to enhance the speed and power of its users. Despite the young man's brimming potential as a boxer, the illegal nature of his participation forces him to make a living off of throwing matches as dictated by his boss Gansaku Nanbu. However, this all changes when the Megalo Box champion Yuuri enters his shabby ring under the guise of just another challenger. Taken out in a single round, Junk Dog is left with a challenge: "If you're serious about fighting me again, then fight your way up to me and my ring."
Filled with overwhelming excitement and backed by the criminal syndicate responsible for his thrown matches, Junk Dog enters Megalonia: a world-spanning tournament that will decide the strongest Megalo Boxer of them all. Having no name of his own, he takes on the moniker of "Joe" as he begins his climb from the very bottom of the ranked list of fighters. With only three months left to qualify, Joe must face off against opponents the likes of which he has never fought in order to meet the challenge of his rival.
*Minimum Spoiler Hidden Gem Review*
TL;DR: If a young Hajime no Ippo made an illegitimate baby with the sexy cougar, Cowboy Bebop, in an 80's themed love hotel with Samurai Champloo music blasting in the background, then Megalo Box would be the gorgeous mixed bastard child that will emerge from the Redline ambulance nine months later. Such a hidden gem but packs so much hype. "JOEEEEE!"
[Story: 6/10 , Characters: 7/10, Art: 9/10, Sound: 9/10, Enjoyment: 8/10]
"They don't make tombstones for stray dogs" - JD
Yes Yes Yes. This is that shounen sports anime this season badly needed to remind what real anime is all about. You don't
need bad CG. You don't need blended CG. You don't need Ufotable level CG. What you need is a good mindblasting underdog story, eyegasmic hand-drawn visuals and eargasmic catchy rap music to ignite that flame that you put out long time ago to suffer through random sports anime thrown at you. Boxing anime can always be hyped. There is just something about two people beating the crap out of each other that brings out our animalistic nature to get that testosterone cascading within us and our blood viciously pumping through our veins. Megalo Box just takes it one step further. If you didn't watch it yet, then damn you are one lucky twat, because you get to binge this greatness and I'll tell you why.
"I don't mind dying as long as I know that the faith I had in myself was real" - Joe
This is an underdog story paying an homage to the 50 years of greatness to the boxing anime, Ashita no Joe, brought in the Japanese Anime Industry. It's a similar story however with one twist, mechanical box or gear attached to every boxer that enhances the speed and power of the user. Boxing is already bloody as it is, now imagine boxing with robotic limbs.
It's a crazy concept but luckily this is not the focal point of the story and we don't focus on the gear too much but rather the boxer themselves. This anime follows the archetypal hero's journey but since they execute it well, it becomes a great strength rather than an overused flaw. The whole idea is that there is a Megalo Box World Tourney and our hero must fight from the slums where he threw boxing matches to earn money to face the number one boxer, Yuuri, in the new Megalo Box Arena. Will he be able to do it? Find out on the next episode of DBZ. Jokes aside, from training montages to flashbacks of boxers' background to understanding their purpose in life, you really get drawn to this linear rollercoaster plot that's constantly giving you knee-jerks to throw you off of it. However, if you hang on tight, albeit a few slip-ups here and there, you get to taste the rewarding experience.
"Why don't you tell me your name?" - Yuuri
The best part about Megalo Box are the characters. There aren't many but the few characters that are shown are really well fleshed out. They don't have as much complexity as other boxing anime have but given the limited number of episodes they have to work with, we get to understand their emotional baggage they carry with them. We have "Joe," a junkyard dog coming from the slums that are cast aside in the society, Nanbu, his shady coach, Sacchio, a tech-genius kid seeking revenge against the rich and lastly Yuuri, a Russian husky of a boxer, champion of the Megalo Box arena, itching to find the greatest opponent in his life to give a good beatdown. All of these masochistic characters have so much charisma that they easily outshine the lackluster one-dimensional side characters thrown in this anime. Moreover, with a great deep-voiced seiyuu cast, this show feels so gritty and lifelike. Every time, Joe or Yuuri, speaks, they just steal the scene. Kudos to the seiyuus for not holding this anime back.
"If his punches were sharp, they wouldn't sound like a cow cutting through cheese" - Coach Nanbu
Aside from the linear rollercoaster story and the gritty characters, the highlight of this anime are the animation and music. Seriously from episode one, the hand drawn animation puts so much life into this anime. Each panel feels picturesque. Each panel feels like it can be a wallpaper. The characters are so well drawn while maintaing the respect for Ashita no Joe and the use of lines & variation of pen-strokes just makes this anime stand out from other boxing anime that came out before them. It really goes to show how maintaining a good homogenous colour palette throughout the animation really pays off. The fight sequences are well drawn and choregraphed as well. Aside from the breathtaking visuals, the music is really freaking good. The OP song provides the hype and the ED song mellows us out but the background score and sound bits in the transitions are just addictive to listen to. This anime will have one of the best standalone OST to listen to. Couple that with gritty rap music thrown in at appropriate times in the anime, it catapults the plot and hype even further. If you don't get to watch the anime, atleast listen to the OST.
"Everyone's only looking out for number one,
so why stop now? You're still not done.
No metal on your back so they call you gearless,
right now the way you act sure ain't fearless" - Sacchio
Overall, Megalo Box is a great sports shounen anime to watch if you are into boxing. Their purpose was to celebrate the 50 years of Ashita no Joe and they went ahead did just that and more. They brought back boxing anime to its roots and they showed us hand-drawn animation will never be beaten by commercialized CG animation industry. If you put forth passion and work hard to achieve a goal, then it will all be worthwhile in the end. This anime isn't perfect and everyone always enjoys sports anime of the sport they are into, but even if you aren't into boxing, it's enjoyable to watch as they don't delve that much in detail about how to box. So if you can get past the crazy plot of boxers using mechanical gears & one dimensional side characters, give this show a watch. After all, this anime isn't about the destination, it's about the journey and being the spectators we are in that megalo box arena, let's just sit back and enjoy. Anyways, check it out & let me know later how you like it as well as share with me your favourite quote from the anime! Ciao.
P.S. Thank you for reading. I hope you found this short and supaishi review helpful!
Art, in its purest form, is a catharsis of imperceptible cognitive entities onto a “canvas” for the purposes of provoking reactions from others. Sometimes that reaction involves laughter, other times it is sorrow, and on rare occasions, profound enlightenment, in either case, it is the responsibility of the artist(s) to determine the desired reaction, and how best to achieve it through their intended medium. As one would expect, it permits a copious amount of creativity to take place, yielding unexpected outcomes that one would rarely see in the real world. Antithetical to this branch of human intrigue, is the world of binary
results and conventional outcomes, otherwise known as: sports. That is not to say that all sporting events are replicas of past events, but in the grand scheme, one team will lose, and one team will win — end of story. As is the case with a boxing match, one boxer will lose, and the other, by default, will win (I understand there can be split decisions, but for the sake of argument, bare with me). In case I am mistaken, one cannot win at art, as it has no predetermined result.
Ergo, making the mixture of the two (art and sport) quite the peculiar one.
One demands openness and originality, while the other requires an outcome. Not to say that it cannot be done, as the predecessor of this series, “Ashita no Joe” proved otherwise. Yet, fans of the original series will be quick to point out, that while it was a “boxing anime,” it was so much more. In a numerous amount of ways, the original “Joe” is akin to Ping Pong The Animation — a character driven narrative — as opposed to your typical sports anime. Breaking free from the restrictions of defined outcomes and crafting something truly imaginative.
That all being said, how does this new iteration of “Joe" stack up on the hierarchy of sports anime?
I’m going to discuss the story first, mainly because I feel there is one glaring detail that demands acknowledgement before pressing forward. I am referring to the “Gear” (i.e. mechanical limbs) the boxers use to inflict blood-stained carnage on their respective opponents. The concept, in theory, sounds interesting, but when one considers the ramifications, especially with the proliferation of CTE in athletes, it’s a horrifying notion. Imagine if “Iron” Mike Tyson were equipped with this "Gear" in his prime, he would straight up murder people with one punch (cue the One Punch Man theme music). In all seriousness, weaponizing the instrument of pain with highly sophisticated machinery, without providing protective barriers for the combatants is just ludicrous and a colossal oversight on the writer’s part. I understand the rationale behind the decision, as it pertains to my original statement regarding originality, or lack thereof, in sports. But, this innovative nuance is just a cosmetic flourish that adds little to nothing towards the overall plot.
Which is a shame.
Because there are numerous routes the anime staff could have taken this idea, that would have elevated this anime into something worth remembering. Perhaps, for example, they could have used the technology to profit from unnecessary conflicts and war, propagating political tensions and the fears of an overreaching quasi-government (this was sort of hinted at, but never really explored with any specific detail). Boxing would have still been the main focus, but underneath, you would have an interesting perspective about the dangers of proliferating technology. Instead, what we are left with, is a brother and sister competing for control over their father’s legacy. Then, much to the chagrin of the viewer, Yuuri decides to expel his integrated “gear” for the final match, making the entire concept an irrelevant element in a story that — desperately — needed vitality to successfully engage the viewer. As the saying goes: haste makes waste. The “gear” was the waste; therefore, invariably, the production must have been made in haste.
The remainder of the story is your ordinary sports anime framework, by which I mean: a tournament. Somewhat unavoidable, given the format of the show, but do we really need to see Joe get knocked down for a ten count, only to rise to his feet at the count of nine, in every single fight? Watch boxing clips on YouTube and you will see for yourself that this sort of thing rarely happens.
Joe, as they refer to him in the series, is reminiscent of a stray dog: he’s tough, gritty, aggressive, and has nothing to lose. Another characteristic of stray dogs is fear, an emotion that is briefly touched upon in Joe’s first fight (his first fight in the tournament, that is), but is never revisited later in the series. I would have liked to see this affliction be a recurring issue for Joe, a malignant hindrance that would have required significant mental effort to overcome his anxieties, potentially derailing his short-term goal of reaching Megalonia. Unfortunately, the series allows Joe to conquer this obstacle relatively early, diminishing much of the intrigue in his plight towards the top. In this sense, the story quickly dissolves from being an in depth character drama, and into a simple revenge story. The reflection of emulating the original “Joe” proved too arduous for “Megalo-Joe” to achieve, disappointing fans of the original series who were looking for a show that retained its predecessor’s desirable traits.
Gansaku Nanbu, Joe’s manager, is your prototypical boxing coach: tough exterior, but has a sense of honor and virtue. His actions are fairly predictable, and while they attempt to portray him as an indifferent character, we all know he will stand in Joe’s corner, no matter the circumstances; thus, nullifying the astonishment of his evident, false heel turn(s).
Nanbu’s previous protege, Tatsumi Aragaki, is the “genuine article” of the entire series. A man who was robbed of his legs and half of his face during a war, Aragaki struggles to find a reason to press forward in his “meaningless” existence. Much like the duality of his disfigured face, Aragaki leads a conflicted life, wanting to exact revenge on his coach through Joe, but also desiring a peaceful resolution that will alleviate some of his psychological woes. The depiction of this character was spot on, creating a connection with the viewer in a palpable way. The emotions that flew from Aragaki highlighted the fragile nature of all humans, reminding the viewer that one’s own mind, can be the greatest opponent of all.
I won’t engage in talking about the other character’s of the show, as the vast majority were dearth of any real personality; however, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Glen Burroughs coming out in a monster truck. I mean, what was that? We already know he’s a boisterous American, but they really tried to hammer that point home. Perhaps they watched some old clips of Stone Cold Steve Austin driving on his ATV to the ring, but just missed the point that the WWE was a contrived entertainment event, and not a real sporting competition.
The boxing matches were, for the most part, uninspiring, and as the tournament progressed to its later stages, it became onerous for the viewer to tune in to the next episode. Real life boxing is tedious enough (just look at the declining viewership numbers), but watching it in an anime format is all the more dreary when you consider the absurdity of the “gear” itself. There were a few plot twists thrown in here and there, but nothing that made the viewer second-guess the outcome of the series as a whole. Perhaps watching Ping Pong the Animation and Ashita no Joe has spoiled my standards for what to expect from future sports anime, yet, in the end, being judged by your peers is the only unbiased way of determining your place on the hierarchy of the sports anime genre. And while this may seem blasphemous to some of you, I believe the first two seasons of Haikyuu!! capture character emotions with more veracity than Megalo Box. One of the few times a Shounen anime did something better than a Seinen anime. Not the legacy Megalo Box was attempting to solidify with its sights set on attaining the previous glory of its predecessor.
There’s an infamous quote in the wrestling community that was said by the legendary Ric Flair. “To be the man, you gotta beat the man!” While Megalo Box is not wrestling, there’s definitely an iconic meaning that can be applied here. As I was watching Megalo Box, it reminded me the excitement of fighting. A few years ago when Hajime no Ippo returned on television, it became a glorious showstopper that lived up to all expectations. For Megalo Box, this was like a feeling of deja vu.
The premise of the series involves Junk Dog, an underground Megalo Boxer. He participates in a popular sport in
their world known as Megalo Boxing. What is Megalo Boxing? It’s basically a sport that involves boxers fighting with metal gears. Think of it as boxing but with more lethal and brutal consequences. Junk Dog takes on the moniker name “Joe” so he can participate in the Megalonia tournament. Throughout the series, we see his life journey as both a Megalo Boxer and person.
On my first viewing, Megalo Box made an intimidating and fascinating impression on me. I haven’t seen the original Ashita no Joe series before so coming into this anime fresh felt intimidating at first. On the other hand, I’m also fascinated by the larger than life ideas of the show. The first two episodes immediately had me glued to my seat as we witness Junk Dog showing his fighting skills as a Megalo Boxer. It didn’t take long to realize that the show portrays him as an underdog. The experience that Joe gains is invaluable and also allows him to realize his potential. I’m also a sucker for the “David vs Goliath” trope as the idea can be applied in any sport. For Megalo Box, the stakes are raised higher because of how dangerous it is. Every fight feels as if Joe is putting his life on the life against opponents. And believe me, the characters he comes across with are no pushovers. Take Yuuri as an example. He is a Megalo Boxing champion and is considered one of the top fighters in the world. In a classic ‘David vs Goalith’ style fight, he humiliates Junk Dog in his match. The fight inspires Junk Joe to climb up the ranks and make a name for himself. It planted the seeds for Junk Dog to not only improve but also show why he deserves to be a Megalo Boxer. Junk Dog later takes on the ring name “Gearless Joe” because of his own choice to fight without gears in the ring.
Now I have to be honest here and wonder what makes a good boxing story. Is it about the development of character in and out of the ring? Does it also involve a fighter going beyond than just a fictional character? Or maybe it’s a story that always keeps up coming back for more. Perhaps it’s how much the story draws lines between fiction and reality. Personally, I think Megalo Box has a bit of every one of those aspects. Junk Dog goes against his manager Nanbu to throw a fight and takes control of his own destiny. This is a contrast to Yuuri who often follows the command of Yukiko, the head of the Shirato Group who oversees the Megalonia tournament. There’s a good contrasting comparison between these two characters as it feels like they are living in two different worlds. It also impressed me on how much Junk Dog is willing to go to prove himself. This is shown later in the series when he fights Aragaki, with both physical and emotional stakes. It escalated to the point where both fighters eventually took on an all-brawl approach to see who the last man standing. In perhaps one of the most important fights of Junk Joe’s life, he proves himself as a warrior.
For a sports show, there’s no doubt psychology is also involved in the ring. The gimmicks, trash talk, and press conferences hypes up match-ups between opponents. A big selling factor also involves the emotional quality of the show. I can’t help but root for Junk Dog early on in the series. He’s the underdog and for him to beat certain opponents is relatable. It sends across the message that anyone can do anything they set their mind into. While this seems like a cheesy gimmick for the show, it’s very real and the buildup for some of Joe’s matches is executed flawlessly. On the other hand, Megalo Box does suffer a bit on the drama side if we look beyond the ring. Some of the subplot involving Yukiko clashing with the board of directors makes a less memorable impact to connect the series together. The family feud between Yukiko and Mikio also feels like it doesn’t belong in a show like this. Don’t get me wrong. I like a good drama from time to time but the way their plot is carried out just doesn't sell well. On the other hand, the rivalries between the fighters is what got me really invested into the story. Junk Dog/Yuuri, Junk Dog/Mikio, and Mikio/Yuuri are all rivalries that stays committed to selling this show. What I’m also more invested in is how far Joe goes out to prove himself. He is very committed to his goal even if it means putting his own life on the line and taking jaw dropping risks. The guy knows what he wants to accomplish in life and to me, that’s an attitude you need to succeed.
Produced by TMS Entertainment, it’s may take a while for viewers to get used to the animation style. The characters looks like they are hand drawn and creates a sensation of the 1990s. The characters are rough looking especially for our main protagonist, Junk Dog. There’s no doubt the anime was aiming make the characters look as badass as possible. The addition of the gears these fighters wear adds more aesthetics to raise the stakes. However, the biggest selling point of the anime’s technical quality is the actual fighting. It really isn’t hard to spot how intense the action is once the fight gets into a momentum. Every punch feels impactful and camera angles captures the realism of the pain. It’s never camera shy to show blood on screen and how fighters react to their win or losses. Every fight can get viewers’ heart throbbing. The emotional impact can also be felt with the protrayal of human expressions. In terms of boxing, it also delivers its quality action such as uppercuts, corkscrew punches, jabbing, overhands, etc. Additionally, it’s worth noting how well the show’s dystopia setting is portrayed without overemphasizing element of science fiction. Sure, the series place in a futuristic environment but also shows the reality of cruelness such as poverty. If the creators were aiming for making this anime feel real, they sure got their job done.
I’m not too familiar with Katsuhiko Manabe but the music talent he brings into this anime is undeniably stylish. The fighting music amplifies the hip-pop style of the OST to bring in a lot of attitude into the series. The soundtrack is mesmerizing that always keeps its momentum from the minute the first beat hits. In the meantime, I’m also impressed by the voices of the character cast especially our protagonist Junk Dog. His personality matches with his voice that almost sounds like a fierce dog when fighting in the ring. The masculinity of all the fighters is believable because of the talented voice cast. Both the OP and ED theme songs also reflects a bit of the 1990s mood that may feel nostalgic.
Megalo Box definitely turned out to be a dark horse that I’m glad I gave a chance this year. What started out as a fight turned into an emotional story that follows the heart of an underdog. I’m in awe of how much I became invested into Joe’s character before even realizing his potential. While this anime may not be suitable for everyone, it’s still an anime that can keep just about anyone at their seat. Here is a series that made a name for itself in just 13 phenomenal episodes.
I have never been interested in the sport of boxing. I didn't have anything against it, but, back then, the chance of me watching an actual match or something related to the sport itself would be as big as the understanding of the Internet of a 90-year-old grandpa. However, everything changed after I had watched Hajime no Ippo, as not only I truly enjoyed it to the fullest, but it also sparked an odd interest in the previously avoided sport. Naturally, when I noticed that in the Spring of 2018, there's going to be an anime centred around the said sport called Megalo Box, I
got hyped, set my expectations pretty high and well, they were met to a fair degree.
From a narrative point of view, this show is a pretty average, bog standard story about an underdog boxer. You've got your protagonist, accurately named Joe (Junk Dog), climbing the leaderboards in order to beat the champion, with the help of his coach and support from his friends and fans alike. However, this is where the similarities to other classic underdog stories end. In the subtlely built dystopian world, they inhabit, there are power-enhancing mechanical arms called Gears. They serve both as a plot element everything revolves around and as a metaphor for the theme of "fake boxing". They are the technology that revolutionalised the modern concept of said sports discipline. If you wanted to be a boxer yourself, you had to buy an expensive Gear, because otherwise, when it comes to power and durability, you wouldn't stand a chance in the ring. It's an effective system from both economical and "spectator's" point of view. Who wouldn't like to see a brawl between 2 men with robot-like machinery on their shoulders? No one, therefore a system like that can have a place in the society and be a near perfect business, yet, with such an advancement came the loss of down-to-earth, genuine boxing, of which matches are decided by skill and effort put into improving it rather than one's equipment. The man using nothing but a pure talent that will shatter the concept of "fake boxing" is Joe himself. After being defeated by Yuuri, he decides to end his life filled with throwing matches in an underground ring and without any sort of Gear, he commences his journey to Megalonia, to encounter what a real (Megalo)boxing is, and as he pushes forward, he continues to prove that he's the genuine article; the real deal. Well, this is all Megalo Box is sadly about; it's a near perfect example of themes over attention to seemingly trivial yet crucial details. Even though I love such an uncomplicated yet ingenious concept when it comes down to matches and pacing, they are quite a rocky road. As the latter one is more or less solid throughout the story, the core of a boxing show, the matches themselves, more often than not, lack genuine weight, which may not reduce the viewer's enjoyment per se, yet they don't leave much of an impact after the dust settles. Such a situation would never take place if...
One of the weakest aspects of Megalo Box didn't happen to be its characters. Don't get me wrong, they have amazing personalities and designs, but I've never felt invested in even one of them. Joe is the prime example of that. Throughout the show's duration, we learn little to none about his past, his origins or how he met his future coach. Why is he such a skilled fighter? Is he a natural born boxer or maybe he acquired such a level of talent because of the harsh environment? We don't know that, in fact, we know nothing. Yes, there's one flashback when we see the exact moment Joe and Nanbu first spoke to each other, but what about it? Well, besides discovering that he has siblings, we get nothing from it. And this lack of attention placed on creating the backstory made Joe, even though he has both the look and characteristics of a total badass of the 90s, which I wholeheartedly treasure and respect, into a character I can root for, but at the same time, am apathetic towards. Nanbu and Sachio, on the other hand, served their roles quite well and grew with show's progression. Both of these personages received something that our main protagonist could only dream of: proper character arcs. In case of Nanbu, most of the process of developing and humanising his persona happened both at and before the match between his previous pupil and Joe. We could see him in his now non-existing gym, work as a coach of Aragaki, a wonderfully introduced supporting character, and how big of a burden he carries, as he let his boxer down. And by the end of the journey, he morphed from a selfish scorpion that used others to save himself into a selfless man who cared about his comrades. Sachio is kind of a mixed bag for me. In the beginning, he was a pretty pesky brat, but as we saw his troubled past, we started to understand him and the reason why he thought of Joe the way he did. Other supporting characters are solid for the most part, well, besides Yuuri, who's only character trait for 11 episodes was serving Shirato family and nothing else.
Production value-wise, this anime is an absolute masterwork. Both visually and aurally, this show oozes with such a heck ton of style and testosterone that I was left speechless many times. These retro-stylized aesthetics fit the brutal and harsh plot, shape the dystopian cities and slum surroundings and create an atmospheric tone to near perfection. One might say that the downsampling its footage was a grievous mistake, but to that, I must say no, even though I would like to see those gorgeous backgrounds in high detail. Such a treatment gave the show it's unique unpolished and dirty feel and an unmatched personality, no other modern anime could offer. Every single track you can hear in the show is indescribably brilliant and blood pumping. I swear to God, my blood pressure skyrocketed into heaven's whenever one of these, especially Megalo Box theme and Bangaichi theme, made an appearance. Free goosebumps!
So, to say that I merely enjoyed this series would be a blasphemy, goddamnit, I fricking adore it. There's nothing more satisfying and entertaining than a craft with visible effort put in, that is so enjoyable to watch, that you are, quite literally, waiting with an ominous anticipation every single week to see the next episode and there wasn't a single point where I felt bored or thought that the action I was witnessing on my screen was prolonged. Who's at fault? I guess that the audiovisual's played the most significant role in making me feel the way I felt, and hey, that's not surprising when we take into consideration how amazing they are.
While it certainly has its flaws, which can sometimes be a humongous eyesore, Megalo Box is one of the most exciting, fresh and manliest work of the Spring season, and heck, it doesn't matter if you are a fan of the sport, you will get pumped and hyped for every single bit of action out there. Full of raw, dirty and unrefined style, this retro like experience is, truly, the real deal.
Although it still feels like it only just started, we are now somehow halfway through the Spring 2018 anime season already, and trends are now clearly starting to emerge. In the past three weeks, Boku no Hero Academia returns to prominence, Persona 5 sinks like a stone and more.