Rising up, back on the streets.
Nanbu registers Joe at the International Megalo Box Association, but because he has no record, Joe’s starting dead last at 257th place. I mean, that’s Blaziken’s number in the national Pokedex, so it can’t be all bad. He and Nanbu are roughing it on a boat while Nanbu looks for matches to get Joe in the running for Megalonia, though Nanbu knows he’ll be trying on some cement shoes if this doesn’t work out. First thing is to get Joe some proper Gear, but that’s going to cost a pretty penny, so they head to a local dealer and his former-96th-rank muscle. The dealer also has four kids to act as thieves for parts, one of them named Sachio, who takes a liking to Joe.
Nanbu imparts some wisdom: while they do need good Gear, what matters is the guy using it. Sachio, surprisingly knowledgeable, tells Joe he’ll never win unless he keeps up with his opponent’s speed, which he can’t with his current Gear. He also wants to go with them to Megalonia, but Joe won’t have it. Things get worse when, one day before their first fight, the gear literally bursts into flames. On top of that, Sachio’s gotten into trouble with his boss for stealing top-shelf Gear and sending it to Joe. Joe and Nanbu show up to save him, though the Gear crumbles during a fight with the boss’ muscle. Remembering Nanbu’s words and taking a call from Sachio, Joe beats the guy with his bare hands. As they leave, Joe invites Sachio to join them.
Act 2 starts now. We’ve entered the new world outside of the dive bar and the newly christened Joe is ready to rise the ranks, and part of that is learning the basic principles before he gets into the ring again. Megalo Boxing as a fictitious sport has a dash of mecha in how it works, needing specific parts and knowing certain models and so on, but like what makes good mecha, what’s important is the pilot, or the one controlling the Gear in this case. So, we have a clear understanding of the difference in equipment Joe will inevitably be working against with other competitors, specifically Yuri, since he’s Joe’s ultimate goal. Yuri, being top dog, gets the latest model that works like a second skin and is so specialized that only someone as built as he is could possibly handle it, while Joe is stuck with scrap practically held together with duct tape and raw gumption that can go up in flames at any moment.
But this episode seems more about simply setting the stage for Joe’s rise to glory and meeting some more principle cast members like Sachio, so it’s got a lighter tone and slower pace than the last two. Sachio and his little band of brothers are expected levels of pug-style cute, though Sachio seems to have bigger aspirations of seeing Megalonia for himself, having something to do with his apparently dead parents. Like Joe, he may see this as both a passion and the only way to escape poverty, and his surprising knowledge on the sport, as well as killer instinct during a fight, are what finally gets him his ticket to go on that journey.
Next time, though, we finally get to see Joe in his first proper match against Shark Samejima, who was mentioned in this episode briefly. He’s got a reputation for fighting dirty, hence why he’s so low ranking, but this makes him the perfect first opponent for Joe, who’s had to fight dirty…in a different sense by throwing matches for his whole career. I’m always a sucker for a good tournament arc, and this will be the beginning of Joe’s five-match journey to Megalonia. I’m really eager to see what he looks like when he finally has someone to go all out against without getting punched into the dirt. He’s taken his time, he’s taken his chances, now we’ll see if he has the eye of the tiger.