There is no competition. (Yeah, that’s right. We’re getting into Rocky V songs now. Buckle up.)
Gearless Joe Fever has captured the nation as his rise to Rank 17 has officially put him on the map in terms of press, fans are out getting tattoos of him or making rap songs (that this version didn’t bother to translate, sadly), and there’s increasing hope that he’ll be the one to take the last spot in Megalonia. The only other possible contenders lie in the 4th ranked Suger R. Hill and 7th ranked Mikio Shirato, who promptly cleans Suger’s clock when they face off in a match. However, Mikio makes clear that he feels he won’t properly earn the fourth spot until he faces Joe, publically challenging right after his match with Suger.
This challenge is met with mixed reception, mostly due to the fact that, as his name implies, Mikio is the brother of Yukiko Shirato, head of the Shirato Group that overlooks the Megalonia tournament, so it almost seems like they’re saving a spot for him out of sheer nepotism. The board members of the group are also split, though mainly because everyone but Yukiko is totally fine with handing Mikio the remaining spot to keep Joe, an outsider, from gaining prominence. Yukiko actually wants the opposite, wanting to use Joe to stop her brother’s advancement for her own mysterious plans, while Mikio already knew that she’d use Joe as her last shot at stopping him, just like she used Suger, and is eager to beat Joe to put a cap on his years of resentment over not being chosen by their grandfather to run the company.
Joe, Nanbu, and Sachio are obviously pumped to face their last qualifying match, getting back into training as soon as Joe’s injuries from Aragaki are healed. They’ve been steadily climbing the ranks all this time, fortifying the basics like footing and punch delay against Mikio’s AI-powered Gear. With so many seemingly impossible victories behind them, there’s no way they’ll lose once Joe gets in that ring.
Only…he won’t be. Just before the match, Mikio confronts him with evidence that Joe’s ID is fake and plans to reveal it to the committee if he goes through with the match. As the doors slowly close, Nanbu is forced to forfeit as Sachio is in tears and Joe is unable to make a move.
Cool, guess my predictions were on the money about Mikio being next! But something I did NOT see coming was him being the brother of Yukiko, which makes this actually more similar to the fight with Aragaki that was mostly about development for Nanbu instead of Joe. Again, it’s good that Joe isn’t completely emotionally left out, since this does involve his faked ID, but Yukiko has been so distant from the story before now that I was worried she wouldn’t be getting ANY key development until near the end. And considering she and Yuri seem to be meant to be the final opponents of this series, getting some perspective on either one of them is crucial before then.
Except the more we learn about Yukiko, the more it seems we don’t know. She’s apparently got some real bad blood with Mikio over being chosen to run their grandfather’s company instead of him, so like clever rich siblings in fiction, they play a chess match/poker game/charades but for keeps to best the other, making use of other people as pawns in their private game. Only now, Yukiko only has one piece/card/bad sketch of a leaf blower left in Joe, who might play into her grander goals for the outcome of this tournament, whatever they may be.
The topic of Joe being illegally doctored into the system is also something that hasn’t really been brought up for awhile. If you jumped in around Episode 4, you might have just assumed this was just some poor skinny guy and his dad trying out a boxing tournament, but the reality is that their whole arrangement is a high stakes gamble that likely will end with them going for a swim trying on some cement shoes. As fun and life-affirming as this whole thing has been, their lives have been on the line the whole time and only kept alive because they were able to compete. Without that, they’re as good as fish food.
But these are all things we’ll have to find out later than usual, as Megalo Box takes next week off to make way for the double length premiere of Sword Art Online: Alicization. This show has not been treated very well in terms of a consistent schedule, having to go three weeks between the second and third episodes due to the holiday break before this, but hopefully once it comes back, it’ll be a straight shot to the end.