Megalobox 2: Nomad
Episode 10

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Megalobox 2: Nomad ?

In the wonderful interview that Megalobox 2: Nomad's writers and director gave for ANN just this week, Katsuhiko Manabe described one of the focuses of this season's story being how Joe ends up “released from the curse” of toxic masculinity. We've been discussing all of the ways Joe has grown and shed his most immature and self-destructive tendencies this season, and the fruits of Joe's labors are absolutely evident this week. Continuing the explorations that have been the central pillars of the arc that recent episodes have covered, Episode 10 is all about demonstrating how each and every character from the first season has grown and changed for the better. Well…except maybe for Sachio.

Before we get to him, though, we have the Shirato siblings to catch up with, and the material we get this week more or less confirms what we've already been piecing together: Yukiko is committed to severing any ties that her company might have to military contract work, even when her board bristles at the lost ROSCO profits that might entail. Mikio, for his part, went forward with publishing that takedown of the BES system's critical faults, and ROSCO rep Tomoka stops by his lecture hall to make it perfectly clear that his good academic standing may be kaput if he doesn't back down.

In a testament to how precise and powerful Megalobox's writing is for even its most ancillary characters, we learn that Tomoka was once one of Mikio's students, back when he first started his post-Megalo-boxing work at the university, and she once wrote a great paper on how it is a designer's ethical responsibility to assume that their machines will inevitably break, and to thus have the protective failsafe's built in first hand. Nowadays, though, she's pushing ROSCO's profit margins like any good capitalist convert would, citing her desire to keep moving forward no matter what (sound familiar?). To this, Mikio drops a perfect summation of this season's entire thematic core: “I think the moment you stop because you realize you made a mistake is also taking a step toward the future.”

There's a common misunderstanding that the phrase “toxic masculinity” is condemning every person and behavior that falls under what many cultures consider to be traditionally “masculine”. This isn't true, of course; it is merely a useful signifier for ways that individuals can come to harm others — and themselves — by taking the pressure to be considered “masculine” to unhealthy and/or dangerous extremes. For instance, there is nothing inherently wrong with participating in athletic combat sports like boxing, or mixed martial arts, or what have you. In fact, so much of what Megalobox 2 has been about is highlighting how so many positive and good things can come out of such endeavors: You can make lasting friendships, forge family bonds, and even inspire entire communities to overcome adversity.

Now, this might be kind of obvious, but what turns healthy displays of masculinity into toxic ones is when people start getting hurt. When a boxer breaks his body so badly that a painkiller addiction is the only thing keeping him sane; when a fighter's time in the ring leads to him neglecting the needs of his family; when one puts perceived societal pressures over safety of himself and his loved ones. That is toxic masculinity, and Joe knows it all too well. It is why his first instinct, when Mac and ROSCO come out with their public request for a championship fight, is to ignore it. Joe has his home to think of, and his family. He doesn't need to box in order to have those things, anymore.

Except, what Megalobox: Nomad also understands is that, if a man kind keep on the right side of the line between healthy and toxic masculinity, he doesn't have to sacrifice his own pride. Joe is a fighter, to his core, and what he comes to realize over his talks with Liu, Aragaki, and the kids is that it is okay for him to be a fighter. As long as he isn't fighting in order to escape his responsibilities, or to drive himself into a self-appointed early grave, Joe can get back in the ring with his head held high because he knows his limits, now. He knows what he is fighting for, and that makes all the difference.

Sachio…well, Sachio is a justifiably angry and traumatized teenager, so he hasn't picked up on these life lessons quite yet. As the show goes out of its way to make clear, Sachio was never meant to be a boxer, but the only way he knew how to make up for driving Joe away was to replace him, except he's replacing the Joe that never knew any better. He's just making the same mistakes that his father figure did, except he doesn't have the natural skills to cash the checks he keeps writing with his mouth.

So, Joe steps back in the ring with Sachio, and never had, and he beats the snot of the boy. Under 99% of circumstances, this would be an objectively terrible description of parental bonding, but Joe knows what he's doing, now. Sachio isn't a man yet, and he isn't Joe, and the only way Sachio will learn that is if Joe treats him as a man, and an equal. Sachio isn't Mac, or Liu, or Yuri, because he never needed a rival — he needed a father. In this strange, sad, and ultimately cathartic sparring match, that's who Joe is for Sachio, for the first time.

It's the most uplifting and truly heartwarming moment that we've gotten from this series, so of course the episode just has to end with Joe collapsing on the floor out of nowhere. A side effect of kicking his drug habit? Maybe, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if it was something that ran deeper, and is less simple to address. Perhaps something like the CTE disease that afflicts fighters whose brains have become damaged from too many blows to the head over the years, which is likely what killed Chief, in the end. Whatever it is, it isn't good, and if Joe is still planning on facing Mac in just a handful of weeks, he might end up sharing the fate of his famous progenitor after all.


Odds and Ends

•This week's title is "Las derrotas pasadas son acompañadas por señales de buena suerte", which can translate to “Past defeats are accompanied with omens of good luck”. So, yeah, Joe's future is feeling more dicey by the minute.”

• Liu does his best to convince Yuri to be Joe's trainer for Mac's battle, and that has me so torn. On the one hand, I'm convinced that Joe is going to die if he fights Mac. On the other hand, it would be so goddamned satisfying to see Joe and Yuri working together on the same team. Can't they just get married and run the Nowhere Gym like the adorable couple we all know they'd be?

• Speaking of things that are so goddamn satisfying, holy Moses was it great to hear that sick needle drop of the original Megalobox theme, this week. Whatever they're paying mabanua, it probably isn't enough.

• If you haven't read that interview with the Megalobox creative team yet, do yourself a favor and check it out ASAP. It is filled with some incredibly cool and inspiring details about the crews goals and creative process, including the series' cinematic reference points, and the fact that Megalobox is 100% an unabashedly political anime (just in case there were any naysayers out in the rafters who are still crying for people to "keep yer damned politics out of my cartoons!", or whatever).

Megalobox 2: Nomad is currently streaming on Funimation.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.

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