Something to do with death.
What’s the Story?
In the not too distant future boxing has evolved to a new level. Now called Megalobox, the contestants aren’t content to just beat one another senseless, now they strap on mechanical arms, Gear, to increase the damage they can do. One contender, known only as ‘Junk Dog’ makes a living in the more disreputable arenas, throwing matches for his manager. Yet ‘Junk Dog’ wants more, he wants to actually win a match for once and despite the promises of his manager it doesn’t look like that’s ever going to happen. After a chance encounter with the champion, Yuri, ‘Junk Dog’ thinks he’s found his dream opponent, but to get to him he’ll have to battle his way past ruthless opponents, all of them after the top spot. Taking the name Joe, he aims to enter the Megalobox tournament and get into the ring with Yuri once more. Of course he’s going to do this without any Gear of his own because the guy’s suicidal.
I don’t know where to start with this one. I know I’ve said that before and usually it’s a precursor to me disliking an anime, but here it’s the exact opposite. I have no idea where to start because, well, I love every single part of this anime. Okay, not every part, but a good majority and my issues are really just nitpicks. Everything from the music to the animation, to the writing to the sense of drama, I spent pretty much every episode of this series on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next one.
On paper this show wasn’t for me, I mean it’s about boxing and I don’t like boxing. I’d rather keep my violence to the screen where I know it’s not real (sorry if boxing’s your thing, if you enjoy it then go enjoy, I know they try to make it safer and more about the skill involved, but I don’t want to watch two people punch one another regardless). Then the series goes and straps mechanical enhancements on to the guy’s arms just so they can make it even more brutal? Yeah, no, not interested. What caught my attention though was the little thumbnail for this show on Crunchyroll. One of the things that stands out so much about this show is the animation. I mean outside of being gorgeous and fluid and with some real weight to it, it also has an almost throwback style to it. The character designs and the look and feel of everything is very reminiscent of the nineties for me. I especially love the scratchy line work for the characters, it stands out so much compared to all the clean and polished animation that you find everywhere else. It gives the dystopia this series is set in such a feeling of grit and grime that a more polished look would just struggle to convey.
You add on top of that some top-notch story telling and directing and I’m already marking this show as a classic. If you want to see how to tell an underdog story, watch this series, pick apart it’s story structure and you will have a blueprint for how to tell your tale (all you’ve got to figure out then is what you’re going to add to the blueprint). Every scene in this anime is filled with a sense of purpose and drive, we know the end goal from the very beginning and each episode is a step towards that, even if it’s just a lighter one where we’re getting to know the next opponent before the next match, everything is perfectly paced and built up. Every fight feels like a challenge and every opponent has their own unique skill that Joe must overcome to reach the next bout, it’s pretty formulaic, but it never feels that way. Every match is as tense and as exciting as the last and the next one will be even more so, all up to that final fight with Yuri.
The show doesn’t shy away from how brutal this sport can be either, Joe is constantly covered in scars and blood and more than that it shows that Joe can be scared. There’s one match where Joe is on the verge of a panic attack because he’s just realised he’s stepped into the ring with a guy who’s part motorised punching machine and all Joe has to defend himself with is a pair of gloves. It’s moments like that, that are willing to show the character’s vulnerable sides that stops this whole series from completely falling into the macho bravdo trap (though it does stumble in on several occasions, but I’ll forgive it that because the rest is so good).
The characters are all very likeable, even Joe and that is really surprising considering we never really learn anything about him. He has no past, no birth name and no family outside of the one he makes for himself, and yet his never-give-up attitude is so admirable, even if at times he takes it past the point of ridiculousness. I mostly put it down to the writing and the acting, because Joe just oozes personality. We do get to see different sides of him, from his anger and frustration to his clear recklessness and sometimes self-destructive sides, all of which is very understandable.
On a last note, and skip to the verdict section to avoid any trace of spoilers, the ending. Yes I know the ending to this series has upset a lot of people, it’s not what some were hoping for and frankly I don’t care. Yes the fight wasn’t as focussed on as in previous matches, but I think that’s missing the point. Sure the fights have all been fun and amazing, but the fights are not the point of this show. It’s about taking on challenges and living in the moments. Besides I spent the whole episode biting my fingernails praying for Joe not to die, so the same level of tension and drama was there. (Also Joe won! End credits prove it. No arguments).
In the end Megalobox is a fantastic series. It’s an underdogs tale that manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to its unique art style, but becomes something truly great because of it’s writing, it’s directing and it’s acting. Also there’s the music (my god the music), which is not my usual thing, but adds so much atmosphere to the show and is so catchy I can’t help but listen to it again and again. I realise I may be over hyping this show and so is everyone else, but if you haven’t seen this show yet then you need to. It’s a knockout.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.