I wrote a post on the first season about three years ago. I was impressed by the show’s production quality, but a tad bit disappointed with how mechanical the story beats felt. Well, this season felt like a major step up in the writing department, at least. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack is better than ever, and the animation is relatively the same as before. It’s just that this season’s writing feels worlds apart from its predecessor. In 13 episodes, the show has weaved this tight-knit narrative; where the character stories, the “Hummingbird and the Nomad” story, and plot elements feed into each other to create this mesh of beauty that feels larger than life. The show has this timeless fable-like feel.
The production quality is pretty much on par with its prequel. The art is still characteristically gritty. The fights aren’t as prevalent but whenever they do happen – the animation is expressive. As he did in the first season, mabanua is doing the soundtrack but this time around, the Latin influences in his tracks feel authentic and warm. Honestly, some of the Latin tunes sound like Tejano classics, and maybe they are. The industrial tracks are still in the mix, so if anything, the soundtrack is better than before. The opening track has this desert-y, western blues aesthetic to that sets the mood for the anime really well. I think the sound design feeds into the cinematic feel of the show smoothly.
The first four episodes are perfect, it’s my favorite chunk of episodes in anime this year, so far. The first arc lays the thematic foundation of the series by introducing Chief’s concept of home and symbolizing the hummingbird. The start of the season is in stark contrast in tone with what season one left off, Joe is at a lower level of rock bottom than he was as Junk Dog. Our Megalonia champion, for some reason, is scarred, bearded, and geared up in the ring. He’s addicted to painkillers and doesn’t live in Gym Nowhere anymore. I think all of this is shown through a visual metaphor that calls back to the “stray dog” from its prequel: Joe encounters that dog lying on the side of the road, scarred and on the brink of death. The dog has nowhere to go, and neither does Joe.
But it’s not Joe that’s the star of this prequel-like arc. It’s Chief – a Megaloboxer who fights a fixed match with Joe, and later meets him in his immigrant community, Casa (which is Latin for “house”). He is like the leader of this Latin immigrant group, and his goal is to win the Megalobox Championship so he can buy the property his people are staying in. He also becomes a guide for Joe to overcome his alcohol and painkiller addiction. But guidance goes both ways, Joe becomes his second for the championship. While Joe stays in Casa, the people in the community face racist actions from the civilians, which exhibits a circumstance many immigrants (particularly Latinx) face to this day – and the show does it without distracting from the main story. I couldn’t be more impressed with the writing. It is revealed that Chief’s gear is designed with the help of his late son, and he wants to win the tournament to honor his son’s memory, and in a sense, return to being the person his son loved.
Returning to home. Returning to a state of being, or attempting to, is the main crux of this season of Megalo Box. Chief returns “home” after winning the championship, inspiring Joe to stop running from the demons from his past. The ending track is a beautiful Latin folk song about the allegory that Chief references in this prequel arc: the Nomad and the Hummingbird. The Nomad roams without purpose and meets a hummingbird who reaffirms his place in the world, that as long as you are existing you have to strive to return to what you call “home”.
*Spoilers from this point forward. I hope I’ve made you interested in the show somewhat by now*
But what is home to Joe? What was home? Gym Nowhere? The boxing ring? He can’t return to the gym, because it’s not physically there anymore, and most importantly, the people in the gym don’t want to see him anymore. The ring isn’t his place anymore because he’s past his peak form, the drugs have dulled his boxing skills over the years. Joe, at this point of the story, has truly become the stray dog he was glamorized as at the beginning of the first season. Still, Joe goes on to try to rebuild Gym Nowhere. He meets some of the kids who have grown up and pursuing their own careers. Sachio is openly hostile because he abandoned Nanbu on his deathbed for Nanbu’s sake. Joe wanted to prove to him that he was the best boxer for Nanbu but failed miserably. Oicho thinks Joe ran away after the match, which he did out of pride, but he was also pushed away by Sachio after Nanbu’s death – so she dislikes him. Bonjiri and Santa are the neutral party. Bonjiri owns a diner and Santa is a journalist, and he tries to get Joe to fight again.
There is a parallel story that involves Mac, his family, Yukiko Shirato and our charismatic Elon Musk-type Sakuma. The dude is out with a neuralink that can restore motor function in the paralyzed, which helps Mac regain his motor function after getting paralyzed in an accident. Mac is heroic and the people’s boxer, he fights to make his family proud. Predictably, it’s Sakuma who is portrayed as the mysterious, sinister one but there’s no evidence against him. I think Sakuma and Mac’s story is the one weak link in the show for me because it was painfully predictable and that the story of exposing him felt like filler.
The way the show connected Mac’s character and fate to the Nomad and the Hummingbird story feels like the most natural thing in the world. I love how, in the end, the last line of the ED track reflects the end result of the match between Joe and Mac – “The hummingbird is going away singing, it will not return“.
I want to segue to the duality of the nomad and the hummingbird in Joe that seemed to be revealed in the end. I think Joe is both his own Nomad and the Hummingbird. He “recovered” from being a Nomad when he met Chief. But when he is on the ring, he inspires other people, he sings his song. After he’s inevitably past his prime, as the hummingbird does at the end of the song – he never returns to the ring. He moves on to the next thing. In the final moments of the show, he found his home: it might be emotional closure or the belief that he has family in Gym Nowhere – or both. It’s a beautiful irony that his home is Nowhere.
As much as the Hummingbirds in your life help you, sometimes, you have to take the initiative and be your own hummingbird. Sometimes it’s all about accepting that things will not be the same and moving on. Home might not be something you end up living in, but it’s something you have to return to sometimes. It’s that age old adage “Home is where the heart is”. I don’t know what else to say… the ending emotionally floored me – it’s tragic yet beautiful.
In an interpretative yet concise way, this anime says something simple yet powerful about loneliness, home, and mortality of triumph – all from an allegory (more or less). If it’s not obvious by now, for me, Megalo Box 2 isn’t just a great anime; it’s one of those “holy shit this might be my anime of the year”-type of anime.