Breaking The Narrative Episode 84: Aim for the Top! A Review of Megalo Box!


Something I’ve been noticing this season of anime is a lot of anime coming out that show the true nature of men and masculinity. Either through what we’ve gone over with emotion in Souten No Ken Regenesis, or with the nature of a show I plan on covering later called Devil’s Line, which not only tackles demonization and isolation, but the loneliness that occurs from it. Today I’m going to deal in a show that is a 50th anniversary of a project of a property known as “Tomorrow’s Joe.” The original is based on a redemption story of a prisoner turned boxer. The show we are tackling takes the original concept and gives it a spin unique to our age.

A nameless boxer who lives in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, who is the student of a morally bankrupt and beleaguered trainer is stuck paying back gambling debts by throwing matches in a new technologically enhanced form of boxing known as Megalo Boxing – hence the name of the show. To participate in these illegal and underground matches, our duo of charlatans fight under the boxer name “Junk Dog.” Now that we have our premise and a warning that thar be spoilers ahead, Let’s Hammer This In!

Of course, like many shows such as this it seems to be set on the outskirts of a rebuilt Tokyo. Our main character rides on a trashy-looking bike, all battered and stressed.  Afterwards we go to a public announcement for an upcoming tournament known as “Megalonia” being run by the Shirato Group, operated by Yukiko Shirato, an heiress in every sense of the word and basically the head of this world’s aristocracy. Claiming to be wishing to fulfill her grandfather’s dream, she all but owns the sport’s reigning champion and orders him like a hound in a hunting field. He is her dog and she WILL be obeyed. It frustrates her when he decides to bring in our “Junk Dog,” who shows confidence in his talents within the first three episodes.

So who is “JD” or as he will be known throughout the series here “Joe?” He is a nobody, a person without a nation or a past; a “stray” in other words.  I’m of the mind that these two heavily contrasting worlds are meant to show the innate balance nature seems to have on our world regardless of circumstances. First you have the fact that this world is obviously war-torn and without much if any order overall. It’s a true globalist, corporate run dystopia where the poor suffer and scrounge for whatever they get, and the rich spit on them for simply dirtying ‘their’ land. While Shirato does show some concern for Joe’s health in their first meeting after another accident of his, she looks at him with disdain for not obeying HER rules and HER commands, choosing to live free and desiring to make his own life through his own means.

In short, this is a vision of what will happen if we do allow feminism its final victory, and don’t fight tooth and nail for our spot in the world. We as men will be seen as nothing but mongrels by elites such as Shirato; toys for their amusement. At the same time the mafioso types in this world have just as much power and are just as ruthless. The only difference is, they are up front about their tactics while the heiress hides behind virgin white and an eloquent tone. But don’t think for a moment she isn’t willing to go as much against the rules of society to get what she wants, primarily because, like many feminists we deal with today, she feels ‘entitled’ to being treated as a goddess on Earth.

Now this is where I’m going to tackle the theme I’m sure you must have noticed is prevalent in this show that in any other storyline would seem heavy handed: the matter of male disposability. What we have here is a rare case where this 12 episode series has already out 5 episodes with the story of the 6th already mostly discernible.  The reason I mention this is because of the character arc of one of our primary players, the trainer Nanbu. This first half of the series establishes him and his reasoning pretty well. We first see him as a gambling drunkard and gather he has probably some demons, but are given no reason to like him. He even puts not only his own life but “Joe’s” life on the line to save his own skin from the Yakuza boss he works for.

In episode five you find out that he wrote off his prior protege by the name of Aragaki, a veteran soldier who found himself the victim of a bomb hidden under a dead woman’s corpse, losing not just his looks due to third degree burns to half of his face and on some of his arms, but the near complete loss of his legs out of fear due to his own psyche imagining Nanbu holding him back. Until he returned, he was determined to be Killed In Action. The trainer, out of grief, all but lost his mind, which led to the loss of his well-established gym and to the rampant alcoholism that has plagued him for approximately 10 years. This is what I mean about male disposability. This one episode shows that the moment a man loses usefulness to a person, his life goes to absolute squalor. Nanbu lost his entire career. Aragaki lost his self-worth to the point where he was making out with his side arm and considering pulling the trigger.

This is corroborated by the idea that if “Joe” doesn’t at least get into Megalonia then both Nanbu and “Joe” are dead, that being further emphasized by the gimmick that they go with, being him being “Gearless” for his first sets of fights as well as the name they picked for their team as “Team Nowhere.”  In episode six, we go to where “Joe” might have to deal with losing and making a comeback. It’s a real Rocky type of moment, Aragaki being his trainer’s former student turned into a viscous wolf of a man, nay a  rabid dog. Also the end of every episode is tagged with the phrase “Not Dead Yet!” showing the will to fight until nothing is left.

This is even shown with the idea of the young boy Sachio, an orphan/urchin who raids junkyards to try to find items to sell for candy, likely laced with pain killers and artificial highs. The kid then sees what “Joe” represents and decides he wants to help the boxer out, and shows a talent in episode 4 that most wouldn’t expect.  He is able to read movements and catches tells that perhaps something is wrong with a fighter or where a weakness lies. He is also able to help with motivation and have both Nanbu and “Joe,” while not the best, be sort of mentors for the youth. They are all in all a triad of masculine balance. In certain pagan faiths there is the concept of the Triple Goddess representing the Maiden, Matron, and Crone. This is an obvious masculine variant of that archetype with the Page, Squire, and Knight to borrow from the old chivalric orders of yore.

In this, we see that even a boy who isn’t even to double digits in age is yet seen as disposable, as their society has all but written young Sachio off as it is. He only finds a support system through Nanbu and “Joe” acting as a surrogate father figure and a surrogate big brother. In this, society has obviously deemed them all equally trash and currently only finds them useful in displays of blood and gore. Then again, what else do you expect out of a bloodsport that unlike what we’ve been seeing as of late, people punching each other WITHOUT protective head gear, using robotically enhanced arms and back muscles, one where a boxer can fight using prosthetic legs and still be only ranked 17 in a system of 260+ combatants. At this point it’s a wonder “Joe” is even able to eat without a feeding tube with some of the hits he has taken in this series, much less stand on his own two feet.

Add to this fact that Megalo Boxing, unlike contemporary boxing, doesn’t even consider weight classes or Gear ratings into its setup, and the idea anyone survives this brutal futuristic meat grinder is a miracle. You don’t see anyone like a Rhonda Rousey in this, that’s for sure!  Here the woman runs the league. She does not participate in it. She has her white wolf Yuri to do that for her.

So what is our plucky underdog up against with the Champ?  A seemingly cold and calculating fighter who is cocksure and knows the game and his body so well that very few can even give him interest anymore. “Joe” is the first to do that in some time, his Gear being the most advanced, state of the art, and most importantly fully integrated system in current existence, making it almost part of his body, and making him seem similar to Jax from the Mortal Kombat series.

This not only makes him the best bodyguard in existence, but able to surpass any other fighter’s timing, because to get even close to Yuri’s level when he was using Gear, “Joe” almost burnt out his control chips and battery and lost the bout because of it. That was with Yuri doing nearly half the fight one handed. Right now it’s not known if “Joe” is going to have his gear, which was trashed, restored before the end of the series, or if he is going to keep with the “Gearless” aesthetic, finding that he can fight better without having to deal with the timing differences that having to use Gear would impose on him. The most impressive aspect of the series is some of the accuracy of boxing movements, down to the footwork and how aspects of emotion translate into them.

The way I see this going in the long run is like its predecessor in the coming month and a half, a show that gives us a story of redemption by showing the trials and tribulations of a group of misfits turned heroes for perhaps initially ignoble reasons, but by the end, gaining the nobility of free men who determine what their lives are on no one’s terms but their own; a spectacle of determination and dignity that should be the crowning ideal of what a weremen should reach for, perhaps even finding with these three that while they perhaps never really liked each other or considered themselves friends before our story started, by the end of it see themselves as something greater – family. The best part of all of this is one theme that wasn’t shoehorned in even a little bit – a shallow romance story.

So do I recommend this series? MOST DEFINITELY! I’m likely going to watch this time and time again myself. It is that well-written and animated. This is, in my eyes, comparable to, if not surpassing, even the Rocky series of movies, believe it or not. With that in mind and with perhaps gravitating towards some of the sappy love drama next week, let me say come and get it! Oh and Please Remember to Game Freely!

Alex Tinsley
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About the author

Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.

By Alex Tinsley

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