For those of you who do not know, MEGALOBOX is a boxing anime that takes place in a futuristic, cyberpunk-like setting. This anime was released in 2018 and made in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Japanese manga “Ashita no Joe”. I never read the manga before, but the previews of MEGALOBOX looked promising and Hajime no Ippo’s absence at the time left a boxing anime void I was hoping could be filled by this promising show; I was WRONG.
First off, I want to start off by saying that MEGALOBOX is NOT a horrible show; it has a great soundtrack, an artstyle purposely done to mimic older anime, and the characters are interesting in the presentation and design. With me thinking all of this I know you’re wondering, “Why does MEGALOBOX piss you off if it has ALL of that going for it?”. Well, the answer is very simple, it’s entire plot feels redundant. I feel it was setting up to show one thing and took plot twists that did not make sense and rendered what was going on meaningless.
MEGALOBOX is about a guy named Joe (formerly known as “Junk Dog” in the underground) attempting to pay off the debt that his partner, Gansaku Nanbu owes. To do so, Joe and Gansaku rig underground fights to rack up the money. Skipping all the minor details, Joe loses a fight to the #1 Ranked Megalo boxer and is told to fight him properly at the largest boxing tournament called “Megalonia”. To do so he forges an ID, goes by “Joe” instead of Junk Dog, and has to initiate a gimmick to get fights to begin with. After a long hard road and making it all the way to the finals, we are greeted with absolute disappointment.
First off, we have to address that in order to gain points to make it into Megalonia Joe has to beat high-rankers. In order to do this he agrees to fight without any “Gear”, and goes by “Gearless Joe”. “Gear” in MEGALBOX is the exo-suit like armor worn by those who box; it can increase power, auto guide for increased accuracy of punches, and in the case of one boxer it actually fights for him resulting in no skill being needed by the athlete themselves. Seems just like in the movie “REAL STEEL”, that normal bouncing is not as exciting as this variant, and things like weight classes and conventional measures are thrown out the window for more dangerous fights.
The anime dynamic comes from the fact that Joe needs to fight without the advantageous Gear (putting him at a SEVERE disadvantage) in order to get to where he needs to be for the sake of his rivalry with Yuri and Gansaku’s fate with the guy he owes in the underground. Yuri is the #1 ranked boxer and the favorite, sporting the most advanced Gear that basically fits like a second skin and compliments his natural prowess as a boxer. Ultimately we are supposed to see a nameless, underground prodigy who doesn’t even have the advantage of Gear against a pampered lapdog with the best Megalo Boxing technology that money can buy. We are robbed of that. Not including the fact that the one-eyed Gansaku who already lost his first eye due to not being able to pay his debt, purposely gouges out his second eye in order to prove that he will not fix the finals and allow Joe to fight it out. RIDICULOUS. While it is supposed to show that Gansaku actually cares about Joe and boxing as a whole, it rattles my brain why anyone thought the action would be more heart-felt than redundant.
Seeing that Joe is the “genuine article” and is a boxer through-and-through, Yuri abandons his own Gear in order to fight him in the finals on even footing. While I understand the notion, it abandons the whole premise of the show, as the first time they fought was in the underground and Joe had barely functioning Gear while Yuri brought his state-of-the-art, custom-made tech to beat a no-name nobody. Joe and Yuri being Gearless makes the finals a standard boxing match and destroys the story of an underdog who made it to the top with nothing and had the heart to go all-the-way.
We are also not given a proper ending as we don’t know for sure who actually wins Megalonia. Joe and Yuri are placed within a freeze frame (pictured above) where there seems to be a dual exchange, but who comes out the better isn’t clear. In fact, in Episode 13 there’s an announcement of a second Megalonia tournament as the championship has been vacant for a year after the finals….WHO WON?!
All-in-all, I feel that MEGALOBOX was a great anime with brilliant undertones that managed to lose its meaning within the last few episodes. To me, this is similar to how DARLING in the FRANXX was a brilliant anime up until the point they introduced the Klaxosaur Queen and rushed the plot to its completion. Many have enjoyed MEGALOBOX, many still will, but it accomplished pissing me off by making me feel like the investment of my time was wasted to have such a great build up ultimately be ruined by lackluster plot twists and wrongful ambition.
Tags: Gearless Joe, Joe vs Yuri, What does Megalobox ending mean, Who Won Joe vs Yuri, Who won Megalobox?
I’m really glad you gave Megalo Box a chance and I’m sorry that it ended up being disappointing for you! I’d like to disagree with you on a few points, though.
The story Megalo Box tells definitely isn’t exactly the one it promises in the first few episodes, and if it ended up not being your cup of tea, that’s all right! But I think the story it does tell is a good one, and I personally enjoyed the way it toyed with expectations. The story sets up Gear as this metaphor for privilege, contrasting Yuri, the Shirato lapdog with everything, and Joe, the stray dog who has nothing but his own strength. But as we come to find out, they’re not so different. They’re both dogs from the slum, living in a world of systemic inequality, where people with more power manipulate the two of them for financial gain.
From episodes 4-9, we watch Joe fight his way into Megalonia without Gear, proving that what really matters isn’t the tech you can buy, but your own skill. Joe vs. Mikio (in my opinion the weakest fight of the series) delivers on the man vs. machine narrative as well as the have vs. have-not narrative. Episode 11 is the climax for Team Nowhere. Joe is finally able to escape the world of fixed fights, and Nanbu at last truly believes in Joe. They’ve shown that a bunch of nobodies can make it to the top, that stray dogs are allowed to dream and fight for those dreams.
Then, most of episode 12 is about Yuri and his journey to fight for himself, and not for Shirato’s profits. By episode 13, the Yuri vs. Joe fight isn’t important at all. What matters is that the both of them made it there at all. Yuri shedding his Gear is not only a nod to Rikiishi’s arc in Ashita no Joe, but also representative of him freeing himself from the leash that Shirato kept him on. Joe has already freed himself from the shackles of his own Gear in episode 11. Now the two of them get to fight on the world stage, Gearless, as a big middle finger to all the powers that tried to stop them from getting there. The outcome isn’t important because the getting to fight each other is already a victory for both of them.
(Also, after the credits, it is revealed that Joe won. The championship is vacant because they both retired.)
No need to change your mind about anything, but I hope you can consider these points, because I adore this show and I would love it if more people did the same.
The entire point of the show–which you seemed to have missed–was that it didn’t matter who won (though, as pointed out by the previous commenter, it was revealed Joe won after the credits).
I disagree with both of these points. If Yuri fought with his gear, he would’ve come off as a generic anime antagonist. Him taking it off gave more depth to his character. Not to mention he was on equal footing with Joe. The fight would be totally one-sided if Yuri used his gear. I think of Megalobox as a show that actively avoids shounen tropes, and the hero beating the villain who he stands no chance against with just a few months of training is one of them. I also think that the ending is genius. Pretty much every action anime ends with some crazy bombastic epic fight. Megalobox goes a different route and ends its final fight on an anticlimactic note, leaving the audience wondering who won throughout the final scenes, and then tells you Joe won at the end with a simple black screen and text. It’s honestly pretty refreshing.
Not trying to be rude, but it seems you missed the message behind this anime. May call for a rewatch on your part.
Honestly, I might have. But I feel the anime was supposed to be about mechanical ingenuity and technological genius against pure guts. However, it seems it turned out to be more “Two fighters discover the true art of boxing”. That’s not what they sold me in the opening episodes and that’s what ticked me off so badly.