I’ve never read Ashita no Joe. I’ve little interest in boxing. I know precious little about either. I can whistle Eye of the Tiger, but otherwise I’ve never really gotten into sweaty men giving each other concussions. Heck, I hardly ever watch sports anime — I’m not hot-blooded enough for them, probably. But here I am watching Megalo Box, and I don’t think it’s for the boxing. Make no mistake, the boxing here is pretty good. Even a boxing-ignorant like me got sucked into the intensity of the atmosphere. But if you like boxing, you’re already watching Megalo Box. If you like Ashita no Joe, you’re already watching Megalo Box. For everyone else, just browsing this new season of anime, what’s the hook for Megalo Box?

Just looking at Megalo Box, the first impression you may get is that it’s retro. It looks old, and it’s not just the haircut. The art and animation certainly resemble that of a previous generation, and that’s likely a deliberate stylistic choice considering that Megalo Box is an anniversary project. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but on my part I’m the kind of snobbish curmudgeon who welcomes anything that has the scent of the 20th century so Megalo Box already scores high there. More interestingly, though, Megalo Box is not just retro but also science-fiction, and for a modern audience it makes for an engaging juxtaposition. It’s a ‘used-future’ setting reminiscent of shows from yesteryear like Cowboy Bebop. Megalo Box doesn’t seem to be set in a time far from ours (the cars can’t fly, for starters), but everything has already been covered by a layer of pessimistic dust. It’s the future, and humanity’s weary. It’s a very different kind of science-fiction from the elegant spaceships and silver spires of a more idealistic vision of the future, and the setting informs the nature story on first sight.

So Megalo Box is not just an anime about boxing, but boxing in a world where both technological enhancements and corporate domination exist. I may not watch a boxing anime, but a cyberpunk boxing? I’m intrigued. Anyone played the Deus Ex videogames? I’m reminded of those. In a world where cybernetic augmentations are accepted, commonplace, and driving human biology obsolete, sports take on a fascinating new dimension. The gap between the haves and the have nots, between those who have access to the shiniest new toys and those who must make do with any old scrap, must be greater than the gap between professionals and amateurs. And what role can human skill play, when machines start to do everything we can, but better? Sports are already heavily commercialised, but what happens when ability itself becomes a commodity? There are many interesting questions that arise naturally from this setting and I hope that Megalo Box will touch on some of them.

All in all, I’m hooked. It also doesn’t hurt that this first episode was also a very well constructed pilot in general. After I got over some confusion with the chronology I really got into the entire thing. Sure, Megalo Box still follows the lines of a traditional sports anime (you don’t have to have watched a lot of those to guess who wins this match), but there’s enough of a twist to draw in someone with only passing interest like myself. That’s fine anime. That’s exactly the kind of promising start one would hope for.


ED Sequence

ED: 「かかってこいよ」 (Kakatte Koi yo) by NakamuraEmi


  1. Megalo’s apparently a loosely inspired remake of Ashita no Joe.

    Joe was a hit manga in the late 60s-early 70s; the tragic lower class hero of a developing Japan.

    Creator Chiba Tetsuya is still alive and kicking at 79.

  2. There is always something that catches you when you know you are watching something special, and this will usually hit you within the first 5-10 minutes of viewing.

    Star Wars destroyed a planet.

    The first Matrix movie had that first fight scene with Trinity (you know the one).

    Lost. Well, I don’t know what the hell Lost was, but that first season was awesome and I knew I would be sticking with it long term before the half hour mark hit. (Too bad the ending SUCKED!)

    It’s the same thing here. Except with most anime. Most MEMORABLE anime, the thing that I notice most is the SOUND. And Megalo Box did that. From the first scene to the ED, the music choice were spot-on. It all meshed well with the retro sci-fi setting. It added to the immersion and drew me in.

    I was almost sad when the ending came (and in the traditional cliffhanger, no less!). So yeah. I’m all in on this one.

  3. As a fan of Ashita no Joe, I watched this with trepidation and hoping that it wouldn’t fall flat. It is with a big sigh of relief that this 50th anniversary homage to the iconic manga/anime pulled through with this first episode showing itself as a labour of love and effort in not letting the original down. The art style used is reminiscent of the original anime’s style too.

    The main characters are well re-envisioned here – Joe Yabuki as Junk Dog, Danpei Tange as Nanbu, Yoko Shiraki as Yukiko Shirato, Tooru Rikiishi as Yuri. Junk Dog has that same self-confidence and bravado of Joe. He even drops in an eminently quotable response for the cliffhanger ending of the first episode – “They don’t make tombstones for stray dogs”.

    I was invested to follow this before it aired just because it is an anniversary homage to one of my favourite manga and anime. Now, more so because the first episode is damn good and truly shows up being a loving homage to the icon.

  4. Just wondering, is the director of Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D, Yoshiaki Sawajiri, the character designer here? Because the character design of the rival at the end screams Kawajiri-sensei style, especially with the long face and the eyes.


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