Ashita no Joe is, without a doubt, a truly legendary anime series. Joe's growth as a person throughout the series is spectacular, and I really don't think I'm ever going to experience character development of the same quality, maybe ever. It's that good. However, I am not here to talk about Ashita no Joe today. Instead, I'm here to discuss a spin-off, Megalobox. But what exactly is Megalobox, and how does it relate to Joe?
To celebrate Ashita no Joe's 50th anniversary, a 13 episode TV anime was created. Released in 2018, produced by TMS Entertainment and directed by Yo Moriyama, it has no relation to Joe in terms of continuity. Instead, it's a completely new story, except some of the characters are based (in varying degrees) on characters from the original series. A rather explicit example being Junk Dog, the main character, literally calling himself "Joe," as well as characters having very similar designs and voices to that of their original counterparts. So don't worry, you won't have to read a 200+ chapter manga, or watch a 120+ episode long TV anime. Although I do recommend it, it's a truly amazing series, and it will extra insight and a different experience while watching the series.
When I first watched Megalobox, I hadn't had any exposure to Ashita no Joe, so I was completely obliviois to all of the parraleles to the original series, both character and plot wise, which are included in this series. I recently rewatched it, this time having actually gone and watched all of the TV series. Did this increase my enjoyment of the show that much? Were there huge differences between my first and seconding viewings? No, not really. As much I would like that to be the case, the way Megalobox references Joe is largely superficial, and relegated to character designs and names. And maybe that was necessary in order to tell a self contained story, but it does feel a bit weak.
The fights are... Mostly good. There are great aspects to them, but I woudn't say they're that good, mostly because there's not that much weight to them. One of my favorite aspects of Ashita no Joe is the weight behind each match, because you know the story of every fighter who goes il against Joe. There's emotional weight behind the conflict. In Megalobox, that motional weight is found almost purely in the main cast. There are two antagonists who have great motivations, that being the main two, but all of the other ones feel rather weak. The sound design is fantastic though, I really do have to praise the show for that. The sound each punch makes, the noise the gear makes, it's all top tier. While we're on the topic of the fights, there are several character introductions before them, and they're really great, they help a lot with hyping you up for what's to come. The sound design in the fights are definitely what carries them the most though. It's not as if the animation itself is very flashy, but the sound the punches make is just on another level.
In conclusion, Megalobox isn't anything outstanding, but I still enjoyed watching it quite a bit. It was fun to just relax for a while and enjoy a short character drama. A sequel season has been announced as well, and you know what? I'm fairly excited. I love Ashita no Joe, and a lot of the beauty of that show is in the finality of it, there is no room for a sequel, so a spin off such as this is a great way to get some more content with a similar feel to it. It also makes it easier to reccomend Joe to others, which I could never say no to, considering just how much I love Dezaki. In short, it's good, go watch it.