Sunday, July 01, 2018

'Megalo Box' Is More Style Than Substance; Worth Watching Nonetheless

Megalo Box is a 13-episode anime series that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the boxing anime classic Ashita no Joe.  However, it’s not necessarily a remake.  Rather, it’s set in the not so distant future in which Megalo Boxing is the top sport.  Megalo Boxing is basically just boxing, but the boxers are equipped with “gears”, mechanical exoskeletons that enhances the fighters’ performances.

The story centers on a feisty young man with a chip on his shoulder called “Junk Dog.”  He’s a gifted, tenacious boxer.  But because he’s an unlicensed citizen from the poverty-stricken outskirts of the city, he’s incapable of participating in official matches.  Instead, with an old, sorry-ass scrap metal for a gear, he fights in underground illegal rings, in which he take dives to earn money.  He’s frustrated of his life, yearning for something more.  After a chance encounter with the top Megalo Boxer in the world, which sparks a rivalry, he sets his eyes on joining Megalonia, the ultimate Megalo Box mega-event, wherein the two can finally settle their beef.
However, in order to get into Megalonia, he must first obtain a citizenship ID, which is required to get a license for the sport, and then, he must dramatically rise in the rankings in order to qualify for a slot in time.  After getting a forged ID through the help of a local mob boss who sees he can exploit the situation, Junk Dog proceeds to make his reputation surge exponentially by beating opponents ranked much higher than him and competing without using a gear.   And thus, he becomes to be known as “Gearless Joe” as he fights his way toward the top.

Again, Megalo Box is its own thing, and doesn’t follow the plot of Ashita no Joe.  Nevertheless, from what I understand, the former’s set of characters is loosely based on the latter’s, and some themes from the latter are reflected by the former.
Moreover, one notable thing on the back of my mind while watching this series was the question if it would end like how Ashita no Joe ended.  I haven’t seen Ashita no Joe yet, but I’m well aware of its iconic ending: Joe showcasing remarkable doggedness in a hellish fifteen-round match with the brutal World Champion, which left the champion radically deteriorated and traumatized, but at the cost of his own life.  Thus, I was wondering if Megalo Box’s Joe will also end up dead.  This is even heavily hinted by the to-be-continued title card at the end of every episode, which states “NOT DEAD YET…” (similar to Cowboy Bebop’s “SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY…”).  I won’t spoil here what Joe’s fate turned out being.

The most endearing thing about this anime is its stylistic sense.  The animation technique, character designs, and aesthetical tones have an old-school edge to them, making this anime appear like something made during the 90’s.  Meanwhile, the lit music adds a fist-pumping flavor on top of everything being shown.
But beyond the appeal of its nostalgic visuals and eargasmic soundtrack, it has little else to offer.  The plot is a run-of-the-mill underdog story that we’ve already seen in various forms before.  The action sequences can be exciting, but it has nothing as exhilarating as those that can be found in Hajimme no Ippo.  Nevertheless, because of the fantastic animation and music, it makes the narrative appear to be more engaging than it really is.  And in this case, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In the end, Megalo Box is no Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo, which I initially thought this anime could be.  And it’s basically your typical example of “style over substance.”  Still, because of its astoundingly stylish craftsmanship, it totally makes itself worth checking out.

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