by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
“Until the Last Dog Dies” has a tricky job to pull off. It can't rely on the raw fear and uncertainty that marked Joe's first professional bout back in episode 4, and given that the series is only halfway done and Megalonia has yet to begin, it's also too early to give Joe another cathartic underdog victory. Because of this, Aragaki and Joe's showdown in “Until the Last Dog Dies” lives or dies based on the pure quality of its boxing spectacle and the pathos wrung from its fighters' relationship with the man responsible for getting them both into the ring.
Technically speaking, this is another top-notch piece of work from TMS Entertainment, with Aragaki and Joe's extended matchup giving the animators the opportunity to revel in the kind of complex, technical fighting that was more subdued in the series more emotionally weighty conflicts. Even a couple of wonky cuts can't dispel the gravity that lands with every single blow the fighters share. Manbua's score and the show's diligent use of insert tracks remain as electric as always, and even when the animation and the direction aren't quite as dynamic as they ought to be, MEGALOBOX retains the charisma and style that has kept it going so strong thus far. While I think Joe's fight with Shark Samejima was more my speed overall, I still loved getting digging into the skill-based match between Aragaki and Joe this week.
More impressively, this episode carried last week's intense dramatic stakes with a welcome degree of emotional gravitas. Every fighter Joe has gone up against so far has been either a stoic rival or an outright antagonist, so seeing MEGALOBOX so deftly present two boxers who are equally worthy of sympathy and respect is a real treat. It also rounds out what the show has been doing with Nanbu's character the past couple of weeks, making it easy to see how this well-meaning but troubled man could have sunk so easily into disaffection and debt. While MEGALOBOX is still very much playing in a familiar sports-drama sandbox, it continues to make old tropes feel fresh and give us archetypal characters who have really come into their own, desperately trying to overcome their own worst instincts to fight back against not just their opponents in the ring, but a society that has been designed to chew them up and toss them aside without a second thought.
The actual conclusion to Aragaki and Joe's battle is another great touch, as it allows Joe the victory while giving Aragaki the episode's true emotional breakthrough. In a series filled with visceral imagery, few shots have struck me as much as the sight of Aragaki's blood dripping down his prostheses, his battered and broken frame juxtaposed with the serenity of his expression. It's a tried and true sports drama theme to have athletes come to their emotional epiphanies when they push themselves beyond their limits, but the cliché feels meaningful this week. Aragaki felt that he was beyond saving, and it took him until this fight with Joe to realize that merciless victory was not his path to redemption. The familiarity of the beat may lessen its impact for some, but I found it to be an affecting resolution to a rousing two-episode arc. With Megalonia on the horizon, I am curious to see how MEGALOBOX can top what has up to now been a near perfect run of entertainment.
Megalobox is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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