Nomad is the sequel to science-fiction boxing anime Megalobox. Though the two series differ overall in terms of substance, they complement each other incredibly well. It’s rare that you get a sequel that manages to be both its own thing and connect well to the original, but this is what Nomad accomplishes. That being said, I realize I never actually reviewed Megalobox, so consider this a kind of two-for-one deal. I promise I’ve done my best to not spoil either series.
While writing about both shows together is convenient for me, doing so also helps highlight the strengths of each more clearly in my mind. Megalobox was made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the seminal boxing manga Ashita no Joe. It’s impossible to overestimate the cultural footprint of Ashita no Joe in Japan, from the general love of cross counters (Joe’s go-to move) to the iconic final moments of the series with the protagonist Yabuki Joe slumped dead in his chair at the ring corner, smiling. What Megalobox does is take the DNA of that all-time classic and tell a similar-yet-different story. Instead of the story of an orphaned street punk who discovers a passion for boxing, it’s about a similar character (also named Joe) doing so in a futuristic setting where technology has become part-and-parcel with the sport—now named “Megaloboxing.” All boxers now where equipment on their arms (known as “Gear”) in order to hit harder and faster, with eventually one notable exception: Joe himself.
Megalobox follows a more conventional route for a boxing story, focused on an underdog who rises through the ranks. If you’ve seen Rocky and the like, it’s of a similar vein, though the SF aspects brought in by Gear and all the money surrounding the technology make the divide between the haves and have-nots far more pronounced. Megalobox is great storytelling from beginning to end, with great artwork and music to boot, and I even liked the way the future setting was incorporated into the narrative. However, a part of me felt like it was more often an aesthetic flourish, and that the story could be told about as well if it were just set in the modern day without all the cybernetics.
Not so with Nomad.
Taking place a few years after the end of the first anime, Nomad sees the characters older and in most cases very different places. Here, not only is the plot less about characters striving to succeed in the sport of Megaloboxing, and more about the struggle of just being alive. Migrant discrimination, drug addiction, and severed bonds among family are among the topics explored in Nomad, where the sense of a world on the brink of dystopia looms large but also feels close to home.
Here, Megaloboxers’ Gear take on a more vital role in more ways than one. More than just being a way to augment one’s skills in the ring, the way each Megaloboxer views and utilizes them tells stories about how they’ve gone through life. Ast the series progresses, one particular Gear is at the forefront of a potential scientific revolution, but the ethical aspects of its development become of central import to the overall story. Whereas Megalobox felt like a boxing story with science fiction elements in it, Nomad is more the other way around in the best way possible. It’s not just SF because it features newfangled technology, but it challenges viewers to think about the influence and repercussions such changes would have on individuals, society, and humanity.
In conclusion, watch Megalobox. Then, once you’re done, watch Nomad. It’s hard to find a one-two combo as strong and as impactful.