Anime Corner: Megalobox 2: Nomad Review

Hasta ver la luz.

What’s the Story?

Megalobox, the advanced form of boxing were competitors wear metal frames known as ‘Gear’ to face one another in the ring. When the first ever Megalonia tournament was held, a man, a legend, took to the stage, taking on all comers without any Gear at all and thus the name ‘Gearless’ Joe was etched into history. Even legends must end though and several years later Joe is a shadow of his former self. Using drink and dodgy painkillers to push down the agony he feels, he spends his nights fighting in underground matches. He has nothing and no one, but how did the former champion get this way? What’s more can he possibly face up to his past and make amends to those he wronged? A chance encounter with a fellow boxer might just show him the way. It’s a lonely road, but we all get lost from time to time.

The Review:

I adored the original series of Megalobox (you can check out my review HERE, but honestly just go watch it, you won’t regret it). It’s an incredible show, full of pulse-pounding drama, fantastic music and stylish animation that I just wanted more and more of. So you can imagine how excited I was when this sequel was announced. Still, sequels can be a tough beast to conquer, does Megalobox 2 hold up to the original? Are you kidding me?! It’s even better! This show is absolutely fantastic, if I had a review score higher than ‘Unmissable’ I’d be giving it to this show. Of course all of that is dependent on what you’re expecting to get out of Megalobox 2, if you’re after another tournament arc or even crazier boxing matches, well, then you’re probably going to be disappointed.

The focus for megalobox 2 is set firmly on the characters above everything else. Now the characters in the original series were hardly the most deep or defined, heck we never really learnt anything substantial about Joe or where he comes from. What we did get was enough to understand who he is and why he fights, enough to cheer him on and be overjoyed when we reach his eventual victory. The same can be applied to all the other characters, they each had their own problems and arcs that we explored through each of Joe’s matches. Megalobox 2 however takes a different approach, starting with a time skip. Now don’t worry, I’m sure anyone who saw Promised Neverland 2 is having terrible flashbacks at the mention of a time skip, like I did, but this is how they should be used. The characters have some history to contend with now and though we don’t learn what happened straight away, it’s enough to see them dealing with the ghosts of their regret and guilt.

There’s a very melancholy feeling to Megalobox 2, especially during its first half. Joe is dealing with, or rather refusing to deal with, whatever happened to him and the first arc, as it were, deals with a community of immigrants who just want to have some place to call their own. It’s a harsh world, the world of megalobox, and it’s often shown that people have to fight for every scrap they can get a hold of. This was also the case in the original series, but it’s amplified here and put more under the microscope. Yet, for all the rough edges and struggle, there’s a burgeoning sense of hope that begins to emerge from the series. A parable about a dying man and humming bird is repeated several times in the second half (I’ve no idea whether it’s been made up for this series or if it’s based on a real story, either way it’s good and used well throughout). To me it gives the message that, even if you think you’ve lost everything, there’s still things worth carrying on for and it’s heart-warming to see Joe and a few other characters come to realise that.

That brings me to the music and, again, it’s another winner. There’s a strong Spanish influence to the music, and a lot of the show really, given that all the episode titles are in Spanish. There’s a lot of melancholy tracks to squeeze your heart and carry you way on, as befits the mood of the series, but when it needs to get you pumped up and excited it knows just what to hit you with. I wish I understood more about music so that I could properly explain what makes its so, so good, but I could listen to the soundtracks for both series for the rest of my life and never be happier.

Finally, let’s talk about the animation. It’s still completely top notch, the line work is a little cleaner, but the great character designs and aesthetic remain intact. As I’ve mentioned there isn’t all that much action so the animation doesn’t get as many chances to show off, but there are a plethora of examples of great directing and visual story-telling. That said, when there finally is a match and the animation gets to flex a little, it really flexes. I just want to chef’s kiss this anime until my lips fall off. Go watch it guys, right now!

The Verdict:

In the end, Megalobox 2: Nomad is one of those rare instances where the sequel outmatches the original. The music, animation and directing are as fantastic as they were in the original, but with more of a focus on the characters and their emotional journeys the drama gets turned up to eleven. This is a more melancholy series and there’s less matches if that’s what you were looking for, but the continual gut punches of the story more than make up for that. We even manage to end things on a much more hopeful note and I couldn’t be happier with this series. I would love another series, but if this is where this story ends then I am more than content. Check this out!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

First Impressions Spring 2021 part 1

Spring is here and the digital fields of the Internet are just bursting with new anime coming into bloom! Sorry, I may be a tad excited at the minute, at the time of writing this Lockdown is slowly being peeled back in the UK and I’ve actually been outside for the first time in months! I’d almost forgotten there was a world beyond my front door, but we’re not here to talk about that. Anime! There’s plenty of great offerings up for grabs this season, some shows that have taken me by surprise and others that have set some pretty high standards for the series to come. Enough waffle though, let’s get to it. Bring on the anime!

Vivy-Fluorite Eye’s Song-

100 years in the future the A.I. apocalypse is upon us. Over the past century A.I. have become much more commonplace, autonomous androids finding their way into all areas of daily life, but, for whatever reason, those androids are now in open war with the human race. Our only hope for preventing the utter annihilation of our species is a program sent into the past and an A.I. programmed for singing? This unlikely pair will have to find a way to put their difference aside and prevent key moments in history from going the wrong way, at least that’s how things appear.

This series took me completely by surprise. Maybe it’s the glut of disappointing Terminator sequels, but I heard time-travelling back into the past and my brain immediately tuned out. Thankfully there have been some really good reviews for this series so far that convinced me to give it a chance and I am so glad that I did. This show grabbed me by the collar at episode one and it hasn’t let go since. Whether it’s the brilliant back-and-forth banter of Vivy and Matsumoto, the excellent action pieces or just the clear amount of thought that has been put into this plot. I’m pretty sure we haven’t gotten the full picture from my favourite talking teddy bear yet, but I’m definitely sticking around to see it. If you’ve skipped this for whatever reason, do yourself a favour and check this out!

Joran The Princess of Snow and Blood

The year is 1931 and Prince Tokugawa Yoshinobu reigns over Japan with an iron fist. Under his rule their have been great advances in technology, but though all appears peaceful, there are shadows lurking in every corner. To battle those shadows there is Nue, the government’s secret executioner group. One of their top assassins is Sawa Yukimura, when she was just a child her entire village was massacred and she has since sworn herself to revenge. Quite by chance, the man who took everything from her also happens to be the one currently plotting to bring down the government.

I feel like I should be more into this series than I am. This is one of those rare animes where I actually saw the trailer before the show started airing and there was a lot that got me excited. Three episodes in though and there’s just something not clicking with me and I can’t put my finger on what it is. There’s a good set up and I do like the focus on the political goings on and espionage stuff, but maybe it’s a case of there being a bit too much world for me to get my head around. There’s just a lot of stuff that hasn’t been shown to us yet, or explained in all that much detail so it feels like the show is trying to keep me at arm’s length. Add on the fact that our main character spends most of her time either confused by, or suppressing her emotions in order to be an effective killer, and is it any wonder I feel no connection to what’s going on? I’m going to keep trying with this series, but so far it’s not looking good. That and the fights are over way too fast!

SSSS.Dynazenon

Yomogi Asanaka used to be just like every other Japanese high school student, but all that changed when he met Gauma, a self-proclaimed ‘kaiju user’. Now, alongside Gauma and two other strangers, a girl from his class who’s notorious for breaking promises and an unemployed slacker, they each pilot giant robots and defend the city from kaiju attacks. But why are the kaiju suddenly appearing and who are these other mysterious kaiju users and what are they after? More importantly, can this unusual group come together and stop them?

I really enjoyed SSSS.Gridman when it aired a couple of years ago, it had a real sense of nostalgia without actually being nostalgic for me. SSSS.Dynazenon gives me much the same feeling. I’m a big Power Rangers fan, have been since I was a kid, so when I see a show about teens piloting giant robots and combining them together to fight monsters, I’m automatically on board. You add on the usual style of great character designs we get from studio Trigger and a rockin’ soundtrack and I just know I’m gonna have a lot of fun with this show. I also like the little details, like how it keeps bringing up the damage that is being down by the battles with the kaiju. Of course there’s going to be damage, and consequences, to these fights and I’m so glad they’re not just being relegated to the ‘abandoned buildings district’ like other shows. I’m not really sure where the overall story is going, but I’m more than happy to stick around and find out.

Dragon Goes House-Hunting

Dragons are majestic, fearsome creatures, rightfully touted as one of the most powerful creatures in existence, but every rule has its exception. Letty can’t fly, he can’t breathe fire and he was just kicked out of his family’s lair. Alone and defenceless, he needs to find a new home fast if he wants to stand any chance of surviving. Luckily he’s engaged the services of Dearia, the Demon Lord of Real Estate (he has a business card and everything). Whether it’s a hidden-away cave or a newly built dungeon, Dearia promises to find you the home of your dreams, no matter how long it takes.

This show is fine. That’s about all I can say really, and I feel kinda bad about that. It’s not mind-blowing, it’s not earth-shattering, it just does what it does and moves along. The animation is fit for purpose and no more, the characters are fleshed out enough to set up the gags and that’s it. It’s not doing anything bad, but it’s in no way spectacular either. I can see the gag of Letty getting scared/upset by whatever home that Dearia shows him running a bit thin in an episode or two if they don’t add in any other elements, but honestly I don’t think I’m going to be watching this series that long. There’s a lot of really good shows this season and so something that’s just fine isn’t enough to hold my attention. As I said I kinda feel bad, because any other season I’d probably stick with this show, but not this season.

OddTaxi

The life of a taxi driver can be an unusual and ever-so fraught one. Take Odokawa for example, he’s the quiet type and doesn’t like to talk all that much, and yet that’s all his passengers ever seem to want to do. Whether they’re a college student looking to become famous online, a nurse with a confession to make or a criminal baboon, they’ve all got something to say. The question is, what does all this have to do with a missing girl, and who’s that hiding in Odokawa’s closet?

I’ll be honest, I was planning on skipping this show when the season started. As I mentioned with Dragon Goes House-Hunting, there’s a lot of really good shows airing at the minute and this one just didn’t grab my attention. My mid-week’s a bit light on shows though so I decided I’d give the first episode a try and I’ve been gripped ever since. Each skit with Odokawa’s passengers, or friends, are fun in and of themselves (the ones I get at least, I’ll admit a couple of the jokes have gone over my head), but then there’s that mystery plot. I’m a sucker for a good mystery and that’s exactly what this series is. There’s still so many questions and puzzle pieces and each interaction feels like its offering up another tantalising clue, or maybe it’s a red herring, or maybe it’s another mystery all together. I’m questioning everything and mentally trying to link all the pieces together and I can’t remember the last time a mystery series caught me like this. If you’ve skipped this show, for whatever reason, do yourself a favour and check this out right now!

Megalobox 2: Nomad

Seven years after winning the first ever Megalonia tournament, the legendary ‘Gearless’ Joe is no more. Now calling himself ‘Nomad’ and drowning himself in pills and alcohol to numb his pain, the boxer is a shadow of his former self. That’s when he meets Chief, a boxer with drive and a goal. He wants to buy the land his community is currently living on so that they can finally have a place to call their own. Joe decides to help him, but first he’s got to face his past and the pain that had been crippling him.

This is not the sequel I was expecting to Megalobox, it feels like a completely different series in some ways, but a natural evolution in others. It’s hard seeing the unbeatable Joe in such a sorry state in the first couple of episodes, and we don’t even know the full story of how he ended up like this. He’s still a compelling character though, maybe even more so now, and I’m rooting for him just as much as every time he stepped into the ring before. All the characters feel so real and Chief might just be one of my favourite characters of this season, if not the whole year. I adored the first season of this show and I’ve got a good feeling that I’m going to adore this season just as much, if not more.

That’s all for this week. Come back next week for more first impressions, including a house covered in soot, some non-autonomous robots and a shape-shifter discovering what it means to be human. See you then!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Megalobox Review

Blog Megalobox Review Title

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.

The Review

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).

The Verdict

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.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.