by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
MEGALOBOX is not a show for those with no patience for formula and archetypes, and the success of “A Deadmarch”, perhaps more than any other episode so far, is rooted directly in just how much its audience is willing to go along with a story when the outcome is all but inevitable. Joe has to make it to the top; he and Yuri need to have their climactic rematch on the stage of Megalonia, or else the core of the entire series would collapse. So the question that “A Deadmarch” has to answer is not “Will Joe beat Glen Burroughs?”, but rather “How will MEGALOBOX make this fight as interesting and as it needs to be in order to build up to the real final showdown?”.
Once Joe walks out into the ring decked out in his old “Junk Dog” Gear, it's apparent that MEGALOBOX's will have a riveting answer to that question. At this point, Team Nowhere is at the lowest they've ever been; Joe is apparently ready to throw the fight, Nanbu is forced to dine with Fujimaki while he watches his fighter toss away his dreams and pride, and even Sachio can't bear to witness his hero take the fall for such an ignoble reason. The Joe/Burroughs bout isn't one of the series' best, technically speaking; you can feel the production strain to milk every ounce of drama from the fight's stiff cuts and rather limited camera work. What this exhibition lacks in spectacle, however, the script makes up for with its emotional stakes. Standing up against this titan of a man, Joe's rusted and creaky Gear is a symbol of everything he hated about his old life, and while MEGALOBOX earns no points for subtlety in turning a tool of enhancement into leash that's choking back Joe's potential, it's no less resonant a symbol for its obviousness.
Sachio also gets some time to reckon with his personal turmoil, in the form of an unexpected rap number where the kid literally punch-dances his feelings out under a lonely night sky. On the one hand, my inner theater geek can't help but get excited by a musical number, and the hip-hop aesthetic is in keeping with the musical tone that mabanua has set with his soundtrack. On the other hand, the moment is so jarring, and the delivery by (I presume) Michiyo Murase is just so darned sincere that the moment comes perilously close to being awkward instead of inspiring. I appreciate Sachio having to regain his faith in his own way, but I remain just a little put off by the bizarre tonal shift of the moment. I don't hate it, but I'm not sure I love it either. Still, I respect the audacity of MEGALOBOX to break out a Sachio Rap Number at all.
Thankfully, I'm not at all ambivalent about how Nanbu was handled this week, because it was uniformly excellent. One of the chief strengths of watching MEGALOBOX all season has been watching Nanbu begrudgingly transform from a scoundrel and a fixer to a legitimate trainer and mentor to Joe; even Fujimaki is impressed by how much the old man has grown, but that doesn't make him any less intent on forcing Nanbu's hand and reaping the rewards of Team Nowhere's failure as he dines on his fish and ruminates on how Joe is going to spend the rest of his life fighting as a no-name Junk Dog. Nanbu has already been grappling with his guilt over the past two episodes, but he can't bear to watch Joe get beaten down when there's no brighter future waiting for them after the K.O. is called.
This is where we get the most thrilling, captivating, and devastating stretch of the entire episode: Joe is close to his breaking point when Sachio comes tearing back into the stadium, and Nanbu fights off Fujimaki's men so they can both push Joe to get back up and finish the fight on his feet. Even Yuri gets up close and personal, roused by Joe's ferocity and disgusted by his weakness in this decisive match, and all of this is enough to get Joe to shrug off his Gear and take Burroughs down with a single blow. Given MEGALOBOX's nature, this moment is hardly unexpected, but I'll be damned if I wasn't clapping along with the crowd when Joe claimed the final victory he needed to take on Yuri for the Megalonia Championship. Even though the fight itself was middling by MEGALOBOX's standards, the end result is well worth it, as it represents the culmination of our heroes' journeys up to this point.
Besides, Joe's inevitable win is tempered by Nanbu's loss, which is both unexpected and heartbreaking. In an effort to save Joe from Fujimaki's wrath, Nanbu willingly sacrificed the one thing Fujimaki knew would hurt him the most: his remaining eye. Fujimaki is impressed enough by this to let Team Nowhere go, but only because he knows that he has deprived Nanbu the chance of ever seeing Joe's ultimate victory for himself. Nanbu's mutilation is preceded with a gross bit of visual foreshadowing, where Fujimaki plucks out the eye of his grilled fish while Nanbu fights to preserve Joe's honor. In typical MEGALOBOX fashion, this detail is both incredibly on the nose yet appropriate and effective all at once.
With that, we're left with one more match, one final opportunity for Joe to prove himself to the world. Given the series' illustrious pedigree, I'm sure fans have some predictions for how MEGALOBOX's last episode will go down. I have some thoughts of my own, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has noticed how every title and end card for MEGALOBOX's episodes make death their central focus. Regardless of whether Joe will live to see the credits roll on the series' twelfth round, I'm sure he'll finish his run with one hell of a knockout blow. He's not dead yet, after all.
Megalobox is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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