Miss my review last week? You can find it here!
This week’s episode picks up right where it left off as Fujimaki tells Nanbu that it’s time to end the ride they’ve been on so far. It’s revealed that during Nanbu’s previous meeting with Fujimaki, they came to an agreement that the best shot they have at making it big in Megalonia is to get folks interested in Joe so that they bet big, and then he throws the match.
Joe comes off of the boat and confronts Nanbu, who tries to convince him that they can make things work after Megalonia is over. Joe is disgusted with Nanbu, dismayed that he never really believed in him, and takes off on his bike.
Sachio also shares his anger and sadness over the revelation and leaves as Nanbu is left with Fujimaki and the tattered remnants of Team Nowhere.
The next day there’s a press conference held for the Final Four, with Joe nowhere to be found. Attention instead shifts to the upcoming bout between Pepe “The Spider” Iglesias and The “King of Kings” – Megalo Boxing Champion Yuri. With only the best of the best fighters remaining, many see this upcoming match between the #1 and #2 ranked fighters in the organization as a chance for a new champion to be crowned.
Back on the streets of the city, Nanbu finds Sachio sulking in an alley and offers to take him for a ride. Sachio’s still angry with Nanbu for what he did, and accuses him of using Joe. Nanbu agrees that he used him, but argues that Sachio was trying to do the same, pointing out the picture he has sewn inside of his hat.
We learn a bit more about Sachio’s past: his father was a brilliant engineer that helped design Yuri’s integrated gear for Shirato, only to have the technology stolen from him by someone else. He died (foul play was likely involved), and a year later Sachio’s mother fell ill and died as well, leaving him an orphan.
Nanbu takes Sachio to a party that Yukiko Shirato is hosting in preparation for the conclusion of Megalonia, and gives him a knife. “This is all I can do for you.” he says, implying that Sachio has an opportunity for revenge if he wanted to kill Shirato.
Anguished, Sachio considers it for a moment, only to see Yukiko laughing and interacting with kids that are barely his age. In that moment he realizes that the revenge he really wants is to get to the top of Megalonia with Joe.
Nanbu wants Joe to make it all the way as well, but knows that Fujimaki will try to kill them all if that happens. Wanting to make sure Sachio is safe, he asks Yukiko to take him in, using the story of his father’s contributions to the integrated gear as leverage. Yukiko agrees, and discovers after her own internal audit that there was indeed some foul play regarding a key component of the Integrated Gear.
The climax of the episode features the opening Megalonia match that everyone’s been waiting for: Pepe Iglesia vs. Yuri! After some dramatic entrances, the fighters square off and showcase why they stand at the top of the heap. Pepe’s movements are erratic, and his punches are strong. Yuri is seen as an “orthodox” fighter, so the match up certainly gives commentators some pause.
Round 1 ends without much progress on either side, each fighter attempting to gauge the other. As the bell for round 2 goes off, Pepe comes out with an aggressive flurry of blows, one of them actually catching Yuri on the face. In that moment, Pepe feels as though he’s cracked the champion’s shield. In that moment of confidence, we see a familiar, and frightening gaze from Yuri.
In an instant, Yuri closes the distance between himself and Pepe, driving a hard uppercut into the Spider, followed by a devastating left hook that sends him down for the count.
Joe watches this unfold from the back of the ring, impressed by Yuri’s ability. Outside of the arena, Joe is getting ready to leave when a familiar dog shows up: the same one belonging to The Champion. Yuri is impressed that his dog likes Joe, as he’s often not fond of strangers. Joe commends Yuri for his performance in the fight, stating that he “felt sorry for Pepe” when the hook landed full-on. Yuri asks him why he fights without Gear, and while Joe admits that it started off as a publicity stunt, he loves that every time he gets in the ring he’s betting his life on his fists.
The episode ends with Joe stopping by their old mechanics shop. He says that Nanbu came by earlier and dropped off an earpiece for him to use in his fight against Burroughs. Before Joe drives off, the mechanic asks “So…who should I be betting on tonight?”
Well, Megalonia is finally here! The episode is largely divided into Team Nowhere (Joe, Nanbu, Sachio) drama and the Yuri vs. Pepe match. On the Team Nowhere front, it was great to see Sachio’s backstory fleshed out and even provided something of a resolution in the same episode. Looping in Mizuhara as the one who recognizes Sachio and brings to light the injustice that his father suffered was a good decision from a storytelling perspective.
Nanbu is a perplexing character for me – equal parts scoundrel and coach, the constant ups and downs make it difficult to put a stake in him as a reliable character that we should be cheering on. There’s certainly the threat of Fujimaki and the mob to consider, but with all of the other good narrative choices that Megalo Box has made to this point, I would think they would have a means of addressing this threat so that Team Nowhere could battle off this looming threat.
Joe’s biggest scene is his conversation with Yuri following the Pepe fight, and it just reinforces my excitement to finally see these two square off. It’s obvious they respect one another in their own way, and I’m hopeful that we’ll learn more about Yuri’s “stray dog” background before they have their final bout.
The highlight of the episode is the Yuri vs. Pepe fight for sure. The brief “intros” that were put together really got me hyped up, like a proper sporting event should! We saw the return of the spinning camera as Yuri and Pepe went toe-to-toe, and the first round was tense and very well animated. I was a bit disappointed that the fight ended so quickly in Round 2, but it really helps to drive home the threat of Yuri as a fighter that he was able to put down the #2 ranked fighter in two solid punches.
I’ve recently been re-visiting some episodes and bouts from Hajime no Ippo and comparing them to my experience with Megalo Box so far. I think that Hajime no Ippo has vastly superior fights, but that it makes sense for a more long-running shonen series to have multi-episode fights. Megalo Box is trying to pack in a series that originally ran for over 120 episodes (if you count both seasons of Ashita no Joe) into a 13-episode block. The unique art style/aesthetic, combined with excellent storytelling, is certainly helping to set Megalo Box apart in the current season. I’m looking forward to seeing how the fight with Burroughs shakes out next week!