What’s up everyone! Welcome to Beyond The Panel. Coming at you today with talk about Megalobox! After watching Kemono Michi, I began to feel more confident in taking a chance on anime series which were centered around sports. Initially, Megalobox was one that was recommended to me. I wasn’t able to take that recommendation before, because I couldn’t help seeing this as something that was going to be generic. It seemed like any other story where the main character was just that skilled, yet needed to rely on some gimmick to stand out. Fortunately for me, this was not the case when it came to Megalobox. This was a series with passion for the sport, and went above and beyond to make you care about this character who is trying to prove himself in the ring.
Megalobox takes place in a futuristic setting where licensed citizens live in a wealthy city while, on the outskirts of this city, there is a slum town where unlicensed citizens live in Japan. Megalo Boxing is that popular sport in this world. While similar to boxing, the key difference is that the boxers fight while wearing a metal frame which makes their attacks much more lethal. This was where I felt that they were going down a generic route. I assumed that just because Junk Dog/Joe was deciding to fighting without gear, that they were going to center everything around that gimmick. Though that was only the stepping stone to something bigger unfolding. This story asked the question; “What would you do to feel alive?”. For Joe, that quickly changed from fighting without gear to get his name out there, to fighting without gear because that rush can’t be beat. To know what it is like to understand your limitations as a human. To know those limitations, and then surpass them. That was the driving force for Megalobox, and Joe’s journey to Megalonia, because there was not a single fight where you were not at the edge of your seat wondering when that one punch he takes is it for the guy.
It took getting that one taste for Joe, and then everything after that was fighting for another go at a challenge he could get from no one else. This also had the added appeal of defying everything you expect from someone like Joe. He comes from nothing, he’s a nobody. Though this guy is supposed to fight from the very bottom to the top? Now if this was it for him as a person, you probably wouldn’t have been as immersed in the story as you could have been. Where they did right by Joe was at the same time emphasizing how dreams are everything. Even having those around you believe you can make it is everything. Joe is anyone who knows what makes their time on this Earth worthwhile, and soaks in that experience.
For characters like Sachio and Nanbu, I admired what they both represented in Joe’s corner. As supporting cast and in Joe’s orbit, they lived in the same world he did. Nanbu captured the essence of that guy who is willing to sell his soul just to see the next day. His evolution in particular was endearing because it’s no simple task fighting your nature. He’s the one pushing Joe to pretty much settle for the scraps, and this was an extension of himself being too comfortable with doing just that to get by. His growth was in realizing that he didn’t have sink down that hole. Neither did he have to drag everyone else with him. Sachio did not disappoint either as someone who was aware of the life he was denied, because of those who have it all. He’s a kid who also was forced to grow up faster than he should have had to also. There are some out there who I’m sure can relate to that. Maybe not for the same reasons, but just for facing challenges where you could not just be a kid carefree.
What you have to give credit to the writer for is the fact that there is no true villain of this story. You would love to jump into a story like this and expect some antagonist who is larger than life and feeling himself. This could have easily been Yuri as the champion. He could have been that guy who believed he was on top of the world, unstoppable, or even arrogant. However, from very start to finish he was a character you clicked with because of the passion he shared with Joe. This series was building up a passion which exceeded the value of a championship belt, or the title that comes with it. Yuri represented what it looks like when you are simply looking for a real fight, and you can only get that from someone who is just as hungry as you to experience the thrill of relying on your own ability. Not the gear you’re wearing. This could have been Yukiko who always left you on edge for the desperation she had to hold onto the future she was working towards. Someone in her position could have done some despicable things to keep what was hers. Yet, every time when it mattered most you could see that there were lines she was not willing to cross. Especially if it would make those around her disappointed in her. This even could have been Mikio for the lengths he was willing to go in order to take back everything involving the company he believed belonged to him. He does do some shady stuff to keep control of his plans in his corner, and he definitely filled the roll of that someone who doesn’t respect the lower class. Though this was also someone who went through an arc of self-discovery towards understanding the importance of the boxer wearing the gloves.
Underlying themes helped this series go the distance as well. What made me connect with this story so much was the attention they placed on poverty and opportunity. The things that people have to do to get by, to make a living, to participate in things which others can easily because of their privilege. Not so different from a world where you struggle to make a living here without proper citizenship. They were consistent with the determination these characters had to prove that anything is possible no matter where you come from. As they said, skill can only be measured in the ring. You can’t defy the odds if you aren’t willing to take a leap of faith.
What really makes a difference for anime like Megalobox is having the right studio animating it. For Megalobox, that would be the combination of studios TMS Entertainment and 3xCub. I can’t say I know who did what, or if it was more of a collaboration effort, but regardless they did amazing work with this series. The choreography of every match and action scene was stunning for the smoothness of it all. Every hit looked real, the footwork was clean, the exchange of punches felt like poetry in motion. It was almost as if you were watching the real thing, and that is the best compliment that I can give an anime series that is about a sport. Above all, there was nothing ridiculous about the fighting either. When it’s anime, sometimes you expect that they will go a bit over the top. But these animators kept it real. Jabs, uppercuts, holdings, counters, it was all by the book. Looked like any punch that you or me would throw, only of course with the power behind it from someone who actually trains to box.
It didn’t surprise me that they would rely on hip-hop music for a series like this, but I’m glad they went for it. The music is composed by hip-hop artist Mabanua, and they surely made me a fan of this artist by the end. It wasn’t the kind of hip-hop that you listen to today. It was the classic stuff that really puts you into the moment. As if you are watching an older boxing movie. I did also find it cool that a certain character actually had a scene where he dropped some verses.
So at the end of the day, Megalobox is yet another sports anime that I recommend wholeheartedly. If you want more people to take a chance on those which focus on boxing, or even those sports more obscure? You have to make sure that the series oozes with appeal. The characters have to matter, the sport itself has to matter, the visuals need to be on point. And above all? You must put some passion into it. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that the viewers believe how important said sport is to that world. In the case of Megalobox, they never once let you forget that these athletes were striving for a genuine experience, which in turn is what we got as well.