Boxing anime has had very few but also very impactful hits. Megalo Box, one of the most popular anime of the season, is the most recent example of this otherwise niche genre-breaking into the mainstream otaku community. Its brutal action and fleshed out sci-fi setting has established it as one of the best boxing anime ever made.
With that in mind, we’ve teamed up with Canadian boxing veteran and national silver medalist Eli Serada (in his cosplay of the protagonist) to help us analyze how the series' bouts reflect the story, its characters, and real-life combat.
Protagonist Joe is a penniless boxer living in a slum where he earns money by throwing fights in megalo boxing matches. As such, the first fight we see with him has him square off against an opponent he’s told to let win. But even with a predetermined conclusion, this fight can still tell us a lot about his style. His opponent begins by throwing a cross punch, which Joe slips and counters with an up-shoot. This is like an uppercut, but with the palm facing sideways for a smaller contact surface. The fact that the opponent took a noticeable wind-up for his cross shows Joe’s strategy was to wait for him to attack and counter with something that could slip past his defenses easily.
Joe is turtling (a technique centered around hunching over and blocking instead of attacking) throughout almost the entire rest of the match, which gives the impression that countering is the centerpiece of his strategy.
Serada said Joe’s style best fit that of an offensive counter-puncher which he described as “someone that makes you miss and makes you pay for it but is also not afraid to take the fight to you.” This comes full circle as we see the opponent become more and more enraged at his inability to hurt Joe and overcommitting to big, risky haymakers as a result. Joe normally would have finished it here, but sadly was forced to take a dive.
The Big Break
Joe later gets to fight the international megalo boxing champion, Yuri, through a fluke, meaning we get to see him fight for real. Joe actually started this match on the offensive, but Serada noted that “Just because you’re counter punching, doesn’t mean you have to wait for the other person to punch.” The gist of it was that Joe was applying the offensive part of his style to try and pressure Yuri into punching him and countering from there.
Joe is elated to be fighting a strong opponent though, and overreaches on a cross, making him fall forward. This is an interesting parallel to Joe’s first opponent, who also overcommitted to his punches. It shows us that Joe is just as far out of his depth with Yuri as the other guy was with Joe. Yuri similarly starts to counter Joe, but there’s no fixed outcome to save him and he just barely dodges a punch that would have put him down.
Yuri is not giving Joe the openings the latter wants, so he needs to create one himself. In a desperate move, Joe feigns a jab and then knocks Yuri’s arm in the air with an uppercut. This is another typical example of real boxing in the show as shorter boxers like Joe need to stay in their opponents' faces to compensate for the difference in reach. It's also an offensive counter punching strategy, but alas it's not enough to break Yuri's defense and Joe just barely misses a punch that would otherwise have him KO. Joe shows his signature approach more by slipping through one of Yuri’s punches and throwing a cross-counter (a cross punch made to hit an opponent overtop his own punch) but alas, Yuri blocks it.
To add injury to insult, Yuri then goads Joe into trying to hit him again, only to knock him down for the count with a cross counter of his own. While this match did not go in Joe's favor at all, it was instrumental in cementing the broad strokes of his aggressive counterpunch strategy that will form the foundation for his progression as a fighter later in the story.
And Now For Something Completely Different
Don’t feel too bad for Joe, he does get a win later (against an opponent he was supposed to throw a fight for). He doesn't use any smart counterpunching tactics either, he just slowly walks up to him without his guard raised and beats him in one punch in what Serada described as “essentially the equivalent of a bitch slap.” It may not have had much to do with real boxing but refusing to take a dive was an endearing turning point for his character.
The attention to detail TMS Entertainment has put into the fights in Megalo Box is astounding. From the meaning it holds for the story and characterization as well as its accurate representation of real boxing strategy, the creators have made sure every battle is fulfilling to watch.
And it only gets better from here too! That’s right, let us know what you think in the comments and stay posted to Honey’s Anime, because this analysis is not dead yet.