「BUY OR DIE?」
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: 「かかってこいよ」 (Kakatte Koi yo) by NakamuraEmi