There is something indicative of Megalo Box’s lasting impact on me when it took so long to get around to writing this review. I could understandably blame it all on my own shotty schedule prior to committing to my current release schedule, but maybe the writer’s block that occurred every time I tried to put my thoughts into words spells something more interesting.
It makes me wonder if the show was truly the classic in the making that I praised it for being. However, to imply that Megalo Box was not a good show through and through would be a gross misinterpretation. I may not praise it as a classic, but I’ll be damned if I call it anything but a good time.
For general plot synopsis and my initial impressions of the show, click above. Otherwise, I’m just going to go over how the show met my expectations.
Megalo Box was exceptionally paced. Early on, I was concerned as to where the series was going to end and whether or not it was going to be the first of multiple seasons. After all, the premise of being a fighting tournament makes you think that there would be a lot of fights to get through. Yet, in the end, all of the 13 episodes never felt rushed and each of the fights felt important and progressed the plot.
Joe, apart from being very likable, aided by a performance by Yoshimasa Hosoya, he’s as I said in my first impressions: a typical underdog. That is not to say he does not steal the show with some badass scenes down the line, however. Joe’s desire to rise to the top and beat expectations is elevated by the almost storybook concept of Joe doing it all without Gear.
Megalo Box has a lot of themes about dreams and sacrifice, but it is also a show about human spirit triumphing over adversity, like any good underdog story. Illustrating that struggle through the antagonists’ use of advanced technology elevated the story in my eyes immensely. Granted, the exact logic behind the Gear can get pretty perplexing upon further analysis but that never distracted from my enjoyment.
The conflict of human strength versus technology was a large factor in Yuuri’s character arc. Yuuri’s rivalry with Joe was my favorite character relationship because the two do not even necessarily hate one another. Rather, Joe’s spirit is a source of inspiration to Yuuri, encouraging him to train harder. He is a huge part of Yuuri’s growth and the inspiration behind his biggest sacrifice.
No sacrifice is greater than those made by Nanbu however. In the beginning, I was interested to see how the difference in objectives between him and Joe would strain their relationship. Joe caring only about getting to the top for the sake of his honor, and Nanbu fighting to keep them from getting killed thanks to his debt.
There is a selfishness to Nanbu, but also a sense of genuine concern for his friends, which propels him to act as he does. When push comes to shove though, Nanbu ultimately begins to fight for Joe’s dream, one which he comes to realize he used to believe in as well. Nanbu was by far my favorite character by the end of the series.
In many sports anime, old antagonists end up becoming sort of supporting characters to the main cast. This is sort of the case for Mikiko Shirato, who plays a key role in Yuuri’s character arc towards the end. It also helps that Mikiko’s transformation from antagonist to supporting felt natural, aided by his relationship to Yukiko.
There really aren’t antagonists in Megalo Box. Well, some of the opponents Joe fights are fairly antagonistic, but those are the one-note baddies that only appear for those episodes. Even Yukiko Shirato never felt like a villain necessarily. She is a believer and technology and thus finds herself in opposition to Joe’s non-use of Gear, but she also fairly allows Joe to compete regardless.
Then there is Sachio. There was a small subplot involving the fate of his family, and how their deaths were related to the Shirato Corporation. Alone it was not all that special, but it played a big role in both Nanbu’s arc and the arc of Yukiko, who again, proved to be more than just an antagonist. Sachio was adorable and enthusiastic and exactly the type of kid who needed the example of people like Joe and Nanbu to really grow as a person. It was one of the smaller arcs in the series, but no less enjoyable.
I’ve heard complaints regarding the ending of Megalo Box. Namely, complaints about how the ending was different from the work it is a spiritual successor to, Ashita no Joe, in one key aspect. Having not seen Ashita no Joe, I have no frame of reference apart from having heard how the original ended, so there is not a lot of nostalgia attached to it. Through the eyes of one who has seen the original, it was probably exciting going through the show week by week for reasons much different than my own. I think that is awesome, and I understand some disappointment.
I compare the final episode of Megalo Box to the last episode of FMA Brotherhood. All the characters have reached the end of their own character arcs. They have changed or achieved their goals in some capacity. All that’s left is to see the outcome. No matter who won, I was gonna be happy, and I really felt like the final episode was an epilogue. The fight itself felt perhaps less impressive because of this, granted, and to the finale’s detractor’s, the fight has not stuck much in my memory.
As for the resolution, or more specifically what occurred after, I think that the creators were under no obligation to replicate the original ending. Perhaps doing the ending this way allowed the audience to see two sides of the same story. It brings to mind Makoto Shinkai’s films and how the very happy ending of Your Name acted almost as the happy ending to all of his prior films, many of which ended on bittersweet or flat out sad resolutions.
While a sad ending carries with it a strong message, a happy one can send one just as special and I am glad that the team behind Megalo Box decided on one that was different from what came before.
I mentioned the final fight being underwhelming and I believe my lasting impressions of the animation were not all that impressive. There were not a lot of animation cuts that really stuck out in my mind as time passed, not to say they don’t exist. But where the animation fails to amaze, Megalo Box is consistently beautiful in its artwork.
Megalo Box takes me back in time everytime I watch it. It’s pencil drawn look so elegantly capturing the magic of old cell art as to almost look intentionally dirty at some points brings a feeling of pseudo-nostalgia for the era of anime on Toonami that I never really experienced yet resonate with on an aesthetic level, retroactively. And I know I’m just rehashing my first impressions at this point, but the music is really good and musician mabanua really needs to be put on more projects since this is the only show he is credited with working on.
Megalo Box was pretty fucking awesome, but its conclusion may feel underwhelming, leaving the overall product feeling wanting. I may have spoken too soon to call it a classic, but it is one of the most tightly paced and well-constructed stories I’ve seen in a while. It is elevated by its cast of lovable characters and the sights and sounds resultant of a production team wholly dedicated to making you cheer for the underdog.
Megalo Box is available for legal streaming through Crunchyroll
Well, that sure took me long enough. Hope you all enjoyed the review. Let me know what you thought of Megalo Box, and below comment what other audio/visual trips I should get lost in. Thanks for reading and as always, I’ll see you next time!