Sometimes a boxer’s greatest fights take place outside the ring.
I enjoyed the first season of Megalo Box, even as someone who cares little for sports anime or boxing. But its biggest weakness was probably the boxing matches themselves. They tended to rely on gear gimmicks, and some of Joe’s opponents were just throwaway characters.
The sequel took a completely different direction, and it was for the better. There’s only a handful of matches in the whole series, but each one is important, and they have significance to the characters beyond just winning or losing. I wouldn’t even call Nomad a boxing anime anymore. It’s a drama about boxers and their personal struggles. The sport itself obviously plays a huge role in their lives, but it’s more about how it affects them and the people around them.
The opening arc really hits you outright with this change of tone. Joe, the former champion, is at the lowest point of his life. He’s alone, addicted to painkillers and spending his life in seedy underground rings, haunted by the spectre of his old coach. There’s some heavy drama in Nomad. Joe struggling with his guilt, returning home to find that nobody wanted him to come back. But it’s all handled with respect. What exactly happened to Nanbu and how Team Nowhere fell apart is kept a mystery for the first few episodes. But when it’s finally revealed, there’s no big plot twist, no convoluted drama. It’s just regular people who made some poor decisions when caught in a situation they weren’t emotionally equipped to handle.
And it’s not all dark. Just like in season 1, Joe’s journey is from the bottom to the top, just in a different way. Even after winning Megalonia, Joe hadn’t really matured, and still had the same self-destructive tendencies that would later bring him to ruin. By the end of Nomad, almost everyone is in a better place than before, so it was nice to see it end up being more uplifting than the show’s opening suggested.
But while Nomad was very good overall, the final episode was a bit of a letdown. There was a lot of buildup towards the match between Joe and Mac, raising the possibility that one of them may not make it out of the ring alive, or even both. “Mac Time” was a looming threat, especially after seeing what it did to Liu. There were hints that, just like Chief had brought Joe back from the brink, Joe would have to do the same for Mac.
But none of that happened. Mac had more or less solved his own problems, together with his friends and family. As a result, the match felt a little pointless. Both fighters made it out in one piece, and it never even felt like they were in real danger. It was the kind of match you’d see in an epilogue, a friendly duel after everything else had already been taken care of. So even though everything got resolved properly, and it was a good ending for everyone involved, it wasn’t quite satisfying. But that’s only a small stain on what was otherwise an excellent sequel.