Megalonia, a violent spectacle where entrants compete in boxing matches with the help of mechanical exoskeletons known as “Gear”, takes place in three months time. A young man known only by his ring name, Junk Dog, is struggling to make a name for himself in underground fights because his friend Gansaku Nanbu would rather make easy money by having him throw fights. Megalonia won’t change his situation, and without a name or an ID he can’t even compete. But a chance meeting with Yukiko Shirato, an important member of the Shirato Group who are in charge of Megalonia, and Megalo Box Champion Yuri set him on a different path. He wants to test his skills against a real champion. He wants to believe his faith is real.
Megalo Box easily has the most stylish premiere of the season so far. It is a part of the 50th Anniversary Project for Ashita no Joe, a classic boxing series from the 1960s, but luckily for many viewers a familiarity with the original work is not necessary to enjoy this spin off.
From the opening moments of the episode it’s clear to see that Megalo Box has a unique style that seems more at home in the slick, super fast, hyper violent OVAs of the 1990s, which isn’t something you tend to see so much in the current day. The artwork is bold and sketchy, the colour palette is muted and gives everything a gritty, down to earth look, and a great amount of effort has gone into the animation in order to convey the speed and power of both the sport and Junk Dog’s motorcycle joyrides. The visual flair of Megalo Box seemed to me like a mixture of Akira and Michiko and Hatchin, both of which oozed style. Unfortunately, and this is probably just a technical error on Crunchyroll’s part, even when trying to watch at a higher resolution the quality of the video looks like it’s been scaled up from standard definition, resulting in fuzzy lines and some distracting pixelation. I hope that in future episodes this gets fixed if it is indeed a technical issue because if it was more crisp then the artwork would be even more striking.
Part of the reason I enjoyed this episode so much was the music. The soundtrack mixes higher intensity electronic music with some more lofi hip hop beats (to relax/study to) depending on the scene. Each track complemented the scenes and was mixed in with the rest of the sound really well and this meant that while it wasn’t so obvious that it was distracting, I could always notice and appreciate the music. This is one of the first shows this season where I felt that the soundtrack was immediately noticeable and distinct.
Despite the fantastic execution, the plot itself is shaping up to be a bit more standard. So far all signs point to this being the typical underdog sports show, where the kid from the wrong side of the tracks steps up to face his rival and show the world what real, honest boxing is (so long as it still involves strapping a robot to your back, of course). There’s nothing wrong with that, sometimes simple is great! But for people who want to see fresh storytelling in a sports anime this show might not scratch that itch.
While I’m not the biggest fan of sports anime in general, the gritty realism of Megalo Box makes this premiere more palatable to me than a lot of others I have tried to watch. The difference in setting also helps a lot; for once we’re not watching some high school team trying their best to succeed through the power of friendship and doing their best. It seems a bit more grown up, a bit wiser about the world and the nature of competition. Junk Dog is a no-name boxer who is forced to throw fights just to get a paycheck, but he knows he can do better, he wants to actually use the skills that he knows he has. He’s frustrated, he’s ambivalent about the sport and his place within it. I want to see more of the competition from his perspective because it’s one we don’t often see.
Despite my disinterest in sports anime, I want to give Megalo Box a few more episodes to prove itself because everything else about the premiere was so polished and intriguing. If the narrative focuses more on Junk Dog and his psyche this has the potential to be a fascinating character story. Let’s hope that the series is able to deliver on its pedigree!
- The opening scene showcases the best parts of Megalo Box – the unique art direction, the gorgeous animation and the catchy soundtrack while giving us our first look into Junk Dog’s head
- Information about the setting is delivered through diegetic means rather than awkward exposition, giving us an organic way to learn about the world the characters inhabit
- Some blurriness and compression issues on Crunchyroll’s video spoils the otherwise fantastic artwork