Megalobox 2: Nomad
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Megalobox 2: Nomad ?
Episode 7 is the first time that Nomad has felt so strongly like the first series of Megalobox. Now that Joe has taken his first steps back into his old world, and his old life, we're seeing the return of some familiar themes and plot beats, though they are not so much simple rehashes as they are deliberate echoes of the original's. It is too early to say whether or not this is a choice that will pan out in the long run for Nomad, though I won't deny the cozy feeling it brought me to see Joe come so tantalizingly close to the man he used to be. Or at least, the man he pretended to be; the man that the kids thought he was.
The nostalgia comes flowing freely right from the get-go, as we catch a glimpse of old Yuri himself, who is still serving as Liu's mentor and trainer, while Liu prepares for a high-profile fight against Mac “Mac Time” Rosario. Liu is anxious, and when Santa not-so-subtly informs him that Gearless Joe is back in town, the young boxer figures that a sparring match against his legendary one-time rival ought to be just the thing to get his head in the game. It's a very simple A-plot, all things considered, and it's a wonder at how clean it is for Joe, emotionally. After weeks of hard fights, bitter rejections, and terrible uncertainty, here comes the guy who was ostensibly responsible for Joe's exile, asking for some friendly help, one fighter to another.
Joe is greeted warmly when he comes to train with Liu, and the fight itself is surprisingly intense and well-animated, given the lax circumstances. Santa and Bonjiri excitedly record the match from the shadows; Santa claims that he doesn't give a shit about Joe so long as he can scrape a well-paying scoop or two off of him in the meantime, but this is obviously only half-true. He and Bonjiri haven't forgiven Joe, exactly, but they are at least willing to be around him, and simply having these two kids back in his life is an important step on the road to Joe's recovery. Sachio and Oicho aren't so keen, to the shock of absolutely nobody, but even the resulting spat has the air of disgruntled siblings trying to figure out what to do about their deadbeat dad who swears he's changed his ways. There's no denying that love has been lost between the kids and their wayward hero, but it's not dead yet.
Then there's Mac, whose whole story reintroduces some of the major cyberpunk-adjacent themes and imagery that this season has been noticeably lacking (robot punchy arms aside, of course). Mac was your average Megalo Boxer back in the day, though his hot temper and sloppy technique got him nowhere, so he changed careers to law enforcement, which eventually led him into a disaster that left him paralyzed for life. Or it would have, if Mac tech CEO Ryugo Sakuma hadn't chosen Mac as a human test subject for the BES chip, a piece of neuron-augmentation that worked with specialized Assisting Gears to give Mac control over his body again. When Ryugo suggested that Mac get back into the ring, Mac found that his old anger issues were a thing of the past, and so now he finds himself an up-and-coming star, ready to duke it out with Liu, the Megalonia Champion.
There are all sorts of neat wrinkles to Mac's story, and I'm fascinated with how Nomad's fundamentally humanist attitude is reflected even in its depiction of the rich corporate scientist and his technologically-augmented prizefighter. Though the first series never went so far as to paint Yukiko Shirato or Yuri as villains, per se, their overflowing wealth and technological privilege had them squarely pegged as Joe's antagonists. Yuri's entire character arc culminated in him risking his life to rip the infused gears out of his flesh in order to fight Joe on an entirely natural, tech-free playing field. While it remains to be seen if the BES chip is altering or dulling Mac's personality in a way that would be deemed unethical, this episode frames Ryugo and Mac as sympathetic, honest, and well-meaning people.
Yukiko even shows up, sporting a sweet new haircut and a seemingly more benevolent perspective of her own. Her company doesn't run Megalonia anymore, but she's put a lot of money into Ryugo's work, and though she wants Mac's victory against her former protégé's protégé to serve as a major milestone in the public perception of the brain chip, she also seems to genuinely want to advance Gear technology in a direction that will help the sick and the broken. It's a far cry from pitching her wares to the military hawks from Season One.
There's not as much emotional content coming from Nomad in this episode, though it's so impeccably paced that it's impossible not to be engaged with all of the table-setting. Once again, an episode of Megalobox 2 ended up feeling like it breezed by in five minutes flat. That isn't a bad thing at all, but it sure does make the wait for next week that much more agonizing.
• The title of this episode is “El tonto que muestra su carta no es un payaso estúpido”. Google roughly translates this to “The fool who shows his card is not a stupid clown”, though I'm much more inclined to go with what Wikipedia has listed: “The Fool that the card signifies is not a halfwit jester”. This seems like an obvious reference to The Fool of the Tarot, which is a card that actually symbolizes all of the good and bad that comes from a completely fresh start in life.
• Yukiko's brother, Mikio, is back! I honestly had to look up what his deal was back in Season 1, and I'm not sure what Megalobox 2 has planned for him, but it's cool to see more of that connective tissue between the two stories come together.
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