The first two episodes immediately had me glued to my seat as we witness Junk Dog showing his fighting skills as a Megalo Boxer. It didn’t take long to realize that the show portrays him as an underdog. The experience that Joe gains is invaluable and also allows him to realize his potential. I’m also a sucker for the “David vs Goliath” trope as the idea can be applied in any sport. For Megalo Box, the stakes are raised higher because of how dangerous it is. Every fight feels as if Joe is putting his life on the life against opponents. And believe me, the characters he comes across with are no pushovers. Take Yuuri as an example. He is a Megalo Boxing champion and is considered one of the top fighters in the world. In a classic ‘David vs Goalith’ style fight, he humiliates Junk Dog in his match. The fight inspires Junk Joe to climb up the ranks and make a name for himself. It planted the seeds for Junk Dog to not only improve but also show why he deserves to be a Megalo Boxer. Junk Dog later takes on the ring name “Gearless Joe” because of his own choice to fight without gears in the ring.
Now I have to be honest here and wonder what makes a good boxing story. Is it about the development of character in and out of the ring? Does it also involve a fighter going beyond than just a fictional character? Or maybe it’s a story that always keeps up coming back for more. Perhaps it’s how much the story draws lines between fiction and reality. Personally, I think Megalo Box has a bit of every one of those aspects. Junk Dog goes against his manager Nanbu to throw a fight and takes control of his own destiny. This is a contrast to Yuuri who often follows the command of Yukiko, the head of the Shirato Group who oversees the Megalonia tournament. There’s a good contrasting comparison between these two characters as it feels like they are living in two different worlds. It also impressed me on how much Junk Dog is willing to go to prove himself. This is shown later in the series when he fights Aragaki, with both physical and emotional stakes. It escalated to the point where both fighters eventually took on an all-brawl approach to see who the last man standing. In perhaps one of the most important fights of Junk Joe’s life, he proves himself as a warrior.
For a sports show, there’s no doubt psychology is also involved in the ring. The gimmicks, trash talk, and press conferences hypes up match-ups between opponents. A big selling factor also involves the emotional quality of the show. I can’t help but root for Junk Dog early on in the series. He’s the underdog and for him to beat certain opponents is relatable. It sends across the message that anyone can do anything they set their mind into. While this seems like a cheesy gimmick for the show, it’s very real and the buildup for some of Joe’s matches is executed flawlessly. On the other hand, Megalo Box does suffer a bit on the drama side if we look beyond the ring. Some of the subplot involving Yukiko clashing with the board of directors makes a less memorable impact to connect the series together. The family feud between Yukiko and Mikio also feels like it doesn’t belong in a show like this. Don’t get me wrong. I like a good drama from time to time but the way their plot is carried out just doesn’t sell well. On the other hand, the rivalries between the fighters is what got me really invested into the story. Junk Dog/Yuuri, Junk Dog/Mikio, and Mikio/Yuuri are all rivalries that stays committed to selling this show. What I’m also more invested in is how far Joe goes out to prove himself. He is very committed to his goal even if it means putting his own life on the line and taking jaw dropping risks. The guy knows what he wants to accomplish in life and to me, that’s an attitude you need to succeed.
Produced by TMS Entertainment, it’s may take a while for viewers to get used to the animation style. The characters looks like they are hand drawn and creates a sensation of the 1990s. The characters are rough looking especially for our main protagonist, Junk Dog. There’s no doubt the anime was aiming make the characters look as badass as possible. The addition of the gears these fighters wear adds more aesthetics to raise the stakes. However, the biggest selling point of the anime’s technical quality is the actual fighting. It really isn’t hard to spot how intense the action is once the fight gets into a momentum. Every punch feels impactful and camera angles captures the realism of the pain. It’s never camera shy to show blood on screen and how fighters react to their win or losses. Every fight can get viewers’ heart throbbing. The emotional impact can also be felt with the protrayal of human expressions. In terms of boxing, it also delivers its quality action such as uppercuts, corkscrew punches, jabbing, overhands, etc. Additionally, it’s worth noting how well the show’s dystopia setting is portrayed without overemphasizing element of science fiction. Sure, the series place in a futuristic environment but also shows the reality of cruelness such as poverty. If the creators were aiming for making this anime feel real, they sure got their job done.
I’m not too familiar with Katsuhiko Manabe but the music talent he brings into this anime is undeniably stylish. The fighting music amplifies the hip-pop style of the OST to bring in a lot of attitude into the series. The soundtrack is mesmerizing that always keeps its momentum from the minute the first beat hits. In the meantime, I’m also impressed by the voices of the character cast especially our protagonist Junk Dog. His personality matches with his voice that almost sounds like a fierce dog when fighting in the ring. The masculinity of all the fighters is believable because of the talented voice cast. Both the OP and ED theme songs also reflects a bit of the 1990s mood that may feel nostalgic.