Five years after his Megalonia win against Yuri, Joe has disappeared from the public eye following an exhibition match with Yuri’s new protege Edison Liu, and is once again fighting in underground matches. A far cry from his heyday as “Gearless Joe”, Joe is now using megaloboxing gear in the ring and boxing under the moniker “Nomad”, a feared challenger known for beating his opponents to a pulp. Depressed and hooked on painkillers, Joe bounces from one underground ring to the next as he tries to escape an unspoken past. This is until he meets aspiring boxer Chief, and Joe is confronted by his own legacy and the people that are using the legend he created as a source of inspiration to keep fighting for their dreams.
I love the first season of Megalobox in a way that my long-suffering friends can attest to – it is an anime I advertise whenever possible and I constantly implore anyone who hasn’t seen the series to add it to their watchlist. My review of the series back in 2019 was basically a love letter to TMS Entertainment, series director Yō Moriyama and the rest of the Megalobox crew. I spent several paragraphs gushing about the show’s passionate commemoration of boxing manga Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe), the electrifying boxing matches and soundtrack, and its eye‑catching visuals harkening back to 90s anime production. But this is not a review of Megabolox, this is a review of its successor and genuine, bona fide sequel Megalobox: Nomad.
It is rare that I am genuinely excited for a sequel – even for an anime that is in my top five favourite series. So often sequels feel like a repeat or a tired continuation, rather than the next step in a narrative. For anime especially, actual sequels feel rare – not all subsequent seasons of a series actually feel like sequels, as they are just the necessary next phase of an unfinished story. But Megalobox got its claws in me good, and what makes Megalobox: Nomad so exciting and refreshing is that it is not just Megalobox season two, but a genuine sequel that takes the ending of Megalobox and decides to wildly and exuberantly dive into exploring what an actual future for the characters and the world they live in would look like. Five years have passed since Joe’s win at Megalonia, and Megalobox: Nomad opens with Joe alone, once again boxing in underground matches, looking worse for wear and with his family from the previous season nowhere to be seen. The mystery of what has happened to Joe, now addicted to painkillers and wandering from match to match, as well as the whereabouts of his coach Gansaku Nanbu, Sachio, Aragaki, and the other members of Team Nowhere, is palpable and intriguing.
The series slowly offers more information on the last five years as the episodes progress, often shifting its narrative between the past and present to help viewers piece together the events that have brought Joe to his lowest point, and the cause of the immense grief he is carrying. This concept is an excellent starting point for a sequel to explore a character that viewers are familiar with in a different context and emotional state, held together with an intriguing layer of mystery that I found extremely compelling. But what is extra exciting is that Megalobox: Nomad explores its concepts in a way that is refreshingly mature. The series is genuinely interested in examining grief and peoples’ responses to it (even complicated responses such as the use of drugs), loss in its many forms (including the loss of loved ones, relationships, home and self-determination), experiences of vulnerable people, and the inspiring power of legacy. The result is an engaging sequel that has the chance to shows its characters and world in a different light, recontextualising them and their stories, and offering a narrative full of ambitious and rewarding character moments.
Megalobox: Nomad is a story about finding home, and the power of legacy. Joe wanders from place to place, staying at motels and fighting at any boxing ring that will have him. His will to survive is shot, and essentially on autopilot until he meets aspiring boxer and community leader Chief. Chief is from a community of immigrants who have made their home on the land of a defunct amusement park and have been paying rent to live there until they are suddenly faced with the threat of eviction so the land can go up for auction. As “Gearless Joe”, Joe’s legendary underdog story has given Chief and his community a symbol to rally behind to continue their fight to survive and to belong, with Chief entering into a series of boxing matches to win the prize money to buy the land.
As a result, Megalobox: Nomad is put in this very interesting position of exploring how Joe’s underdog rise through Megalonia and his final match with Yuri has tangibly impacted his friends and family, communities like Chief’s, and even the megaloboxing landscape as a whole. In turn, Chief’s dedication to making a home for his community and rising to every occasion to fight and ensure their survival pushes Joe to face his own demons about his family and the home he left behind several years ago. Of course, the boxing matches in Megalobox: Nomad are explosive, fast-paced, claustrophobic and never fail to have me on the edge of my seat – but this is a perk and not the main event. The matches support the narrative, and are used expertly to illustrate the mental state of the opponents and as a means to a greater end. The delicate push and pull between these stories, of Joe and Chief’s complimentary experiences and the support they provide one another is masterfully done. The themes of wandering with no end goal in sight, of fighting for a place to belong, of building one’s own home, are intrinsic to Joe and Chief’s experiences and to the core themes of Megalobox‘s second season, so fittingly named Megalobox: Nomad.
Just like its predecessor season, even when I think I have it all figured out, Megalobox: Nomad throws curve balls (or in the context of boxing, perhaps it’s more appropriate to say it throws feints). The season is essentially divided into two, with its first part taking place with Chief and his community as Joe tries to come to terms with the loss of Team Nowhere, and the grief he continues to carry with him because of that loss. Interestingly, Megalobox: Nomad gives that arc four episodes to breathe and reach its conclusion, and then has the guts to say ok, so what now? What do you do when you are able to finally stop running and have the strength to turn back? What will you find when you return home?
There’s an emotional complexity to these episodes that is so fascinating and rewarding, as Joe and the characters involved must navigate a space where they have all grown and changed, but in different ways still carry the hurt caused all those years ago. There is a masterful sense of nothing in the world of Megalobox: Nomad feeling static, time moves on and everything moves and changes with it. Being able to experience this transformation and see how much has changed between the first series and this one was genuinely delightful, and captured a certain melancholia and mature character development I have not personally seen afforded to many series.
When people ask me for my personal anime recommendations, Megalobox is the first show out of my mouth every single time. I will now recommend Megalobox: Nomad in the same breath, as a masterclass example of a sequel that is unafraid to rip the rug out from underneath its characters and explore new implications and concepts. Megalobox: Nomad has everything you want in a sequel, delivering a refreshing and heartfelt perspective on its characters, without sparing any effort to retain the same style and passion that made its predecessor so enjoyable. Add it to the top of your watch list immediately.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.
© Asao Takamori, Tetsuya Chiba/Kodansha/MEGALOBOX2 project. All Rights Reserved.