There’s a man in the underground Megalo Box scene in the near future who goes by the name Junk Dog. While he’s an excellent boxer, he’s caught up in organized crime, purposely throwing matches to mess with the gambling odds at the behest of his coach, Nanbu Gansaku. However, Junk Dog is sick of not being able to fight freely to the best of his abilities after being directly challenged by the official Megalo Boxing champion, Yuri. As a result, Junk Dog wins a fight he should have lost, and now Nanbu is on the hook and may even be forced to give up his eye to repay the mob. However, Nanbu figures out an out: all Junk Dog has to do is win the Me
galo boxing championship with his new identity: Joe.
Megalo Box is a re-envisioning of the classic anime and manga series Ashita no Joe for its upcoming 50th anniversary. Despite that, you could jump into Megalo Box without any knowledge of Ashita no Joe. Megalo Box really only samples key bits from the original story while capturing the feel of Ashita no Joe: the dirtiness of the setting, the fallibility of the characters, and the overall themes of the hopelessness of escaping your social status. The addition of gears to the story adds only further to Joe’s/Junk Dog’s odds; not only does he have to fight against men with more formal training, but without the proper gear to boot. This further emphasizing just how destitute he is in this world.
Even more interesting is the dynamic between Yuri and Junk Dog. Both envy the other because they perceive the other to be free. Junk Dog because he assumes that money is what allows Yuri to do whatever he wants. Yuri because he assumes Joe’s poverty means he doesn’t have to deal with the responsibilities that come with his own position. Both put on a cocky façade, but when it comes down to it, neither one can ever be truly happy outside of the brief moments they’re fighting in the ring. It’s fascinating to see where these two are going to end up each week.
But most striking of all is Megalo Boxart. It wouldn’t look out of place sitting on the shelf next to series like Baki the Grappler or Fighting Spirit. The graininess of the film quality also gives it a much messier look than most modern productions. The dirtiness that comes from emulating an older, hand-drawn style is perfect for the grungy atmosphere of Megalo Box.
Overall, Megalo Box is a fantastic show and one of the strongest original works of the season… even if it’s technically based off a different work. It takes just enough inspiration from the source material to pay homage, while doing enough new. Due to this Megalo Box feels like something totally new. Even if sports anime are not really your thing, consider giving Megalo Box a shot. You won’t regret it.