Title: Megalo Box
Length: 13 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Sports, drama
Year of release: 2018
Megalo Box is an underdog story set in a corrupt but relatively sympathetic underground scene juxtaposed against equally corrupt, lavish corporations. Even aside from its hip-hop backed discussion of social outcastism, Megalo Box wears its heart on its sleeve as it aims for ‘style over substance’.
There’s a lot of curious decisions in Megalo Box’s production that try to make it even more ‘street’. For some reason, the TV broadcast was an upscaled 480p rendition of its vintage animation style, making the gritty art even grittier. Beyond that, its catchy hip hop beats blare with amateurish sound mixing, cutting up its dialogue and sound effects. Megalo Box is a throwback to old anime techniques, and it brings with it a slew of problems.
Yes, Megalo Box has a great sense of style in its ugly art. However, its poor cinematographic eye ruins its fight – this is a boxing anime, but its punches don’t have weight. The nonchalance of the show’s framing holds back its feeling, and it fails as a ‘style over substance’ show.
Which is a shame, because there’s not really a lot else to write home about. With some of its loud insistence of pride from protagonist and underdog, Joe, the series sometimes feels very easy to root for his success in the tournament his corrupt, matchfixing coach has lead him into. There’s not a tremendous amount of development that goes into his personal journey, though. Seeing him pissing blood after his beatings sure is visceral, but it doesn’t build an exceptional character. The cockiness behind Joe is the series’ main thread and, when he undercuts his opponents without the fighting gear, it works well.
But the mini stories throughout Megalo Box really let the series down. A mini-arc featuring an amputee boxer is filled with trite melodrama that, frankly, doesn’t make as much sense as it probably should. Likewise, the constant blackmailing to get Joe to throw matches or forfeit quickly gets old as it carries on until near the finale. I get its corruption, yes, but in a small series like this it can feel very overstuffed.
Still, the moments where Megalo Box hits its stride are at least worth your time. There are moments of underdog story writing where it all comes together. Even if the style is a sore point, and the writing is often a weakness, Megalo Box is unlike most of the anime you can see – and that is sadly the show’s only significant selling point.