by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
“The Die is Cast” is what some might refer to as an “all is lost” moment in MEGALOBOX's overarching narrative. Admittedly, there have been many moments throughout this series where Joe has been in dire straits; that's more-or-less a given an anime about a down-and-out underdog boxer with big dreams and bloody fists. But this tenth episode represents a deeper pit for the entirety of Team Nowhere; as Fujimaki hinted last week, Nanbu's not told Joe everything, and when the truth finally comes out, it's too much for the team to bear. When this whole scheme started, Nanbu didn't really think Joe had a shot of winning Megalonia, so he made a secret deal with Fujimaki. The team would get as far as they could go, and they would throw a match with enough of a payout to get Nanbu and Joe out of Fujimaki's debt for good.
Of course, Joe could never be okay with this. Not only does our hero take being a legitimate fighter very seriously, MEGALOBOX has made it clear just how much Joe values the trust of his partners. This entire bloody battle for recognition was built upon the notion that Nanbu only ever had faith in Joe after the fact, and it makes absolute sense that Nanbu would try to justify it as just a detour on the path to For-Real-This-Time Freedom, and of course Joe would knock him on his ass and storm off for even daring to suggest such a thing. As far as twists go, Nanbu's betrayal is both predictable and remarkably effective given what we know about these two characters. Just as Fujimaki says to Nanbu later in the episode, the old huckster isn't any different from the fabled scorpion, who would destroy itself for no other reason than being a deceitful creature by nature.
However, MEGALOBOX isn't about characters getting knocked down and wallowing in defeat. The series' is a stylized love letter to one of the most lionized sports manga of all time, and its old-fashioned heart has been pinned proudly on its sleeve for ten weeks, visible even through the show's crusty futurepunk trappings. More than anything else, MEGALOBOX believes that fighters can become their best selves inside this gauntlet of sweat and blood and pain, that they can cast off the burdens of discrimination and dehumanization through pure force of will, breaking and reshaping their bodies into something that impacts the world.
That's where Sachio comes in. He's long served as the embodiment of Team Nowhere's incorruptible spirit, and this week we learn that he's been pursuing victory in Megalonia to avenge his father, who fell into squalor and ultimately died after his research was stolen by Shirato Group to be used in the development of Yuri's state-of-the-art Gear. Nanbu has known this for a while, and since the team has nowhere left to go, he parks outside of a garden party hosted by Yukiko and offers Sachio a chance to get the revenge that he's craved for so long in the most direct fashion possible. After a moment of furious contemplation, the boy puts the weapon he was given away. “My revenge…” he tells the old man, “is going to the top with Joe.”
Now, I didn't think Sachio was actually going to stab Yukiko to death for a second, but the fact that the show sells this moment so well is a testament to its skilled and sincere storytelling. Sachio's faith in the inherent power of Team Nowhere's cause cannot be broken, so when Nanbu drops him off to live with Yukiko, I have no doubt that everything will be made right before the end, somehow. Yukiko even goes out of her way to investigate the dealings that lead to Sachio's father's death, once again demonstrating that Yukiko is more empathetic and gracious that she would like to let on.
Thankfully, the episode isn't entirely existential crises and murder plots; we also get to see Yuri's bout with Pepe “The Spider” Iglesias. It's a brief fight (Yuri gets a knockout in the second round), but there's a slick spectacle to the exhibition that I appreciated; both fighters get extended intros and entrance music to boot, making the whole thing feel like something you might actually catch on Pay-Per-View in this version of the future. In a nice touch, the actor playing Pepe even speaks decent Spanish, which gives MEGALOBOX's world a bit of multicultural depth that I wouldn't have minded seeing more of before now.
This late into the season's run, it would be more surprising to me if MEGALOBOX turned out an episode that wasn't excellent. There have certainly been peaks and valleys overall, but this series has maintained a remarkable level of consistency in its execution. Week after week, MEGALOBOX has delivered everything I look for in a sports drama with style and spirit, and “The Die is Cast” continues the series' winning streak. All that's left to do is to get Team Nowhere back together and give Joe and Yuri one final fight. MEGALOBOX has set a high bar for itself, but I have little doubt that whatever the show has in store for us in these final episodes, it'll be well worth remembering.
Megalobox is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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