Megalo Box Episode 1 Review: Buy or Die?

2018 is shaping up to be a nostalgic year for anime fans, with the continuation of Cardcaptor Sakura during the Winter 2018 season, a reboot of the classic fighting anime Grappler Baki, and the surprise announcement of a BANANA FISH anime! But, out of all these anime titles, one stood out from the rest: Megalo Box! Inspired by the classic boxing anime, Ashita no Joe, Megalo Box serves as the spiritual successor to the series, bringing the gritty cutthroat world of boxing to a new generation of anime fans! It’s been 50 years since Joe stepped into the ring and now it’s time for a new contender, Junk Dog to take up the mantle. Join me ringside as I dive into the first episode of Megalo Box!

Plot

Taking place in the not too distant future, Megalo Box follows underground boxer, Junk Dog (JD for short), as he scratches out a living in the slums. When a rival appears in his path, JD will set his sights on the Megalonia, an international boxing tournament, to settle the score and make a name for himself on the world stage. With everything on the line, can JD make a name for himself in a real ring or will he ultimately crash and burn?

Episode Highlights

Location Title Cards: Every time a new locale is shown, the name of that particular location will be displayed in semi-transparent yellow text across the screen. The name is displayed in both Japanese and English.

Parallels/Callbacks: Megalo Box is its own thing, but there are more than a few Joe references and callbacks, most of which go completely over your head if you haven’t seen Ashita no Joe. It’s a fun way to pay homage to the iconic series without alienating new viewers or beating fans of Joe over the head with nostalgia.

Background Details: Most of the episode takes place in the slums, and the animation team did a fantastic job playing up the grungier side of things. The colors are muted and worn, the buildings are practically falling apart with varying degrees of structural damage and because this is an inner-city slum, there’s graffiti on just about everything. This is the level of detail I live for in my anime!

Action Effects: During the boxing match, you can see the speed lines and impact effects when the fighters punch or make contact with one another. It’s a style that is often used in print media to compensate for the lack of animation, but rather than feeling gimmicky or out of place, the choice adds weight to the animation giving the matches a much more tangible impact.

Themes & Trivia

Nameless Warrior: Rather than going by his real name, the series’ protagonist instead goes by his ring name, Junk Dog.

Megalo Box: I’m not going to be the first person to bring this up, nor will I be the last, but, the boxing in Megalo Box features human boxers decked out in mechanical/robotic limb enhancements, similar to that of the 2011 American film, Real Steel. Of course, there are some differences, robots are replaced with limb enhancements, but the future of boxing seems to be… mecha…

Episode names: Episodes are referred to as ‘Rounds.’ Boxing matches are typically divided into a maximum of twelve (ranging between 4-10 seconds depending on the type of match).

Comments

The first episode of Megalo Box definitely gave off more of a Cowboy Bebop/Michiko to Hatchin vibe with the aesthetic feel of Samurai Champloo, with its gritty, world-weary protagonist, grungy locals, and funk/pop soundtrack.

Early on, the series is aiming to set itself apart from its Joe roots, and it works. Megalo Box is its own thing and that’s what we need now, not another washed-out remake or reboot. Joe’s story was very much a product of its time and this series understands that and is writing with today’s audience in mind, but with some subtle callbacks to characters and situations from the previous series. Not enough to alienate folks who haven’t seen Ashita no Joe, but just enough for fans of Joe to feel their nostalgia senses tingle from the parallels. JD is a likable guy, who doesn’t immediately go out of his way to piss you off like Joe did in Ashita no Joe and he’s much better off because of it. The other characters are given brief intros and I see more than a few that are callbacks to the  Joe supporting cast.

There’s some nice world-building in this episode about the social divide thatexistst between those in the city and those in the slums, without huge exposition dumps. There’s a lot of show don’t tell going on and I for one appreciate the subtly.  

Every Dog Has Its Day

Overall, I was really impressed with episode one of Megalo Box! While it is aa Ashita no Joe 50th Anniversary tribute anime, it definitely sets itself apart from its predecessor, and I for one can’t wait to watch this new story unfold! I’ll definitely have a ringside seat for next week’s episode!!

What do you guys think of Megalo Box’s debut episode? Do you think it will be one of this season’s break out stars or is it another ambitious undertaking? Let us know in the comment section below! And don’t forget to check the rest of the Spring 2018 anime reviews on MANGA.TOKYO!

NEXT TIME: The Man Only Dies Once

Megalo Box

Spring 2018 | Anime Info

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