First Look: MEGALOBOX

Alternative title(s): MEGALOBOX
Anime Original by TMS Entertainment
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Junk Dog is a down-on-his-luck Megalo Boxer, throwing fixed fights and dreaming of finding glory in the upcoming MEGALONIA Tournament. But a chance encounter with the reigning champ might just give him the push he needs…

Iro’s verdict: Hard Hitter

With a great hand-drawn-style aesthetic (complete with some kind of fuzz filter that makes everything look delightfully old-school) and an excellent soundtrack MEGALOBOX has a strong one-two punch of style. The setup bears resemblance to the infamous Redline – which director Moriyama also worked on – and carries a similar devil-may-care attitude. Who decided to take an already extremely dangerous sport like boxing and spruce it up with cybernetic actuators? It doesn’t actually matter, is the answer. What matters is that dude punching Junk Dog in beat with the music, what matters is each boxer’s Gear telling us a bit about themselves, what matters is that broad common desire to dig ourselves up out of nothing and become somethingMEGALOBOX won’t be breaking any new ground, but this first episode might be the most exciting one this season.

Gee’s verdict: This One’s a Contender

If Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These was a show designed to pinpoint precision to appeal to my brain, MEGALOBOX is a shot straight at the heart. MEGALOBOX’s story isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s a show with a lot of heart and style. And so it comes to absolutely zero surprise that it’s being directed by Redline alum You Moriyama in what has to be one of the most spectacular anime directorial debuts since Garo’s Seong Ho Park. Like Redline, MEGALOBOX is a show that drips with a tangible feeling of being lived in. The dusty cracked roads, the graffiti that adorns its walls, the worn grit that every character wears on their face, everything about MEGALOBOX stands out visually compared to anything else airing this season. The rough pencil lines do an amazingly effective job of evoking the analog feel of the old anime it’s clearly emulating. Throw in the hand drawn mechanical objects like Junk Dog’s bike and the exoskeleton gear the Megalo Boxers use and you’re looking at something truly special here. The soundtrack also deserves a shoutout for perfectly setting the tone of the story. It’s a slick hip hop style that goes hand in hand with the show’s crunchy visuals. All in all, MEGALOBOX is an anime with a seriously cool vibe.

MEGALOBOX is also a great showcase of narrative efficiency. In this first episode, we’ve been given all the information we need to invest ourselves in its cyberpunk setting. We don’t need a narrator character to introduce Junk Dog. His fatalistic march to his inevitable self-destruction is laid bare for us without any need for expository dialogue.It’s all there in its sparing character dialogue and the visual storytelling MEGALOBOX wields so effectively. Overall, MEGALOBOX probably isn’t going to blow most people away. At its core, its the story of a downtrodden underdog and his bloody rise to the top. If you’ve consumed any piece of sports media in the last 50 years, you know where this is going. Hell, the fact that this is a special project made to celebrate the legendary Ashita no Joe’s 50th anniversary means you probably know exactly where this is going. And despite that, anyone who gives MEGALOBOX a chance isn’t going to be able to take their eyes away.

Zigg’s Verdict: Heavyweight Challenger

There’s nothing too fancy about the narrative setup of MEGALOBOX – as Iro points out it’s basically Redline but with punching instead of racing – but the real appeal here is in fantastic atmosphere and style this first episode shows off. The contrast between the slick, high tech city district and Junk Dog’s world of scuzzy dive bars and angry rednecks is beautifully captured, evoking post-apocalyptic classics such as The Road Warrior, and TMS’s fabulously harsh scratchy animation really breathes life into the locales and characters. The fights are well choreographed, packed with crunchy violence and dynamic directing, and there’s an appealingly gritty, grindhouse vibe to the entire production which is rare in anime. I think the key to MEGALOBOX going forward will be whether they’re able to make Junk Dog’s inevitable climb to the top of the boxing world interesting, or whether it’ll succumb to the tired cliches a lot of sports anime falls into. Either way, it seems sure to do with considerable pizzazz along the way.

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