Episode 12

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Megalobox ?

It turns out I was mistaken last week when I intimated that this episode would be MEGALOBOX's last, though this is an occasion where I'm more than happy to be proven wrong. MEGALOBOX has been one of the season's most consistently excellent series week after week, so I'm happy to be able to spend one more episode with this band of scrappy underdogs. Given how intensely the Joe/Burroughs fight ended last time, I'd say one final period of calm before the storm is exactly what this series needs to ensure that it goes out on a high note, where Joe and Yuri will finally square off in the rematch that the show has been building up for months now.

Though “calm” is relative here; Joe, Sachio, and the recently-blinded Nanbu may be using their time to regroup and recharge in preparation for the Megalonia Championship, but Yuri has something much more dangerous planned for himself. He's been so inspired by Gearless Joe's gumption and resolve that he decided the only way to genuinely rise to Joe's example is to remove his integrated Gear altogether. Yukiko is understandably against this idea, as it wouldn't just make the whole Shirato company look foolish, but it would also be a dangerous and painful procedure for Yuri. Yuri won't accept any excuses, though. He's done his job for Yukiko by proving the quality of her company's Gear in the field, but this final bout with Joe is an entirely personal pursuit for him, so he's even willing to sever ties with Yukiko to ensure it goes down on his terms.

I've written before about MEGALOBOX's remarkable economy of characterization, how it can take virtual ciphers like Aragaki or Mikio and manage to shape them into believably three-dimensional figures in the span of only an episode or two. This week it's Yuri's turn, and the results are impressive. Like the other fighters before him, Yuri represents the kind of antagonist we've seen in stories many times before, the would-be-elitist who slowly changes in awe of the hero's determination. MEGALOBOX has never been about redefining old clichés so much as taking familiar tropes and refining them until they fit perfectly within the show's blueprint. We still don't know much about Yuri beyond his archetypal trappings, but we get everything we need from him in the scene where he locks himself in a room so he can endure the pain of recovering from his Gear removal without anesthesia. In Joe, Yuri has received a challenge from the universe to cast off his technological accoutrement and engage in boxing with pure athleticism, even if it means going nearly insane from the pain. It's about as melodramatic an arc as you can get in a sports drama, but MEGALOBOX wears it as a badge of honor.

Yuri and Joe's respective routines also provide some more opportunities for the series' side characters to shine. Aragaki and his coach, the perfectly named Mr. Miyagi, get to act as the former rivals who return to support Joe in his hour of need. It's a sweet way to bring Aragaki back into the story; if this were a longer series, I would have enjoyed seeing their friendship grow and develop even more. On Yuri's side, we get Mikio Shirato's reappearance, and I'll admit to chuckling when I learned that his response to his humiliating defeat was to literally abscond to a cabin in the woods so he can get back in touch with the simple life. It's yet another story beat that's so on the nose it might not have worked, but somehow MEGALOBOX's aggressive sincerity makes this new-and-improved Mikio believable. If anything, Mikio helping remove Yuri's gear was a good way to get Yukiko involved with Yuri's recovery, which is what leads to her allow Joe's championship fight to continue, despite learning about his sordid past from the ID card Sachio dropped last week.

While Yukiko's arc is also fairly predictable, it gives us a wonderful moment where she informs Joe that Yuri has removed his gear for the championship fight, causing Joe to break out in that mad-dog grin that so perfectly communicates what makes him such a compelling protagonist. Yeah, Joe isn't the most complex guy in MEGALOBOX, but it would be a mistake to confuse that lack of complexity for a deficiency in character. Joe is what happens when you take the ferocious willpower that defines so many traditional heroes and distill it into its purest form, which works perfectly for this story.

The show even pulls out another rap number to spell out the dynamics of this final confrontation, and it's a total banger, skillfully paired with a montage of both Joe and Yuri pushing themselves to the limit to make sure their fight is the greatest of their careers. It's an aesthetically perfect beat in a series defined by its all-consuming commitment to coolness, and at this point, I have few doubts in MEGALOBOX's ability to see that commitment through to the end. Now that both our fighters have gone all in, both in body and in spirit, all that's left is to see how the final round plays out.

Rating: A

Megalobox is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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